Mass. HS Boys Hockey – Northeastern Conference Preview: New Look This Winter For This League

Jim Clark
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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There is plenty of change in the Northeastern Conference this season, the outlook being shaken up right into the final days of the preseason, when it was announced that Peabody would not be fielding a varsity team. That leaves eight teams to compete, five of which are found in the newly named Dunn Division (previously North). Any of them could walk away on top in what should be a tight race, and Danvers enters the year with a new coach and fresh outlook.

In the Lynch Division (previously South), the loss of Peabody leaves just three teams – one of which in Beverly, which drops down from the other division to compete with Saugus and Swampscott.

Teams will play each division rival twice and crossovers once apiece (though some such as Beverly and Danvers will meet a second time in a “nonleague” game).

DUNN DIVISION

DANVERS (6-7-0)

Coach: Kevin Fessette

MIAA Division: 3

After a tumultuous 2020-21 campaign and offseason for the program, former Beverly JV coach Fessette takes over and will try to get the Falcons back on track.

The majority of the experience returns at forward, where senior captain Aidan Lanphere and seniors Jacob Ryan and James Thibodeau will lead the way.

Senior captain Connor Horn is the veteran on a blue line that also includes junior Bobby Joyce and sophomores Brady Plaza and Caleb White.

Freshman Brayden Holt has emerged as the starter in goal to start the season.

The Falcons will have new home ice this season, playing their games out of the Essex Sports Center.

GLOUCESTER (6-3-0)

Coach: Derek Geary

MIAA Division: 2

Jack Costanzo Gloucester

On one hand, the Fishermen enter the new statewide tournament alignment with the lowest enrollment in Division 2. But few teams will have as much top-end talent back, as Gloucester welcomes back dynamic senior center Jack Costanzo and sophomore left wing Emerson Marshall.

Geary also will look to junior right wing Jack Delaney and sophomore center Colby Jewell for production. Defensively it’s a group of seniors Robbie Schuster and Ryan Frates, and sophomores Chris Lojocono and Timmy Marrone in front of a pair of sophomore goalies — Nick Tarantino and Riley De Haan.

Geary also is expecting more prominent roles this season from junior center Nick White and sophomore left wing Brett Cunningham.

“We will be a fast team with potentially very good special teams led by Costanzo and Marshall,” said Geary, who toughened the nonleague schedule with Woburn, North Andover and BC High. “Our two sophomore goalies are much improved and will both be battling for action.”

MARBLEHEAD (8-4-1)

Coach: Chris Wells

MIAA Division: 2

The Magicians graduated their most dynamic player – Northeastern Conference MVP Will Shull – but a large chunk of last year’s roster (18 upperclassmen) returns for a push to the top of the NEC.

Senior Eli Feingold becomes the offensive leader and will be one of the team’s three captains along with senior forward Aidan Ryan. Senior Hayden Leveroni also is back, and juniors Connor Jalbert, Carter Laramie, Chris Locke, Connor Sheridan and Drake Wyman will provide depth and experience up front.

Senior Aidan Jalbert is the other captain and leads the blue line with junior Lyndan Dyer and sophomore Hogan Sedky. Junior Cam Patrick also will transition back to defense.

Seniors Nick Peters and Nate Samuels both return in goal.

Richard Guarino Masconomet

MASCONOMET (9-2-1)

Coach: Andrew Jackson

MIAA Division: 2

Masco has the look of a strong offensive group this season, with plenty of experience and firepower back.

Senior Richard Guarino (5-7-12) is the captain and leader of the group that also includes three alternate captains at forward – senior center Chris O’Grady (6-7-13), senior left wing Josh Brann (6-5-11), and senior right wing Nick McMillan (9-7-16). Jackson also believes sophomore wing/center A.J. Sacco (3-13-16) is poised for a breakout season, while juniors Michael Bevilacqua (right wing/center) and Joe Young (center/left wing) add forward depth.

Joe Young Masconomet

Another alternate captain, senior Matt McMillan (3-7-10), heads the defense with seniors Tommy Sacco and Henry Sorenson. Senior Nick Santangelo will be in net, as Jackson said he is “looking for defensemen and goaltending to step up into leading roles.”

Sophomore defenseman Anthony Cerbone and junior right wing Will Shannon are up from JV and will help out.

WINTHROP (8-2-3)

Coach: Dale Dunbar

MIAA Division: 4

As one of the smallest enrollment public schools in Eastern Mass., Winthrop makes the foray into Division 4 this season under veteran coach Dunbar and should be battle-tested by NEC competition during the regular season.

Senior captains Joe Hayes and Ari Hain will lead the Vikings’ always-stout defense with senior James Sicurella, junior Robert Noonan, and sophomores Andy Jackson, Hunter Fife and Billy Hayes.

Senior JD Parker is a captain at forward, and Dunbar is high on both junior Jack Hayes and sophomore Pete Silverman. Other forwards will be seniors Charlie Dassau and Bobby Diaz, juniors Colin Banfield and Nate Evangelista, sophomores Glen Calla and Robert Rich, and freshmen Phil Boncore, Jay Fotiades, Luke Githinji and Michael Holgersen.

Senior Anthony Indrisano, junior Nico Babine and freshman Michael Donahue are in goal.

LYNCH DIVISION

BEVERLY (5-7-0)

Coach: Greg Fonzi

Austin Bernard Beverly

MIAA Division: 2

The Panthers look to be in great position to push for a top spot in the NEC with a wealth of returning players and strong senior leadership throughout the lineup.

Fonzi welcomes back seven forwards, a group that includes senior centers DJ Bachini and Matt Mezza, left wings Austin Bernard and Jeff Hallinan, and right wing Cam Cook.

The defense will be just as solid with seniors Matt Capachietti and Jaxon Thomas back along with junior Gavin Lawrence.

Junior Dylan Hunter returns in goal for Beverly.

SAUGUS (4-8-1)

Coach: Jeff Natalucci

MIAA Division: 4

As the Sachems push to get back to the top of the NEC standings, they will do so with several of the key players back from last season.

Leading the way is senior captain and forward Chris Regnetta, who posted 10-10-20 in just 13 games in 2021. Massey Ventre, Jason Caron and Ryan Ragucci are other returning senior captains, giving Natalucci a good nucleus of veteran leadership upon which to build.

Junior forward Dante Mauro also returns for Saugus along with Matty Robbins.

Natalucci will be looking to senior forward Jason Monahan, a transfer from St. Mary’s, to bolster the squad along with eighth-grader Matt Smith and freshman Anthony Poccio. Along with the leadership group, good team defense will be key for the Sachems, according to Natalucci.

SWAMPSCOTT (0-12-1)

Coach: Gino Faia

MIAA Division: 4

Faia sees the strengths of the Big Blue this season as a good young nucleus with some depth at forward. Among the key forwards will be seniors Max Gadon and Zach Pierce, juniors Aidan Sprague and Liam Herlihy, and sophomores Will Roddy, Derek Faia, Kody Langevain and Greg Balchenkoff.

Senior Zack Ryan and sophomore Quinn Hitchcock will play critical roles in the defensive end, with sophomore forward Jason Bouffard having to convert to goalie.

Faia will look to newcomers TJ McCarthy and Aidan Fitzpatrick (both juniors) and sophomore Ben Tolosa to help on defense. Joining the forwards from junior varsity are junior Ryan Wood, and sophomores Jackson Bartram and Frankie Pappalardo.

“We have good team chemistry and guys are really hungry and looking forward to the challenge of trying to turn around a tough COVID year and rebuild to try to qualify for the tournament,” Faia said.

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