The Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference has split into two divisions this year, placing the league’s six Division 1 squads in one group.
Teams will play each of the other five schools twice, and will be allowed to schedule teams from the other side of the FCIAC, as well as out-of-conference Division 1 opponents.
Defending champion New Canaan returns a veteran group and should be among the favorites along with Darien and Greenwich, while Ridgefield can’t be counted out.
The Blue Wave have high expectations entering the season, and coach Mac Budd said the team is embracing that with a strong returning cast.
“We have a number of returning players and expect to be in the mix for a championship if we play to our potential,” Budd said. “The league is very strong this year and our best players will need to be our best players, as they say.”
Those “best players” start with a pair of returning FCIAC First Team All-Stars in senior forward Jamison Moore (11-24-35) and senior defenseman Luke Johnston (3-18-21). Junior goalie Chris Schofield was honorable mention last season, giving Darien good experience and balance throughout the lineup.
Returning along with Moore up front are seniors Sam Erickson (11-12-23), James Conway (11-9-20), Danny Lowe (5-14-19) and Teddy Dyer (6-9-15). The blue line should be solid with seniors Albert Liam and Matthew Stein also back, while senior Teddy DeBeradinis also has experience in net.
“We’ve had good teams the last couple of years and now we just need to find a way to finish the job and win a championship,” Budd said.
FAIRFIELD WARDE/LUDLOWE (12-8-0)
The Mustangs are another team that can make a serious push for the top of the league, also with a strong veteran cast.
Coach Carl Larouche welcomes back FCIAC First-Team All-Star Rhys Davies (14-14-28), a senior center, as well as senior defenseman Sam Swanson (14-13-27), who earned second-team honors.
In addition to Davies, Larouche will look to junior right wing Matt Jankovsky (10-13-23), senior right wing Brendan Carney (8-7-15), senior center Bobby Winter (6-8-14) and junior left wing Finn Hoey (4-11-15) to balance out the offense. Defensively, Sam Swanson will get help from fellow seniors Andrew Shavinsky (0-3-3) and Brady Pomer (1-5-6) in front of senior goalie John Grace.
Larouche also is high on the additions of sophomores Charlie Swanson (RW) and Connor Zavory (G), as well as freshmen Ryan Tymon (LW) and Liam Forrest (D/RW).
It was a trying offseason for the Cardinals program, which had to deal with the sudden death of coach Chris Rurak last July. Assistant coach Jack Duffy steps into the top spot behind the bench, and should have plenty of upperclass experience in the forward lines.
Senior captains Thatcher Danielson, Jack Hutchins and Sean Duffy will lead the way there. Greenwich also returns a pair of FCIAC All-Stars in junior Ivan Kovalev (second team) and senior Wesley Zolin (honorable mention), as well as senior Jake Shreders and junior Liam Mathews.
A pair of senior captains – Ben Bates and Chris Cataldo – anchor the defense for the Cardinals, where junior Charlie Zolin returns in net and should be one of the FCIAC’s best netminders once again. Duffy said a key will be breaking in some of the younger defensemen to provide depth on the blue line.
NEW CANAAN (17-2-1)
New Canaan took home the FCIAC championship a year ago and was poised for big things as the No. 2 seed in Division 1 before the state tournament was shut down. Now third-year coach Clark Jones and the Rams will focus on defending their title in what should be another tough league race.
NC returns 18 players from last season, led by FCIAC tournament MVP Beau Johnson (2.08 GAA, .935 SP) for his sophomore season in net. Johnson was a second-team FCIAC All-Star along with senior center Boden Gammill (13-9-22) and senior wing Griffin Deane (11-12-23).
Much of the returning depth is in front of Johnson on the blue line, where sophomores Shane Mettler (6-11-17) and Luke Lampert (1-4-5), as well as seniors Gavin Reid (1-3-4) and Matt Pannella (1-2-3). Senior wing Carter Ellis (12-7-19) is another key returnee at forward for the Rams.
Jones also tabs a pair of freshmen – forward Doster Crowell and goalie Mason Pickering – as well as sophomore defenseman Cam Weitfeldt, as newcomers to watch.
“We are well-balanced across our forward and defensive groups with a group that knows how to win,” Jones said.
Ridgefield took a bit of a step back in 2020 coming off a run of three consecutive league championships, as well as the Div. 1 state championship in 2017. But rival coaches expect a big bounce-back from the Tigers and coach Shaun Gallagher, despite some relative youth on the roster.
Senior Will Stewart (31 points) is the top returning forward, along with junior Eric Pereira and sophomore Michael Bianco. The top veterans on the blue line are senior Ryan Tullo and junior Chris Hamilton, with senior Matt Silliman in goal.
Among the new players for Gallagher and the Tigers are sophomore forward Everett Greenwood (transfer from Watertown-Pomperaug), and a pair of freshmen in forward Luke Pereira and defenseman Shaun Rigby.
Senior Michael Conciatore, whom Gallagher expected to have a big senior season, instead will miss the campaign after breaking his femur during the fall.
“This young Tiger group needs to bring full effort and enthusiasm to every game and practice,” Gallagher said.
ST. JOSEPH (4-16-0)
The Cadets are another team that experienced tragedy in the offseason with the death of coach Eddy Lemaire, who had been at the helm for five seasons. Assistant Chris Nelson steps into the top spot.
Leading scorer Wyatt Chrisman returns for this senior season at forward along with A.J. Gerace, and they will be among four captains for Nelson. Senior Liam Gelston and junior Kyle Marcinko are the captains on the blue line with alternate captain Matthew Morales, a senior. Junior Tyler Stiewing is back in net.
Junior Jack Smith, a transfer from the now-closed Trinity Catholic, is among the newcomers for the Cadets. A strong freshman class will feature Jonathan Vitka, Brady Tomasi, M.J. Torre, Alex Balko, Dominic Beshara and Dean Tsichlas.