Masconomet is expected to take a serious run at repeating as league champion, but the Chieftains should be pushed by the CAL’s lone Division 1 squad, Newburyport, as well as Triton and Lynnfield. Amesbury, North Reading and Pentucket all enter the season with new coaches as they try to work their way to the top part of the standings.
Home Rink: Haverhill Valley Forum
The Chieftains were one of the top stories in the 2018-19 regular season, storming to the CAL championship and even drawing some consideration for the Super Eight tournament. But it all fizzled in an instant with an upset loss to league rival Triton in the Division 2 North quarterfinals.
Coach Andrew Jackson hopes Masco can prove last year was no fluke and build on that success. It will help to return one of the top goaltenders around in senior captain Tucker Hanson, who posted a 1.00 GAA, .935 SP and five shutouts. Senior captain Jack Corcoran (1-9-10) and senior Matt Elliott (2-5-7) will lead the defense, but Jackson will be looking for some younger players to step up.
Junior right wing/center Logan Campbell (16-14-30) is the top returning scorer for the Chieftains, who will have strong senior leadership up front with captain Shawn Callahan (9-12-21) as well as assistants Peyton Defeo (8-6-14) and Kirby Glynn (6-6-12). Junior Aaron Zenus (5-3-8) and juniors Paul Nichols (4-5-9) and Jason Schueler (2-5-7) add to the forward depth.
A trio of sophomores – forwards Josh Brann and Chris O’Grady, as well as defenseman Matt McMillan – are up from junior varsity. Left wing/center Kai Roberto is a freshman to watch.
Home Rink: Graf Rink
Veteran Coach Paul Yameen is closing on his 200th career win and used pre-season to take a long, hard look at a forward group that graduated a fair amount of experience and production from last year’s tourney team.
“We have a good mix of upperclassmen and [younger players] that seem to be blending together nicely. Our experience on D will be our strength,” Yameen said.
Senior Ben Reynolds (14-20-34) is the Clippers’ top returning scorer and projects to be one of the league’s top players. Junior Ryan Archer (5-8-13) and senior Tyler Koglin should be key contributors. New freshman Cam Capanigro figures to step into a regular role.
Junior Owen Spence (5-14-19) anchors the blue line and is one of the CAL’s premier defensemen. Senior Declan Sullivan and junior Tucker St. Lawrence also return. New freshman Max Pueleo should compete for a top four spot. Look for new freshman Jamie Brooks to man the goal as junior Jackson Marshall rehabs from a lacrosse knee injury.
Home Rink: McVann/O’Keefe Memorial Rink, Peabody
The Pioneers had plenty of turnover in their roster going into the season, but still have some solid veterans who will keep them in the thick of the CAL and Division 2 North race.
Danny Mack is one of three senior captains and will anchor the defense in front of junior goalie Jake DeBenedictis.
Up front, senior center John Simonetti (8-17-25) and Ronnie Fuccillo (4-12-16) both return and will be captains, while senior left wing Sam Pifko (4-9-13) will be an alternate.
Beyond that, coach Jonathan Gardner will rely on a host of newcomers led by seniors Colin Dennison (center), Christian Maney (D), and junior center/left wing Brenden Henehan. The sophomore class looks strong and deep with Janessen Sperling (C/RW), Chase Carney (LW), Phil Berquist (RW), Will Steadman (LW/C), Patrick Barrett (D), Tyler Scoppetuolo (D) and Phineas Mitchener (G).
Gardner says the Pioneers will rely not only on their back end, but also special teams and getting balanced 5-on-5 scoring.
NORTH READING (2-18-0)
Home Rink: Kasabuski Arena, Saugus
Last season was a rare down point for the Hornets, but new coach Brian McAuliffe – who served as an assistant for the previous 10 years and also coaches golf at North Reading – is hoping for a nice turnaround with a strong core of players returning throughout the lineup.
Offensively the Hornets return senior left wing Alex VerColen and center Storm Davis, as well as juniors Nick Pasquale (right wing), Jonathan Patch (left wing) and Frankie Brachanaw (center).
McAuliffe will lean on a trio of defensemen in seniors Billy McCann and Zach Stats, as well as sophomore Matt Ryan, in front of senior goalie Cam Alter.
“A league championship is an attainable goal this year,” said McAuliffe, who sees plenty of parity throughout the CAL.
Home Rink: Veterans Memorial Rink, Haverhill
Mike Lincoln takes over as head coach of the Sachems this season after serving as an assistant over the previous three.
Lincoln sees good leadership from the upperclassmen, led by high-scoring junior left wing Richie Hardy, seniors Josh Smith (LW) and Alex Satkus (center), and junior center Carson Purcell. Junior Dom Cignetti is back on defense along with sophomore Drew Regan, while sophomore Brady McClung returns in goal.
The Sachems also add a group of promising freshmen – defensemen Nolan Cole and Noah Parmenter, right wing Cam Smith, and center Jacob Riley. Junior center Jack Sorensen is another newcomer.
“There are a lot of younger guys who will be playing this year,” Lincoln said. “In past years, depth has been a point of weakness. This year we have a solid number of guys who can play, so getting good team chemistry and everyone onto the same page and up to speed will be important.”
Home Rink: Henry Graf Rink, Newburyport
The Vikings were one of the surprise teams of the postseason a year ago, upsetting league rival Masconomet and reaching the Division 2 North semifinals. Now coach Ryan Sheehan’s team will try to build off that momentum with 11 players back.
Triton will rely on a solid core of forwards led by seniors Brad Killion, Mike Beevers and Jack Niska, as well as juniors Jack Forrest, Ryan Lindholm, James Tatro and Cael Kohan.
Defensively, the Vikings return four experienced blueliners – seniors Tyler Godfrey and Connor Kohan, and Brady Lindholm and Trevor Quigley. They will need to carry the load early as Triton will have a pair of freshman goaltenders in Wes Rollins and Josh Bradley.
“We will rely heavily on good team defense and depth at forward,” Sheehan said. “We also should good team chemistry because of great upperclassmen leadership.”
Home Rink: Haverhill Valley Forum
New coach Steve Costa has a wealth of returning players as he enters his first season with the Indians, but still cautions that “this is a work in progress.”
Returning forwards for the Indians include seniors Logan Bridgewater, Nolan McGrath and Cam Chambers, juniors Owen Reid, Dereck Pappalardo, Dylan Laliberte and Brendan Sargent, and sophomores Ian Pelletier, Luke Macfarland and Ethan Lintner.
Dylan Williams, Mike Rybicki, Zack Begin, Brady Burnham, Tyler Bartinski and Tre Marcotte are other players to watch.
As a co-op program surprisingly they are a tight knit group,” Costa said of Amesbury, which also gets players from Whittier. “They play for each other.”