Keene, one of last year’s declared co-champions, has bumped up to Division 1. That leaves the door wide open for the other, St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover, which is once again loaded despite not having a single senior on its roster. The Saints are seeking their third consecutive State Championship.
Prime contenders also include a senior-laden Dover club; an experienced Goffstown squad; and Oyster River, looking to build on last year’s semifinal appearance. Merrimack can never be overlooked. The division’s only new coach, Chuck Goss, takes over at Manchester Memorial as it drops down from Division 1.
Kingswood is the only program to cancel its season due to COVID concerns.
The Green Wave await a Jan. 19 vote by the School Committee to determine whether their season moves forward. If it does, veteran coach Mike Young will lean on 10 returning seniors and characterizes this club as being “deep at all positions” as it aims to improve upon last year’s quarterfinal exit from the playoffs.
The Wave is especially deep in the back end, anchored by senior goalies Devon Lapierre and Ethan Evergnam. A senior quartet of Dario Ceppetelli, Liam Lovering, Alex Dureau and Dominic Ciccotelli returns intact on the blue line. Senior forwards Doug Gnall, Asa Forbes, Ollie Stevens and Colby Roy will drive the offense,
“We’re hoping to safely play as many games as possible for all the seniors in the state playing this year.” Young said.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (15-4-1)
The two-time defending State Champion Saints shared the title with Keene last year and are well stocked once again despite not having a single senior on the roster. Coach Dan Strabone welcomes back nine regulars from that team.
Among them are sophomore twin brothers Colin Chrisom (14-15-29) with Brendan Chrisom (11-12-23) on his right flank; and sophomore goalie Britton Dunbar, who amassed 15 wins as a freshman.
Junior Lincoln Stone, sophomore Max Murray return at forward while freshmen Tanner Petalus and Gage Spagna look to make their mark. The sophomore tandem of Finn Connor and Joe Pickett is back on defense. Depth will be provided by a large group of freshmen and sophomores.
“We are a very young team, but a young experienced group who played and contributed in key games last year, leading the way for another State title,” Strabone said. “With strong protocols in place, keeping the players and coaches safe from COVID on the ice and in school is the focus. The team is happy to be on the ice.”
New coach Chuck Goss takes over on the Crusaders’ bench as they drop down a division. He’s tasked with revitalizing a program that won its fifth D1 State title just seven years ago. Without knowing much about his returning players or the new division, Goss expects the team will function as “one team, one family” as it attempts to develop chemistry and change the culture.
OYSTER RIVER (14-6-1)
Looking to continue their success of a year ago when they reached the State semifinals, the Bobcats will blend a returning veteran core with promising newcomers.
Of course it helps to have a returning First Team All-State goalie in junior Claden Daubney, who posted a 1.77 GAA a year ago. Junior defenseman Jack Poitras (11-13-24) excels at both ends of the ice. Look for new sophomores Curtis Leitz and Tyler Rinko to take regular shifts.
Senior captains Aidan Swiesz (15-11-26) and John Kell (11 points) lead the forwards along with junior Andy Carlson (15-17-32) – who looks to build on an explosive sophomore year – and senior Corum Nichols. New senior Mike Szymanski joins that unit.
“We expect to have a disciplined team that does not take many penalties and looks to capitalize on power play opportunities,” said coach Peter Harwood. “Our team goal is to fully commit to every practice and game, because the season could be put on hold at any given moment.”
The Clipper Mules are part of a pod arrangement this winter, playing a 12-game schedule against other D2 programs in the Seacoast region.
Junior Jack Bussiere and sophomore Kaden Goyette both return with experience in goal. Seniors Henry Martin and Matt Slover and juniors Mike Durkin and Skyler Mikolaities form the defensive nucleus. Freshmen Alex Dyer, Patrick Slover and Matt Durkin will vie for time.
The offense features returning juniors Luke Suhesky, Noah Foster and Travis Perkins along sophpmores Finn Bussiere and Caleb Pendleton. Freshman Johnny Forrest hopes to contribute.
“We’ll have solid team defense But are looking to improve our scoring. It’s a young team with only two seniors that will lean on the junior class,” said second-year coach Tom Ferguson. “We feel that we are in a position to compete with everyone and develop our younger players.”
Having graduated 10 seniors from last year’s quarterfinalist, coach Shane Maurice will look to the defense to carry the day for the Bearcats.
Junior Nic Pruett and sophomore Rylye Coe have experience in goal while veteran seniors Ryan Drouin and Jacques Dubois and sophomores Connor Strum and Calvin Lambert return on the blue line. New freshman James Sawyer should log time.
Juniors Jake Pelletier, Aaron Bono and Will Sawyer and sophomore Jonny Pelletier are the top returning forwards. New junior Jack Jerome and new freshmen J.R. Norris and Wes Jones add to the mix up front.
“Our returning starters need to handle a heavy workload until our newcomers can get up to speed,” said Maurice. “We just want to keep everyone playing. Every single time we get to skate seems like a blessing currently.”
The Warriors return a talented core group and are shooting to make a significant move under second-year coach Paul Kinnally.
Leading the way is four-year goalie Jack Ellis, among the division’s top keepers. Junior Cooper Kinnally (7-9-16) is a two-way threat and is joined on the blue line by junior Shawn Wooles. Freshmen Drew Marelli and Tyler Blank figure to play immediately.
The forward group features returning seniors Carter Renaud (9-8-17, Jake Giacalone (6-7-13) and James Roughsedge as well as junior Colin Harrington. New freshmen Brady Thompson and Ian MacCormack should contribute.
“How quickly the freshemen develop will be a key. We’ll focus on getting better every day and appreciate the opportunity to play,” said Kinnally.
Coach Dave Thibeault said sound defensive zone play is crucial for the young Admirals as they seek to establish an offensive identity and move into playoff contention.
Senior captain Corey Girouard is the offensive leader and will be joined up front by the returning sophomore trio of Matty Ryan, Hayden Ricard and Zach Greer. Freshmen James Nemeth and Cedrik Beaulieu figure to log regular time. Sophomore Brennan Levesque is back on defense. Freshman Cade Bouchard looks to take on a regular role on defense and freshman Trent Scarbro steps into the goal.
“Staying healthy is the big key. [We] lost lots of man games to injury and sickness last year. We will be a more conditioned team this season compared to years past,” Thibeault said.
Coach Ben Slocum welcomes back a deep core group as the Grizzlies shoot to improve on last year’s strong regular-season.
Senior Grady Chretien (42-14-56) garnered First Team All-state accolades a year ago. He leads a forward group that includes seniors Luc Chase, Sean Hunter and Calvin Sage, junior Luc Ouellette and sophomores Jackson Burke (10-11-21), Dave Martineau and Jack Wilkinson.
The defense will be built around the core four of senior Eric DesRuisseaux (15 points), junior Colby Wright and sophomores Brennan Pierce and Xavier Bibaud (16 points). Junior James Amorelli, senior Maddy Sage, and sophomore Jake Webber are back in goal.
A talented core group returns for the Tomahawks, semifinalists a year ago under coach Dan Beliveau. He points to sound goaltending, good team chemistry, strong team defense and improved output by the power play as being crucial to success.
Up front, seniors Dominic Carozza (14-17-31) and Dylan Sadowski (10-12-22) return along with sophomore Evan Roy (16-17-33), who looks to build on a monster freshman campaign. Senior Ben Hardy (2.13 gaa, .918 save pct., 3 SO) ranked among the division’s top goalies last season. Seniors Jason DeBeaucourt and Joe Pillsbury return on the blue line. Impact freshmen include Eliot Medlock and Brayden Guagliumi.
“We have to stay disciplined with the COVID protocols, work hard and learn, but importantly have some fun! Getting through the entire season will be a success for all of us!” Belliveau noted.
A sizable group of returnees has coach James Ferrullo and the Raiders hopeful they can rebound from last season’s rugged campaign. The senior core will be counted on to pave the way.
“In a season that has a limited number of games and opponents we will have to make smart, simple decisions and win games with our work ethic and discipline. Being tough to play against is the priority,” Ferrullo said. “We have to block out the outside noise and strive to continue to get better each and every day.”
The forward group includes seniors Hunter Camire, Brady Blaisdell, Riley Ducharme and Colby Stuart, junior Zach Egan, and sophomores Nate Gagnon and Jackson Farrow.
Junior Nick Gagnon is back in goal along with senior Brandin Grondin, junior Connor Veno and sophomore Connor McCarn on the blue line. New defensemen include sophomore STA transfer Cam Taylor, sophomore Colby Seaver and freshmen Wil Godbout and Jackson Emrich.