Berlin/Gorham and Kennett were declared co-champions last year when the NHIAA cancelled Championship Weekend due to the pandemic. The Mountaineers, chosen by many coaches as the team to beat, are hopeful they get the opportunity to claim the program’s 12th State title on the ice this season.
Veteran clubs like Kearsarge/Plymouth and Hollis-Brookline/Derryfield command attention while Lebanon/Stevens/Mount Royal looks to make an impact as it shifts down from Division 2. Belmont/Gilford, John Stark/Hopkinton and Kennett factor into the mix as well.
New coaches Gregg Crisp and Eric Sandstrom take over at ConVal/Conant and Monadnock/Fall Mountain, respectively.
Built from the goal out, the Bulldogs will rely on team defense to stifle opponents and create chances in the offensive end. With a small senior class, coach Jason Parent will look to some of the juniors to help shoulder leadership responsibilities.
Senior goalie Colin McGreevy compiled a glittering 1.45 GAA last season while facing 807 shots and is the glue that holds the defense together. Junior Zoltan Stefan is a leader on the back line. Junior Griffin Tondreau (10-8-18) and sophomore Owen Guerin (5-8-13) are top returning forwards. Newcomers Aiden Mackenzie and Brendan Folan could step into regular roles.
“We have a strong defense with four returning blue line players. Our younger forwards will need to step in quickly and produce offensively for the team to make any kind of playoff run,” Parent said. “Pray to Play is the team motto. We will do whatever is asked just so we can play!”
The Mountaineers shared the State title with Kennett a year ago. Coach Mike Poulin welcomes back a solid core group form that squad, which will be supported by a large incoming contingent of freshmen.
Senior Tyler Rousseau (25-12-37) ranks among the division’s premier forwards. Juniors Griffin Melanson (9-12-21) and Brayden Riendeau (9-9-18) and sophomore Brody Doucette (5-7-12) also return. Freshmen Cam Pake, Evan Poulin, Jason Sweatt and Jamison Walsh add to the mix.
Sophomore goalie Anthony Pizzuto (16 wins) played every game a year ago. For the first time in several years, the Mountaineers have a second keeper, freshman Kolin Melanson, on the roster. Senior Dom Paradis (10 points) and juniors Ben Estrella (8-15-23) and Carter Poulin (5-9-14) return on the blue line. Freshmen Michael Cote and Brady Poulin join that group.
“Building off last season will be important for this year’s team. We have great leadership from our returning players,” Poulin said. “Not knowing where other schools are with the current (COVID-19) situation makes it difficult to predict. Based on last season, you cannot count out any of the teams in the Division. Our team is focusing on a one day at a time approach.”
LEBANON/STEVENS/MOUNT ROYAL (8-12-1)
The Raiders closed a solid final campaign in Division Two with a 5-4 OT loss to co-champion Keene in the quarterfinals. The ability to skate three lines should be an edge for coach Jim Damren’s squad against most opponents.
Ironman junior goaltender Toby Cromwell was selected by the Shawinigan Cataractes in the second round of June’s American portion of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s entry draft. Senior Jake Kriplin, junior Luke Greene and sophomore Andrew Dannehy return on defense. The forward group includes senior captain Andrew Duany, senior Aidan Yates, junior Griffin Auch, sophomore Will McGee and new freshman Paddy Mooney.
“We are a bit unclear as to the competition around the division. I expect Berlin will be good again, as they typically are. We played them twice last year with a loss and a tie, but beyond that, we don’t know a great deal about where the other teams stand,” Damren said.
As for the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, he said: “We are hopeful to be able to begin, play and complete our season. We have a pretty solid team, so we are hopeful of making the playoffs and making a strong run when we get there.”
Coach Justin Garzia lost only two players to graduation and returns a talented core group from last winter’s quarterfinalist, driven by an intact unit on defense.
Junior Gavin Garzia returns in goal and will be backed by freshman Owen Garzia. Sophomore Brendan Marcoux (6-5-11) leads a defense that includes senior Trevan Sanborn and junior Jack Breault. Freshman Brennan Johnson joins that unit. At forward, seniors Cody Bannon (7-5-12) and Breckin Bates (5-4-9) aim to increase their production and freshman Jack Swanson could have an immediate impact.
“We will rely on an experienced team to build on last year’s successes and improve on the penalty kill and special teams. The addition of several varsity-ready freshmen will allow us to run a deeper bench and play with more energy late in close games,” Coach Garzia said.
MONADNOCK/FALL MOUNTAIN (4-12-0)
New coach Eric Sandstrom takes the helm for the Huskies, hopeful of moving up the ladder and into the upper half of the division.
Senior Justin Joslyn, who played a key role in 2019’s run to the State title game, aims to regain his sophomore form after being hampered by injuries all of last season. Seniors Luke Roy and Matt Roberts and juniors Luke Gay, Ryan Schadler and Brayden Ring also return.
Junior goalie Cam Olivo backstops the defense with a year of varsity experience under his skates. Senior Jeremiah Bickford and third-year varsity regular Will Lepisto, a junior, are the top duo on defense. Sophomore Max Vogel will have an expanded role.
“This group always plays hard and with some more scoring punch will surprise a lot of teams. We’ll take it one game at a time,” Sandstrom said.
For the past several years the PAC must have felt like it was skating uphill due to chronically low numbers and a short bench. That changes significantly this winter as coach Marc Noel welcomes 14 freshmen into the fold, all of whom have played together throughout youth hockey.
Among returnees, senior goalie Alex Omundson enjoyed a solid junior campaign. Seniors Matt Dexter (11-10-21) and Andrew Durfee (16 points) and junior Nate Perry (11-3-14) will steer the offense. Freshmen who could make an immediate impact are forwards Cam Plumb, Caden Mix and Tyler Reynolds, defenseman Gavin Currier and goaltender Matt Dunn.
“There seems to be really good chemistry among the team,” said Noel. “With this pandemic this year will be very different. This season is very fluid, meaning we have to keep an open mind and all be safe. I am very fortunate that we are skating, and I look forward to coaching this team for my 25th season.”
There is only one way to go for the Indians, who shoot to begin the process of returning to respectability this season under coach Kevin Merrick. A large influx of newcomers will help.
Returning forwards include seniors Owen Paul (12-8-20) and Zack Somma (6-6-12), junior Joe Costanzo and sophomores Aidan Jenkins and Sam Gosselin. New sophomores Nick Lazzaro and Brady Powicki and freshmen Luke Sabatini, Jack Walker, Cam Larcome and Mike Chesley provide much-needed depth.
Junior Josh Stevens and sophomore Coling Dupray will compete for time in goal. Seniors Colin Walker and Trevor Hovey and junior Josh Radjavitch are experienced rearguards. Freshmen Daven Allard and Ben Rossi project as regulars.
“Strong goaltending and a deeper roster will contribute to the team’s success. We are thankful to be given the chance to play and are taking every precaution to stay on the ice. The team is looking forward to being much more competitive this season,” Merrick said.
Keep an eye on the Warriors, who return 20 players from last year’s squad with the singular goal of finishing at or near the top of the division. After last year’s earlier than expected tournament exit, this still-young team with only seven seniors will be playing with a chip on their shoulders.
The line of seniors Sal Vella and Cole Giersch and junior Paul Vachon is one of the division’s elite units. Seniors Colin MacDonald, Derek Wagner and Michael McLaughlin, junior Jacob Roy and sophomores Jesse Gertz, Quinn Sivio, Tyler Lautieri and Isaac Winsor also return.
Senior goalie Rylan Morgan backstops the defense and will be backed up by sophomore Cavan Quinn. The defense is made up of senior Joey Oetjens, juniors Conor Sanborn, Torin White, Aidan Rowe and Emma Dunn and sophomores Jack Larger and Calvin Reilly.
“With the current situation, we have to be smart and determined and stay the course. In the past, this team has seen what they can accomplish with guidance, hard work and putting their minds to the task at hand. I really believe the sky is the limit with this squad,” said third-year coach Joel Sanborn. “We hope we can pull off this season and if we do, it’s going to be a good one!”
JOHN STARK/HOPKINTON (13-6-1)
This will be a challenging campaign for the General Hawks, who lost heavily to graduation and had a number of other players opt out due to the pandemic. That reduces the depth that has long been a JSH hallmark under veteran coach Denis Kohlemainen.
Senior Caysen Allard returns in goal along with a quartet of seasoned defensemen – senior Bridget Lynch, juniors Nick Osborne and Hal Stokes and sophomore Samuel Patrick. Seniors Tyler Scordo and Cooper Rivers, junior Ethan Molnar and sophomore Bobby Arnold are back at forward. New freshmen Colton Murphy, Lucas Gagnon and Thaddeus Maughan, all forwards, should step right into the lineup.
“This season is all about fun and getting the players on the ice. You just hope you get a good draw for the playoffs, gear up for the playoffs and hope your team is prepared for a deep run,” Kohlemainen said.
It’s rare for a sub-.500 club claims a share of the State title but that’s precisely the position Kennett – the division’s only single school program – found itself in last winter when the NHIAA canceled Championship Weekend and declared co-champs across the board.
Returning senior All-State goalie Bryson Wrobleski may have been the hottest goalie in the state before COVID arrived, posting a 19-save semifinal shutout in what proved to be the season’s final game. Senior Brady Shaw, junior Colby Oliver and sophomore Sam Seavey return on the blue line.
Senior forward Colby Hall returns as the offensive leader after a knee injury cost him most of his junior season. Sophomore Wade Volo and freshman Robbie Murphy should make immediate impacts.
“Depth will be the key, especially with the ever changing COVID world. Goaltending and defense will be the strength and [and] scoring will be the biggest challenge,” said veteran coach Mike Lane. “We are just taking one day at a time. Our focus is on getting better every day and [to] play our best hockey at the end of February, beginning of March.”
Gregg Crisp takes over as the head coach but will have to wait until next year to hit the ice as CVC has cancelled its season due to the pandemic.
The numbers are thin for coach Paul Wheaton with only 16 players on the roster, including a trio of goalies – Patrick Kennedy, Brody Rollins and Evan Rollins.
Zach Cafarella, Patrick Goodwin, Nate Holmes, Devin Schwarz Andrew Spicuzza make up the defense. Forwards Ethan Bickford, Connor Blake, Ryan Bousquet, John-Paul Harriman, Austin Keenan, Carter Smith, Zachary Spicuzza and Kameron Young will supply the offense.