Dover is the defending New Hampshire Division 2 state champion and was hit hard by graduation, which could leave the door open for several challengers, including Somersworth/Coe-Brown, St. Thomas Aquinas and Oyster River. A look at the field:
Coach: Mike Young
The Green Wave’s march to the program’s seventh State Championship last season seemed almost pre-determined, capped by its 2-1 OT title game win against Somersworth/Coe-Brown.
However, 10 seniors graduated from that cub, making this a likely transition year for coach Mike Young and his staff.
“We return some key players of our championship team, and will be looking for some players to step up into full time roles,” said Young, in his 10th season.
Senior captain Josh Gagne and juniors Brady McDonough, Logan Spagna and Jacob Lapierre drive the offense. Senior Matt Witham returns to the program after a year with the Jr. Monarchs.
Senior captain and goalie Vinnie Ciccotelli and senior captain and defenseman Jameson Plante lead the defense. Junior defenseman Parker Fleury was a First-Team State selection last season.
Coach: Shane Maurice
Might this be the Bearcats’ season? Possibly. Only two players graduated and every underclassman returns from last year’s State finalist.
“We look for our senior leaders and captains Aaron Bono (1st team All-State) and Jake Pelletier (2nd team All-State) to set the tone for the season. As they go we will go,” said coach Shane Maurice, in his sixth season,
In addition to Bono and Pelletier, junior Jonny Pelletier and sophomores Wes Jones and JR Norris return. Senior Dover transfer Dante Ceppetelli will bolster that group.
The defense will be young but skilled with senior Jack Jerome, junior Connor Strum and sophomore James Sawyer anchor the back end. Senior Goalie Nic Pruett and Junior Rylye Coe — who emerged as a massive part of the run to the state final — are competing for the goaltending job.
OYSTER RIVER (11-3-0)
Coach: Peter Harwood
The Bobcats were one of the division’s most consistent clubs a year ago, Coach Peter Harwood anticipates more of the same with a solid core of returnees from last year’s squad that lost to Dover in the semis, 2-1.
Let’s start in goal, where two-time All-State First Team selection Claden Daubney resides. Can the senior make it a three-peat? He compiled a 10-2-0 record and 1.65 GAA a year ago.
Senior Jack Caldicott, juniors Tyler Rinko and Curtis Leitz, sophomore Cayden Giordani freshman Sawyer Levesque form the defensive core,
Seniors Andy Carlson (9-19-28) and Jack Poitras (13-11-24) are expected to lead the offense.
Seniors Zach Serrano and Joey Fogg add to the mix.
Coach: Dan Belliveau
Key returnees for the Tomahawks include sophomore forwards Eliot Medlock (15-16-31) and Brayden Guagliumi (11-9-20); junior defensemen Owen Sadowski (2-9-11) and Kyle Dunn (3-10-13); and junior goalie Matt Licata (2.14 gaa).
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (9-4-0)
Coach: Dan Strabone
Talk about a team with ”contender” stamp on it prominently. Although the Saints have only one senior, they didn’t graduate a single player from last season Fifteen juniors return, backed by a strong sophomore group.
Can you say potentially loaded?
“We should be competitive,” understated coach Dan Steabone. “We should be okay offensively, defensively and in net.”
Sophomore Gage Spagna (12-8-20), junior twins Brendan Chrisom (11-7-18) and Colin Chrisom (6-7-13) and sophomore Tanner Petalas (7-8-15) drive the offense. Senior Lincoln Stone provides quality depth.
The defense features juniors Finn Connor (4-8-12), Joey Pickett and Aidan Gorman and sophomore Gavan Bullen. Britton Dunbar is back in goal and compiled a 7-4-0 record last season.
Coach: Ben Slocum
The task at hand is clear for the Grizzlies: “We are young and need to adjust to the speed of high school hockey,” said Slocum, now in his seventh season.
Top forwards include sophomore Andrew Skora, senior Lucas Ouellette, juniors Brandon Bograd and Jake Klardie and sophomore Maxwell Ouellette.
The defense features senior Colby Wright and juniors Brennan Pierce and Xavier Bibaud, Senior James Amorelli is back in goal.
Coach: Dave Thibeault
An experienced core group will be complemented by a large influx of freshmen and sophomores.
“Our strengths lie within the leadership group. Accountability, work ethic, and teamwork are the key to our season. While I can’t predict how we will do, I do know we will come ready to play day in and day out,” said coach Thibeault in his third season at the Admirals’ helm
Junior captain Matty Ryan, junior assistant captain Hayden Ricard and junior Chris Bedard are top forwards.
Senior captain Kevin Sullivan, junior Brennan Levesque and sophomore Cade Bouchard man the blue line, Sophomore Trent Scarbro is back in goal.
Coach: Tom Ferguson
Made up predominantly seniors and juniors, the ClipperMules are shooting for a strong post-season showing.
“We are looking forward to challenging the bigger Division 2 schools and getting well into the playoffs if we can stay healthy,” said coach Tom Ferguson.
Veteran senior goalie Jack Bussiere returns as the leader of the defense. Seniors Skyler Mikolaities and Damon Chase form the top defensive pair.
Top forwards include seniors Luke Suhesky, Noah Foster and Travis Perkins, junior Finn Bussiere and sophomore Johnny Forrest.
Coach: Jamie Ferullo
A massive influx of 19 freshmen and sophomores should help address the depth problem that has been problematic at times.
“[We have] lot of depth on the back end we’ll look to use that experience to fuel our team. Being a structured team that plays together will be the catalyst to our success this year,” said coach Jamie Ferullo, in his sixth season with the Red Raiders.
Top returning forwards are juniors Nate Gagnon and Jackson Farrow and senior Zachary Egan. Sophomores Trevor Brennan and Noah Reeves and freshmen Owen Nesbitt and Anthony Allen shoot to have an immediate impact.
The defense features senior Connor Veno and juniors Connor McCarn, Cam Taylor and Colby Seaver. Senior Nick Gagnon returns in goal.
Coach: Mike Potenza
A middle of the pack and playoff appearance seem to be reasonable goals for the Knights to shoot for.
“We should play with some speed this season. Structure is of utmost importance,” said coach Mike Potenza, in his 10th season.
Senior Cody Emerson and juniors Shaw Swinerton and Will Danais (injured last year) lead the forwards. Junior Cam Kean ranks as the top defenseman and senior Gage Lamontagne looks to take over in goal after playing U16 last year.
** Winnacunnet is also participating in New Hampshire Division 2 hockey this winter.