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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Part II: Division 1 Team Capsule Previews

By: Luke Devoe

2012-13 Record: 9-8-3
Tournament Result: 8 seed- defeated (9) Glastonbury 6-2 in First Round; lost to (1) Fairfield Prep in Quarterfinals 8-3

Hamden was bit by the prep school bug this year again.  It must seem like déjà vu for coach Billy Verneris.  At the beginning of last season the Green Dragons were reeling after the early exit of Mike Lee and Jeremy Germain.  This year, Tyler Carangelo (CTHSHockey D1 Honorable Mention) and recent Vermont commit Joe O’Connor (CTHSHockey D1 1st Team) left early for Avon Old Farms and Westminster respectively.  Senior leaders captain Billy Reilly, Mike Regan (CTHSHockey D1 Honorable Mention) and goalie Matt Hoff (CTHSHockey D1 Honorable Mention) are also out for the Dragons.  Hamden’s a mystery this year.  They seem to be very strong on the back end with steady defensemen Stephen Pantera, a future prep school candidate, Dan Chicoine and Tim Gontarski.  Hamden lost their four leading scorers from a year ago but look for big years from former role players Sam Carignan (7 G, 5 A), captain Anthony Rascati (5 G, 2 A), Matt Barnett, Jim Magson, and Mike Dematteis.  Sophomore Christian Ugolik and freshman Jeremy Routh also look to spark a youth movement at the Lou this year.  With Hoff’s exit in net, a vacancy has been left open for either Logan Cathey or Chris Feldman.  Cathey looks to have taken the early lead but it’s wide open at this point.  Hamden plays as tough of a schedule as any team in the state, had a penalty kill that struggled mightily last year and plenty of question marks in net and on offense.  They could plummet or put together a decent season.  Given Verneris’ track record, I think they figure out a way to win, not the whole thing, but enough to get remotely close. 
New Canaan
2012-13 Record: 12-6-2
Tournament Result: 11 seed- lost to (6) St. Joseph in First Round 3-2

New Canaan's Stanton
Last year’s first round exit to St. Joseph, a fellow FCIAC club, had to burn deep for the young Rams.  A team, that for all intensive purposes put together a great year record-wise.  The problem was that most of their 12 wins came against glaringly lesser opponents save for possibly a mid year 4-1 win over Ridgefield.  The talent on this team is evident.  Senior Harry Stanton (CTHSHockey D1 Third Team)  is one of the finest players in the state and arguably the most fun to watch with his electric speed and deft scoring touch.  He’s got some returning bodies around him but the obvious losses of senior Puck Richardson (CTHSHockey D1 Honorable Mention), great name, goalie Chris Koenneke (CTHSHockey D1 Honorable Mention) and transfer Luke Amero (CTHSHockey D1 Honorable Mention) will hurt.  Look for the constant steady presence on D from the towering senior Stephen Mettler.  Senior goalie Mac Wright will look to take over for Koenneke.  Wright hasn’t played hockey since his freshman year of high school, so that is something to monitor closely.  He will battle with freshman Liam Mooney for playing time.  I like New Canaan a lot this year.  They are lead by strong vocal presences in Stanton, Peter Reinhardt and oft-injured forward/defenseman Jack O’Rourke.  With an FCIAC schedule, a higher state seed should happen but with NDWH twice, Hamden, NDF and Xavier on the calendar (No Prep, that’s disappointing) the Rams need to make some statement wins to move to the upper echelon of teams.
Northwest Catholic
2012-13 Record: 14-6-0 (D2)
Tournament Result: 7 seed (D2)- defeated (10) Daniel Hand 2-1 OT in First Round; lost to (2) East Catholic in Quarterfinals 3-0

What a ballsy crew Northwest Catholic is.  Give head coach Dan Melanson and AD Matthew Martorelli all the credit in the world for making some brave moves and in just two years leaping from D3 to D2 and now to the D1 ranks.  I hope it pays off for the up and coming school who provides some of the most entertaining hockey to watch across the state.  I just wish senior graduates Patrick Melanson (coach’s kid) and Jeff Greenwood each had another year of eligibility.  On the positive side senior Demitri Yao does. Yao, a 44 point scorer a year ago will look to lead a new look Indians squad this year.  Four of NWC’s top six scorers are gone as are eight senior skaters and both netminders from last year’s 14-6 team.  The Indians will look to sophomore transfer goalie Mike Camasso to replace steady graduated goalie Zach Hesketh.  They are also expecting big things from E.O Smith transfer Jesse McClain.  In the end, the Indians do return 5 of their top 6 defensemen so this very well may be a new look approach for NWC who in the past flaunted many high end scorers.  This lack of offense doesn’t cause me to waiver on my opinion of the Indians.  It’s impossible for me to pick against them so, at least for the time being, I’m going to say look out for a pretty good year from the Indians.
Notre Dame-Fairfield
2012-13 Record: 11-9-0
Tournament Result: 10 seed- lost to (7) Simsbury in First Round 3-0

ND Fairfield's Suporn celebrates a goal.
The Lancers of ND Fairfield were certainly fun to watch last year and honestly, I never knew what to expect.  Talent-wise, they could’ve beaten any team in the state.  They had a goalie, who in my opinion, was the best at the D1 level.  I even picked them to beat Simsbury in the first round.  They lost 3-0.  They are back this season hungry, extremely rebuilt and ready to legitimately contend.  The only downfall for the Lancers is the untimely exit of junior goalie Stone Denbok.  Denbok, a unique character, ran into some academic problems at NDF which led to his dismissal.  The Lancers countered by bringing in a fleet of netminders.  Returning is third stringer from last year senior Justin Krochko.  He will be joined in friendly competition by East Haven transfer senior Zac Bouve and former Applecore netminder senior Jesse Burns.  Offensively, the Lancers return essentially their whole crew from last year with the exception of Sal Sereno.  Christian La Croix (CTHSHockey D1 Honorable Mention)   (16 G, 17 A) returns and without a doubt will be one of the best players in the state this year.  He’s joined by speedy junior forward Jonny Suporn.  Suporn missed a large chunk of last season with a broken wrist after a strong start. Greg Ferris, one of the state’s best offensive defensemen and Craig Hessenius will anchor the D.  The Lancers are bringing in some help to aid in the loss of 8 seniors.  Talented big bodied Ryan Gawricki joins the club after playing with Staples-Weston-Shelton last year.  He will have to sit out half the season, however.  Also heading to NDF will be Seamus O’Rourke, a puck moving defensemen, Brendan Barger (Mamaroneck, NY), Tyler Henchcliff (Fairfield) and Mark Russo (North Branford).  The Lancers will be very good this year.  How good waits to be seen.  But like always, Steve Hetherman’s boys will be entertaining.
Notre Dame-West Haven
2012-13 Record: 15-4-1
Tournament Result: 2 seed- defeated (15) East Haven 5-4 OT in First Round; defeated (7) Simsbury 6-1 in Quarterfinals; defeated (3) Darien 8-0 in Semifinals; lost to (1) Fairfield Prep 3-2 in the D1 State Championship

A new coach, some serious losses, both to graduation and early exit.  Man, the Green Knights have their work cut out for them.  Or so you would think.  Senior captain Matt Dumas believes this team can exceed any low expectations that are out there.  While the Green Knights won’t have the talent were used to seeing, they will certainly make up for it with a competent group of players eager to own some time in the spotlight.  Sure, they lose all everything forwards Billy Vizzo and Greg Zullo as well as a cast of talented defensemen like Darren Capobianco, Lou Iannotti and Cam Hotchkiss as well as their two headed machine in net in Paul Sliwinski and Luc Amatruda.  But, they return more than you’d think.  NDWH will be led by Dumas, a speedy, lengthy forward with a nose for the net.  He will be joined by a trio of 20+ point scorers last season in juniors Ryan and Kyle Lynch as well as senior Eric Austin.  Finding replacements on the defensive end may be a bit more difficult.  Senior Jimmy Davins is one of the only holdovers from the past two successful squads.  In net, St, Joseph transfer Wade Conlan will likely battle with sophomore Justin Daddio for the bulk of playing time.  This will undoubtedly be a different look NDWH squad with a ton of potential.  This carries all the way to the bench where for the first time in quite some time the ball cap clad Bill Gerosa won’t be patrolling.  First year coach and NDWH alum Tim Belcher comes over from Lyman Hall-HK.  Belcher brings a ton of excitement and exuberance as well as pride to the position.  He is the right man for the job but all eyes will be on him and his new look Knights.  There are no off nights for the Knights and I think captain Dumas and crew are ready.  They will struggle at times, but they will be a contender come season’s end.
NDWH Captain Matt Dumas dancing with FP's Kevin Brown in last year's D1 SCC Championship.
2012-13 Record: 15-5-0
Tournament Result: 5 seed- defeated (12) Greenwich 6-1 in the First Round; defeated (4) Xavier 4-2 in Quarterfinals; lost to (1) Fairfield Prep in the Semifinals 4-1

48-11-1.  That’s the Tigers overall mark over the last three regular seasons.  That’s pretty good.  The cynics would say that it’s because of the weaker half of the FCIAC schedule but there’s no getting around how good this team has been.  But making a state championship has been elusive over those years with two quarterfinal exits followed by last years loss in the semi’s to Prep.  The Tigers lost some bodies but look reloaded and ready to contend again.  Gone are juniors Henry Gough and Cam Mcguire who both opted for the prep school route.  Gough to Gunnery and Mcguire to Pomfret.  Sophomore leading scorer Alex Rowella opted for junior hockey in Pennsylvania.  Captain Vin Rella, 20 point scorer Chris Morrow and goalie Dusty Rausa are also gone.  Returning are host of talented Tigers led by forwards Liam Smith (10 G, 11 A),  Callan McCormick (4 G, 8 A) and Jack Tregurtha.  On D, the Tigers will look to the senior leadership of Jamie Kelly and Kyle Wolfarth.  Keep an eye on Brewster junior program transfer Brad Alexander.  With Rausa graduating the goaltender position is as wide open as it can be with many possible candidates battling out in tryouts.  The Tigers have their work cut out for them to put together another 15+ win season, but with the schedule being average at best in terms of difficulty and some serious contenders coming back, why not?

Coming tomorrow... Part III: Division 1 Team Preview Capsules

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