Connecticut HS Boys Hockey – FCIAC Division 1 Preview: Despite Rebuild, Darien Still A Force

Jim Clark
Jim Clark joined Hockey Night in Boston in December 2019, and has covered high school hockey in Massachusetts for more than three decades. He also covers high school hockey and is a multiplatform editor for the Boston Globe, and previously spent two decades as high school hockey reporter at the Boston Herald, where he also served as the high schools editor from 2000-06. Clark was honored by the Mass. State Hockey Coaches Association with its William Stewart Award for contributions to the sport in May 2019, and also received the Joel Perlmutter Award for media coverage in 2006. A graduate of UMass, he also spent eight years as sports editor/reporter at the Sentinel & Enterprise in Fitchburg, and has extensively covered high school hockey in Central and Western Mass. as well as Connecticut.

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The FCIAC made it to the finish line during a challenging last winter, capped by a conference tournament that was won by New Canaan. The Rams should be among the contenders again, and while Darien is rebuilding, league coaches still expect the Blue Wave to be the team to beat. Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe has a new coach and will be a team to watch along with a solid Greenwich squad, while Ridgefield and St. Joseph will look to contend.

Ryan Spengler Darien

DARIEN (7-4-2)

Coach: Mac Budd

The Blue Wave graduated a big chunk of their scoring talent from a season ago, but Budd believes a talented group of underclassmen plus a “gritty group of seniors” can help make up for it.

Seniors Billy Branca (1-2-3), Tauson Pfeifle (1-1-2), Alex Garabet (2-2-4) and Patrick Thurlow (3-2-5) are among those taking on bigger roles this season along with junior Anthur Devillers (3-4-7). On defense, the Wave will look to senior Ryan Spengler (0-5-5), sophomore Tommy Holland (2-0-2) and Asa Beach.

Alek Garabet Darien

One plus is that senior Chris Schofield returns in net.

“Obviously we will need to have a number of guys step up and take on a larger role if we are going to be successful,” Budd said. “We have a very strong schedule and hopefully we will develop and have a chance to compete for something at the end of the season.”

FAIRFIELD WARDE/LUDLOWE (8-4-1)

Coach: Mark Mongillo

Matt Jankovsky Fairfield

It’s a season of transition for the Mustangs. Not only does Mongillo take over behind the bench for last year’s FCIAC Coach of the Year, Carl Larouche, but FWL will also be ineligible for the CIAC tournament under state rules governing co-op programs being phased out.

But the Mustangs still should be among the teams to watch in the FCIAC. Senior left wing Finn Hoey returns for his second season as captain, and was an all-FCIAC first-team selection a year ago. Another senior left wing, Matthew Jankovsky, was a second-team honoree.

Noah Kingsly Fairfield

The Mustangs should be strong on defense with senior Charlie Gardiner and juniors Ryan Hetherman, Noah Kingsly and Jake Harmony all back, in front of junior goalie Connor Zavory.

Among the returning forwards are senior John Vallillo, junior Charlie Swanson, Joshua Weinstein, and sophomores James Bauer, Liam Forrest and Ryan Tymon

GREENWICH (10-5-0)

Coach: Jack Duffy

The Cardinals, who reached the FCIAC Division 1 title game last season, will look to build on that success as they enter Duffy’s second season.

A strong senior group will be led by forwards Danny Pratley, Danny Windels, Nate Duffy and Francois Geraghty, with junior Matthew Trimmer also returning up front.

Junior Peter Lewis and seniors Shea Madden, Brendan Frost and Jordan Bowbeer will be the top blueliners this season, as Duffy expects solid team defense will be the key early while the scoring develops.

Looking to take over in goal this season will be junior Cole Studwell and senior Jack Ryan.

Newcomers to watch for the Cardinals will be sophomore goalie Nick Sinisi, juniors Alex McGarvey (D) and Will Duncan (F), and senior forward Bo Grillo.

Nate Duffy, Frost and Madden will serve as captains for the Cardinals.

NEW CANAAN (8-6-1)

Coach: Clark Jones

The Rams capped their abbreviated 2021 season by rolling to the FCIAC Division 1 tournament championship, and it is not secret why. Goalie Beau Johnson carried the Rams, earning all-FCIAC and All-State honors, and returns for his junior season, providing what Jones calls “rock solid goaltending, night in and night out.”

It will be needed early as NC tries to replace 18 skaters lost from last season. Among the returning players are senior forwards Michael Rayher (5-9-14, FCIAC second team) and Carter Spain (2-1-3), and sophomore Doster Crowell (0-3-3). But the Rams get a big lift with the return of senior Nick Megdanis from prep school. Megdanis posted 8-12-20 as a sophomore on the Ram’s FCIAC title team two years ago.

Cam Wietfeldt will be the top returning defenseman.

“While this year’s team will look a lot different, the skill level and talent should allow this team to compete late into the season,” Jones said.

RIDGEFIELD (4-9-0)

Coach: Shaun Gallagher

The Tigers are another FCIAC team in transition after suffering some heavy losses from previous seasons.

“The coaches are excited to see who steps in to make significant contributions,” Gallagher said. “This season’s group is hard working and motivated to get the Tigers back on track.”

Senior Eric Pereira (1-11-12) was a second-team all-FCIAC pick last season and will be the top returning forward along with senior James Ahern (2-4-6).

On defense, Ridgefield will lean on senior Chris Hamilton (1-4-5) and sophomore Shaun Rigby (0-1-1). The goaltending position was still in flux entering the season.

ST. JOSEPH (2-10-0)

Coach: Chris Nelson

In his second season, Nelson continues to build the Cadets program, and says the players once again are dedicating this season to former coach Eddy Lemaire, who died unexpectedly during the summer of 2020.

The Cadets will lean on juniors John Karafa and Joey Bisson as the top forwards, with 

Junior Mark Husted-Edwards and senior Trevor Kellogg on defense.

Senior Tyler Stiewing once again will get the call in goal.

Kellogg and Karafa will be captains, with senior forward Johnny McNabola as assistant captain.

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