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Friday, December 19, 2014

Division II Preseason Team Capsules

DIVISION I (2013-14 record; tournament result)

Amity (13-7-0; Lost in the Division II State Championship to Daniel Hand)
Key Losses: Johnny Uscilla, Adam Shea, Brett McNeil, Keating Seymour, Brian Mosher
Key Returners: Sr. Kevin Ryan, F; Sr. Zach Shelnitz, D; Sr. Dalton Luciani, D; Sr. Tim Johnston, F; Jr. Anthony Uscilla, D; So. Tyler Johnston, G
New Blood: Fr. Tyler Cole, G
Outlook: Lindgren returns to a fresh faced group headed by Kevin Ryan, whose experience on the top line in Keating Seymour’s absence last year should help him big time. They’ve lost a lot (top 3 scorers) and their starting goalie in Brian Mosher. Only time will tell with these Spartans. Zach Shelnitz and Dalton Luciani head a D core that should be one of Amity’s strong suits this year.

Branford (15-4-1; Lost in the Division II Quarterfinals to Milford)
Key Losses: Tyler Hackett, Tony Pascale, Jason Vitale, Robert Denhardt, Tyler Martin
Key Returners: Sr. Tyler Criscuolo, F; Sr. AJ Brink, G; So. Zach Withington, F, Sr. Cooper Bunton, F; Sr. Jack Murray, D; Sr. Pat Cunningham, D; Sr. Aidan Deane
New Blood:
Outlook: Branford seemed primed last season to take the DII tournament by storm only to get upset by Milford in the quarters. The loss of graduated seniors and Tyler Hackett will hurt but there’s no debating the fact that AJ Brink is one of, if not the best goalie at the DII level. He can carry this defensive deep squad. If Criscuolo can stay healthy Branford can be scary good.

Cheshire (10-9-1; Lost in the Division II Quarterfinals to East Catholic)
Key Losses: Luke Vendetto, Joey D’Errico, Matt Vallilo, Greg Zovas, Joey Solla
Key Returners: Sr. Matt Jordan, F; Sr. Ben Klanica, F; Sr. Kyle Frederick, F; Sr. Tommy Sokoloff, D; So. Matt Federico, F; Jr. Jake Verneris, G
New Blood: So. Billy McKinley; So. Vinny Solla
Outlook: Rams have fire power back and Karl Sundquist did a nice job over the years getting Verneris work in net, priming him for a successful junior campaign. Watch out for these guys. Losing Vendetto and company certainly won’t be easy to get over but Matt Jordan and Ben Klanica have the ability to take over games offensively. Watch out for the Rams especially with full year talent like McKinley and Solla joining the fray.

Conard (4-16-0; did not qualify)
Key Losses: Quinn Lacroix, Luke Haggerty
Key Returners: Sr. Jake Reynolds, D; Jr. Grayson Lacroix, F; Sr. Mark Ehnot, F; Sr. PJ Melly, D; So. Declan Flaherty; Jr. Matt McCormick, F; Jr. Jordan Fongmie, F; So. Zander Khan, G
New Blood: Fr. Paul Wilson; Fr. Zack Polo
Outlook: Conard will be better this year. They return a solid group of forwards that should be able to put the puck in the net and with the evening out of talent at the DII level, there won’t be many teams that should be heavily favored over them. Grayson Lacroix is a blooming star up front while seniors Jake Reynolds and PJ Melly should do enough to fasten down the back end. Zander Khan is back and after a years experience should be comfortable in net. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Conard is a tournament team this year. I’m not saying they’re a favorite or will even get home ice, I just think they’ve grown enough to join the discussion.

Daniel Hand (10-10-0; Won the Division II State Championship)
Key Losses: Ben Solin, Chase Briggs, Dan Braumann, Dan Healey, Mike Belliveau
Key Returners: Sr. Andrew Rossi, D; Sr. Andrew Banasiak, D; Sr. Connor Bell, F; Jr. Luke Brown, F; Jr. Jeff Rider, D; Jr. Cole Sarna, G
New Blood: Fr. Paul Gagliardi, D; So. Robert Smith, G
Outlook: Well here is a positive… Ken Mitchell returns for his second year at the helm. This is the first time a coach has returned after their first year at Hand in four years.  The reality is he has set the bar pretty high after winning a state title with a .500 team in his first year there. Also, the Tigers only return five players who saw action in the championship game. That could be scary. We will see growing pains for sure, but they shocked everyone last year meaning we can’t count them out.

East Haven (16-4-0; lost in the Division I Quarterfinals to ND Fairfield)
Key Losses: Mike Falanga, Tristan Goodwin, Matt Longobardi, Jake DelGuidice, Tom Delucia, Dylan Butler
Key Returners: Sr. Devan Avena, G; Jr. Anthony Avallone, F; Sr. Tyler Moss, F; Sr. Mike Montesanto, D; Jr. Nick Latella, D; So. Peter Capone, F; So. Matt Latella, F
New Blood:
Outlook: Talk about a new look squad. Just about 90% of the Easties offensive production is gone. They have a new goalie, new top D pairings and a new division. The latter is probably the most relevant. Would East Haven be able to compete at the DI level with the loss of their top line of Falanga, Goodwin and Longobardi? No. But they should be scrappy enough to be able to scratch out enough wins to be towards the top of DII. Time will tell with the Jackets but there is some intriguing young talent on this team that could shine at a DII level.

Farmington Valley (4-16-0; did not qualify)
Key Losses: Nick Sanderson, Eric Welles, Dan Rider, Jack Wendler
Key Returners: Sr. Michael Arciero, F; Sr. Alden Piper, D; Sr. Jim McAuliffe, F; Sr. Tom McAuliffe, G; Sr. Kyle Sopelak, F
New Blood:
Outlook: After a 2-1 start last year the Generals thought they would be certainly locking up a playoff bid. That didn’t happen, they only won two more games the rest of the way (both against RMR) and endured an 11 game losing streak. With a strong group of seniors this year the team should improve slightly from a four win team a year ago. I only see a slight improvement, however.

Fairfield Co-op (7-13-0; lost in the Division II First Round to Amity)
Key Losses: Conor Scharlop, Jack O’Rourke, Austin Armas
Key Returners: Sr. Kyle Greenhut, G; Jr. Mike Grace, G; Sr. Zach Weinstein, D; Sr. Wade Petro, D; Jr. Charlie Pipper, D; Sr. Trevor Demilt, F; Sr. Matt Roberts, F; Jr. Owen Emmendorfer, F; Jr. Kevin Boldrighini, F
New Blood: Jr. Jake Fuss
Outlook: Fairfield brings in a new coach and new attitude to this season. Tom Roche (former North Haven coach) comes in and the Mustangs are eager to erase last season’s less than stellar taste in their mouth. They bring back strong goaltending in Greenhut and Grace as well as an elite D-core led by Zach Weinstein. On offense newcomer Jake Fuss could immediately be impactful and help out returning leading goal scorer Trevor Demilt. I think Fairfield will definitely improve on last year, how much remains to be seen.

Fermi-Enfield (6-13-1; lost in the Division II First Round to Branford)
Key Losses: Matt Boulette, Marc Richard, Nathan Marin, Jacob Quinn, Matt Roy
Key Returners: Jr. Sam Roy, G; Sr. Brian Riley, F; Sr. Ryan Gothers, D; Sr. Troy Martin, D
New Blood:
Outlook: Moving to the CCC South will at least on the surface help a team like Fermi-Enfield. But they will need to put the puck in the net and at the onset the loss of a player like Matt Boulette could be hard to replace. We know they are going to be defensively sound with Roy in net and Martin and Gothers on the back end but there will need to be contributions offensively from up and down the lineup if Fermi is going to be successful. They should improve on their 6 win season from a year ago simply because of their divisional move.

Guilford (5-15-0; did not qualify)
Key Losses: Will Dacey, Evan Powell, Carson Sperry
Key Returners: Jr. Stephen Thibault, F; Jr. Chris Cafiero, F; Sr. Jack Petrick, F; Sr. Kevin Gaudio, F; Sr. Ryan Brand, D; Jr. Matt Clifford, D; So. Kyle Dwyer, G
New Blood:
Outlook: Guilford should be improved. They return a top line of Thibault, Cafiero and Petrick as well as a goalie with a season under his belt. Do I think Guilford will contend for a DII title? No, but they won’t be missing out on the tournament again this year especially if Clifford, Brand and the rest of the D in front of Dwyer are strong.

Milford (11-8-1; lost in the Division II Semifinals to Amity)
Key Losses: Zach White, Will Vitelli, Ben Lavallee, Noah Ericson, John DePalma
Key Returners: Sr. Jarod Butts, D; Sr. Jonathan Depascale, D; Sr. David McLenithan, D; So. Andrew Gobany, F; Jr. Brandon Argyros, F; Sr. Brady Denigan, F
New Blood: Sr. Sean Rowland, G
Outlook: Milford will rely on some younger bodies to provide the offense this year with the graduation of all everything forward Zach White and perfect counter balance players Ben Lavallee and Will Vitelli. Look for Gobany to have a great second year. It’s never a bad thing to lean on senior defense and that’s just what the Indians have. One of the unknowns resides in Milford’s crease where NDF transfer goalie Sean Rowland takes over for DePalma and Ericson. Milford will have solid year with emerging stars in Gobany and Brandon Argyros.

New Milford (14-5-1; lost in the Division II Quarterfinals to Amity)
Key Losses: Steven Berry, Cole Case, Harrison O’Connell, Nick Capriglione
Key Returners: Sr. Jameson Steinhardt, D; Sr. Thomas Nisco, F; Sr. Logan Doud, F; Sr. Blaine McMahon; So. Payton Meyer
New Blood: Jr. Alex Fortuna, G, Fr. Nate Capriglione, F
Outlook: New Milford brings in a new coach this season, Scott Capriglione. If that name sounds familiar, he’s the father of last year’s goalie Nick. Capriglione played high school/college hockey in Minnesota and has coached in the area for a number of years. This is all well and good but he inherits a team that has lost a lot of fire power with Berry, Case and O’Connell all gone. Defensively the Wave should be sound and freshman Nate Capriglione could be very good. They will certainly have a new look this year, but should still be able to do enough to make states.

Newington-Berlin (16-3-1; lost in the Division II First Round to Daniel Hand)
Key Losses: Dan Roberts, Mike Davies, Tyler Mangiafico, Matt Harackiewicz, Kevin Landau
Key Returners: Sr. Dante Gugliotti, F; Sr. Marco DiPaola, F; Jr. Luca DiPaola, F; Sr. Mitch Pitkin; Jr. Aaron Lassen; Sr. Cam Criniti, G
New Blood: So. Alex Borselle, F; So. Paul Ciarcia, F
Outlook: Newington-Berlin certainly underachieved last year. A #4 overall seed in the Division II state tournament only to fall in the first round. The only thing that justified the lost was Daniel Hand running the table and eventually winning the whole thing. This year they should have some unfinished business on their mind. Sr. Cam Criniti will be in net and should be strong after a solid junior year. Senior forward Dante Gugliotti is one of the best at the DII level and is ready along with the DiPaola brothers to step out of the Dan Roberts, BJ Richard shadow. The Indians will be good yet again but will need to prove themselves at the DII level in the tourney.

North Branford (10-10-0; lost in the Division II First Round to North Haven)
Key Losses: Nick Johnson, Brendan Appi
Key Returners: So. Will McEwan, G; Sr. Alec Martone, F; Sr. Jordan Glenn; So. Brian McKee, F; Jr. Adam Burkle, F; Jr. Tanner Opie
New Blood: Sr. Chris Russo, D (Wolfpack)
Outlook: The T-Birds really didn’t lose a heck of a lot. This bodes well for them this year in a pretty dismantled DII field. They return a ton of depth with players like captains Alec Martone and Jordan Glenn. But they’re also very young with a bevy of underclassmen ready to step their game up on the big stage. We should definitely see a jump up from their 10 wins of a year ago especially with their competitive goaltender group headed by sophomore Will McEwan. If he falters Will Burke or even Tyler Odice are ready to jump in. Look for the T-Birds to do some damage this year.

North Haven (12-5-3; lost in the Division II Quarterfinals to Daniel Hand)
Key Losses: Chris Lion, Matt Bogart, Kyle VanBramer, Vin Fasulo, Joe D’Amico, Phil Gauvin, Mike Tantorski, Mike Hribko
Key Returners: Sr. Cam Owens, F; Sr. Tyler Luedee, F; Jr. Josh Back, D; Sr. Andrew Graziano, G
New Blood:
Outlook: Losing a player the caliber of Vin Fasulo definitely hurts North Haven’s chances but the Indians have never been a group solely relying on one player’s production. Add to that new coach Mike Silengo and the Indians may be ready for a new start or new approach. The steady net presence of Andrew Graziano is something that, if North Haven is to be successful, will be key. Like last year in a 12 win season, North Haven will be in the mix towards the end at the DII level, I’m just not sure they have enough pieces to be the last one standing at the end.

Bolton-Coventry-Rockville-RHAM (17-2-1; lost in the Division II First Round to New Milford)
Key Losses: Liam McGrath, Kevin Morton, Eddie Bates, Mason Madison, Hunter Byram, Nate Tonzi
Key Returners: Jr. Paul Bates, F; Jr. Calvin Tonzi, D; Jr. Connor McGrath, G; Sr. Scott Mocko, F; Jr. Ben Lavasseur, D
New Blood: So. Connor Morton, F
Outlook: BCR put together a 17 win season last year to only fall to a more battle tested New Milford squad in the first round.  Simply the seeding and 17 wins were mainly accrued due to a lighter schedule. This year’s schedule is very similar with 11 games against DIII opponents. This co-op will need to stack up wins there because they lost a ton of offensive depth. Paul Bates, Calvin Tonzi and sophomore Connor Morton will be able to put the puck in the net but it’ll be important for them to find other scoring options. If they don’t it could be a long year for BCR.

Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks (14-5-1; lost in the Division II First Round to Cheshire)
Key Losses: Max Marson, Marc Adams,
Key Returners: Sr. Jake King, F; So. Jake Bourdeau, F; Jr. Colin MacDougald, F; Jr. Dan Bahl, F; So. Austin Rupp, F; So. Brendan Looney, F; Sr. Shane Kertanis, G; So. Craig Montemerlo, D; So. Vinny Breda, D; Sr. Austin Adams
New Blood:
Outlook: SGWL comes back loaded. Not only do they return all DII player Jake King, they return a stockpile of underclassmen talent like Jake Bourdeau, Austin Rupp, Colin MacDougald, Brendan Looney and Dan Bahl. They are strong on defense and return one of DII’s best goalies in senior Shane Kertanis. All the pieces are there for Nick Boorman’s club. They will play six games against Division I competition and look to be the easy favorite in the brand spankin new Nutmeg Hockey Conference (Woodstock Academy, Tri-Town, NFA-St. B’s, Eastern CT Eagles, Housy).

Trinity Catholic (14-5-1; lost in the Division II First Round to Milford)
Key Losses: Drew Scanlan, Will Egan, Colin Bernard (Brunswick), Kyle Odierno (Oilers), Eryk Wielgos (Oilers)
Key Returners: Sr. PJ Duddie, G; Sr. Griffin Northrop, F; Sr. Matt Carlson, Sr. Joey Nelson, Jr. Jordan Skiba; So. Quinn Thompson; So. Liam Shanahan
New Blood: Jr. Daniel Bernard; Fr. Kyle Bernard
Outlook: Trinity Catholic brings in an electric and dynamic new coach in 24 year old Jonny Chiapperino. Chiapperino brings a lot of hockey experience despite his young age playing overseas in Finland and Switzerland. This experience will hopefully help him early because he’s going to need it. The Crusaders’ losses are large with three talented underclassmen leaving early for prep and junior hockey. TC does return a competent group of senior skaters headed by the talented Griffin Northrop. Along with Northrop Chiapperino will lean on seniors Matt Carlson and Joey Nelson to bolster that top line. There are many new faces on this club this year and repeating last year’s 14 win season could be tough. However, I think Chiapperino will have this group ready to compete each night and ride senior PJ Duddie, often in Kyle Odierno’s shadow, to success.

Trumbull (4-16-0; did not qualify)
Key Losses: Alex Pierne
Key Returners: Sr. Sam Watson, D; Sr. Jake Crowe, D; Sr. Nick Cirino; Sr. Matt Sarosky, F; Sr. Mike Cullen, F; So. Brady Jensen, F; Sr. Francis Fromageot, G; So. Will Guttman, G
New Blood:
Outlook: Trumbull had a rough year last year, not qualifying for the state tournament only two years removed from winning the whole thing. They didn’t lose much, however. They return a big group of seniors who are hungry and willing to do the small things to be able to win. I think they’ll be especially strong on defense led by Sam Watson and Jake Crowe. Expect senior Francis Fromageot to get most of the starts in net but if he slips up sophomore Will Guttman will be ready to take over.

Watertown-Pomperaug (5-14-1; did not qualify)
Key Losses: Jon Manzer, Seamus Conway,
Key Returners: Jr. Brian Manzer; Sr. Mike Foschi; Sr. Ray Borsari; Sr. Carl LaRosa, G
New Blood: So. Ryan Dunfee; So. Peter Jorgensen
Outlook: We’re not that far removed from Watertown-Pomperaug being a serious force in the SWC. I mean, back in March of 2013 they won the title beating BBD convincingly at the Danbury Ice Arena. Times have changed for the team with the sweet orange and black take on the Blackhawks logo. This year, though, they have to improve on last year’s 5-14-1 finish, don’t they? They should. Senior goalie Carl LaRosa could be a difference for the co-op while leaders like Brian Manzer and Mike Foschi need to take control of this young inexperienced team. I do not see WP reaching the tourney with how things currently are but they are on the brink of starting to creep back to relevance.

Wilton (5-12-3; lost in the Division II First Round to East Catholic)
Key Losses: Joe Cullinan, Josh Worley, Christian Hansson (out for year, injury), Derek Prario
Key Returners: Sr. Kyle Jonas, F; Sr. Jameson Hill, D; Sr. David Craven, F; Sr. Mark Donahue, D; Sr. Luke Rizzo, F; Sr. Edward Zawislak, F; Sr. Kyle Buckley, G
New Blood: Fr. John Fung, F

Outlook: Wilton crawled into the postseason last year with a 5-12-3 overall record only to get throttled by East Catholic in the first round. This year the team returns a ton of experience with 12 seniors on the roster including new netminder Kyle Buckley who will take over for the graduated Derek Prario. They will be without the services of senior Christian Hansson who’s out for the year with a torn ACL. Kyle Jonas and David Craven will be looked upon to provide the bulk of the scoring while the back end will be protected by seniors Jameson Hill and Mark Donahue. While I think you can’t replace what a player like Joey Cullinan brought to the ice and the locker room, I think Wilton will improve this year. You can’t go wrong with that much senior leadership right?

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