Champs get back to work with new look
Hockey Eagles will raise Division III championship banner to the Ham Arena rafters on Dec. 19
|RICKY GAUDREAU, seen with the Division III championship plaque after last year’s title game, will be a key cog if the Eagles want to repeat as champions. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)|
December 07, 2009CONWAY — Nobody would blame the Kennett hockey team for stepping back and admiring what was accomplished last year.
After all, the Eagles won 13 regular season games and went on to beat Souhegan in the Division III finals to bring home the state championship. It was a season to remember in many ways.
But, coach Mike Lane knows that also presents a challenge to this year's team.
"It's certainly going to prove a new challenge for us," Lane noted. "Last year was a fantastic year, but in order for this year to be successful, we have to focus on what we want to do as a team this year."
With the graduation of five seniors who contributed in major ways to the program, the Eagles will have to play a totally different style of hockey in order to succeed this season.
Lane noted the major differences between the last two offseasons and how the team can rebound from an unforgettable season.
"Two years ago, when we lost in the finals and lost four great seniors, but the personnel returning and coming in allowed us to play a similar style," he pointed out. "This year, we're really excited about the personnel coming in and returning, we have a lot of talent, but we're very small.
"There won't be any down-low, cycling, banging type of hockey," he continued. "We'll have to skate hard and do well in transition."
The third-year head coach got a look at the talent he has at his disposal at the Dover Jamboree this past weekend, where the team was able to roll four lines on the ice and the team allowed only one goal in four games.
Instrumental in the team's success last year and crucial to whatever success the squad has this year will be the play of senior goaltender Ricky Gaudreau, who returns as one of the top goalies in the state.
"I'd put him up against any goalie in the state, any division," Lane noted. "He works so hard and is so focused. For any young goalie, to model himself after the way he works, you could do a lot worse."
Gaudreau will have three goaltending companions this year, as juniors Nick Kevlin and Jonny Parkhurst are joined by sophomore Jon Bishop.
"I think all of them could be starters on any team," Lane said. "Unfortunately (for them), we have the best in the state."
While Gaudreau will provide the last line of defense, Lane will be returning two key contributors on defense from a year ago, making it the biggest area of concern coming into the season.
"That was the biggest question mark, losing Joey (Murphy), (Brian) Munck and even George Weigold, who moved back to defense in key situations," Lane said. "We learned right off the bat that these kids can handle it and they're ready for the challenge."
The two returning starting defenders are Bryan Lamontagne, who will serve as one of the four senior captains, and Logan Spoor. Joining them will be freshman newcomer Dylan Smith, who has played for the Seacoast Spartans and shows great puck-moving skills, sophomore Matt Kelly and Dane Rivera.
"I'm real happy with our defense," Lane noted. "It all starts in our zone with defense and we're solid back there."
Up front, the team returns its top goal scorer in senior Griffin Meador, who will also be one of the captains. He will team with sophomore Kevin Murphy, who saw significant time as a freshman last season and has grown a bit in the offseason.
Junior Chuckie Smith will team with senior captain Taylor Cyr on another line and Lane is still looking to round out the lines with a third person who's style fits the play.
"Our scoring depth is not great yet, but we're hoping that by mid-January we'll have people who can fill those shoes," Lane said. "But also, all it takes is Griffin breaking loose, or Taylor breaking loose a couple times and we can have four goals.
"But I also feel confident that we can win games 2-1 against any team," he continued.
The Eagles will be tested right out of the gate, with a rematch of last year's title game opening the schedule, followed by a tilt with the always-tough Somersworth Hilltoppers.
"Right off the bat, Souhegan and Somersworth are going to be a tough opening," Lane pointed out. "But our goal is not to be at our best in December, but once we get to the playoffs in February and March."
Big games on the schedule include Souhegan coming to town on Jan. 16, Bedford (who Lane expects to be a major player in the Division III standings) in town on Jan. 23, Hollis-Brookline on Feb. 24 and Laconia on Jan. 30.
The Eagles will also be participating in holiday tournament action in Maine this season, with games at Biddeford Arena, University of Southern Maine and the Portland Ice Arena on Dec. 28 and 29.
The Eagles open the season with a trip to Souhegan to take on the Sabers on Monday, Dec. 14, at 5:20 p.m.
On Saturday, Dec. 19, the Eagles will raise their championship banner with a ceremony beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Ham Arena. Former players have been invited back and every member of last year's team is expected to be in attendance to raise the banner to the rafters of the Eagles' home rink.