Defending New Hampshire Division 2 state champion St. Thomas Aquinas has turned the coaching reins over to former assistant Dan Strabone. 2018 champion Keene, a serious challlenger, lost its returning top scorer for the season due to injury.
Home Rink: Keene Ice
A year removed from winning the 2018 State Championship, the Blackbirds will aim to claim another in what projects to be a rugged division. Goals worth achieving often come with adversity and Coach Chris McIntosh already is dealing with the loss of senior captain Brian Langevin to a season-ending knee injury.
Langevin racked up 15-39-54 totals a year ago, is a career 100-point scorer and played a key role on special teams. “Brian’s loss is a tough way to start but we are confident we will have guys be able to fill the responsibilities he leaves behind,” McIntosh says. “We also have a large group of freshmen and are excited to see how they develop throughout the year.”
The senior trio of Jerred Tattersall (33-13-46), Joe Walsh (13-27-40), and Ben Brown (15-13-28) are more than ready to pick up the slack. Junior Zach Mooers’ return to the program after one year at the Junior level adds to an already potent attack. He had 9-17-26 totals as a freshman on the championship team.
McIntosh has the luxury of two junior goalies in Jacob Russell (.880 save pct., 3.05 gaa) and Taylor Panek (.880 save pct., 2.65 gaa). Senior John Smart, junior Peter Haas and sophomore Robbie Nowill form the core of a veteran defense.
“Our goal once again is to be a Top Four team. Each year we want a chance to earn an opportunity to play for a championship. This year is no different,” McIntosh says.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (21-3-0)
Home Rink: Dover Arena
New coach Dan Strabone is “new” in name only, having served as an assistant for the last three years, including two under departed coach Wayne Sheehan, now coaching the men’s club hockey team at Sacred Heart College in Connecticut. Strabone inherits a stacked roster and the goal remains the same as the Saints shoot for a third consecutive appearance in the title game.
We have eight experienced seniors and a great influx of freshman talent. The key will be to integrate both groups together to make up for the scoring we lost from last year,” says Strabone.
Not that the cupboard is anywhere near empty. Far from it.
Seniors Will MacLean (17-18-35), Matt Barnes (11-16-27) and Chace Gagnon (13-11-24) return to power the attack and, Strabone says, “will anchor three lines supplemented by five speedy, talented freshmen.” Sophomore Lincoln Stone also returns with experience.
Senior Captain Brendan Tersolo (15 points) and seniors Luke Grella, Ryan Pottier and Dan Debutts form the core of a stout defense in front of new freshman goalie Britton Dunbar, tabbed by Strabone as the starter. In addition to Dunbar, those aforementioned freshmen to watch are forwards Colin Chrisom, Brendan Chrisom, Finn Connor and Max Murray.
Home Rink: Rochester Ice Arena
The Red Raiders will mix youth with experience as they shoot to move back into the division’s upper tier. “With many new faces expected to step into new roles, coming together as a team is going to be important. Playing to our strengths and being the hardest working team in the league will be key. Much more depth will come into play as the year goes on,” says Coach Jamie Ferullo.
Junior forward Hunter Camire (7-10-17) returns as the team’s leading scorer. Senior Adam Enscoe, juniors Brady Blaisdell and Riley Ducharme, and sophomore Colby Stuart will be counted on for increased production. New freshman Nate Gagnon and new senior Ryan Hatfield add to the mix.
Senior Nick Stone, junior Brandon Grondin and sophomore Nick Gagnon form the core on the back line in front of new senior goalie Matthew Lacey.
Home Rink: Pop Whelan Arena
A D2 power in the late ‘90s when they appeared in three finals in four years and claimed the 1999 State Championship, the Knights have steadily climbed back into the middle tier of the league these past several seasons under the direction of coach Mike Potenza.
Are the Knights, quarterfinalists a year ago, ready to take the next step? Potenza expects no less than a return to the tournament.
“[We are] returning some strong forwards from last year’s team. We should have more depth up front, which should translate to a more balanced scoring punch. We have some young players who should pick things up quickly and add to overall depth this year,” he said.
Junior Nick Potenza (25-9-34) and senior Colby Clegg (18-14-32) are one of the state’s premier forward tandems. Speedy senior Logan McEvoy and sophomore Cody Emerson (6-5-11) return while freshmen Will Danais and Shaw Swinerton have Top Six skills. Oleg Sheahan mans the goal and Bailey Savage returns as the top defenseman.
Home Rink: Dover Ice Arena
One given about NHIAA D2 hockey is that Dover – with six State Championships since D2 formed in 1995 – will almost always be in the mix. The Green Wave very nearly added a seventh last year before falling to city rival St. Thomas Aquinas, 5-3, in what was dubbed “The Battle of Dover.”
Nine players graduated from that club but coach Mike Young has the luxury of leaning on two veteran goalies in senior Austin Gilbert and junior Devin Lapierre to stabilize a young team, especially in the early going. Junior Dario Ceppetelli (4-7-11) leads the defense.
Junior forward Asa Forbes (25-15-40) aims to build on an explosive sophomore campaign. Senior forward Wyatt Allaire returns from a knee injury that cost him his entire junior season after a strong sophomore year. Senior Connor Thomas provides depth.
Home Rink: Rochester Arena
Eleven seniors – including a number of fourth-year varsity regulars – return to a team that was playing its best hockey at the end of last season. Coach Shane Maurice is hopeful that momentum carries over and translates into a fast start.
“We’re looking to build on the way we ended last season with good team chemistry on and off the ice. A big factor will be our seniors; if they bring some intensity and urgency we might stand a chance to contend for a playoff spot,” Maurice said.
Seniors Gage Gagne, Cam Frank and Daniel Strum and sophomores Aaron Bonno and Jake Pelletier lead the forwards. Freshman Johnny Pelletier and junior Jacques Dubois add to the mix.
Goalie Kevin Baker and defensemen Cole Perra, Colby Walsh and Aidan Perra, all seniors, provide back end stability. Freshman Rylie Coe adds depth in goal.
Home Rink: Dover Ice Arena
First-time head coach and long-time Clipper Mules assistant Tom Ferguson inherits a team with a veteran core group. He has set the ambitious goals of moving back into the upper tier of the division and hopefully earning home ice for the tournament.
“We have two experienced forward lines that promise more scoring than last year. The defense and goaltending are young but capable. And another talented freshman class will push for playing time,” Ferguson said.
Seniors David Blodgett, Jack Suhesky and Andrew Madden and sophomores Luke Suhesky and Noah Foster will power the attack up front. New freshmen Finn Bussiere and Austin Keenan could have an immediate impact.
Senior Tim Durkin and sophomore Mike Durkin are the top defensive pair in front of sophomore goalie Jack Bussiere. Sophomore defensemen Skyler Mikolaities and Jack Gillis look to log regular action and for freshman goalie Kaleb Goyette to push for time.
LEBANON-STEVENS-MT. ROYAL (9-9-2)
Home Rink: Campion Rink
The Raiders are shooting for a fast start under third-year Coach Jim Damren, whose primary pre-season task is to blend players from three schools into a cohesive unit. If that happens, LSMR could be pesky enough to nose its way into a Top Six tournament berth.
“With a mix of returning and new players, it will be important to gel quickly and build good team chemistry. The top line and secondary scoring will be key and solid play on the back end will be very important,” Damren said.
The forward group features seniors Jon Cloud (5-10-15), Brian Daly (4-4-8) and Mason Adams (2-6-8) and junior Andrew Duany (12-4-16). New sophomore Griffin Auch and new freshmen Will McGee and Cesar Salcedo lengthen the lineup.
Senior Will Forman and junior Jake Kriplin line up on the blue line. Junior goalie Hunter Robb, a returning netminder, won nine games a year ago.
OYSTER RIVER (9-8-1)
Home Rink: Whittemore Center (UNH)
Thirteen players return but only six are seniors and that means paying attention to detail and playing a responsible style will be a priority. “Our team is experienced, but still fairly young,” coach Peter Harwood pointed out.
Sophomore Andy Carlson (13-15-28) shared the team scoring lead as a freshman. Senior Liam Spurling (10-4-14) and sophomore Jack Poitras (8-5-13) will be counted on for consistent offense. Junior John Kell returns as does junior Alden Swiesz after missing last season with an injury.
The defense features senior captains Declan Daubney (8-16-24) and Eric Donovan (4-11-15). Sophomore Claden Daubney will handle the goaltending duties while sophomore defenseman Jack Caldicott makes the move up from the JVs.
Home Rink: West Side Arena
Coach Dan Beliveau said the objective is clear for the Tomahawks, who will be looking to take the next step after falling to State finalist Dover in the semifinals of last year’s tournament. A clutch of key returnees will lead the way.
Junior goalie Ben Hardy posted a 1.97 gaa a season ago. The defense will be built around the returning junior duo of Joe Pillsbury and Jason DeBeaucort. At forward, senior Zach Stimeling (25-21-46) ranked among the division scoring leaders last season. Senior Andrew Frothingham (10-13-23) aims to build on his solid campaign and new freshman Evan Roy will bid for a regular shift.
Home Rink: Skate 3 Tyngsboro, MA
New coach Dave Thibeault is very clear about the current status of the program he inherited: “We are a freshman heavy team who will rely on goaltending, work ethic, and skating in all phases of the game. (The) keys are to play controlled hockey to minimize penalties. The coaches like the character of the young players who we will rely on to play big minutes.”
Among the Admirals’ returning players, junior forward Corey Girouard, sophomore forward Kevin Sullivan, senior defenseman Anthony DeRosa and junior defenseman Dillon Jilson are the most experienced.
Junior forward Saige Paradise, sophomore forwards Dylan Greenlaw and Gavin Campbell and sophomore Seamus Alukonis make the jump up from JVs to full-time varsity status. Ten freshmen are likely to step right into the lineup.
Home Rink: Phillips Exeter
Paul Kinnaly steps onto the Warriors’ bench for his first season secure in the knowledge the junior goalie Jack Ellis ranks among the division’s best. Building from the back end forward is never a bad thing and Kinnaly said “we will rely heavily on him.”
Kinnaly will count on the leadership of the team’s four seniors – forwards Connor Belcher and Ziolowkowski and defensemen Tanner Holt and Tyler Place – to lead the way.
Juniors Jake Giacolone, Carter Renaud and James Roughsedge also return at forward. Sophomore Cooper Kinnaly is back on defense while sophomores Joe Larrabee and Shawn Wooles could move into the regular rotation on the back line.