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NHIAA Boys' Hockey Season Preview: Division I gets younger

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 10. 2017 2:42AM

Central/West's Sam Hebert, right, and Memorial's Patrick Goren are seniors who look to lead their young teams to the Division I postseason. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER FILE)
The Scoop: Boys’ hockey
Players to watch were determined after consultation with area coaches.

Division I

Players to watch: Mitch McGinn, junior, forward, Salem; Eric Voloshin, senior, goalie, Bedford; Ben Peterson, senior, forward, Bishop Guertin; Matt Pappalardo, senior, forward, Salem; Liam O’Brien, senior, defenseman, Concord; Jared Zeichick, senior, defenseman, Bishop Guertin; Ethan Messner, junior, goalie, Trinity; Nate Arcand, senior, forward, Trinity; Kenny McIntire, freshman, forward, Manchester Memorial; Eric Langley, senior, defenseman, Manchester Memorial; Sam Hebert, senior, forward, Manchester Central/West; Wil Hebert, sophomore, forward, Manchester Central/West; Owen Stadheim, sophomore, forward, Hanover; Gennaro Marra, junior, forward, Pinkerton; Dakota Robinson, junior, goalie, Pinkerton; Patrick Murphy, junior, forward, Londonderry; Michael McCormick, senior, forward, Londonderry; Ben Baldasaro, senior, forward, Exeter

Key games: Trinity at Bishop Guertin, Dec. 12; Concord at Bedford, Dec. 13; Bedford at Bishop Guertin, Dec. 20; Bishop Brady at Concord, Jan. 6; Hanover at Exeter, Jan. 6; Manchester Memorial at Manchester Central/West, Jan. 8; Londonderry at Pinkerton, Jan. 12; Salem at Nashua North/Souhegan, Jan. 27; Manchester Memorial at Nashua South/Pelham, Jan. 27; Pinkerton at Trinity, Feb. 4; Concord at Salem, Feb. 17; Bedford at Pinkerton, Feb. 19; Bishop Guertin at Concord, Feb. 24; Bishop Brady at Hanover, Feb. 24

Notable quote: “I think we’re going to have a little bit more activity down in the other end, at least that’s what my gut tells me.” - Trinity coach Mike Connell

Division II

Players to watch: Myles Ditkoff, senior, goalie, Keene; Tim Greenwood, senior, forward, Keene; Fred Holmes, junior, defenseman, Portsmouth/Newmarket; Lance Lavoie, senior, goalie, Portsmouth/Newmarket; Ryan Tobeler, senior, forward, Bow; Dominique Biron, senior, forward, Bow; Brandon Tibbetts, senior, forward, Bow; Curtis McKay, junior, goalie, Goffstown; Alex Schlapak, senior, forward, Dover; Aaron Damren, junior, defenseman, Lebanon/Stevens; Garrett Langis, sophomore, forward, Spaulding

Key games: Dover at Spaulding, Dec. 13; Bow at Dover, Dec. 16; Windham at Merrimack, Dec. 20; Goffstown at Spaulding, Jan. 3; Portsmouth/Newmarket at Merrimack, Jan. 6; St. Thomas Aquinas at Goffstown, Jan. 24; Winnacunnet at Oyster River, Feb. 10; Dover at Lebanon/Stevens, Feb. 14; Keene at Bow, Feb. 17

Notable quote: “I’ve always been a big believer that if you have a good goalie in this league, you can be in every game.” — Keene coach Chris McIntosh in reference to his senior goalie, Myles Ditkoff.

Division III

Players to watch: Cam Cochran, senior, forward, Berlin/Gorham; Harrison Parent, senior, forward, Belmont/Gilford; Trent Labrecque, junior, goalie, Berlin/Gorham; Cam Tracy, senior, forward, ConVal/Conant; Brett Patnode, sophomore, forward, John Stark/Hopkinton; Mackenzie Murphy, senior, defenseman, Kennett; John Biggio, senior, goalie, Kennett; Colby Couture, senior, forward, Kennett; Hunter Dupuis, senior, forward, Belmont/Gilford; Alex Muthersbaugh, junior, forward, Belmont/Gilford; Hunter Sanders, junior, goalie, Moultonborough/Inter-Lakes; Noah Schoenbeck, senior, defenseman, Berlin/Gorham; Chris Boucher, junior, forward, Monadnock; Matt Tremblay, junior, forward, Pembroke/Campbell; Griffen Bono, junior, forward, Somersworth/Coe-Brown

Key games: Belmont/Gilford at Berlin/Gorham, Dec. 13; ConVal/Conant at Monadnock, Jan. 3; Kearsarge/Plymouth at Hollis/Brookline/Derryfield, Jan. 10; Kennett at Berlin/Gorham, Jan. 10; Moultonborough/Inter-Lakes at Monadnock, Jan. 13; Kennett at John Stark/Hopkinton, Jan. 27; Somersworth/Coe-Brown at Berlin/Gorham, Feb. 3; ConVal/Conant at Pembroke/Campbell, Feb. 24

Notable quote: “Honestly, this is one of those teams that really feels like everyone can contribute so we’re going to expect that and expect balance from the team.” — Kennett coach Mike Lane

Manchester Memorial boys' hockey coach Mark Putney said he thinks last season marked the first time in eight years that the Crusaders did not qualify for the NHIAA Division playoffs.

Coming off a one-win campaign, Putney and the Crusaders are motivated to get back to the postseason in what will be the program's 50th year.

"We'll have some bumps and bruises along the way with a young team but if we put all three zones together, we'll be competitive," Putney said.

Senior captain Eric Langley, a defenseman, and senior forwards Jared Chandonnet and Patrick Goren are among Memorial's key returners. Among his younger group of players, Putney is expecting freshman forward Kenny McIntire to have an immediate impact.

Memorial is not the only team in the division that will rely on its youth this season. Both Trinity of Manchester coach Mike Connell and Exeter coach Jim Tufts described their clubs as young this year.

"A lot of teams lost a lot of seniors," Connell said. "It seemed like it was a senior-heavy league last year."

Like Putney, Connell and Tufts will try to lead their programs back to the postseason after missing the cut last year.

As he tries to navigate the Pioneers to a playoff berth, Connell will have the aid of longtime Manchester Central coach Brian Stone, who joined the Trinity staff this offseason.

"I think I'll learn a lot from him, to be honest with you," Connell said of Stone. "He's a wealth of knowledge. In that respect, it's going to be great."

Tufts will look to senior tri-captains Ben Baldasaro, Anders Dachsteiner and Tommy Civiello to lead his young Blue Hawks club.

Tufts sees Bishop Guertin of Nashua, Concord and Pinkerton Academy of Derry as some of the division's frontrunners. Putney and Connell both agreed Bishop Guertin and Concord will be in contention alongside two-time defending champion Bedford.

Bedford beat Concord, 7-0, in last year's state final. Bishop Guertin won the championship in 2015, finished runner-up to Bedford in 2016 and lost to the Bulldogs in the semifinals last year. Pinkerton fell to Salem in last year's quarterfinals.

"Bedford is always strong," Putney said. "I think Concord..they lost some big bodies up front but they're always solid."

Salem, which reached the semifinals last year, Londonderry and Hanover are other teams worth keeping an eye on this season.

Keene goalie Myles Ditkoff faces a shot from Bow’s Austin Scarinza during last year’s Division II boys’ hockey final. Ditkoff returns to lead the Blackbirds in his senior season. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

Division II

Coming off the program's first ever state championship appearance, first-year Keene coach Chris McIntosh is cautiously optimistic about what his team can accomplish this season.

If the Blackbirds want to reach the D-II title game again this year, though, they will likely have to do so in a different fashion than they did last season. 

Keene graduated nine players, many of whom were scoring threats, from last year's team that finished runner-up to Bow. McIntosh, who previously served as an assistant coach with the team, said the players Keene graduated combined for about 211 points last season. 

The Blackbirds will have to transition from being an offensive-minded team to one that is focused on playing strong defense in front of senior goalie Myles Ditkoff, who was an All-State First Team selection last season. 

"Last year, our best strength was offense, no doubt," McIntosh said. "I do think this year, with the DNA of the team changing, we're going to have to start with Myles and work from the back up. We're confident we can do that."

McIntosh said he strongly believes Keene should be a top-four team in the division. Other programs that will likely hover around those top four spots are defending champion Bow and Windham, which won the division title in 2016. Dover, Lebanon/Stevens and Spaulding of Rochester also looked poised for strong campaigns.

McIntosh expects both Bow and Windham to be strong contenders for the title. 

Windham defeated Dover in last season's quarterfinals before falling to Bow in the semifinals. Spaulding beat Lebanon/Stevens in the opening round of last year's tournament before falling to Keene.

Both Dover and Spaulding had young teams last year and could take a step forward now that their players have gained experience. Dover beat the Red Raiders to win the division title in 2015.

Lebanon/Stevens graduated last year's D-II player of the year in Nate Gariepy but returns Nate Chickering, a junior forward who logged 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) last year. Lebanon/Stevens will be led by first-year coach Jim Damren. 

"We definitely have a lot of competition and I'm expecting it to be a tough division again this year," McIntosh said. 

Division III

Much to the dismay of the rest of the division, Kennett of Conway will not look much different this year than it did when it won the state championship last season.

The Eagles graduated just four players from last year's team that defeated Berlin/Gorham, 4-0, in the D-III state title game. Among Kennett's returners are last year's division Player of the Year in senior defenseman Mackenzie Murphy and classmate John Biggio, the team's three-year starter in goal.

"We've got a good group coming back and good players coming in," Eagles coach Mike Lane said. "We're excited to get started but certainly it's going to be a different mentality this year for us.

Instead of chasing teams, we'll have the target on our back."

If Kennett wants to capture its fifth state championship this season, it will have to get past some of the division's other traditional contenders like Belmont/Gilford, Berlin/Gorham and John Stark/Hopkinton.

Berlin/Gorham (2016), Belmont/Gilford (2015) and John Stark/Hopkinton (2013) have all been state champions over the past five seasons.

Somersworth/Coe-Brown and Pembroke/Campbell should also factor into the title hunt. Somersworth/Coe-Brown reached the semifinals last year, which marked the co-op's first D-III campaign. Pembroke/Campbell fell to Kennett in last year's quarterfinals.

"Certainly, we've been chasing Berlin and Belmont/Gilford the past couple years and they've really been the class of the league," Lane said. "Somersworth came in last year and made an immediate impact. There's a lot of really good teams in the division.

"Knowing what players are returning for some teams, we know it's going to be a battle every single night."

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