MANSFIELD - The Mansfield High Hornets can never be satisfied.
After all, the Hornets are perennially chasing Franklin High for first place in the Kelley-Rex Division of the Hockomock League.
The Hornets are routine visitors to the quarterfinal round of the MIAA Division 1 South Tournament.
But, coach Rick Anastos and the Hornets want more, a lot more.
The Hornets are coming off of a season in which they mustered 10 wins and three ties, limiting 17 opponents to three goals or less. The Hornets take a lot of energy to the rink and expect to leave with a "W."
The Hornets have an excellent nucleus for the defense in senior captains Evan Kershaw (two goals, nine assists) and Will Kelleher (three goals, five assists) and a catalyst for the offense in senior captain Jared Collins (14 goals, 16 assists), Mansfield's No. 3 scorer last season.
"We'll be competitive in our league and hopefully beyond," said Anastos, who has composed the Hornets' toughest non-league schedule during his tenure with marque games against Winthrop, Coyle-Cassidy, Needham, the Barnstable Holiday Tournament, the Bridgewater-Raynham Tournament.
Kershaw was the Hornets' MVP last season and Kelleher is rock solid, two of five returning defensemen with seniors Sean Farragher and Ryan Whitman along with junior Mike Arnold. In goal will be junior Anthony Visconti.
The Hornets have a potentially high-scoring first line with Collins, junior Billy Grant (12 goals, six assists) and sophomore Bill Sunderland.
Mansfield also has the foundation for the future too in a trio of speedy sophomore forwards, Chad Piotti, Patrick Sunderland and Matt Farragher.
The Hornets started last season at 9-1-1, then experienced some on and off the ice issues that prevented them from achieving their potential, of shaking the Panthers off of the Hockomock mantlepiece, of skating into the Final Four of the Division 1 South sectional.
"We have good depth, the defense looks strong and hopefully, we can score some goals," added Anastos. "The rest, we'll see."
Where does Mike Cripps start? Well, with the Chomyszak brothers of course, the senior captains and erstwhile veterans of the soccer field and ice rink. Ben is one of the lone holdovers on defense for the Bombardiers, while Luke is on the first line, winging it with sophomore center Seth Lombardy and junior Keigan Larkin.
The Bombardiers won nine games last season and qualified for the MIAA Tournament, but that might be a reach this season with only 20 players on the roster, not much varsity experience and in demand for a sniper or two.
"We have some depth up front, but I think our main issue will be on defense," said Cripps. AHS has no experience in goal, with either junior Tim Gile and sophomore Tyler Koppy. "They're both good-sized kids, who unfortunately haven't played." To help them out on the defense will be two juniors, Will McKenzie and Jack Flynn on the backline with sophomore Dylan Wallace.
Luke Chomyszak and Larkin are two of four frontline veterans, who have the skill sets to score goals. One such player who could have helped, junior Mt. St. Charles Academy transfer Ryan Girouard is sidelined indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome.
Senior captain Dom Bartnikowski and freshman Jake Parker are working the wings with sophomore center P.J. Elliott on another line, while a third unit will have juniors Nick Miniati and Mitch Caruso.
"We're setting our goals at making progress from week to week," added Cripps.
Bishop Feehan Shamrocks
Phil Hulbig has that sparkle in his eye, with good reason too as his Shamrock roster is loaded with veterans everywhere, including five freshman who logged extensive minutes as rookies. Bishop Feehan won a dozen games last season and expect to exceed that number and advance further in the MIAA Tournament.
"We should be able to run three lines, get four defensemen out there and our goalie is back - we're confident," said Hulbig.
Two of the primary reasons are senior captains Jack Hanson, the No. 1 scorer last year with 13 goals and 14 assists and Jake D'Ercole, the No. 2 scorer with 12 goals and seven assists. Hanson is centering a line with senior Matt Jesser and junior Brendan Barrera. D'Ercole is centering a line with sophomore Kyle Brown and plugging junior Mike Geraghty.
Another two reasons are behind them, having a two-year starter in goal in junior Mike Capprini and three senior veterans on defense - Brett Piotti, Josh Fortier and Andrew Blomstedt. That trio is working in combinations with a trio of sophomores, Chris Lavalley, six-footer Josh Nelson and smooth-skating Sean Dunphy.
Hulbig expects a third line to be composed of senior Cam Wilkins and three sophomores, Jack Callahan, Connor O'Brien and Kevin Jezard.
"The core of the team is back, we have a good senior class," added Hulbig, whose Shamrocks skated against Mansfield in a pre-season scrimmage. "The kids have some good skating skills, we have depth skill-wise too - but we have to put it all together on the ice."
Warrior coach Jim Genovese may have lost 90 percent of his point production from last season in Kyle Sperzel and Liam Lynch, but Foxboro just might be a better overall team - and better depth too with 23 skaters. Start in goal with John Cronin as a second year starter, potential high scoring forwards in Jason Galanti and Peter Smith and an impressive freshman in Zach Lewis.
Smith is due for a breakout season, according to Genovese, "one of the best I've seen coming back in terms of doing the right things in the offseason," he said. "It's a different guys all around. We're coming together as a team. With those two guys (Sperzel, Lynch), we leaned on them a lot, too much. This year, it's a team attitude. It's a different feel in the that regard."
Foxboro has an experienced defensive cast in front of Cronin in captains Gus Herlihy and Nick Luciano along with well-tested sophomore Tom Brolin, "the first time in a while that we've had three solid defenseman," said Genovese, who will also have freshman Aidan Sullivan with the group. "You need a goalie who can keep you in there, and he (Cronin) proved that last year."
Galanti, Smith and Mike Cresey are all skating well, while Genovese will have Matt Stamatov, Brian Booth and Paul Vey on another line with Tim Luciano, Clay Leopold and J.J. Blenkhorn expected to log considerable minutes.
"We've got to go out and play hockey and see how it goes from there," said Genovese.
King Philip Warriors
Deeper, better and more balanced will be the Warriors representing King Philip High. Coach Jim Lehan surmised that "last year we were more reliant on just one line for scoring, but this season the goal is to spread things out as you got to have depth in order to succeed in this league."
The Warriors return their leading scorer and team MVP in senior captain Tom Hanson (14 goals, 16 assists) and Lehan has any number of combinations for lines. Another senior captain P.J. Lyons is currently sidelined with a hairline bone fracture of a hand.
Connor Cooke, a natural center and impressive freshman, might be centering Hanson and senior Greg Jacobson. Lehan has two outstanding defensive minded forwards in seniors Cam Boardman and Bob Dugan, who will likely be re-united with Lyons in a few weeks.
And a third unit may consist of junior plugger Matt Smith along with smooth skating sophomores Rich Lucerte and Jacob Kelly. KP posted nine wins and a tie last season, missing out on qualifying for the MIAA Tournament by one point. Lehan expects to be skating in the post-season.
"I'm not sure how it'll all end up, but we're deeper," said Lehan. "The focus of our offensive game has to be our speed. We are a small but fast group of guys, and we need to take advantage of that.
The strength of the Warriors will be at the blue line where Lehan has a half-dozen returnees. Senior Ethan Douglas is currently paired with junior Brandon King. Juniors Clay Geuss and Kyle McCarthy are another unit, while senior Jason Bolduc is working with junior Cory Lombardo.
In goal for the Warriors will be either senior Sam Thompson, the No. 2 goalie last season or junior Evan Remmis, up from the junior varsity. "The secret to our success is to learn to depend on each other, play as a unit, and not as individuals," added Lehan. "If we can do that then we are going to be very hard to beat."
North Attleboro Red Rocketeers
The Big Red won 10 games last season and qualified for the MIAA Tournament. While coach Steve Snizek is confident that the Rocketeers can score some goals, especially with the return of four-year varsity member and leading scorer Sean Young, the tell-tale will be on defense, where a revamped crew is biding for minutes.
On the backline only seniors Ryan Ma and Aaron Poillucci have logged extensive varsity minutes. Soccer star and senior Jake Crear, junior Matt Marceau along with sophomores Vince Zammiello and Paul Baker have been groomed for extended play. And in goal, North is looking at a pair of seniors, Brady Grunewald and Zack Tetreault to replace three-year starter Matt Raposo.
"Our defense is a little young, but we need the forwards to pick up guys, to play good team defense," said Snizek, encouraged by pre-season play thus far, even though a trio of Rocketeers are out with injuries - sophomore Zach McGowan (appendicitis), sophomore Paul Yeomans (clavicle) and senior Kyle Korlacki (concussion).
Young was among the top five scorers in the Hockomock League last season with 19 goals and 10 assists, the Big Red MVP on the season. He is on the left wing with senior Mark Ventola at center and sophomore Erik Clements on right wing, a trio which should be proficient and productive.
Freshman Jason McNeaney will likely center another line with three-year veteran junior Andrew Casson at left wing and junior Brian Poillucci on the right side.
"We should have three solid lines, the offense looks solid," added Snizek, also counting on the return of the trio of injured Rocketeers, speedy freshman Andrew Wistler, junior Jack Coakley and a pair of sophomores, Colin Young and Connor Ford.
Coach Ryan Cordeiro heads into the season most optimistic that the combined forces from Dighton-Rehoboth High and Seekonk can be in the upper echelon of the South Coast Conference and qualify for an MIAA Tournament.
Foremost among the expectations is having a four-year varsity member in goal, senior Jake Robitaille from Seekonk High and a prolific center in senior Nick Soares from D-R - the No. 7 leading scorer in Eastern Mass. last season with 30 goals and 25 assists.
In support of Robitaille with the defensive cast will be seniors Ethan Lanciaux and Jeff Scott, sophomore Brennan Dunphy and smooth-skating freshman Zach Morrow.
"Defense has been a point of emphasis this year, we've had a tough time picking up (opposing forwards) in front of the net in the past," said Cordeiro. "Really bearing down, not just standing in a space, they're doing a better job."
Soares will be centering a line which has the potential to all be double-digit goal scorers with D-R sophomore Matt McDonald to his left and D-R senior Brandyn Botelho to his right.
A second line looms with senior Jacob Brundage, junior Chase LeBaron and freshman Andrew Lancellotti. "We have five or six new years and Matt (McDonald) has shown a lot of improvement," said Cordeiro.
Skating onto the ice for their second season of varsity hockey with five victories and a tie to show for their maiden season, the Norton Lancers are not quite ready to become a full-fledged member of the Tri-Valley League.
With a pair of teams playing in the middle school league at the Lancers' home base of operations, the Foxboro Sports Center, coach Kyle Heagney envisions better depth and better talent funneling through the ranks.
The Lancers' defensive cast includes senior captain Troy Parker (eight assists), usually paired with freshman Cling Gallagher, while senior associate captain Mav DosReis is paired with sophomore Cam Trudeau. In goal for the Lancers will be senior captain Cassandra Goyette.
The Lancers have a very good first line with junior Bobby Trudeau and two sophomores, Jack Loranger and Jake Palin (five goals, eight assists). At the moment, another line has freshman Justin Goldstein, sophomore Chris Towne and eighth grader John Giguere. A third unit will consist of juniors Brian Cronin and Jon Levy with a revolving cast.
"We working on our execution and we're looking for a few finishers," said Heagney as the Lancers, unexpectedly, lost their top two incumbent scorers from last season, sophomore Patrick Robles (a team-best 13 goals with eight assists) and freshman Ryan Kuzmich (nine goals and four assists). Robles transferred to the Hill School in Marlboro, while Kuzmich opted to transfer to Southeastern Regional.
"That makes a huge difference," added Heagney, hoping the increased ice time for others will create goals. "There's no lack of effort by the kids, they bring a lot of energy as we continue to develop."
Coach Mark Spillane has some work to do with a very young Cougars team, having lost his best defenseman, T.J. Dalzell, leading scorer Collin Spillane (11 goals, eight assists) and goalkeeper David Cawley from a squad that secured the school's first MIAA Tournament berth.
"We have a really good first defensive unit with Mike Goff," said Spillane. "The rest of our defensemen are young but they are really tough and fast kids - I'm confident."
Senior captain Jake Ducharme is the Cougars' top sniper, but Spillane feels confident that senior Connor Harrington and sophomore Justin Most can score goals - "it's good to get guys back who know how to put the puck in the net. I'm expecting big things from Jake on that first line production-wise, as well as with leadership in the locker room."
Replacing Cawley in net will be a pair of sophomores, Joe Brown and Chris Monney. "I'm confident in both guys to do their jobs," said Spillane. It's going to be a fun year, and our kids got a lot of heart and we want to get back to where we were last year."