Winter sports season kicks off

New Hampshire girls hockey expands to 16 teams this winter, and Souhegan coach Kelli Braley enthusiastically embraces the growth.

“Now that it’s 16 teams, we’re not playing anybody twice anymore, and it makes for a lot more parity,” Braley said. “I think Hanover and Exeter will be the top two again, but from there it’s anybody’s game.”

The Sabers, who began Wednesday night at Concord, return a top player in senior scorer Shannon Paquette. She entered the season 12 points shy of a career 100, which would make her the first Saber to ever reach that mark.

“To have a player reach that milestone, it’s great for a program and its history, from where we’ve come,” Braley said.

“I’m excited with the core group coming back, especially with Shannon coming back and the supporting players are the same. The juniors this year are ready to take on the responsibility.”

Saber girls have new coach

Souhegan has a new girls basketball coach in former Saber assistant/JV coach Mike Vetack, as former coach Mike Heaney left to become an assistant at Southern New Hampshire University. The Sabers graduated eight from a team that barely missed the tournament on tiebreakers, so there’s some work to be done.

Milford, off to an 0-2 start, had an extremely young team a year ago and hopes experience will help them improve from their 3-15 mark.

“We certainly hope to build on last year,” Spartans coach Len

Kulikowski said.

Lavoie likes what he sees

Nashua North-Souhegan boys hockey has its third coach in the last three years in former BG assistant Josh Lavoie, but this may be a better Saber-Titan team than the last two years with improved goaltending. Freshmen Jack Casey and Colin Duckless have impressed.

Who will be the team to beat in Divsision I? Pinkerton, whom BG upset in the quarters, is one team that’s mentioned. Of course defending champ Hanover lost just four seniors. And what would hockey be without Bedford in the title hunt? Based on last year, the Bulldogs could have as many as nine seniors.

Shifting to Division II, there’s a new co-op team on the block: Alvirne-Milford. The Broncos finished 4-14 going solo last year, but now they have about eight skaters from Milford and were able to stay in Division II.

They’ll be known as the Admirals.

“We’re trying to build a program,” Admirals coach Matt Simpson said. “We want young kids to come into it.”

Some experienced players, like Jake Natola and Damien Barahona (from Alvirne) will help the new players from Milford along.

Souhegan girls hockey

COACH: Kelli Braley (seventh year).

LAST SEASON: 11-9, lost to Hanover in the quarterfinals.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Shannon Paquettte, sr. fd; Clare Woodford, jr. def; Ryleigh Tobin, jr. fd; Julia Pinkham, jr. def; McCallister McBride, jr. fd.; Mary Simonne Dodge, jr. fd; Gabrielle Byram, jr. goalie; Abigail Hawkes, so.fd.-def; Caroline Apiki, sr. fd; Karissa Bryant, so.fd; Alena Zsofka, so. Fd; Adriana Milton, jr. fd.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Avery Karavas, so.df; Bella Blood, jr. def; Maddie Daniel, fr. fd.

Milford Girls Basketball

COACH: Len Kulikowski (second year)

LAST SEASON: 3-15

RETURNING PLAYERS/STARTERS: Elizabeth Paul, sr. 5-8 forward; Nicole Brooks, sr. 5-6 guard; Meghan Cavenaugh, jr. 5-6 guard; Sarah Dobbs, so. 5-10 center/forward; Leslie MacGrath, 5-9 so. Forward.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Jesse Gendron, so.; Kylei Greska, so.; Alexa Wilder, so.; Sydney Bailey, so.; Elizabeth Wesson, fr.; Hannah Ghidoni, fr.; Lana Tesh, fr.; Samantha Larouche, fr.; Alyssa Godlewski, fr.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We’re a very young team with only three upperclassmen on the roster,”Kulikowski said. “We expect to have a much improved 2018-19 season.”

Souhegan Girls Basketball

COACH: Mike Vetack (first year)

LAST SEASON: 7-11, did not qualify for tournament.

RETURNING STARTERS: Molly Driscoll, sr. forward; Emma Parrott, so. Forward.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Devon McGrath, jr. guard; Halle Van Ballegooyen, jr. forward; Susie Wason, jr. guard.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Hunter Stonebraker, so.forward; Caitlin Cooper, fr.forward; Sabra Biddle, fr.forward; Lily Batchelder, sr.guard.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “After graduating eight impactful seniors lat year, we have 12 girls that are excited to step into bigger roles this year,” Vetack said. “One through 12 are practicing with full passion and just can’t wait for the games to begin.”

Nashua North-Souhegan boys hockey

COACH: Josh Lavoie (first season)

LAST SEASON: 1-17, did not qualify for tournament.

RETURNING REGULARS: Evan Soucy, sr. def; Robbie Morel, sr. goalie; Ryan Dancoes, jr. def; Brandon Hughes, sr. def; Jared Egersheim, sr. fd; John Natale, sr. fd; Brendan Gaffney, sr. fd.; Matty Eskenas, sr. fd.; Josh Constant, jr. fd.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Isabelle Gates, sr. fd; Jack Belter, jr. fd; Ryan Charest, so.def; Jake Lopes, jr. fd; Ben Foley, so.fd; Mike Dodge, so.fd;

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Jack Casey, fr.goalie; Colin Duckless, fr. goalie; Chris Weeden, fr. fd.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “I think we’re going to compete this year,” Lavoie said. “Of course it’ll be tougher against the Pinkertons, Guertins, Hanovers. But I think we can compete with the Londodnerrys, Trinitys, etc. I think you’ll see a difference from last year.”

NASHUA SOUTH-PELHAM

COACH: Shawn Conners (sixth season).

LAST SEASON: 6-13, lost to Salem in first round.

RETURNING REGULARS: Josh Kinghorn, sr. def; Joe Moore, sr. fd; Nolan Foss, jr. fd; John Pinksten, jr. fd; Riley Nutter, sr. fd; Nolan Lacroix, so.goalie, Nate Serrentino, jr. goalie.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Dante Young, jr. fd; Jacob Guerriero, jr. def; Sean Connors, so.fd; Ryan Desimone, jr. fd; Dylan Nutter, so.fd; Cam Cole, so.def; Tyler Martin, so.fd; Cody Evans, so.fd; Alex Evans, sr.fd; Jacob Smith, jr.def.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Chris Skelley, fr.fd; Paige Anger, so.fd.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “I’m pretty optimistic,” Connors said. “For the first time in six years, we’re very team oriented.”

Alvirne-Milford boys hockey

COACH: Matt Simpson (second year)

LAST SEASON: 4-14 (Alvirne only), did not qualify for tournament.

RETURNING REGULARS: Damien Barahona, sr. fd; Levi Griffin, sr. def; Jake Natola, sr. fd; Justin Carbonneau, sr. fd.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Anthony DeRosa, jr. def; Cassidi Burley, jr. def; Dylan Jillison, so.def; Robert Pace, sr. def; Jackson Dowd, sr. goalie; Daniel Rennie, so.fd.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Issac Rogers, fd; Zach Partridge, goalie; Anthony Viola, fd.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “I think it’s a natural progression for the kids to get their feet back under them, spend a couple of years (together) and we’ll see what happens,” Simpson said.

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