Lowell Catholic had been the dominant program in the Catholic Central Small for much of the last decade, but with the Crusaders moving up to the higher division, that leaves three teams to keep the league intact and fight it out. St. John Paul II looks like the team to beat, with Cardinal Spellman and St. Joseph Prep also in the race.
CARDINAL SPELLMAN (6-14-0)
Home Rink: Zapustas Arena, Randolph
The Cardinals made some strides last season, improving by five wins. Now coach Rich Manning will lean on a trio of veterans to keep that momentum going.
Senior captain Anthony Nardelli (20 points) is the top returning forward, and junior captain Zachary Richards (.885 SP) is poised for another solid season in goal. Junior defenseman Michael Calapai (14 points) will anchor the blue line and provide two-way play.
Manning said he also is looking to a pair of freshmen and two transfers to add depth.
ST. JOHN PAUL II (11-10-1)
Home Rink: Kennedy Rink, Hyannis
As coach Chris Kent enters his second season, he couldn’t be in a much better position with plenty of experience and scoring ability throughout the lineup.
Seniors Joe Manning (13-17-30), Ben Baxter (11-19-30) and D.J. Marrs (5-11-16) top the returning players at forward, along with sophomores Michael Kornek (7-7-14), Charlie Baroni (3-7-10) and Sam Delman (3-4-7).
The defense also will have the ability to join the offense, led by seniors Kurtis Weber (10-13-23 and Sean Roycroft (6-7-13). Sophomores Anthony Kent (1-5-6) and Jack Sherwood (1-2-3) also return, and junior Gunnar Stevens will be in goal again.
Kent also brings in a strong group of newcomers – junior Declan Tolley (D), sophomore Patrick Leary (RW), freshmen Zak Baxter (D), Jamie Erikson (RW), Jack Homa (D) and Mark Rogers (D), and eighth-grader Avery Richardson (center).
“I feel that the team is going to be a lot more cohesive this year which will lead to better teamwork,” Kent said. “The team respects each other on and off the ice which leads to positive attitudes which will then lead to great chemistry.”
ST. JOSEPH PREP (7-12-1)
Home Rink: Warrior Ice Arena, Brighton
Phoenix coach Rob Dwyer said the team is undergoing its biggest rebuild in many seasons, so he said they will be relying on their strength in the defensive end.
Sophomores Liam Brown and John Bennett will be key blueliners along with seniors Brian Wheet and Ben Wheet.
Up front St. Joseph Prep lost a lot of scoring punch, so Dwyer will be relying on contributions throughout the lineup to pick up the slack. Senior center/wing Jake Cedrone (5-6-11), junior center/wing Sean McLaughlin and junior center Ben Connaughton are the top forwards.
“This group will be their very best relying on one another and using their hockey IQ over their skills to grind it out every night,” Dwyer said.