By Jim Severance
The puck drops later this week for the 2013-14 high school hockey season. Last year, two area teams, U32 Raider boys and Harwood Highlander girls, each took home a state title. Both those teams will face major challenges in getting back to the championships. Between graduation losses and divisional alignment, the new season brings a lot of question marks. Look for a quite a few new faces on many Central Vermont teams as schools replace a significant number of graduated seniors.
SPAULDING (Metro Division)
COACH: Clay Bell
LAST SEASON: 9-10-12 (Lost to Middlebury in playdown)
FIRST GAME: December 6th – Stowe
After graduating nine players, the Crimson Tide will be looking for a combination of returning players and newcomers to get into the scoring column. Shane Hickey, Justin Flory and Mitchell Yacavoni are a few of last year’s key contributors gone to graduation. They accounted for over 75% of the Crimson Tide goals. Senior Garrett Kelty (12 goals) is the top returning scorer. He’ll be on the first line with quick forward Jeff Roy and John Hardy. The second line will feature sophomores Dylan Dilena and Ryan Allen and junior Logan Safford. Look for freshman Denver Heath to see action on the third line. The Crimson Tide return experienced defenseman including Matthew Clark-Blouin, Curtis Magnan, Patrick McKelvey and Ben Evans. Two freshmen, Luke Krupa and Chandler Kressey, will also see action, giving Spaulding six defenseman. Two experienced goaltenders, sophomore Justin LaPerle and senior Ben Ferland, return. LaPerle, last season, adjusted well to the speed of the Metro Division in his first season.
“With just nine teams in the Metro this is the toughest schedule we’ve ever had,” says coach Clay Bell. “We play BFA and Essex three times and CVU twice. To get better you need to play the best teams and this year we’ll see them a lot.”
U 32 (Lake Division)
COACH: Dave Pickel
LAST SEASON 20-2-1 (Won Lake Division Championship (4-2) over Burr & Burton)
FIRST GAME: December 4th – Burr & Burton
After winning back to back Lake Division championships the U32 Raiders will have a much different look this season. Eight seniors have departed including Lake Division Player of the Year Shane O’Neil (21goals), Jordan Jones (27 goals), Cole Mugford (22 goals), Forrest Smith (11goals), Cooper Hatch and Goalie Jordan Blais.
“This is a rebuilding year for us with 81 goals and the top two lines gone to graduation,” says coach Dave Pickel. “What won’t change is this team will give 110% and we will improve once our players get used to their new roles.”
The Raiders will not be as high-powered, quick and deep, but they will benefit from the return of some contributors from last year’s championship team. Senior captains Andrew Danyew, who missed much of last season with an injury, and defenseman Tyler Elliot will provide leadership and experience. Returning skaters upfront include Reed Kirby (7 goals), Chris Aldrighetti (6 goals) and Colby Brochu (3 goals). The defenseman pairs haven’t been set yet, but you can expect Elliot to get help from Dalton James and freshmen Harper Wimble. Other forwards likely to get more ice time this season are Conner Rice, Kyle Verchereau, Nick Grace and John Laperle. They will be joined by newcomers Griffin O’Neal and David Woolaver. Ty Law becomes the full-time goalie after posting 2.49 goals against in 8 games last year.
NORTHFIELD (Lake Division)
COACH: Paul Clayton
LAST YEAR 16-6-1 (Lost to U32 in semifinal)
FIRST GAME: December 6th – U32
Scoring 25 goals in a high school season is considered an outstanding year. Senior Jackson Tucker notched 52 goals last year to lead the state in scoring. You can expect opponents to try a variety of defenses to try to slow down the high scoring forward. “The more pressure, the harder he works,” says coach Paul Clayton. “He’s used to being shadowed, all that attention is going to open up ice for one of his linemates.” You’ll see plenty of new faces on the Marauders this season. Gone are seven graduated seniors, including Brandon Pedley, Jeremy Quelch, Gabe Drown, and goalie Ben Tucker. In addition, skilled forward Jackson Watson has departed for prep school, leaving very little returning goal scoring. Jordan Lumsden returns as the most experienced defenseman. Ben Cole and Mike Passalaqua add some experience at forward. The key for Northfield will be how the big and talented freshman class adjusts to competing at the next level.
“We don’t have a lot of upperclassman, but I’m excited about where we hope to be around playoff time.The youth programs at NAHA and CVSA have done a great job getting these players to jump right in,” said Clayton.
New players who will see action immediately include Lukas Eldred, Joe Parento, Connor Barrett, and Matt Hynes. Youthful talent will also be between the pipes, with freshman goalie Riley Corey from Randolph the only goalie on the roster.
HARWOOD (Lake Division)
COACH: Dave Morse
LAST YEAR 8-12-1 (Lost to Mt Mansfield in playdown)
FIRST GAME: December 4th – Peoples
Youth will dominate the lineup for the Highlanders this season. Only 5 players return from last year’s squad. Gone are seven seniors, including Erik Bertalan (23 goals), Sam Boylan and Seth Mason. Like a number of Lake Division teams, Harwood will be looking for returning players assume much larger roles this season. Offensively, Ty Delphia, the top returning scorer, should supply some scoring punch. Tom Bellnap, Adam Lamson and Gus Lockett will be expected to show leadership for the sophomore and freshman dominated team. Senior Elliot Emberley gives the Highlanders experience in goal.
“With so many players getting their first taste of high school hockey we’ll experience some growing pains, says coach Dave Morse. “We’re young and inexperienced; once the newer players adjust to the speed of the high school game we’ll be more competitive.”
PEOPLES (Lake Division)
COACH: Todd Darrow
LAST YEAR 3-18-0 (Lost to Hartford in playdown)
FIRST GAME: December 11th – U32
The Wolves will have a new head coach and a new home arena to start the season. The Green Mountain Arena in Morrisville closed last winter and now is for sale. The new Stowe arena will be the home ice for the Wolves. Todd Darrow takes over for Tom Dean behind the bench. Jordan Griffin, a former player will be assisting. The team started practices November 18th and is still sorting out their roster and defense pairings. Last year they struggled through a rebuilding season with a small roster and not a lot of experienced players. They hope to take advantage of the lessons learned last season and build on that. They will not be able to rely on outstanding goalie Lukas Caldwell, who has graduated. Caldwell kept them in a number of games last year, including a 50 save performance in a one goal loss to Burr & Burton. You can keep updated on the team at www.facebook.com/peoplesacademyboys varsityhockey.com
STOWE (Lake Division)
COACH: Chris Eaton
LAST YEAR 1-19-1 (Lost to Colchester in playdown)
FIRST GAME: December 6th – Spaulding
The Stowe Raiders hope to christen their new arena with a few more wins as they move back to the Lake Division. Last year in the Metro Division they were routinely outnumbered and overmatched against the much larger schools. The new season brings a brand new skating facility, replacing the often frigid Jackson Arena, and a new outlook. All key players return from last year, plus they’ve added a number of new additions that will give them some extra depth. Chad Haggerty led the team in scoring as a freshman and will get help from seniors Sam Salvas, Dylan Priestly, Miles McGuriman and Andrew Chambers. The defensive corps is led by JJ Clark and Luke O’Toole. First year coach Chris Eaton has added a number of new faces, including Chris and Ed Cinque, along with freshman Jackson Felis. Senior goalie Wyatt Galfetti returns and should face less shots than he did last year against the top Metro teams. The leadership of the six seniors and the experience gained playing in the Metro Division should all benefit the Raiders this season.
SPAULDING (Metro Division)
LAST YEAR: 14-4-2 (Lost to Essex in semifinals)
COACH: Brad Bessette
FIRST GAME: December 4th – Missisquoi
The Crimson Tide will compete this year with their smallest roster in years, just 12 players. They will be missing seven talented seniors who graduated last year, led by Ellen Gosselin and Ashley Pelkey, who’s now skating for Castleton State. With just 9 returning players and 3 newcomers, conditioning and stamina will be big priorities.
“The girls realize that have to be in great shape,” says coach Brad Bessette. “The rest is pretty limited, with two lines and four defenseman.”
Eyes will be on Julia Ormsby to continue her scoring touch. The junior has been one of the Crimson Tide’s top players since her freshman year. She’ll need some other players to step up and find the back of the net. Look for forwards Kassandra Perantoni, Cheyenne Tardie, Talia Gariboldi and freshman Jessica Scott to see lots of action. Caitlyn Wilkin will anchor defense with Elizah French, Jordyn Binaghi, and freshman Olivia Couture. Look for the defensive corps to follow the tradition set by previous Spaulding teams and seize any opportunity to step up and rush the puck. Goaltenders Morgan Gosselin and Karli Chouinard return, providing experience in the net.
HARWOOD (Metro Division)
LAST YEAR 19-3-1 (Won Lake Division Championship 1-0 (OT) over North Country
COACH: Mike Vasseur
FIRST GAME: December 6th – Northfield
The Highlanders won’t get a chance to defend their Lake Division title. After topping North Country in overtime for their first girls hockey championship they’re being moved up to the Metro Division. Now they’ll have to go head to head with BFA, Essex and the best teams in the state. For a team short on experienced returning players it could be a tough challenge. A good share of last year’s scoring punch is gone. Carrie Johnson and Haley Spittle have graduated, and overtime hero Hayley Martini has left for prep school. Strong defenseman Danielle Kuiper will miss the season due to a soccer injury. The good news is that goalie Siena Damon, a starter since her freshman year, is ready to face the challenge.
“She was named second team All-State last year,” says coach Mike Vassar. “She knows with the increased competition of the Metro she’ll see two or three times the shots this year.”
The top returning goal scorers include Katie Martin and Maddie Woodard. Kaylee Ferris will center the second line. Taylor Yandow anchors the defense, with Allison Pierce. Newcomers include defenseman Rachel Tousignant The biggest challenge for the Highlanders will be competing against schools like BFA with much larger rosters of experienced players.
NORTHFIELD (Lake Division)
LAST YEAR 12-9-1 (Lost to Harwood in semifinals)
COACH: Chris Amell
FIRST GAME: December 6th – Harwood
Northfield was just a goal away from the state championship game last year, dropping a heartbreaker semifinal with Harwood. With Harwood, North Country, and Rutland moved to the Metro Division, the Lake Division looks to be a wide open race. Coach Chris Amell feels the Marauders should have the talent to make a run again. Key losses to graduation include All-State defenseman Logan Lamb, Erin Easton and goalie Gabby Willey. High scoring junior Kristen Dukette leads the Northfield offense. After a monster freshman year, Dukette notched 28 goals last season and is closing in on 100 points. She’ll get help from forwards Claudia Gee, Libby Start, and a number of new faces including speedy freshman Courtney Amell and Lindsey Bergeron, who joins the team from Lyndon. The defense is strong and experienced, with senior captions Hillary Amell, DJ Doney, Lydia Hoffman and sophomore Krystal Parent from Williamstown. Markie Delude takes over as the full-time goalie after splitting the duties with Gabby Willey last season.
“We’ve got some talented returning players, plus we brought in a big sophomore and freshman class,” coach Chris Amell said “We’re big, strong and fast and will roll out three quality lines. We hope to be near the top of the Lake Division and be playing at UVM in March.”
LAST YEAR 5-17-0 (Lost to Harwood in quarterfinals)
COACH: Jeff Wuorinen
FIRST GAME: December 4th – Hartford
A standout goalie can steal a win and keep a team in any game. Raiders senior Cheyenne Smith has given her team a chance to win games where the Raiders were outshot and overmatched.
“Goaltending is key to building the foundation of your team, we’re lucky to have Cheyenne between the pipes” said new coach Jeff Wuorinen. “She’s looked real good in scrimmages and she knows against the top teams she’ll see plenty of shots” 10 seniors are gone from last year including star defensemen Stacy Woolaver and forward Rachel Ebersole. Three seniors, forward Emily George, defensemen Sydney Champine and Smith will provide the leadership. The Raiders have struggled to score goals and will need everyone to step up and contribute. Expect the Raiders strong sophomore class featuring Neil Peterson, Megan Ryan, Natalie Lavigne and Logan Blake to pick up where they left off last season. Look for Olivia Dexter, and Alexandre Forest to see more action. Three freshmen also join the team and hope to work their way into the lineup.
LAST YEAR 6-14-0 (Lost to North Country in quarterfinals)
COACH: Luke Shea & Karl Lipsky
FIRST GAME: December 6th – U32
Central Vermont girls hockey is loaded with strong goalies this year. According to the league coaches, the best of the bunch is Stowe’s Danielle Mayo. The 2013 Lake Division Player of the Year stood strong last season in games where the shots came in bunches. With all key players returning from last year, plus some new arrivals, a deeper and more experienced team should give Mayo a little more breathing time. Top returners include sophomore Ricki Haab, a strong player with good speed and Peoples Academy soccer standout Katie Stames, a defenseman that plays both ends well. Kelli Grimes and Katie Feeney look to round out the offense and defense respectively. The Raiders struggled last year when those four weren’t on the ice. New faces include freshman blueliner Evelyn Leikert. First year coach Luke Shea feels this team will be stronger than last year. “Our top end players are all back, plus the less experienced players who are returning have all had a years experience on the ice now. The first year players that we have on the team have already made improvements after two weeks of practice.” The number of players has increased from last year’s 11 to 16 from the three member schools Stowe, Peoples and Lamoille.
Jim Severance is the voice of high school hockey on WSNO 1450AM in Barre