Connecticut Girls HS Preview: Darien seeks repeat championship

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

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Corinne Bevill

Darien won Connecticut’s high school girls hockey championship last year and is a favorite to do it again. The Blue Wave graduated a bunch of strong players, including a four-year starter in goal, but reloads with talent and freshmen who are expected to step in and contribute for coach Jamie Tropsa.

Four senior co-captains, forwards Corinne Beville and Elise Maro and defensemen Sally Cassidy and Kiki Tropsa, are top returning players. Senior Emma Love and juniors Shea van den Broek and Abbie Lia are among those back up front, and juniors Kasey Mazzone, Libby Branca and Lily Trimmer return on defense. Goalie Hallie Kreppein is among the sophomores who can contribute, in net along with senior Lindsay Ferreira.

Shea van den Broek

Hamden (18-4-3), the runner-up and SCC regular-season champions, returns 15 players. The Green Dragons have a balanced roster, from four-year goalie Gianna Spino on out. Coach Mike Callan has senior co-captains Mackenzie Sargolini and Kelsey Carignan back off solid seasons.

Senior Taylor Klesyk (24 points), junior Megan McKiernan (24) and senior Maggie Gould (23) all had good offensive seasons, and Claire Boncek joins Sargolini on defense. They’ll look for continued production from sophomore Demri Carangelo (18 points), junior Ari Martin and senior Angela Greco.

ETB (East Catholic, Glastonbury and South Windsor) (12-9-8) were SCC champions for the second year in a row but fell in the state semifinals in double overtime to Darien. They graduated some big-name players like forward Maddie Gervais (St. Michael’s College) and two goalies.

They’ve reloaded up front, with speedy junior Tori Amaral and playmaking classmate Meredith Mack expected to step up into key roles with sophomore Samm Ostrowski. Seniors Julia Hallisey, Zoe Sessions and Hannah Klim add experience. Sophomore defenseman Julia Swanson headlines a group that includes junior Allie DiPrato, senior Bridget O’Connor and sophomore Erica Ferri. Sophomore Gianna Cormier takes over in net.

The SCC, incidentally, has split into two conferences for the new season. The North includes ETB, Simsbury, Hall/Conard, Northwest Catholic/Mercy, Avon/Southington, and Suffield/Granby/Enfield/Housatonic. The South features Hamden, West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy, Amity/North Haven/Cheshire, Branford/North Branford/East Haven, Hand, Notre Dame-Fairfield/Law/Foran/Weston, Masuk/Barlow/Newtown/Oxford, Guilford and Lauralton Hall.

Jessica Eccleston
New Canaan

The FCIAC remains as usual. Greenwich is defending conference champion and is expected to remain strong. New Canaan (11-5-4) should, as well, after 17 years without a losing record. Coach Rich Bulan’s team has several four-year players, including all-state forward Gianna Bruno, with fellow seniors Liz McCarthy, Brooke Deane and Zoe Jones. All-state defenseman Jess Eccleston is back for her junior year, as is Katelyn Sparks. Junior Kara Fahey returns in net, joined by freshman Blythe Novick.

West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy (16-2-2) was SCC Division II champion last season and a state quarterfinalist. The co-op returns junior Francesca Criscuolo (28 points) and sophomore Taylor Nowak (30 points) up front along with junior C.C. Condon, senior Shannon Siclari and sophomore Megan Froehlich.

Coach Erin Blake also expects contributions from juniors Zoe DeFalco and Grace Plunkett. The returning defense includes all-state junior Veronica Lynn and sophomore Brooke McNabola. Junior Kyleen Crowe and sophomore Tatum Courtemanche are back in net.

Other state quarterfinalists were Simsbury, and Fairfield, which took a big step up into both the FCIAC and state tournaments. Coach Brian DePodesta’s team graduated some of its top scorers but will rely on the returning leadership of junior forward Maris Esteves, senior forward Grace Flink and senior defenseman Kayla Shemesh.

Simsbury comes in with just 12 skaters, but coach Paul Melanson expects the Trojans to compete. They get senior Kate Werle back after missing last year due to injury, and they expect her, Kaley Melanson and Elise Hildebrandt to carry much of the load up front. Sophomore Grace Melanson was their second-leading goal scorer last year. Senior Claire Bettor leads the defense.

A bunch of sophomores are expected to chip in, including forwards Caitlin Cavanaugh, Lindsay Maloney and Samantha Henchcliffe, and defensemen Jessica Pitaniello and Ella Holland. Junior Sophia Guerrero returns in net.

Amity/North Haven/Cheshire (13-8-1) was runner-up to West Haven/SHA in SCC Division II. The Blades return some offensive power, including sophomores Tess Csejka (14 goals) and Melissa Montesi (22 points) and junior Shannon Reilly (20 points). Seniors Grace Kosh and Olivia Dittman are also contributors at forward for coach John Peschell’s team. Junior Meghan Hogan leads the defense in front of senior goalie Juliana Daddio.

Hand (11-7-2) is looking to keep improving after falling in the SCC Division II semifinals. New coach Ray Lilley feels the Tigers have a balanced team with a strong defense, including senior captain Sam Rodham leading a young group that includes juniors Sydney Ogden, Grace Doheny and Kaitlyn Sandor, and sophomore Ciara Halloran. Senior Kylie Gargiulo returns in goal.

Trumbull/St. Joseph has a strong defenseman to build around, junior Erin Owens, an all-state and all-FCIAC player. Coach Paula Dady likes Owens’ all-around game. Junior Lydia Prezioso joins Owens on the blue line. Senior captain MacKenzie Meany leads the forwards.

Kendall Castro
Northwest Catholic/Mercy

Northwest Catholic/Mercy looks to continue to build after an improved season, returning lots of experience and expecting to mix in some freshmen.

Coach John Alissi has senior Kendall Castro (13-10-23, all-state), junior Annie Alissi (12-7-19) and senior Katherine Sadak back up front, and a leading junior defenseman in Meghan McClellan. Sophomore Brianna McDermott returns in goal.

Masuk/Joel Barlow/Newtown/Oxford went 5-12-1 in its first varsity season and will look to build off that. Coach Andy Townsend has senior Shannon Maxey back up front off a 15-goal season, which helps after Catie Boudiette departed for Kent after a 22-goal year. Sophomore Erin Webdale had 15 points last year. The team has senior Sarah Witherbee and junior Nikita Licuidine returning on defense. Emma Reynolds, a senior, comes in from the Junior Wolfpack.

Guilford (1-17) was young last year and graduated only two players. Coach Gil Schaper sees a good group of young talent and expects good things from some incoming players. Senior co-captain Hannah Plaziak leads a defense corps that includes junior Sarah Ziemba and sophomores Jaime Neleber and Mary Evans. Junior Jacquelyn Violette will play some defense and some forward, along with junior co-captain Mariah Cretella and junior co-captain Brielle Kendrioski, who also plays goal. Sophomores Audrey Rowan and Lily Mackey will play center for the Indians, who also have Morgan Mancuso and Trinity Ireland in net.

Suffield/Enfield/Ellington/Housatonic debuts as a varsity program under coach Joe Gozzi. The team went 15-4 as a club team last year. Senior Ana Tittmann, committed to Manhattanville, paces the offense along with senior Molly Dowd and junior Sophie Lupone. Sisters Taylor
and Tori Geaglone, a senior and junior, are strong on defense in front of sophomore goalie Caitlyn Caldon. Seniors Meg Leonardi, Julia Nicolescu, Syd Lupone and Grace Gozzi will contribute.

The new Avon/Southington program, under coach Mike Carrera, have a couple of seniors and a good group of underclassmen. Senior Sydney Rice and sophomores Kori Bartko and Mackenzie Carrera will lead a speedy offense, and junior Abby Lamson and freshman Kayla Clark can add offense from the blue lone. Aerille Ohayon and Logan Lada are in net. The Nighthawks will look to seniors Rice and Carolyn Nisbet for leadership.


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