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Connecticut Division II: Signs Point to a Wide Open Race

BRANFORD (18-5-1)

Tyler Criscuolo Branford

Tyler Criscuolo
Branford

Winners of a tough-as-nails SCC/SWC tournament and one of the top teams all year, the Hornets return senior goalie A.J. Brink and a solid group of experienced defensemen, seniors Aidan Deane, Pat Cunningham and Jack Murray.

They’ve all been to their conference tournament three years in a row and won two out of three, as have senior captain Tyler Criscuolo, the team’s leading returning scorer, and rangy forward Cooper Bunton. Tyler Hackett left for midget hockey, but the defensive stalwarts returning can allow time for the young forwards to mature for coach Adolph Brink.

EAST HAVEN (17-5-0)

Anthony Avallone East Haven

Anthony Avallone
East Haven

Nick Latella East Haven

Nick Latella
East Haven

The Yellowjackets move down from Division I — a move talked about for several years — after losing their top line from last year, but coach Lou Pane’s team has speed up front in the likes of junior captain Anthony Avallone, and senior captain Tyler Moss brings some grit up front as well.

Devan Avena returns in goal as a senior, with senior captain Mike Montesano and junior Nick Latella solid on defense.

CHESHIRE (11-11-1)

Hopes were high last year with 11 seniors after a move down to Division II; a .500 finish felt disappointing.

The Rams will start fresh, led by senior captain Ben Klanica, a playmaking centerman. Junior Kyle Frederick, wearing an ‘A’, provides grit on the left wing, and senior Matt Jordan should be a finisher on the right side. Junior Jake Verneris will tend the goal for coach Karl Sundquist.

NEWINGTON/BERLIN/MANCHESTER (16-5-1)

Marco DiPaola Newington/Berlin

Marco DiPaola
Newington/Berlin

Luca DiPaola Newington/Berlin

Luca DiPaola
Newington/Berlin

Aaron Lassen Newington/Berlin

Aaron Lassen
Newington/Berlin

Coach Dave Harackiewicz expects more excellent goaltending from senior co-captain Cam Criniti (1.90 GAA) in the team’s second year in Division II. He’ll lead the team against a schedule that will include a Christmas tournament up at the University of New Hampshire.

Senior co-captains Dante Gugliotti, who scored 18 goals last year, and Marco DiPaola, a two-way centerman, lead the offense along with junior Luca DiPaola. Senior Mitch Pitkin had 16 points and played a physical game on defense, and senior Chris Salvio and junior Aaron Lassen make three solid defensemen. Depth may be the big issue at the start.

NEW MILFORD (15-6-1)

Scott Capriglione takes over as coach from Danny Moore. Capriglione expects a team with speed and will look to young players to step in quickly to replace graduates in goal and up front. Senior Jameson Steinhardt, a leader, returns on defense.

The Green Wave will look to seniors Tommy Nisco and Logan Doud to play important minutes at forward, with Matt Delafield moving from defense to forward. Senior Mason Butts, junior Riley Zimmerman and sophomore Payton Meyer bring some grit, and freshman Nate Capriglione is expected to jump into a top-six role right away.

On defense, seniors Noelle and Natalie Capriglione, both bound for Utica College, and junior Avery Hook will join Steinhardt. Alex Fortuna, coming from South Kent, will likely take over in goal.

MILFORD (13-9-1)

The Indians were one of those teams last year that could beat anyone on any given night, winning a couple of games in the state tournament.

A lot of scoring graduated, headlined by standout Zach White, but some good pieces return for coach Sal Follo, including a few good senior defensemen, captain Jarrod Butts, Jonathan DePascale with the big shot (12 assists last year) and David McLenithan.

Several forwards will take on bigger roles. Sophomore Andrew Gobany returns off a nine-goal, seven-assist season, and players like juniors Brandon Argyros, Tommy Sampson and Jacob Comeau and seniors Brady Dennigan, Charles Knights and Colin DiPisa each bring assets to the group.

Senior goalie Sean Rowland transferred from Notre Dame-Fairfield.

CONARD (4-16-0)

Zach Polo Conard

Zach Polo
Conard

The Chieftains have some experience on defense, including seniors Jake Reynolds and P.J. Melly and junior Patrick Corcoran. Coach Greg Raymer’s team has some younger forwards to go with senior Mark Ehnot, like juniors Grayson Lacroix, Matt McCormick, Jordon Fongamie and Jack Alissi. Sophomores Zach Polo, Dylan Turner and Paul Wilson can also step into important roles.

NORTH BRANFORD  (10-11-0)

The Thunderbirds have a bit of a sleeper feel, and coach Ralph Shaw says he sees some potential if some players step up.

They should be fine in goal with sophomore Will McEwen and senior Will Burke.

Senior captain and leading scorer Alec Martone returns, as does junior Adam Burkle, a skilled player. Junior Dominic Raccio has strength and skill as well. Junior Tanner Opie will lead the defense.

TRUMBULL (4-16-0)

The Eagles have some good, experienced players to lead the team, including senior captain Sam Watson and senior Jake Crowe on defense and a whole forward line of seniors, Nick Cirino, Michael Cullen and Matthew Sarosky.

If they find some younger players to complement them and fill some holes — sophomore forward Brady Jensen already filled one, as the team’s leading scorer last year — they could improve. Senior Francis Fromageot and sophomore Will Guttman will compete for time in goal for coach Greg Maxey.

ROCKVILLE/BOLTON/COVENTRY/RHAM (19-3-1)

The co-op swapped in that last school for Lyman Memorial, which is now part of a co-op in Division III. You can still call them “BCR.”

Whatever you call them, they’ve been socked by graduation. The team will look to junior Paul Bates to step up as a leader and to a lot of young players to jump in and play. Coach Christian Stevenson
understands what he’s got; he’s hoping they have some fun.

Senior Daelon Carnelli and junior Connor McGrath split time last year in goal; several other goalies will try to get into the mix. Senior Scott Mocko from RHAM should be an interesting addition.

WATERTOWN/POMPERAUG (5-14-1)

Last year’s young team needed to replace a standout goalie, and it found a replacement in Carl LaRosa. He’s back for his senior year. It’s still a young team, though, and coach Vic Vicenzi will be looking for discipline and hard work as those young players get into the mix.

Senior Ray Borsari is reliable on the back end for the co-op, and sophomore Dan D’Ambrouso played a lot on defense as a freshman. Seniors Jeff Strakosch and Michael Foschi (a sometime defenseman) and juniors Nick Catuccio and Brian Manzer will look to create offense. Sophomores Riley Peterson, James Derochers and Peter Jorgensen will step in on the wing, and classmate Ryan Dunfee should play on defense.

FARMINGTON/AVON/WINDSOR (4-16-0)

Three Generals players went down for the year early last season. With a limited number of skaters, that’s a killer.

Seniors Paul Tasillo and Kyle Sopelak are back from injury, though, for coaches Scott Percival and Mike Barone. They’re two of a hard-working class of seven seniors, including forward Michael Arciero and defenseman Alden Piper.

Forwards Mike Santos and Jake Connelly and defensemen Mike Wissuchek and Andrew Arena are among the team’s top juniors.

FERMI/ENFIELD/EAST GRANBY/STAFFORD (6-14-1)

Coach Frank Genovese’s team should have five solid defensemen, led by seniors Ryan Gothers (six goals) and Troy Marin. The team will look to them to chip in offensively and to protect the front of junior SamRoy’s net; he stopped 90.7 percent of his shots last year.

Up front, juniors Thomas Vose and Andrew Crane return, and other young forwards will be picking up more responsibility. The team moved to the CCC South, which should make the schedule more competitive.

SUFFIELD/GRANBY/WINDSOR LOCKS (14-6-1)

Jake King Suffield

Jake King
Suffield

Colin MacDougald Suffield

Colin MacDougald
Suffield

There are a few coaches looking at the Wildcats as a team that can make noise in Division II. They’ll be tested by a tough schedule.

Two-time all-state forward Jake King returns as captain off a 26-goal, 21-assist season; he had 36 points two years ago. Junior Colin MacDougald (23 points) and sophomore Jake Bourdeau (17 points) played well last year and bring lots of speed.

Senior Shane Kertanis returns in goal off a season with a .910 save percentage. Senior Austin Adams, another fast player, leads the defense in all situations.

HAND (14-10-0)

A good year turned great in the playoffs as the Tigers got hot and won the CIAC Division II championship in Ken Mitchell’s first season as coach. Some solid defense returns in senior captain Andrew Rossi and junior Jeff Rider. Freshman Paul Gagliardi should also step right in there. Junior Luke Brown and sophomore Tristan Sorenson lead the offense (Ben Solin is at Phillips Exeter), while sophomore Robert Smith takes over in goal from graduated standout Chase Briggs.

AMITY (17-9-0)

Runners-up in both the SCC/SWC Division II tournament and the CIAC tournament, the Spartans graduated 10 players, including all-stater Adam Shea and goalie Brian Mosher. Coach Gary Lindgren’s team may need some time to grow but should remain tough to beat.

Several contributing forwards return, like co-captains Kevin Ryan and Zach Shelnitz as seniors, classmate Liam Caracciolo and sophomores Jeremy Cable and Charlie Csejka. Co-captain Dalton Luciani leads the defense, and Mac Deane is back after a good freshman year. Sophomore Tim Johnstone takes over in goal.

Michael Fornabaio

Michael Fornabaio

Michael writes for Hockey Night in Boston, covers the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the Connecticut Post, and once covered the Beast of New Haven. He grew up at the New Haven Coliseum. Story, blog links @BSTSoundinOff blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio.
Michael Fornabaio
- 4 hours ago
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