Mass. HS Boys Hockey – South Shore League Preview: Norwell Deemed Early Front-Runner

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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Five of the six teams in the South Shore League finished with winning records during the shortened 2021 season, but once again everyone was chasing Norwell, which cruised to the regular-season and postseason tournament championships.

Figure the Clippers to be the front-runners again, but with a new face behind the bench Rockland will try to stay in contention along with Abington and Middleboro. The Hull-Cohasset co-op is back in place after a brief hiatus, while East Bridgewater welcomes a new co-op arrangement with its neighbor to the west.

ABINGTON (6-3-3)

Coach: Bryan Woodford

MIAA Division: 4

The Green Wave graduated much of its high-end talent from the past couple of seasons, but Woodford still has a good outlook for this season.

“Our culture is as strong as ever and our depth is better than we have had in years,” Woodford said. “There is a lot of opportunity for many players this year to compete for ice time and help us win games.”

Senior Ryan Tobin (2-5-7) was an SSL All-Star last season and will be the top returning defenseman this season, while junior Spencer Merrick is back in net,

Looking to pick up some of the offensive slack will be sophomore right wing Evan St. Martin (2-2-4) and junior center Jake Quinn (5-2-7).

Among the new players Woodford will be counting on this season are junior Aidan Powers, and sophomores Hunter Grafton, John Halpin and Calli Pineau.

EAST/WEST BRIDGEWATER (0-11-0)

Coach: Mike D’Errico

MIAA Division: 4

While going through a tough, injury-plagued first season behind the bench, D’Errico hoped the team would be able to find another school for a co-op to provide some reinforcements. Enter neighboring West Bridgewater, which previously skated with Southeastern.

“WEB” returns a pair of SSL All-Stars at forward in juniors Anthony Patete and Brett Peterson — with a catch. Patete stepped up a year ago to play goal to allow East Bridgewater to field a team, but now returns to his more natural position. Other forwards are junior Luke Parry and senior Jeff Young, with senior Randy Pratt joining the program from WB.

Senior Sean Noonan is the top returning defenseman. D’Errico will be breaking in a new group of goalies, but he expects his young team to have a bright future.

HULL/COHASSET (5-3-2)

Coaches: Mike O’Donnell, Phil Mahoney

MIAA Division: 4

Last season was an interesting one for the program. Players from Hull were not allowed to participate during the pandemic, so Cohasset went it alone and finished above .500.

Now back together, the co-op welcomes senior captain Hayden Manfredi from the Pirates, along with juniors Matt Mahoney at forward and Luke Richardson on defense.

Defenseman Justin Appleby is the other captain, and one of four seniors on the roster along with Manfredi, defenseman Peter Vitello and forward Matthew McDowall.

Luke Cosentino is the lone goalie on the roster, and one of six juniors along with Mahoney, Richardson, forwards Thayer Bernier, Sam McDonnell and Wade Puzzella. Sophomores include forwards Robbie Casagrande, Mick Docray and Luke Mullen, and defensemen Finn Carragher, John Higgins and Alex Ravanesi.

The program also includes nine freshmen and nine eighth-graders.

MIDDLEBORO (4-3-1)

Coach: Scott Drevitch

MIAA Division: 3

Middleboro returns a pair of South Shore League All-Stars from a season ago in senior forward Duncan Youngclaus (7-4-11) and freshman goalie Lincoln Molind (3.30 GAA).

Also back are senior forwards Zachary Leavens (1-1-2), Ryan St. John (1-3-4), Daniel Mokeler and Broden Youngclaus, along with defensemen Dylan Bush (1-1-2), Aidan Carey (2-1-3), Matthew LaBollita (2-1-3) and Robert McNaughton (0-2-2).

Defenseman Jake Jordan (3-0-3) and forward Kaden Poe are returning juniors, and the sophomore class features defensemen Ethan deNormand and Connor McNaughton (0-2-2), as well as forwards Kyle Jones (0-2-2) and James Joyce (0-1-1). 

NORWELL (8-2-2)

Coach: Jim Casagrande

MIAA Division: 4

The Clippers dominated the league race last season, including a pair of wins in the season-ending SSL Cup.

Casagrande expects to have another solid all-around team this season, but a clear strength once again will be on defense. Seniors Max Maiellano and Jack Coyle were SSL All-Stars last season and will be captains on the blue line.

The third captain for Casagrande is senior forward Griffin Vetrano.

Replacing three-year starting goalie Sean Ennis, who never lost a game in SSL play, will be a big key for the Clippers heading into the season.

ROCKLAND (4-4-1)

Coach: Stephen Murphy

MIAA Division: 4

With longtime coach Mike Flaherty moving on to Duxbury, Murphy takes the reins of the Bulldogs this season. The cupboard is far from bare as Rockland looks to remain among the top teams in the SSL.

Senior Jake Higgins is a returning SSL All-Star and one of the top forwards along with senior captain John Henry. Other returning forwards include juniors Logan Murphy, Joey Salamone and Bryce Marrero.

Sean Geary also was an SSL All-Star and leads a deep group of juniors on the blue line with Chris Fuller, Shane Kimball, Billy McGuire and Dave D’Olympio.

Filling the void in goal will be one of the keys for Murphy and the Bulldogs. Junior Joseph Dow is among the newcomers this season, along with freshman Evan Girouard. Other additions to the team include freshman forwards Ben Romer and Reagan Campos, and eighth-graders Ryan Maher (D) and Ryan Guevremont (F).

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