After several seasons as the Blackbirds’ assistant coach, program familiarity should aid the transition for new head coach Chris McIntosh, who takes over a team that graduated heavily from last year’s State finalist.
“It’s no secret that we lost a massive amount of talent from last year’s team. I don’t expect to outscore opponents, 117-21, but I do expect us to be competitive each night as we look to grind out wins in close games,” McIntosh said.
The shift in DNA will feature returning D2 Goaltender of the Year Myles Ditkoff, who posted six shutouts, a 0.99 goals against average and .937 save percentage last year. The defense will be built around veterans Marcin Maleski (3-13-16) and Connor Murphy.
Expect senior forward Tim Greenwood (10-22-32) to drive the offense. Returning sophomores Ben Brown and Brian Langevin played key roles as freshmen. Aidan Kane, Ryan Roof and Dimitri Seger add to the mix. Key newcomer, sophomore Joe Walsh, returns from the New Hampshire Avalanche and projects as an impact player.
The Jaguars will be looking to make a statement in their final D2 campaign before bumping up to D1. Second-year coach Shawn Dunn embraced a youth movement in his first season that produced a semifinal berth and could pay even bigger dividends this winter.
“As our team gets older and stronger this should allows us to now capitalize on the turnovers created by our strong defensive game create more offense,” said Dunn.
Senior goalie Max Daly (8-3-1 record) returns to anchor the defense and is regarded as one of the state’s top keepers. Senior Jake Aleksa (14 points) is the leader on defense while new junior Andoni Tsoukalas projects as Daly’s back-up.
Seniors Nolan Cunningham (16-9-25) and Jim Harootian (8-7-15) and junior Alek Tunik (8-8-16) look to build on their productive campaigns of a year ago. Junior Michael Blaschuk and sophomore Matt Taylor shift up from the JVs.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (14-9-0)
New Saints’ coach Wayne Sheehan brings 20 years of high school and junior experience – including seven years as head coach at Somersworth and as the former owner/head coach of the Eastern Kodiaks – to the Saints’ bench this winter.
A strong core returns from last year’s semifinal club. Goaltending projects to be a strength with senior Aidan McLoughlin and junior Chris Eno (10 wins) both returning. Junior Keegan Youngclaus (6-7-13) and senior Ben Coate return as mainstays on the blue line. Sophomores Dan DeButts and Ryan Pottier will vie for time.
Senior JoJo Grella (8-20-28), senior Matt MacLean (8-13-21) and junior Patrick Vetter (11-10-21) will lead the offense. Sophomores Jake McGuire and Matt Barnes figure to log regular shifts.
The Knights are shooting for a return to the post-season this winter. Consistency will be a key for coach Mike Potenza’s group.
A core of experienced upperclassmen will lead the way. Top forwards are senior Burke Ruel (10-8-18) and juniors Sam Daniels and Cole Emerson. Senior Sam Barton roams the blue line in front of senior keeper Robbie Fuller. Expect freshman forward Nick Potenza to have an immediate impact.
Jim Damren takes over the Raiders’ reins from long-time coach Gary Smith. Overcoming the graduation of a half-dozen key seniors, including D2 Player of the Year Nate Gariepy, will be crucial.
“While still a relatively young team with only four seniors, many of the returning players filled key roles a year ago. With the influx of new players, Lebanon looks pretty balanced offensively and defensively. The biggest question is in goal, with four battling for the starting job,” Damren said.
Junior Nate Chickering (16-19-35) and senior Ian Garland (18-7-25) form a powerful pair up front. Junior Aaron Damren (11 points) anchors the defense. Keep an eye on freshmen Andrew Duany and Aiden Yates, both forwards, and Trey Chickering, a defenseman.
The Falcons soared to the State title a year ago, playing their best hockey at precisely the right time. What this year holds in store for coach Tim Walsh’s club is anyone’s guess. Graduation took seven, including five high-powered forwards that accounted for more than 60 percent of the offense.
What is known is that junior Nathan Carrier (1.85 gaa, 15 wins) returns in goal looking to build on a stellar sophomore campaign that included 23 saves against Keene in the title game. Senior Brandon TIbbetts (10 points) and junior Andrew Pascarella will lead a youngish defense.
Senior Ryan Tobeler (14-23-37) ranked second on the team in scoring a year ago. Sophomores Ben Tobeler and Jake Mielcarz will be expected to step up.
This could be a different bunch of Broncos under new coach Matt Simpson, who hopes to build a long-term culture of success.
“We will be focusing on the foundational aspects of the game, one shift at a time, one period at a time, one game at a time. We have together set a vision – it’s about more than this season. The team bought into the new tone that was set in our initial meeting,” Simpson said.
Senior Oliver Thomas and juniors Levi Griffin, Jake Natola and Damien Barahona return at forward. Junior Jacob Letendre is the top defenseman in front of goalies Shane Pimental, a senior, and Jackson Dowd, a junior.
Veteran coach Stephen Costa welcomes back a large group of underclassmen that gained substantial experience under fire a year ago. Senior captains Jake Heckman and Matt Lanceleve, both forwards, will be counted on to lead the way.
Sophomore Joshua Petrin returns in goal as do senior Andrew Bedard and juniors Christopher Longchamps, Bill Downes and Angelo Nazzaro on defense.
Experienced forwards include seniors Austin Smith, Frank Ramsdell and Sef McLaughlin, junior Jared Knight and sophomores Jake Murphy and Cole Bouchard.
Now in their second season under coach Mike Young, the Green Wave will strive to maintain consistency. Young will count heavily on a deep group of returning forwards.
Noting “great team chemistry,” Young said the team “worked hard off the ice all summer” and is hopeful that commitment pays off.
That forward unit features returning junior scoring leaders Jameson Goodridge (11-19-30) and Aiden McDonough (10-9-19) and seniors Jared Turgeon (8-7-15) and Alex Schlapak (12 goals) and should be bolstered by the addition of Garrett Swan (N.H. Junior Monarchs). Juniors Josh Ball and Jake Leclerc are back on defense. Sophomore Austin Gilbert and freshman Devin Lapierre are top goalie candidates.
The early season could be one of adjustment for coach Bill Widi and the Clipper Mules. Three top returnees will miss significant time due to injuries and the league scoring leader (graduation) and the All-State Second Team goalie (transfer) must be replaced.
Widi is optimistic: “Most of our upperclassmen will be on the defensive side. Look for us to start slow [but] this team is very coachable and WILL finish strong. The coaching staff is prepared for the challenge.”
Standout junior Freddie Holmes anchors the defense along with Jacob Morin and senior swingmen Luke Squire and Will Perry, who could also log time at forward. Senior Andrew Weeks and sophomores Andrew Madden and David Blodgett return up front. Junior Brad Weit is the leading candidate for the goaltending job.
This year’s version of the Grizzlies will be younger than last year’s quarterfinal squad, so coach Ben Slocum expects his returning players to act as mentors for those new to the varsity level.
“The incoming players will be expected to be fast learners and contribute from Day One. As the players build team chemistry and we capitalize when we can, we will be a successful team. Our defense has to be solid again this year and we need to limit turnovers in our end of the ice,” Slocum said.
Senior forwards Noah Charron and Max Lajeunesse and junior forwards Sebastian Beal and Griffin Cook are the top returnees. Grady Chretien (F), Even McCuaig (D) and Madeline Sage (G) lead a promising freshman group.
OYSTER RIVER (11-9-1)
New coach Peter Harwood takes over a Bobcats’ squad that graduated seven and lost a few others, but which also returns a solid veteran core from last year’s qualifier that will be supplemented by a large incoming freshman class.
“We enter the season with a solid mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors. I expect our scoring to be evenly distributed among the top two forward lines. We expect to get better as the season progresses and the players adjust to the new systems,” he said.
Senior captain Ethan Keslar (6-11-17), senior captain Will Cilia (6-7-13), senior Samuel Davies (5-10-15) and juniors Max Carpenter (4-7-11) and Shane O’Connell (8-12-20) all return at forward. Senior captain Zach Leichtman and sophomores Eric Donovan and Declan Daubney man the defense. Transfers Ben Caron (Jr. F/D) and Liam Spurling (So. F) add to the depth.
The Red Raiders reached the quarterfinal round a year ago and coach Jamie Ferullo knows what it will take to make a return trip.
“The willingness to play at our end of the ice will determine the success that we have. Playing to our abilities and using our strengths to our advantage will be important,” he said.
A quartet of underclassmen leads the offense – juniors Ryan Ellis (6-15-21) and Tanner McDougal and sophomores Garrett Langis (11-14-25) and Adam Enscoe. Freshman Hunter Camerie bears watching. Senior Ashton Langis and junior Kaleb Ducharme lead the defense. Sophomore Nick Stone could step in.
New coach Dan Beliveau will rely on a core foundation to lead the Tomahawks this season. Beliveau previously guided Souhegan to the 2014 NHIAA D3 title when it was still a standalone program.
Senior goalie Greg Amato looks to build on his strong 2016-17 campaign when he posted a .922 save pct. Senior defensemen Regan Sedlar and Greg Bourque provide steady support while senior Steven Licata and the sophomore pair of Zach Stimeling and Zach Richard are expected to lead the offense. Keep an eye on freshman Dominic Carozza.
“We will be looking for senior leadership and to generate offense from good defense and solid goaltending,” Beliveau noted.
Coach Jude Logue described the Warriors’ struggles last season as “humbling” but also praised the resolve of his team.
“Without high character kids, a season like that could shatter a program for years. All our players were strong/skilled/gritty. Last years record doesn’t tell the true story of this team,” Logue said. “This year we are ready to take on every challenge thrown at us.”
After playing last season without a trained goalie, the Warriors welcome six-foot, two-inch freshman keeper Jack Ellis. Senior Hayden Choate and sophomore Tanner Holt are key defensemen. Senior center Harrison Moulton is flanked by senior Michael Brown and sophomore Braedon Logue on the top line. Keep an eye on freshman wing Carter Renaud.