Saint Thomas finished as NHIAA Division 2 champions after an undefeated season but lost some key pieces. Will the rest of Division 2 be able to close the gap and challenge for the title? Here’s a look at the teams:
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (23-0-0)
Coach: Dan Strabone
The Saints were perfect last season after amassing a 23-0-0 record and knocked off Somersworth-Coe Brown in the semis, 6-2, and toppled Portsmouth in the finals, 7-1, to capture their third state title.
The team was solid in all phases of the game and featured numerous all-state players but this year’s squad looks quite different. Saint Thomas only graduated one but lost six significant players to various prep schools and full season programs. They return 14 seniors however, so there will be no shortage of experience with this squad.
Senior brothers Colin (15 G 18 A) and Brendan Chrisom (14G 19A) will lead the offense along with fellow senior Max Murray (10G 10A). Weston Trahan, John Joe Reeve, and Jackson Estes will be a big part of the offense. Sophomore Brandon McCaughey should contribute up front this year as well.
Coach Strabone is confident the strong, experienced defensive group will be up for any challenges. Senior Joey Pickett and junior Gavan Bullen (2G 14A) will lead the defense along with Aidan Gorman and Connor Gray. Senior newcomer Nate Lavoie takes over between the pipes for the Saints.
Coach: Joel Brown
Portsmouth’s rise to upper ranks of division two caught some off-guard last year as they pulled off some big upsets, none bigger than a thrilling 5-4 win over Oyster River in the semis. The upstart Clippermules lost 7-1 in the finals to Saint Thomas but still consider their season a success. They went from a 3-win team to a 16-win team in one year but plenty of questions remain for the upcoming season. Depth may be the biggest factor.
Portsmouth graduated a large number of seniors and go into the season looking at a possible rebuild. Finn Bussiere (11G 13A), Caleb Pendleton (4G 2A) and John Forrest (7G 3A) will look to build on their success from last season.
Hobey Rolfe and Patrick Slover will anchor the defense for Portsmouth. Kaden Goyette will take over in net after backing up most of last season.
SOMERSWORTH-COE BROWN (11-8-0)
Coach: Fred Strum
First year coach Strum hopes to instill a positive team culture and will be relying on a strong goaltending and defensive core to lead the Bearcats this upcoming season. Somersworth-Coe Brown graduated a significant amount of their offense with their top three scorers gone but they do return some big offensive weapons.
Senior captain Johnny Pelletier (7G 15A) and JR Norris (7G 7A) will be leaned on to lead the offense. Adam Lacerte, Tully Keefe, and Calvin Lambert should contribute up front as well.
Senior captain Connor Strum (3G 7A) will patrol the blue line along with James Sawyer, Nick Miller (1G 8A) and Owen Perra.
The goaltending tandem of Rylye Coe and Dylan Cossette return to the crease and should be a stabilizing force for the bearcats.
Coach: Mike Young
Dover’s successful 2021-22 campaign ended in a 2-1 OT thriller to Somersworth in the quarterfinals but there is renewed anticipation with the Green Wave heading into the new season. Coach Young’s team will rely heavily on an experienced group of forwards that last year proved they can score in bunches.
Senior Jacob LaPierre (17G 13A) returns along with Logan Spagna (8G 11A) and Brady McDonough (12G 5A). The Green Wave are expecting Jackson Carroll, Caleb Marasca, and Owen Culcasi to have significant roles.
Dover will be facing some uncertainty on defense with a fairly young rotation on the back end. Seniors Wyatt Bell and Cody Dubois bring some grit and experience and the return of Kyle Behan from injury should help stabilize things. Sophomore Griffin Koellmer should log some minutes as well.
Three sport athlete Brett Davis will be manning the net for the Wave in his senior year.
Coach: Paul Kinnaly
The Warriors just missed the playoffs last season but they will be bringing back at least 15 players who saw significant playing time last year. They’ll be looking to take the next step with goaltending being the backbone of this team.
Brady Thompson (10G 11A) will lead the charge for the Warriors on offense and will get help from Ian McCormack (2G 5A), Brady Emery (8G 8A) and Cam Wooles (4G 10A). Freshmen Alex Mitchell and Brock Emery will have their chance to make an impact.
On defense, Winnacunnet will roll out Drew Marelli (7G 7A) and Tyler Blank. Coach Kinnaly has confidence in his goaltending tandem of senior Owen Helton and Hunter Marshall.
Coach: Bill Brown
Timberlane took its lumps last year in Division 3 during its first year back as a varsity team and this year they make the jump to Division 2. Coach Brown will be bringing back 16 players so he is hoping the experience pays off. “Team chemistry and culture along with the captain’s leadership will be key to the continued building of success in the program,” he said.
Cam Ingram and Cayden Pelletier are the senior forwards that will be counted on to come up big for the Owls. Underclassmen Slater O’Connor, Jack Mottram and Billy Shanley will help bolster the offense.
Timberlane’s trio of sophomore defensemen Trevor Rego, Jason Moore and Spencer Brien will be tasked with holding down the blue line in front of goaltender Jakobi Sanseverino.
OYSTER RIVER (17-4-0)
Coach: Peter Harwood
The Bobcats of Oyster River are coming off a great season that saw them go 17-4 and make it to the Division 2 semi-finals where they were upset by Portsmouth. They’re faced with losing 9 players, including a couple of 100 career point scorers, so what will coach Harwood look to as keys to the season?
“Defensively, we expect to be very strong as we return our 4 top defensemen (Rinko, Giordani, Leitz, Levesque) from last year. We enter the year with several young forwards that are hungry and ready to prove themselves. We will rely heavily on our four solid defensemen early in the season as we continue to develop offensively.”
On the offensive side, the Bobcats will rely on senior Lance Abbott (7G 4A), Cam Miner (9G 8A) and Camden Beaupre to spark the offense. They’ll look to the young group of forwards to step up including freshmen Talon Beyer.
The defensive group is as strong as any in Division 2. Senior Curtis Leitz (4G 12A) and senior Tyler Rinko (4G 8A) return with the most experience. Junior Cayden Giordani (6G 6A) can provide some offensive punch from the blue line and Sophomore Sawyer Levesque (1G 3A) rounds out the defensive corp.
Senior netminder Karsten Sargent will man the crease for the bobcats and provides some extra stability on the back end.
Coach: Jamie Ferullo
The Red Raiders had a down season last year but are hoping the returning veterans can provide some leadership and productive play to turn things around. Coach Ferullo, in his 7th season is looking for his team to play strong defense and limit opportunities for their opponents.
“Our defensive zone will be the key factor for the upcoming season. We have a lot of veteran players back that are another year stronger and smarter. Keeping the puck out of the good shooting zone will dictate our season.”
Nate Gagnon (11G 10A), Jackson Farrow (7G 9A) and Cam Taylor (9G 9A) will be the three seniors that return to propel the offense. Sophomore Owen Nesbitt (7G 9A) and junior Trevor Brennan (4G 4A) should play significant roles as well. The Red Raiders could get contributions up front from Logan Barker, Anthony Allen and Noah Reeves also.
On the blue line, Senior Connor McCarn (3G 4A) returns as do juniors Will Godbout and Leighton Ducharme. Hunter Peplinsky and Ben Vaillancourt should log some minutes on defense as well.
Sophomore Annabel Prochilo steps in as goaltender for Spaulding.
Coach: Dave Thibeault
Optimism is the key word when talking about the Admirals of Alvirne/Milford. After scraping together three wins last year, coach Thibeault now in his 4th season with the team, is optimistic that the program is on the way up. “For the first time in years, the varsity program has numbers. The culture in the locker room is second to none and the players and coaches have their sights on playoffs this year,” he said.
The offense is going to be led by a group of seniors that have continued to improve each year. Matthew Ryan, Chris Bedard, Hayden Ricard, and Sal Pace will be the cogs that keep the offense moving. Underclassmen Bryce Larco and Brandon Callahan should get a chance to contribute.
Senior Brennan Levesque and junior Cade Bouchard will anchor the defense for the admirals. Colton Laroe and Landon Briand will provide support on defense.
Junior netminder Trent Scarbro returns along with sophomore James Brew and they’ll form the goalie tandem for Alvirne/Milford.
Coach: Dan Belliveau
Merrimack returns a big senior class as well, along with their biggest offensive weapon, Eliot Medlock.
Ryan DeBeaucort will hold down the defense in front of returning goalie, Matt Licata.