With Bishop Stang leaving the defunct Eastern Athletic Conference at the end of the 2019-20 school year and joining the Catholic Central League in all sports, the three-team Small Schools division comes together again. Cardinal Spellman and St. Joseph Prep each skated as independents a year ago, but the three teams will play a four-game round-robin league schedule as well as out-of-league opponents in this shortened season.
Bishop Stang (12-6-5)
The Spartans made the biggest shakeup in the Division 3 South bracket last March, knocking off top seed Hopkinton in a quarterfinal matchup before falling to crosstown rival Dartmouth in the semifinals.
Now it’s a transition season for the Spartans in many ways, including the move to the Catholic Central after the Eastern Athletic Conference dissolved following the 2019-20 school year. CCL foes still should see some veteran players for Stang, including a defense led by seniors Ben Saunders (13-9-22), Ryan Martin (3-13-16) and Dylan Aguiar, as well as junior Seamus Marshall (2-12-14).
Eighth-year coach Ken Gouveia said the Spartans will continue to rely on defense, with sophomore Brayden Bennett stepping into the starting role in net.
Offensively, Stang will look to junior center Justin Gouveia (12-7-19) and senior center Brandon Cardelli (7-6-13) to anchor the top lines. Juniors Jack Jedrey (2-2-4) and Tyler Beck (0-2-2), and sophomore Adyn Simmons (5-0-5) provide depth, and freshman Quinn Pine will be a key addition on the wings.
“The team is solid on defense and our top two lines can play,” Gouveia said.
Cardinal Spellman (3-14-2)
The offseason was a mixed bag for coach Rich Manning and the Cardinals.
The team will be bolstered by as many as eight transfers from Coyle & Cassidy and Sacred Heart, both schools that closed at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Those additions give Manning a roster of 22-24, which he says is seven more than the program has had. “That’s a huge upgrade for us, as we’ve never had the luxury of depth before,” Manning said.
However, the team suffered a big loss in senior captain and goalie Zachary Richards, who is out for the season with a torn labrum. The team MVP last season played 85 percent of the minutes in net, so Manning will turn to sophomore Stephen Nardelli, who got some experience as backup last year.
Senior Adam Martin and junior Jay O’Hearn are the top returning forwards, and Manning said junior Nick Crociati has been the most impressive of the transfers in preseason. Defensively, senior Tyler Chabot holds down the top spot on the blue line.
St. Joseph Prep (3-14-3)
Coach Rob Dwyer, entering his seventh season with the Phoenix, likes the locker room chemistry of his team despite its relative lack of numbers.
Seniors Ben Connaugton (4-4-8) and Paul Connaugton (6-5-11) are the top returners at forward along with junior Jack Cicconi (5-6-11) and senior Joe Martell (3-6-9).
Defensively, the Phoenix will look to juniors Liam Brown (3-7-10) and John Bennett (1-0-1), as well as senior Sean McLaughlin (2-6-8). Senior James Stanislaski will provide confident, experienced goaltending, backed up by freshman Robby Larkin.
Dwyer says the key for this season will be giving his seniors a strong sendoff, while also providing valuable ice time to the younger players heading into next season.