BRAD CANAVARI is the Kennett hockey captain this winter. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
December 09, 2013CONWAY — Kennett hockey coach Mike Lane has proven adept at changing the game plan depending on the players on his team.
Once again, this year Lane will have to do just that, as a smaller roster leaves the team with a number of newcomers who remain untested.
"This year's a little different for us as a program, the way the numbers are," Lane said. "But we're excited about where the kids are."
Lane noted he will be adjusting the game plan a bit to shift the focus on to the most experienced portion of his roster, which is the goalie tandem of juniors Josh Kondrat and Bobby Davis and the defense of senior Dane Rivera, junior Robby Moody and sophomore Dan Nusbaum.
"We have both goaltenders and all our defense back," Lane said. "So we're going to play from our strong suits and so far that's gone pretty good
"There's no hiding it, we lost 74 percent of our scoring, when you do that, you have to look around," he added. "But this team is very hard-working, they're not just sitting around saying let's be competitive, they want to make some noise."
Lane is quick to point out that the Eagles certainly aren't the only team suffering numbers issues, as he's seen a number of other teams battling the same issues he's facing this year, but he also knows that the cycle is heading in the right direction, looking down the pike.
"We're real happy with what we have," Lane said.
The Eagle coach will be going with a three-man defensive rotation to open the season, moving Bryan Baker, a defender last season, up to forward to try and add some zip on the front line. Rivera, Nusbaum and Moody will be sure to get plenty of work on the blue line and Baker will be available to help out as needed along the way.
Up front, Baker will join a line consisting of senior Brad Canavari and sophomore Nick Ansaldi. Canavari is the team's captain for the upcoming year.
"Brad's been a hard worker since the day he got here," Lane said. "As young as we are and the changes we're making, there's no better person to be a captain. He understands what we're trying to accomplish and wants to be part of the solution."
Ansaldi had a solid freshman campaign and will be counted on to help put the puck in the net.
Senior Mike Ellison is back and will serve as center on the second line. Lane has been impressed with his improvement and his solid defensive skills. Robert Thurston is expected to see time on one of the wings as he returns for a sophomore season, while sophomore Alex Roy, freshman Tanner Brown, freshman Anthony Graziano and freshman Katie McPherson are all in the running to see time on the wings.
McPherson is the first female to suit up for Kennett since the program achieved its varsity status.
The defensive scheme Lane is preaching this winter paid off in the Dover Jamboree, as the Eagles played two scoreless ties and a 1-1 tie.
"We're going to have to play solid defense," the Eagle coach said. "And when teams make mistakes, we'll need to capitalize, it's a pretty simple formula."
He went on to point out that he and his assistant coaches are pleased with the way things are going in the preseason, though it does seem shorter every year.
The Eagles will also be hosting a jamboree of their own at the Ham Arena on Saturday, with Kingswood, Belmont-Gilford, Moultonborough-Inter-Lakes, Berlin, Kearsarge and Somersworth-Coe-Brown in attendance. Action kicks off (20-minute periods) at 3 p.m. and the final game starts at 8:25 p.m.
The first regular season game for the Eagles will be on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Belmont-Gilford at 7 p.m. The team's first home game is Saturday, Jan. 4, against Hollis-Brookline.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or email@example.com.