Connecticut HS Boys Hockey – SCC/SWC Division 1 Preview: Prep Retooling; Will Battle With Notre Dame (WH), Xavier

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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Last season Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame (West Haven) were declared co-champions of the SCC/SWC Division 1 tournament after the title game was canceled as a result of the pandemic.

Look for both teams to once again be the top powers, not only in the conference, but across Division 1. Xavier is poised to challenge with a veteran team, Hamden always is a difficult opponent, and Immaculate has high hopes of getting into contention. Notre Dame (Fairfield) will look to develop a young squad throughout the season, and West Haven has experience in a relatively small roster.

Aksel Sather
Fairfield Prep

FAIRFIELD PREP (11-1-1)

Coach: Matthew Sather

The Jesuits were hit hard by graduation and other losses, including SCC/SWC D1 Player of the Year Mason Whitney, goalie Tommy Martin and nearly the entire defense. However, the norm for the program usually is reload instead of rebuild, and this year should be no exception.

Besides, there is plenty of returning talent to form a nucleus for 2021-22, including all-SCC/SWC defenseman Luke Noonan (1-3-4). He will be a senior captain along with returning senior forwards Aksel Sather (3-13-16) and Tiernan Curley (11-11-22).

Tiernan Curley Fairfield Prep

Also returning at forward at junior Will Huntington (6-4-10) and senior Henry Keller (1-2-3).

Next in line to replace Martin in net at Nick Ambrosio and Emmett Cheever.

“With only seven returning players and one returning defensemen, we will look to build toward March,” coach Sather said. “A very tough schedule and a deep talent pool could yield a dangerous team in March if everything comes together.”

Jesse Fracasso Hamden

HAMDEN (1-9-0)

Coach: Todd Hall

The Green Dragons return a fair chunk of experienced players from last season, and Hall says they “are hungry to play after a rather difficult pandemic year.”

Look for the senior forward trio of right wingers Jesse Fracasso (5-4-9) and Anthony Malonis (5-1-6), and center Kellen Sargolini (1-7-8) to lead the offensive attack for the Dragons.

Defensively, sophomore Tyler Milrad (1-2-3) is the top returning player on the blue line.

The Dragons have a pair of experienced goalies in senior Ben Bielen and sophomore Brody Sargolini.

IMMACULATE (5-7-0)

Coach: Brian Lugo

Now entering their third season as a solo program, the Mustangs appear to be in a good place to begin pushing for the top spots among Division 1 teams, according to Lugo.

Patrick Heslin was considered the top freshman in the state during the abbreviated 2021 season, and he will be the go-to player at forward this season along with senior Freddy Basli, who also had a strong season for the Mustangs.

Senior defenseman Seamus Heslin leads the Immaculate blue line, with junior Francis McGreal back in net. However, Lugo expects sophomore transfer Nathan Rendo to challenge McGreal in net. True freshman Jovanni Smeriglio could be a player to watch this season and for the future.

NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD (5-9-0)

Coach: Rich Minnix

After graduating 10 seniors and losing another strong player to juniors, the Lancers will have only two seniors on the roster this season. With that, Minnix says NDF “will look to grow each and every game.”

Forward Kevin Barrett is one of the two seniors and he will be a top forward along with junior Tyler Bassett.

The young blue line will be led by sophomores Drew Kolakowski and Patrick Dabrowski, with junior Colby Lasalle back in net.

Minnix expects freshman Colin Celeberti to make an impact this season.

NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN (11-2-1)

Coach: Larry Vieira

This year’s version of the Green Knights is “young but super skilled” according to Vieira, with plenty of depth and speed.

Returning forwards for ND include seniors Ashton Delmonico (5-2-7), Michael Pilato (1-1-2) and Colby Faughnan, juniors Ty Batipaglia (1-0-1), Chris Cusack (2-1-3) and Michael Troiano (1-1-2), and sophomore James Mascari.

The blue line of senior Grant Curtis (3-6-9) and sophomores Brody Andriole, Matthew Bencivengo and Ryan McCarthy will have a critical role early, as Vieira said there was a serious preseason battle among 10 players (three juniors, two sophomores) for the goaltending position following the graduation of D1 All-State selection Connor Smith.

Sophomore Logan Hurd and Brody DiNuzzo join the blue line this season and John Donohue is a promising forward.

“Once the [young players] get used to Division 1 pace, we will be fine,” Vieira said. “There might be a learning curve but by March I am confident we will be ready for the playoffs.”

The Knights will have nine out-of-state games, including the Catholic Memorial Christmas Tournament plus Central Catholic and Malden Catholic in Massachusetts, as well as Rhode Island powers Bishop Hendricken and Mount St. Charles.

WEST HAVEN (4-7-0)

Coach: Steve Harris

Numbers could be a bit of a problem this season for the Blue Devils, who have just 17 players on the roster – six seniors and no juniors. However, 13 of the players got experience a season ago.

Nico Bruneau
West Haven

Seniors Mike Alfano, Ryan Bernardi, Nico Bruneau, and DJ Carfora lead the forwards with sophomores Marcus Burrows, Michael Madera and Jayden Spreyer. Defensively the Devils will lean on seniors Joe D’Aurio and Anthony Peschell, as well as sophomores Haygen Axelrod and Jason Alling. Sophomore Javed Ullah will be in net.

Newcomers include sophomore forward Zackary Fonda, and freshmen John Alio (D), Thomas Porto (F) and Brady Price (F).

XAVIER (9-4-1)

Coach: Karl Sundquist

The Falcons return 10 seniors from last season and 15 players overall as they look to push the usual powers in the SCC/SWC race.

Much of the forward group is experienced, led by seniors Niko Anastasiades, Adam Chasse, AJ Guzzardi, Matthew Krause, Jack Nowosad, Quinten Olshad, Matthew Reardon, Dylan Reynolds and Julian Sicurella, and juniors Christopher Fox and Dylan Rovetti.

Defensively the Falcons return senior William Monroe, Austin Zwick, junior Nikolaso Spaniotis, and sophomore Ryan Gerardi.

A big key will be who steps up in goal between junior John Kozdroy and sophomore William McDougall.

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