Western Mass. Team Previews: Wright, Fay Division Races Very Competitive

Fran Sypek
Fran Sypek
Fran has covered hockey at all levels, NHL, AHL, junior, college and high school for the Springfield Republican from 1978-2013. His column "Hockey Talk'' appeared in the Sunday Republican. The hockey beat took him from Maine to Arizona in the United States and from Newfoundland to Alberta in Canada. Fran was the recipient of the Matthew Ryan Award for Outstanding Coverage of High School Hockey and the Janet McCormick Award from the Springfield Olympics. He then shifted from pros to college when the University of Massachusetts restored its program and joined Hockey East. Later, he continued covering the Boston Bruins and the Springfield Falcons. Fran's covered future NHL players from Western Massachusetts in Paul Fenton, Bob Kudelski, Rick Bennett and Bill Guerin. He is a member of the Bessone Award committee, which helps select the top high school hockey player in Western Mass. Fran was a goalie for Holyoke Community College in 1973-74 and graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1977. Fran is currently a free lance writer living in Bondsville, Mass and grew up in Chicopee, Mass, has visited all 50 states, and is an avid photographer.

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Berry Division

WESTFIELD (16-5-2)

The Bombers are the reigning champs and lost a lot to graduation. The Bombers must replace the region’s top goaltender,  Cam Parent, who helped them win three straight sectional titles and a state championship.

Westfield returns forwards Scotty Bussell, Danny Antonellis, Spencer Cloutier, Ryan Moorhouse, and defensemen Liam Webster and Danny Buckelew. New players include Mike Antonellis, Alex Maggipinto, Joe Taupier, Tyler Kutt and Peter Chrisanthopoulos, the grandson of former Hartford Whalers goalie Bruce Landon.

Max Loyuk
Longmeadow

LONGMEADOW (17-4-1)

The Lancers return one of the region’s top scorers in Jack Barron. He had 31 goals, 35 assists and was a plus 47. He’ll miss linemate Spencer Robbins, but the Lancers return some firepower. Back are Mason Baron-Pinkowski (23 pts), Sam D’Angelo and Rob Joyal up front,

Defenseman Brandeis Norgren and goalie Max Loyuk are back as well. Coach Jim Joyce will need several of the unproven forwards and defensemen to rise to the occasion. The Lancers should be solid defensively and Loyuk is capable of stealing some games.

AGAWAM (4-16-0)

The Brownies haven’t had much success since moving up from Division 3A and this year they hope to gain some improvement.

Junior Mitch Drewnowski will lead the attack. Nick Brady returns in goal and the Brownies have an experienced defense.

EAST LONGMEADOW (6-14-0)

The Spartans have been building for a few seasons now and could challenge for the league title.

Michael Trase is a gifted scorer. Mike Moynihan and Nick Saracino also return.  Balanced scoring will be key for East Longmeadow. Senior goalie Zach Roncarell is a key addition.

MINNECHAUG (7-11-2)

The Falcons have a new coach in  Gene Shaw who feels his team will be in the mix this season in the Berry Division.

Senior Matt Kowal (43 pts) will be one of the loop”s top forwards, supported by seniors Eddie Wurszl, Marco Agrusso, Dylan Baker and Brendan Vreeland.

A blue line leader will be senior Austin Kareta. Joining him on defense is senior Jordran Torres. Junior Tommy Sheehan and sophomore Corbi Marini will handle the goaltending chores for Minnechaug.

WEST SPRINGFIELD (11-8-2)

The Terriers will miss leading scorer Shane Wilkinson. The program has steadily improved since Sean Provost took over as coach. Nick DeMaio, who scored 19 goals last season, returns.

Fay Division

Jayden Blackburn
Amherst/Pelham

AMHERST/PELHAM (7-8-5)

 The Hurricanes will be strong up front with returning players Kouji Ishida, Jayden Blackburn, Eli Sloven and Gio Rivera returning. Defensemen Nick Foster, Carter Beckwith and goaltender  Jon Hanscom will also be back.

Chris Foster is one of the newcomers to watch. Along with a solid returning core, the Hurricanes have good team speed and chemistry.

CHICOPEE (12-4-5)

The Pacers have dominated the division during the past three regular seasons, but have not had playoff success. A thin roster hasn’t helped and the opposition has been able to neutralize their top line during the post-season.

They’ll miss leading scorer Ryan McDonough, but linemates Spencer Clark (18-30-38) and Mike Palermo (65 points) return.

Derek Boutin
Chicopee Comp

CHICOPEE COMP  (7-8-6)

The Colts  will again count on goalie Kyle Vezina, who faced an average of 34.5 shots per game and had a .920 save percentage.. He kept them in quite a few games last season. Not much depth. The offense will be led by Derek Boutin, who scored three short-handed goals less than one minute apart in a game against Greenfield last season.

LUDLOW (12-5-4)

The Lions  benefitted from moving from the Berry and the Lions were much more comfortable playing at that level even though they remain a Division 3 team. Mike Young is solid in goal and Andrew McBride anchors the defense.

SOUTH HADLEY (5-12-3)

The Tigers  had their ups and downs last season and won only five games following their 2017 Western Mass. championship. Senior Ben Watkins will lead a strong cast of returning players. He has 79 career points and will look to crack the century mark. Anthony Cigal is solid in goal.

WAHCONAH (0-19-1)

Wahconah,, which is in a co-op with other Northern Berkshire teams, will look to improve after going winless last season.

Wright Division

Vaughn Gillen
Belchertown

BELCHERTOWN (8-7-4)

The Orioles return a strong group of veterans. Junior Vaughn Gillen  (22 points) and sophomore Matt Pacheco (35 points) return Goalie will lead the Orioles. Also back is goalie Ethan Rajpold.

DRURY (4-12-3)

The Blue Devils, who won only two games last season, will be led by Brian Czarnecki and Jason Deslisle.

EASTHAMPTON (12-4-7)

The Eagles lost outstanding goalie Nate Barnes, but return almost everyone else from last season’s Western Mass. Division 3A championship team – the first in school history. Leading scorers junior Garren Fugiel (41 pts) and senior Christopher Tenczar (26 pts) return, along with junior Jake Delisle.

GREENFIELD (14-5-2)

The Green Wave got a boost last season when it formed a co-op with neighboring Turners Falls. One player who made an immediate impact from the Montague school was Brian Baumann, who produced 44 points. Helping him with the offensive attack will be senior captain Doug Hanieski (43 pts) and junior Sean O’Sullivan (17 pts).

Junior Mike McGoldrick anchors the defense, a group that welcomes sophomore Aiden Roache and freshmen Will Averill and Kevin Baumann. Junior goalie Ryan Drew is back as well for coach Adam Bouchard.

MOUNT EVERETT (4-13-3)

Depth and key losses to graduation will be difficult to overcome for coach Adam Gilligan. The Eagles plan to rely on playing good team defense this season. Grayson Duval is a key returning forward, while Max Joyner will be a leader on the blue line.. Kyle Benzie is one of the Eagles promising newcomers. 

SOUTHWICK (new program)

This is Southwick’s first year  as a varsity hockey program under coach Chris D’Angelo. For the past two years the program has competed at the JV level and had great success with player development. Southwick has outstanding hockey talent with several players returning from the year before to continue to develop the overall hockey program. 

The defense will be anchored by captain Nick Ensign and Noah Jubb, while Andrew Morris will handle the goaltending chores. Defenseman Johnny Blase is one of the Rams up and coming newcomers.

Up front, the Rams will be led by Nate Gendron and Jake Martin. The Rams have good team chemistry, and play good team defense. 

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