Cavs could be in the mix
Friday, March 22, 2013
Which local high school ice hockey team will have the best chance to reach the finals next year?
It’s always tough to tell, especially with junior programs and prep schools prying away player after player. But besides Merrimack High School, which has established a level of consistency, one would have to look at another familiar school: Souhegan.
The Sabers took a young team into the semifinals a couple of weeks ago and appeared to be overwhelmed, although it was against the eventual Division III champion, John Stark-Hopkinton.
Think about it. A talented Alvirne High School team was similarly awed in the semifinals a couple of years ago, never seemingly in the game, and returned to take things to the finals the next year, taking Kennett into overtime in 2012. Broncos coach Brian Gould cited that experience from the year before as a key to enabling his team to get over that semifinal hump.
You never know, but the same thing could happen to the Sabers, who lose just two seniors.
“With the team we’ve got coming back next year, you never know,” Sabers coach Dan Belliveau said. “Things always happen, people leave. But of course, the goal will be to … Well, the goal is to get to the Verizon.”
The two seniors the Sabers lose are key, though – All-State goalie Ryan Peterson and All-State defenseman Brendan Dix. A year ago they lost a couple of key underclassmen to prep school, so that’s always a possibility again.
The key will be junior forward Mike Hayden, the team’s leading point-getter and its overall best player, returning for his senior season, which is expected. Freshman Joe Nutting, the team’s leading goal scorer, wants to come back, and if sophomore forward Matt Wilson does the same, the Sabers’ top line is intact. One would think that, as far as the competition goes, the division could be more even if Berlin’s Connor Jewett moves on to prep school – purely conjecture at this point.
“Come next season, in November, we’ll get right back to work at it,” Sabers coach Dan Belliveau said. “Because of the younger age group, I think there’s a lot of heart, a lot of character. You could see it (in the semifinals). You could see them playing hard going down to the final seconds, trying to get a goal.”
And the team’s goal will be to try to get back to the finals for the first time since 2009.
Room for improvement
The area’s other Division III entry, Hollis Brookline, could be along the lines of the team that won 10 games. Players like Cam Ricard and Dan Ash will have to fill the void left by graduating skaters such as Will Holmes and Tim Birch.
“It’s a strong nucleus,” head coach Ken DiCredico said. “It depends on how many are coming in. It could make for an exciting season next year.”
In girls hockey, Souhegan will look to make the next step after a record three wins, but Bishop Guertin could be a Verizon team next year if its firepower returns along with goalie Julia Pelletier. Remember, it’s “7-8-9” line of Brittany Levasseur, Brianna Birmingham and Brooke Pearson are all underclassmen this year.
“They’re a well-coached team, they move the puck well, have some great players and a great goalie,” Hanover coach John Dodds said.
What the Cards have to do is avoid Hanover in the semis. Don’t be surprised if it’s a BG-Hanover final in 2014.