Division 2 hockey preview

New faces means wide-open race for titles

By Braden Campbell
Globe Correspondent / December 17, 2010

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Expect to see some new faces in EMass Division 2 hockey this year.

Few teams escaped the offseason with many players retained from last year, their rosters ravaged by graduation and transfers to prep — and the postseason staples were no exception to this rule.

Defending state champion Canton lost 13 seniors from last year’s team. In addition, offensive star Kevin Rooney transferred to the Berkshire school.

“It’s been a learning experience so far, we’re still forming our identity,’’ said coach Brian Shuman.

Despite his team’s youth — 12 members of his roster are underclassmen — the team should have a strong season. Sophomore forwards Nick O’Connor, Pat Ward and Mike Denehy saw significant ice time last year, and the team’s offense will be anchored by experienced senior Greg Boyd.

Franklin, which made it as far as the South semifinal last year, escaped relatively unscathed, holding over 15 seniors from last year’s team, 8 of whom played regular shifts.

In particular, coach Chris Spillane said he will be counting on forwards Tom Carlo and Nick Bertoni as well as defenseman Alex Tadeo to provide some quality minutes this season.

Despite his team’s wealth of experience, Spillane said that in the past, a lack of discipline has hampered his team’s potential. If they’re to succeed this year, he said, they have to show up every night.

“We have a strong group of returning players,’’ Spillane said. “It’s a short season, it’s only 20 games, and they need to perform each game.’’

Hanover should mount a strong effort this year, with a large portion of its roster returning, though few members had significant ice time.

Coach Jim Sylvia said he will count on goalie Jim Donovan, defenseman Mark Eagles and forward Matt Hasenfuss, three veteran players, to anchor the team. Though much of his roster lacks their experience, Sylvia said he’s confident he can put a strong team on the ice.

“We’re a very well-balanced club. I have five lines out there and I can play all five lines,’’ he said. ”It’s not a team made up of superstars or anything like that.”

Newburyport boasts just six seniors on its roster, but what it lacks in number it makes up for in potency.

Senior captain Billy Boudreau, one of the top defenders in the state, should be a brick wall behind the blue line, and forward Gaven Lavalley brings his four years of varsity experience to the center position.

Wilmington had one of the toughest off-seasons of the bunch, losing 16 seniors.

The loss of All-Scholastic Zach Rosa, one of the top netminders in Division 2 last year, certainly stings, but 6-4 defenseman Brian Hurley should be able to help out goalie Joe Aucoin as he adjusts to the starting spot.

The Cape Ann League boasts a set of strong teams that should be forces in Divison 2 this year. Lynnfield should be a defensive force thanks to the strong stick of star goaltender Craig Cataldo, and Masconomet’s strong offense should earn the Chieftans a few goals.

Winthrop also lost a top goaltender in the form of Patrick Feeley, who is now at the Berkshire school, but they play a strong starting five otherwise. In particular, coach Dale Dunbar said he’ll be counting on workhorse defender Jake Rand to boost the squad.

Peabody, which made it to last year’s North final, and Nauset, which made it to the South final, should also be able to mount strong campaigns this year.

Starting 6

A preseason look at the top players in Division 2 boys’ hockey.

G — Craig Cataldo, Lynnfield

D — Billy Boudreau, Newburyport

D — Brian Hurley, Wilmington

F — Greg Boyd, Canton

F — Matt Hasenfuss, Hanover

F — Tom Carlo, Franklin