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NHIAA Hockey Preview: New coaches abound in high school hockey

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 05. 2017 1:00AM

When the Bishop Brady of Concord boys’ hockey team plays Bedford at St. Anselm College’s Sullivan Arena on Jan. 18, new Green Giants coach Ed Seney will be more than familiar with the facility.

What he won’t be familiar with is coaching the game from the rink’s visitor’s bench.

Seney, who spent the past 15 seasons coaching the St. Anselm men’s hockey team, is looking forward to coaching at the high school level and working with the skaters at Bishop Brady.

Seney and the Green Giants began practicing last week and will open the season at Nashua South/Pelham on Dec. 13.

“I think it went really well,” Seney said of the first week of practice. “It’s the same game — skating, passing and shooting. You’re just trying to make them develop decision-making (and a) quicker tempo than they’re used to.”

One new challenge Seney will have this year is overcoming a lack of depth, something that is rarely an issue at the collegiate level. The Green Giants have 15 players on their roster, including three goalies. If some players get sick or injured during the season, it will put the team in a tough spot, Seney said.

“I think we want to be known as a hard-working team that plays with composure and plays with discipline,” Seney said. “With our few numbers, we can’t be taking foolish penalties…I think that’s important and to play the game the right way and play hard and play together.”

Seney is far from the only new coach in the state. He is one of at least 10 new head coaching hires across the three boys’ divisions since last season concluded.

The other new faces in Division I are Manchester Central/West coach Eric Fischer and Nashua North/Souhegan coach Peter LaCroix. Fischer took over for longtime Central coach Brian Stone, who is now an assistant coach for Trinity of Manchester.

Division II has seen the most turnover since last year. Among the new D-II coaches are Matt Simpson (Alvirne of Hudson), Chris McIntosh (Keene), Jim Damren (Lebanon), Dan Belliveau (Merrimack), Peter Harwood (Oyster River of Durham) and Wayne Sheehan (St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover).

The lone new Division III coach is Laconia/Winnisquam’s Marc Joyal.

McIntosh served as an assistant coach the past several years under former Keene coach Kyle Macie. Both Macie and McIntosh helped the Blackbirds reach their first-ever state championship game last season.

Harwood spent the past several seasons as the St. Thomas coach.

Belliveau might be new to the Merrimack program but he is far from an unknown at the high school level. He previously served as the Souhegan of Amherst coach, helping the Sabers capture the Division III championship in 2014.

Belliveau and his assistant coach, Gary Moore, would like to bring similar success to the Merrimack program.

“For us, it has always been about working hard from the goaltending to the defensemen and our D-zone systems, and then we move out from there,” Belliveau said in an email.

Girls’ division

The girls’ division will welcome two new programs and three new coaches this season. Coach Glen Fifield will lead Bedford in its inaugural campaign. Al Oliveira, who previously coached the St. Thomas/Dover co-op, is the coach of the new St. Thomas/Winnacunnet co-op.

Oliveira led St. Thomas/Dover to the 2009 state championship.

St. Thomas/Winnacunnet has 19 players on its roster and features a good balance of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, Oliveira said.

“I see this team being together for many years because of the construction we have going at the beginning,” Oliveira said.

Concord and Berlin/Gorham, which both reached the semifinals last year, have new coaches. Patrick McDonough is the new Crimson Tide coach and Aisha-Rae Thompson has taken over at Berlin/Gorham.

ConVal/Conant also has a new coach in Chris Spingola.

McDonough, who grew up in Kensington, previously served as an assistant coach for the Portsmouth boys’ hockey team and coached at the youth levels. This season will be McDonough’s first as a high school head coach.

McDonough, 24, has been excited by the enthusiasm he has seen from his 16 players during practices so far. The Crimson Tide’s goal, McDonough said, is to once again qualify for the postseason and try to capture the state title.

“Everybody is very excited and we hope to keep that going throughout the year and use that as fuel to get to that ultimate goal of making the playoffs and a run to the championship,” McDonough said.