With 2020 champion Sheehan opting to play at the Division 2 level in the league this season, the Division 3 tier of the Southern Connecticut Conference/South West Conference will have a new six-team look this season.
Also the group features one new coach, one new nickname, one new co-op. It’s the latter that has the potential to make the most impact, with most coaches pointing to Newtown/New Fairfield as the team to watch.
The teams will play schedules of 9-12 games, with a mix of league and nonleague games.
The Bethel-Brookfield-Danbury co-op will be an interesting mix this season. Coach Rusty Granacker returns his top three scorers from a year ago, but also will be incorporating eight newcomers that he expects will need to play key roles.
Senior left wing Kyle Boller (14-8-22) and senior right wing Anthony Britton (12-13-25) were the top two scorers and will lead the IceCats offense with junior wing Alex Nunez and sophomore wing Jordan Perrotti.
Junior Kenny Granacker (3-7-10) will be a key two-way player from the blue line along with seniors Aidan Garvey, Spencer Abrams and Brian Merrill. Junior Louis Alfidi also returns in net.
Sophomore forwards Kevin Dykes, Canaan Sturdevant and Dmitry Yates lead the group of newcomers with sophomore defensemen Daniel McCue and Tim Whitlock. Sophomores Dino Capilupi and Thomas Fernandes will push Alfidi in net. Freshman forward Liam McCurry is another player to watch.
“Nearly half of our roster is new players and they will have to step up right away,” Granacker said.
The three-team co-op from Joel Barlow, Weston and Abbott Tech enters 2021 in a big transition mode, having lost top guns Daniel McKiernan and Luke Dube to prep school and juniors, respectively.
That leaves senior Dante Esposito (10-16-26) to try to pick up the scoring slack for coach Bob Stearns, along with senior Ronan Duffy and junior Ben Wolff. A trio of sophomores — Spencer Thomas, Theo Spitzer and Kai Smith — have opportunities for key roles.
With senior Connor Sweeney back in net, the JBWA blue line will be patrolled by the likes of senior Ted Blanchard, junior Duncan Craine, sophomore Emitt Arees, and freshman Ryan McCabe.
The Panthers will be under new leadership this season. Originally Zachary Vidmosko was slated to be behind the Masuk bench, but a late change has led to former coach Andy Townsend to take the reins once again.
As for on the ice, sophomore Drew Scalia should be poised for a further breakout after a strong freshman season in 2019-20. Seniors Will Brakeman and Ryan Squibb also return at forward along with sophomore A.J. Michetti.
Sophomore Michael Domenichelli is the top returnee on defense for the Panthers. Look for junior Tory Beck to take over in goal full time.
The newly named Mariners will be a young squad this season, but coach Ken Mitchell said the team is up for the challenge and embracing the opportunity to play.
Senior captain Kyle Kosh leads the young cast along with senior Rich Biela. Junior Joey Honcz, and sophomores Connor Chirico and Chris Adkins also return from last season’s team that reached the Division 3 state tournament.
Juniors Luca Ubaldi and Kevin Wokanovicz are key returning players on the blue line, with senior Derek Ouellette in goal.
“Smart hockey and not compounding mistakes will be key early,” Mitchell said.
NEWTOWN/NEW FAIRFIELD (9-12-0)
The Nighthawks look to be a potential breakout team this season for coach Paul Esposito. A big key is a new co-op with New Fairfield, which previously skated with the Immaculate program.
However, several key pieces from the Newtown side return from last season, led by first-team all-state Phil Makris (20-17-37). The senior forward and co-captain will be helped by junior James Celentano (18-19-37), a second-team all-state pick.
Junior Markus Paltauf (.911 SP) returns in goal, with senior defenseman Eli Kirby (2-13-15) and junior John O’Sullivan (0-4-4) back.
Bolstering the Nighthawks from New Fairfield will be a group including senior co-captain Jack Benzing at forward, junior defenseman Ronan McAllister, and sophomore goalie Chris Liguori. Giovanni Cucco and Cam Gouveia are a pair of sophomore forwards.
Esposito says his team is big in the physical sense, which will work the net front at both ends and display good skating and skill.
“Energy and chemistry between the two schools is strong to start,” he said of the merger. “If the team maintains these levels, we should have a successful season.”
NEW MILFORD (14-6-1)
As the Green Wave enter this season of uncertainty, it will help to have an experienced backstop. Logan Lucas (2.20 GAA, .900 SP) is back for his final season, and coach Scott Capriglione expects Lucas to be an all-state caliber netminder.
Juniors Nick Carlucci (2-8-10), Steve Sanford (6-8-14) and Quinn Danvers (3-8-11) will help shore up that defensive end while continuing to provide offense for the Wave. Sophomore Jonas Veleas will back up Lucas in net.
After losing some scoring off the offensive lines, New Milford will look to seniors Jarrett Rivera (7-4-11), Matt Marano (1-2-3) and Dan Gallagher (3-7-10), as well as junior Ryan Parker (7-6-13), to pick up the slack. Sophomores Theo Dietter and Bryce Isquith will provide forward depth.
The Wave also will be in transition, with their normal Canterbury School ice unavailable to them this season. They will play just one “home” game at South Kent.
Capriglione calls his Green Wave a “great group of players that really exemplify the meaning of team. … Giving these dedicated players some sense of normalcy is my main goal.”