By Jim Severance
The NHL season starts in October and by November college and youth teams are playing but the high school hockey season doesn’t get going until the first week of December. The next three months will go by quickly as teams battle for a trip to UVM’s Gutterson Field House for the state championships in March. Last season the Stowe Raiders boys’ team completed a brilliant turnaround by going from just one win the previous year to championship of the Lake Division. With some key players back this year, don’t count out Stowe for a repeat. There are many questions to be decided in Central Vermont this season. Can the U32 Raiders boys with help from neighboring Montpelier make a run for a title? How will the Northfield and Harwood girls adjust to new divisions? Will the Spaulding boys have success in Vermont’s toughest hockey division? Can the young Harwood boys team make some noise in Waterbury? To find out, get out and support your local teams. If you haven’t been to a high school hockey game recently, you’re missing out on a great experience.
BOYS HOCKEY PREVIEW
SPAULDING (Metro Division)
COACH: Clay Bell
LAST SEASON: 4-14-4 (Lost to CVU in quarterfinals)
FIRST GAME: December 4th – Stowe
The Crimson Tide found out how tough life can be in the powerful Metro Division last year, posting only 2 league wins, with a roster that included the most sophomores and freshman they’ve ever skated. Spaulding fans hope that lessons learned by the young club last year together with the return of a couple of standouts who missed most of last season will result in more wins this year.
“We learned a lot last year playing a difficult schedule. I think the young guys improved and are ready to take the next step,” said coach Clay Bell. “We need to battle every night, but I feel this team can compete much better with the top teams in the Metro.”
Senior Matt Clark-Blouin’s return should give the Crimson Tide a boost on both ends of the ice. Blouin, who missed almost all of last year with a foot injury, will skate as a forward but could move back to defense on power play and shorthanded situations. Look for a balanced scoring attack from the Crimson Tide. Sophomore Denver Heath is the top returning goal scorer. Heath, a small but quick player, can make things happen. Dylan Dilena returns after missing most of last season, giving the Crimson Tide a power forward with good size. Look for forwards Ryan Allen, Brad Romeo, Bobby Austin, John Hardy and Logan Safford to notch some goals. Sophomore Luke Krupa leads an experienced crew to patrol the blue line. Krupa logged many hours of ice time last year. Other tested defensemen include Chandler Day and Ben Evans. Freshman Matteo Perantoni is a skilled newcomer that will contribute immediately on the blue line. Junior Justin Laperle returns as the most experienced goalie. Laperle has seen action in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Sophomores Cody Gosselin and Sam Barr may also see some action.
U32 (Lake Division)
COACH: Dave Pickel
LAST SEASON 8-14-0 (Lost to Middlebury in quarterfinals)
FIRST GAME: December 4th – vs. Rice
After winning back-to-back Lake Division Championships, the Raiders experienced a rebuilding year last season. Without the firepower of previous years, the Raiders were still able to stay competitive in the Lake Division, giving Middlebury all they could handle in a quarterfinal.
The Raiders should be stronger this year, with a young but experienced squad. Now a cooperative team with Montpelier, they add a number of players who played for Northfield last year.
“This team is very young, but talented. We’re going to be tested early and often, with four games against Metro division opponents to start the year,” said coach Dave Pickel. “Working hard together will be a key component to the success of this team.”
You’ll find a lot of balance up front with Colby Brochu, Lucas Eldred, Connor Barrett, Nick Grace, Connor Rice, and Griffin O’Neal all capable of putting the puck in the net. The Raiders return a solid crew of defensemen, including Harper Wimble, Dalton James, Matt Hynes, and David Woolaver. Look for freshmen Zach Lague to also see action. Don’t be surprised to see the defensive crew get into the scoring column. Wimble was one of the team’s leading scorers last season. You’ll see a new look between the pipes as the Raiders bring in two skilled freshman goaltenders Connor Carbo and Rory Hynes to share the duties. Both come in with extensive youth hockey experience.
NORTHFIELD (Lake Division)
COACH: Paul Clayton
LAST YEAR 16-7-0 (Lost to Middlebury in semifinal)
FIRST GAME: December 3rd– vs. Harwood
A work in progress might be the best way to describe the young and inexperienced Marauders this season. The team will have a much different look with all-time school leading scorer Jackson Tucker no longer in the lineup after an amazing four-year career. Tucker notched 51 goals last season to lead the state in scoring.
The off-season also brought news that Montpelier High School ended their longtime member-to-member agreement with Northfield for boys hockey to join a cooperative team with U32. That means that five players who skated for Northfield last season will be wearing Raider blue.
“Our team is almost entirely turned over from last season. We’re the smallest school in the state with a boys hockey team. It’s going to take some time to rebuild, but we have a plan in place and we’ll do it right,” says coach Paul Clayton. “We’ll be very young with 11 freshmen on the roster. Our goal is to get better every day.”
Senior forward Ben Cole is the top returning player up front. Look for a freshman class of Jackson Clayton, Kyle Reichmuth, and Garrett Bean to see plenty of ice time on the first two lines. Junior defensemen Eric Gerdes returns as the most experienced on the blue line. Freshman Cory Doney will see action on both defense and forward. Goaltending is one position where the Marauders have both experience and depth. Sophomore Riley Corey from Randolph is back after a strong first season. He’ll be backed up by Ty Law, who comes over from U32. Two goaltenders is a luxury the Marauders haven’t had for a number of years.
HARWOOD (Lake Division)
COACH: Dave Morse
LAST YEAR 6-13-2 (Lost to Hartford in playdown)
FIRST GAME: December 3rd – at Northfield
Numbers and talent at the youth level are on the rise in Waterbury. Look for both to boost the Highlanders, after a couple of seasons with small numbers entering the program. Af-ter skating with just 15 players a year ago, a big freshman and sophomore class will deliver a full roster of 23 players. While only two seniors graduated last year, both were key players and the Highlanders will miss star Ty Delphia, who logged a ton of ice time and scored 48 points. And Goalie Elliot Emberly. With seven sophomores and six freshmen, the Highlanders will be very young this year. That said, the new players come in with youth hockey experience, including a couple who played for the Green Mountain Glades. Coach Dave Morse who is still working out his line and defense pairings says he’s excited to see what this youthful team can do.
“I feel this season we’re much better suited to compete,” Morse said. “We’ve got a lot of new faces coming in, but for first time in a few years we’ve got the numbers to play the way I like to play the game. The new kids will need to adjust to the speed of the high school game and playing against 17-18 year-olds, but we’ve got some talent it just needs to mature.”
The top returning scorers are winger Adam Lamson and sophomore center Justin Cantwell. The Highlanders expect a balanced scoring attack. New additions Connor Dow and Eli Rivers should adjust quickly and add some scoring. Tom Bellnap returns as an experienced defenseman who can also find the net. Gus Lockett, a strong defensive player also re-turns to the blue line. The goaltending job will be handled by Dean Touchette, a sophomore who shared the duties last year, and Finnish exchange student Niilo Tuiko.
STOWE (Lake Division)
COACH: Chris Eaton
LAST YEAR 18-4-1 Won Lake Division Championship 2-1 over Middlebury)
FIRST GAME: December 4th – Spaulding
Not a lot of people would have predicted that after winning just one game in 2013 the Stowe Raiders would defeat their old nemesis Middlebury to win the Lake Division Champi-onship. The Raiders embraced their move back to the Lake Division by taking down the team that topped them in the title game back in 2011.
Look for the rest of the league contenders to bring their A game against Stowe this season. Eight players are gone from last year including captain Luke O’Toole, Sam Salves , goalie Wyatt Galfetti and junior Austin St. Onge, who has left for prep school. The Raiders return some talented players who were a big part of their championship run. Leading that list is junior Chad Haggerty, who scored both goals in the state title game. Haggerty notched 31 goals and 27 assists last season, finishing second in the Lake Division scoring race. He can do it all and seems to bring it to the next level in pressure games. Look for him to play on a line with junior Chris Cinque that should put up big numbers. Another forward who should see action on the top two lines is sophomore Jackson Felis. On the blue line the Raiders will look to senior JJ Clark, junior Cole Whittaker, and Adam Badger, one of four players coming over from Peoples Academy, to see lots of action. Returning netminder Dylan Whitaker and Bannon Wright from Peoples give the Raiders two goalies.
Coach Chris Eaton, who is still assessing the new players and working on line combinations, knows the rest of the league bring their best against the defending state champs but he’s ready for the challenge.
“I think even though we lost some very good players we’ll be alright. We’ve got Chad and Chris back. The guys have worked hard this year in the off-season and I think we have great potential,” Eaton said.
Jim Severance is the voice of high school hockey on WSNO 1450AM in Barre. firstname.lastname@example.org www.wsnoradio.com email@example.com
Next Week: Girls’ Hockey Preview