[one_third] [/one_third] [one_third] [/one_third] [one_third_last] [/one_third_last]
Last year’s young Falcons missed the state tournament for the first time in six years; it’s again a young team, with only two seniors. Coach Pete Maxfield is hoping for improvement from the youngsters to work their way back to .500 and beyond.
Senior goalie Thierry Jean, an alternate captain, will have to be consistent. Senior Tyler Valus, another alternate captain, moves back from center to defense to help gritty junior captain Will Sinsigalli on the blue line. Hard-working junior captain Charlie Berry scored 19 points last year; juniors Russ Bennett, Joey Pirone and Eddie Thiede all bring intangible strengths to the forwards corps, and sophomore Connor Martin had a big role as a freshman.
E.O. SMITH/TOLLAND/WINDHAM (11-9-1)
The co-op reached the Division III quarterfinals last year and hopes to be competitive again, with good team defense and some solid returning players.
Senior Ross Brancati (15 goals) and junior Peter Mayer (28 points) are back; senior defenseman Aaron Lassow had 11 points last year, and senior Justin Gagnon (13 points) and junior Sean Benjamin make up a solid pair on defense. Junior Matt Schoen played well as a sophomore for coach John Hodgson.
The Warrior Knights have lots of experience back for coach Kevin Cannon. They expect to be competitive, and they hope for scoring from veteran forwards like senior captain Jim Nardi, assistant captain Cody Backus, seniors Dylan Roach, Dave Valentukonis and Kevin Cop. Sophomore Jarod Florian scored 22 points last year. Seniors Matt Schaefer (assistant captain), Kyle Cabral and Conor Mitchell all work hard.
The defense is less experienced, though junior goalies Erich Bender and Kyle Partiss return. Senior assistant captain Brian Mahon and junior Matt Briscoe will lead the young defense.
Coach Andy Townsend’s Panthers have lots of talent returning off a pretty good season. A good schedule should test them. The whole defense returns, led by seniors Christian Suda and Tim Cairns; juniors Conner Bunovsky, George Andros and Dan D’Angelo; and sophomore Brendan Conway.
Juniors Aidan Bowler and Conner Muller will battle for time in net. There’s a lot of firepower returning up front: junior Shane Dushay scored 30 points last year, classmate Charlie Christo added 28, senior Dan Zakrzewski and Joe DaMota have been standouts, and seniors Dave Reid and Riley Blozzon kill penalties. Sophomore Brian Denham chipped in 12 points as a freshman.
NEW FAIRFIELD/IMMACULATE (11-11-0)
The team returns 17 upperclassmen after a solid season last year, and its quarterfinals appearance last year gives coach Larry Vieira confidence that those players have learned what it takes to win in the playoffs.
Senior captain Ryan Dobos, who stopped 91 percent of the shots he faced last year, headlines three returning goalies, and seniors Joey Hicks (returning from junior hockey), Jack Ryan and Joe Carlucci are keys to an experienced defense. Juniors Parker Evans (12-8-20 last year) and Frank Halakitz (also back from juniors) and sophomore transfer P.J. Masi are among the top forwards.
Moved down to Division III (not by their request, notes coach Paul Esposito), the Nighthawks expect a good season, with the experience of a big playoff win over Amity last spring and a hard-working summer.
They have some size and strength and scoring ability up front, with the likes of seniors Connor Hanley (13 points last year), Cooper McLean (12 points), Zach Waller (13 points) and Hayden Savoia (out most of the year but scored a big playoff goal). Dan Harrison, with a big shot, will play some center and some defense on both special teams. Seniors Matt Sabia (17 points), Brian Gregory and Jack Martin provide tough defense in front of senior goalie Pat McLoughlin.
There’s at least one rival coach who sees the Norwalk co-op poised for a better season. All-state senior goalie Anthony Chiaramonte gives them an excellent start, with backup from sophomore Phill Uva. Senior captains Ryan Suschland and Joe Deering will be important forwards for coach Dan Feighan, along with junior Jake Flewellyn. The defense expects a solid year from sophomore Jimmy Bernie.
ROCKY HILL/RHAM/MIDDLETOWN (4-16-0)
Former assistant Eric Teixeira takes over from Sean Cole as head coach. He’s hopeful that last year’s disappointment will fuel a fast start.
Captain Kyle Doremus will play defense at even strength and forward on special teams. Fellow senior Tim Volpe will also be a leader in goal. Assistant captain Scott Mocko and sophomore Matt Turo should be among the leading forwards.
The Spartans just missed the state tournament last year. Coach Mike Gorra’s team returns junior right winger Andrew Loya, who scored 20 goals and 11 assists last year, along with centerman Christian Stuart, and junior winger Nick Ganio, both juniors, the latter of whom played junior hockey last year.
Seniors Kevin Boylan and Sam Jones provide leadership on defense for goalie Will Slohm, a freshman. The team may have to convert a forward to defense to shore up the depth.
The Black Knights drop down from Division II but play more or less the same tough schedule. Coach Doug Robinson has some experienced forwards, like Justin Nizolek, Carter Trabikino, Mike Zarrilli, Tim Walsh and Matt Savona.
Brian Powers played forward last year; he steps up this year to play both forward and defense, joining seniors Christian Mallozzi and Billy Santoro on the blue line. There will be competition in goal.
The co-op moves down from Division II, but new coach Todd Sharinn has a goal of getting the Staples program not only back up a level, but up to Division I.
The former Westhill assistant got the job relatively late in the offseason, so he hasn’t seen much of the Wreckers; senior captain Eric Zurmuehle and sophomore alternate captain Ian Offenberg will be among the players he’ll rely on, as well as sophomore Jesse Greenspun and senior goalie Will Engelhart. Sharinn said the team plans a game at Longshore Park Rink in Westport this year and hopes to play more games there in the future.
The Terrorcats move down from Division II, and coach Paul Dowe hopes the more competitive schedule will let them be a contender. There’s still work to do, but they have some good seniors in tough forward Rudy Okonis, smart two-way forward Conor Wyllie, scoring forward Nick Violette and goalie Alex Blisener. Junior Ryan Gaidos will be relied on.
Moving down from Division II, the team looks to improve its goal-scoring and its goaltending. It’ll rely on strong defensemen to protect the front of its net, like senior captain Mario Marena, tenacious senior Kyle Vonick and junior Matt Carcia.
A deep group of forwards includes senior captains Billy Connor and Adrian Budas, steady senior Trevor Nyren, playmaking senior Ryan Byrne and junior Nick Hock, and strong junior Noah Thulen and senior Truman Stradel.
The team makes its varsity debut after a couple of years as a junior varsity program. Coach Mike Starr has a young team, mostly sophomores and juniors, but it’ll get leadership from senior captain Will Smith on defense and from senior goalie Bailey Johns. Sophomores Zach Burnham and Jordan LaMothe should contribute up front, and fellow sophomores Jon-Luc Cournoyer, Connor Bavosi and Doug Gerrity will support Smith on defense.
FITCH/EAST LYME/LEDYARD/OLD LYME (0-20-0)
Randy Craig replaces Kristen Addabbo as coach at the co-op, graduating just one senior (Dan Malzahn). Though thin in numbers, they’re hopeful for improvement, looking to junior Tyler Luke in net; to two-year captain John Stevens on defense, along with fellow senior Kyle Gurney; to senior forward Christopher Freeman, the leading scorer last year; and to junior Zack Jones, who can play forward and defense.