NHIAA Boys' Hockey preview: Memorial seen as team to beat in Div. I
There is a lot of high school hockey talent in the Queen City this year, but when it comes to the best, many coaches are saying the same team has it - Manchester Memorial.
The Division I runners-up of a year ago have reloaded and could be poised to win their first title since 1995. The Crusaders return two of their top three scorers in forward Ethan Pollock and offensive-minded defenseman Colin Williamson, and also welcome forward Kyle Broussard back to the program. Broussard was with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs last year.
"We're looking to improve," Memorial coach Mark Putney said. "We have a good core of players returning."
One player they did lose is Matt Tufts, who went to prep school.
Memorial has good depth on defense with Williamson and Brady McNulty leading the way, and Pollock is the main scoring threat at forward. Another guy to look out for around the net is Jacob Boylan.
The team is inexperienced at goalie, where they lost Tyler Fay. Looking to replace him are senior Josh Jacob and junior Aaron Shrum.
"I hope it's a balanced attack with offense and defense," Putney said. "I want hard-nosed hockey in all three zones."
Manchester Central and Trinity of Manchester have also been mentioned by coaches as serious contenders for a title.
The Little Green have a lot of firepower back in leading scorer Austin Sprague and Mitchel Fortin. They also have a valuable addition, Trevor Malmgren, a transfer from the South Kent School in Connecticut.
First-year coach Brian Stone, who was an assistant under Putney at Memorial, said Malmgren is extremely fast and Sprague is the complete package.
"He's the real deal," Stone said of Sprague. "He can skate, he can shoot, he can hit."
The Pioneers have solid defense and goaltending. Back between the pipes is Ryan Slatky, who will give Trinity a fighting chance in any game. Offensively they're led by Kyle Valliere and Mitch Myers, two of the team's top five scorers last season.
"Defensively we're very sound," Trinity coach Mike Connell said. "Offensively we're still working out the kinks."
Reigning champ Pinkerton Academy of Derry lost five key players to either prep school or juniors, including Union Leader Player of the Year Zach Sanford and J.D. Dudek.
"We'll see," Pinkerton coach Casey Kesselring said about how the loss will impact the team. "We just won't be the same kind of team."
The Astros' strength lies in their goaltending, where both Nate Mitchell and Matt Marchman return. They only have one defenseman back and their top scoring threat is Dominic Corsetto.
The usual cast of characters were also mentioned as contenders. That group includes Londonderry, Hanover, Concord, Bishop Guertin of Nashua and Salem.
It will be hard for any team in Division II to dethrone Bedford.
The Bulldogs return a lot in every aspect of the game. They have three of their top forwards back: Chris O'Hara, Kurt Mitchell and Chris Viola. They have three of their top blue liners back: Jeff Campbell, Cullen Willey and Mike Dee. And Steven Tempesta is back in goal.
"It's still early," Bedford coach Marty Myers said. "I'm hoping we're balanced."
Dover, which lost in the final to Bedford, could contend once again. The Green Wave have a solid top line in Eli Cobb, Robert Markusic and Joe Johnston, but are inexperienced on defense.
"We're very deep at forward," Dover coach Steve Riker said. "We might be as deep as we've been since I started coaching."
Spaulding of Rochester and Merrimack both have great goaltenders in Derek Scott and Brett Glendye, respectively, making them contenders, and Bow was also mentioned as one of the top teams.
There are four new squads in Division II this year. They are: Alvirne of Hudson, Windham-Pelham, Somersworth-Coe Brown Northwood Academy and Pembroke-Campbell of Litchfield.
The exodus left Division III with only 12 teams, but it did get the addition of Berlin, which dropped down from Division I.
Defending champion Kennett of North Conway lost seven seniors to graduation and has a lot of holes to fill. The Eagles do return scoring sensation Connor Todd, who had 48 points last season and scored two goals in the championship game.
Berlin should be an immediate contender, Hollis/Brookline will be in the mix and Jeremy D'Amour makes Belmont-Gilford a dangerous team.