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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Local contenders still lurking

Boys Ice Hockey

Will the area contenders of a year ago be back in the hunt this time?

That’s the big question with all the divisional changes in high school hockey. The Alvirne Broncos were the cream of the crop around here last year, coming within a whisker of a Division III championship (losing in overtime to Kennett), but the Broncos are in Division II now. ...

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Will the area contenders of a year ago be back in the hunt this time?

That’s the big question with all the divisional changes in high school hockey. The Alvirne Broncos were the cream of the crop around here last year, coming within a whisker of a Division III championship (losing in overtime to Kennett), but the Broncos are in Division II now.

But the question may be whether a former contender can get back into the thick of things. Last year longtime Bishop Guertin coach Gary Bishop warned that his lack of size and scoring ability up front might come back to haunt him. No one paid attention, because the Cardinals are always in the thick of things.

But they finished below .500 and lost to Londonderry in the first round of the Division I tournament. In fact, the Cards were manhandled.

“Definitely we were,” Bishop said. “But we’ve gotten big up front. I don’t think we’re going to get pushed around as much this year.”

Yet the Cards had their usual prep/junior defections, and even lost two transfers to Merrimack.

Meanwhile, Nashua North and South will look to revamp their programs with new coaches; former Merrimack coach Dan Lego takes over at North as the Titans third coach in four years, and Eric Momnie becomes the third coach in three years at South. Both teams could struggle to be competitive at the onset.

Elsewhere in Division I, defending champion Pinkerton Academy of Derry lost its top two players from a year ago to juniors. Manchester Memorial may be strong defensively (6-2 junior blue liner Bryan Syrene is considered among the state’s best), and parity is the most often used word.

While the Broncos, led by talented senior forward Reed Vandergraaf, adjust to life back in Division II, Merrimack will try to take advantage of a pair of BG transfers, forwards Josh Roy and Shane Foye, to go with points leader Connor Powell. The
Tomahawks, still stinging from their upset tourney ouster at the hands of Spaulding Regional of Rochester, are looking to contend despite being young with as many as nine freshmen on the roster. Bedford still looks like one of the teams, if not the team, to beat.

In Division III, Hollis Brookline has a new coach in Ken DeCredico and needs to replenish a talent pool that took the Cavs to the semifinals. Souhegan has better numbers this year, but suffered two key losses: defenseman Ben Ehrlich to prep school, and high-scoring forward Steve Upton to juniors.

Even with those hits, the Sabers could be a serious title contender – something they haven’t been since their last finals appearance in 2009. Besides Alvirne, Division III lost tourney and co-op teams Pelham-Windham and Pembroke-Campbell, plus Somersworth-Coe Brown, although Berlin is now in what is now just a 12-team league.

“Teams that weren’t as strong last year may be stronger,” Belliveau said. “It’s going to be competitive but hopefully we’ll have a chance to try to get to the Verizon this year.”

Meanwhile, Campbell, according to athletic director John Patterson, will place five players this year on the Pembroke co-op team (8-8-1 last year) now forced to skate in Division II because of the combined enrollments:

Senior forward Cade LaCroix, sophomore forward Jonathan Donaghey, senior forward Mike White, senior forward Chris Lowry and junior forward Nathan Brunelle. They all could play key roles.

DIVISION I

BISHOP GUERTIN

COACH: Gary Bishop (23rd year)

2011-2012: 7-9-1, lost to Londonderry in first round

RETURNING REGULARS: Connor Donahue, jr., d; Nicholas Apostolakes, so., d; Chris Arling, so., d; Chris Lovell, sr., f; Matt Blais, sr., f/d; Evan Dalaker, jr., f.

OTHER RETURNING PLAYERS: Dillon Hayes, so., f; Fareed Farhat, sr., f; Stephen Shaw, jr., d; Ben Hadley, sr., f; Griffin Scanlon, jr., g.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Max McCabe, so., f; Andrew Casey, so., f.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “We’re going to be big up front,” Bishop said. “We still have some young kids in key positions, but they’re second-year players now. We have nine kids who we hope can score six, seven goals apiece.”

NASHUA NORTH

COACH: Dan Legro (first year).

2011-12: 6-9-1

RETURNING REGULARS: Zach Taylor, sr., d; Adam Murphy, sr., f; Liam Conners, jr., f; Jack Latham, jr., f; Bill Loranger, sr., f; Jake Genest, jr., goalie.

OTHER RETURNING PLAYERS: Nick Johnson, so., d; Jack Ruonala, so., f; Tyler Searles, so., d; Jon Searles, jr., d; Tim Paige, so., f/d; Ryan Marvin, so., d; Robert Lavine, so., f; Jon Wilson, jr., f.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: None.

KEY STO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “We have to be fundamentally sound and be in great shape,” Legro said. “It will start from the goaltending on out.”

NASHUA SOUTH

COACH: Eric Momnie (first year).

2011-12: 3-13.

RETURNING REGULARS: Jacob Galgay, jr., d; Alexander Radin, sr., d; Steven Saucier, so., d; Devin Medeiros-Bracket, sr., f.

OTHER RETURNING PLAYERS: Alex Bender, jr., g; Alex Lake, jr., g; Catherine Connolly, jr., f; Alkim Dato, jr., f; Jacob Boisvert, sr., f; Matt Kuba, so., f; Neil McNulty, jr., f.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Matt LaBlanc, so., f; Bryan Connolly, fr., d.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “We have to try to keep teams off the board, stay out of the box, and capitalize on our (scoring) chances,” Momnie said.

DIVISION II

ALVIRNE

COACH: Brian Gould (fourth year).

2011-12: 20-2, lost to Kennett in Division III finals.

RETURNING REGULARS: Jeremy Dutil, sr., f; Ryan Gamst, so., d; Pat DeVito, so. d; Dan Lebourdais, sr., d; Reed Vandergraaf, sr., f; Cam Blake, so., f; Michael Silva, jr., d; Luke Savoie, sr., f; Devin Herling, so., d; Justin Ferguson, so., g.

OTHER RETURNING PLAYERS: Alex Boucher, sr., d; Christian Gamst, jr., f; Brett Pitre, so., f; Brad Brock, so., f/d; Trevor Perron, jr., f.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Jamie Petersen, so., f; Curtis Richall, fr., g; Cam Richall, fr., f.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “We have to stay healthy and stay out of the penalty box,” Gould said. “Our goaltending will be strong, and we have two solid lines.”

MERRIMACK

COACH: Kurt Mithoefer (second year).

2011-12: 17-5, lost to Spaulding in quarterfinals

RETURNING REGULARS: Dom Valluzzi, sr., f; Connor Powell, jr., f; Evan McCormick, jr., d; Jason Fortin, so., d; Brett Glendye, sr., g.

OTHER RETURNING PLAYERS: Karl Eisermann, jr., d/g; Aiden O’Brien, so., f; Mark Feeney, jr., d; Matt Brewster, so., g.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Josh Roy, jr., f; Shane Foye, jr., f; Kyle Feeney, fr., d/f.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “This year, because we’re a very young team (nine freshmen), it’s going to be a growing year,” Mithoefer said.

DIVISION III

HOLLIS BROOKLINE

COACH: Ken DiCredico (first year).

2011-12: 12-7-1, lost to Kennett in semifinals.

RETURNING REGULARS: Tim Birch, sr., f; Will Holmes, sr., d; Ian McNamara, so., d; Cam Ricard, jr., f; Ian Rowe, sr., f.

OTHER RETURNING PLAYERS: Dan Ash, so., f; Travis Howard, jr., g; Tommy Johnson, so., f; Brett Pearson, so., d; Kyle Stephens, so., d.

PROMISINING NEWCOMERS: Karlie Kobylarz, sr., d; Evan Daskalos, fr., f; Jack Shields, fr., f.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “I’ve got some talent up front,” DeCredico said. “We want to get everybody healthy, get into the playoffs, and see what happens from there.”

SOUHEGAN

COACH: Dan Belliveau (second year).

2011-12: 10-7-2, lost to Hollis Brookline in quarterfinals.

RETURNING REGULARS: Brendon Dix, sr., f; Nate Gunter, jr., d; Mike Hayden, jr., f; Ryan Peterson, sr., g; Paul Stacey, so., f.

OTHER RETURNING PLAYERS: Riley Connor, jr., f; Cullen Johnson, jr., d; Alex Maresco, so., d; Alex Mendola, so., f/d; Alek Medic, so., f; Vincent Silvestri, jr., f/d, Matt Wilson, so., f.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Joe Nutting, fr., f; Jon Ehrlich, fr., d.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “I think it’s going to be whether or not the kids can challenge themselves with regard to chemistry,” Belliveau said. “It’s changed a little bit because of some of the players we lost.”