For the second time in as many years, the Central Connecticut Conference’s South Division welcomes two “new” programs. In truth, it is actually the split-up of old co-operative teams, as Hall becomes a stand-alone program this season after previously teaming with Southington, which now forms a new co-op arrangement. Both teams also have new coaches.
As for the league race, Newington remains strong, while E.O. Smith/Tolland appears to be a sleeper. Wethersfield’s departure for the North Division opens up the competition a bit.
Coach: Jason Olson
The Chieftains graduated six seniors, including all three of their CCC South all-conference selections from last season. But they also return 13 players from last year’s squad that posted a winning record in its move down to Division 3.
Among the eight returning seniors are: Beau Bacon, Brian Fehl, Sam Heller, James Robinson, Graydon Selstad, Aidan Shaughnessy, Harrison Sweeney and John Wenz.
Also back for the Chieftains are juniors Brendan Alekshun, Connor Dainiak, John Hodgson and Holden Patrissi, and sophomore Anthony Karriem.
E.O. SMITH/TOLLAND (6-8-0)
Coach: John Hodgson
Hodgson is very bullish on the Bucks’ chances this season, particularly with 11 seniors and experience throughout the lineup.
“This team has a chance to compete for the CCC South title and should be a solid team in the D3 state tournament,” Hodgson said.
Senior left wing Keegan Hodgkinson (6-7-13) was a CCC South All-Conference selection last season, and the clear leader of the Bucks attack along with senior centers Cam Sterling (2-6-8) and Braiden George (3-3-6). Senior left wing Quentin Wry is another solid returnee, and Hodgson expects senior newcomer Cole Schoen to emerge as the team’s top center.
Seniors Conor O’Brien (3-2-5) and Zack Stoltenberg are the top defensemen, and senior goalie Dan Polgun (2.81 GAA) rounds out the experienced cast.
ENFIELD/EAST GRANBY/STAFFORD (5-8-0)
Coach: Frank Genovese
The Eagles enter the season with a pair of capable goaltenders, as both juniors Tommy Terhune (3.53 GAA) and Nick Morrell (2.00 GAA) return.
However, Genovese says the Eagles “will need more offensive contributions from all players” this season.
Junior Luke Arsenault (5-2-7) and senior Declan Higgins (2-2-4) are the top returning forwards, with senior Kyle Cox (2-3-5) the leader of the defense.
Freshman forward Jack Jones will be a player to watch.
HALL (8-2-1 as co-op with Southington)
Coach: Colin O’Connor
A new era begins for the program, which has split off from the longstanding co-op with Southington and gone solo. With that comes a new coach, as Colin O’Connor takes over the Warriors.
The split leaves the roster a bit thin, but O’Connor will look to senior Matt Ganey and junior Owen Miller at center, with juniors Hudson Hollander and Ben Gerken on the wings.
Seniors Ethan Stagg and Rafael Fichandler lead the defense, and the Warriors have a pair of junior goalies in Eddie DelGrego and Aeden Mallett.
Junior CJ Cohen is a newcomer to watch.
“I think that if our returning players can step up and lead our younger players, we have the ability to complete in both our conference and our division,” O’Connor said. “A few of the new younger players will need to step up and fill some important roles for the team to succeed this year.”
Coach: Dave Harackiewicz
There was no CIAC postseason last winter, but it was still a banner season for Newington, which won the CCC South championship and finished as Hockey Night in Boston News’ top Division 3 team.
What’s next for the newly named Nor’easters? The sky’s the limit, as Harackiewicz says his team has depth at forward and defense, and the blue line is plenty capable of contributing to the offense as well.
Look for the top forwards to be junior Josh Grimm (3-6-9), Mike Deegan (1-3-4) and Harrison Ranger (6-5-11), with Tyler Leavitt (1-0-1) and Evan Oliver (1-0-1) adding depth. Newcomers Andrew Stribling (junior) and Kyle Klimas (sophomore) also will help out.
The two-way talents on the blue line include seniors Braeden Humphrey (5-9-14, all-CCC South last season), Blake Blackwood (1-3-4) and Niko Giotsas (2-2-4), and junior Evan Howard (3-8-11).
Last year’s backup, junior Jeremy Wagner, will get his chance in goal this season.
The Nor’easters are a co-op of host Newington plus Berlin, Canton, Cromwell and Manchester.
Coach: Galen Byram
The Shamrocks enter the season loaded with young, with only three seniors on the roster and just three total with more than two seasons of varsity experience.
Senior forward Patrick Frommer is the only one who fits both categories, with forward Tyler Szegda and defenseman Alex Frommer as the lone other seniors. Juniors Austin Jones (D) and Nate Ojala (F) enter their third seasons in the program.
Byram adds that all three goalies – sophomores Jack Bell and Bauer Cordeiro Larkin, and freshman Ryan Murphy – are new to the program and all will be battling for playing time.
The Shamrocks co-op is hosted by Rockville, with guests Bolton, Coventry, East Hartford, RHAM, and Windham Tech.
ROCKY HILL (2-7-0)
Coach: Dave Dubos
Having gotten their feet wet last season following their split from Wethersfield, the Terriers have a solid cast back for their second campaign.
Look for seniors Brody Davidson (F) and Owen Davidson (D) – both CCC South All-Stars last season – to lead the way with seniors Jeffrey Beliveau, Gabe Boily, Ryan Brady, Conor Konopka, Jacob Nelson and Sean Sides.
Also returning are juniors Tanner Phillips, Tyler Poulin and Sam Reed, and sophomores Noah MacDonald, Charlie Maxwell and Dominick Violette.
Also skating with Rocky Hill this season are players from Haddam-Killingworth (formerly part of the old Lyman Hall co-op), Middletown and Plainville.
SOUTHINGTON (new program)
Coach: Bob Allan
Southington makes the split from its previous co-op with Hall, and adds players from Coginchaug (formerly part of co-op with Lyman Hall until last season) and Westbrook.
The program also will have a new coach, as Bob Allan takes the reins.
The inaugural team has just two seniors – Michael Fusciello and Zachary Moskal – and a bigger group of juniors with Thomas Czarkosky, John Frechette, Gabriel Mohr, Drew Nafis, Jake Nafis and Eli Vernick.
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Jackson Carroll, Jasen Hurley, Nicholas Martino, Colin Paradis and Noah Wilk, and freshmen Jackson Bafundo, Liam Gargan, Cooper Kilgore and Joshua Wolfe.