Low numbers present challenge for Knights
|GOALIE MATT BOUCHER comes out to cut down an angle during alumni game action Nov. 28. The senior keeper will be counted on as the backbone of the Knight squad. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)|
December 07, 2009WOLFEBORO — One thing that is going to be plentiful for the Kingswood hockey team this winter is playing time.
With only 15 players, the Knights will be running three lines and two sets of defensemen, which has led veteran mentor Fred Antonucci to conduct a lot of conditioning drills in the early part of the preseason to make sure his team can endure a lot of ice time as the season rolls along.
"We're trying to get them in condition," Antonucci noted. "We can't have any injuries or academic problems. They have to get in shape or else we'll be in trouble."
During the first few weeks of practice, Antonucci and longtime assistant Steve Hale have been working on conditioning drills and they planned on spending the final week of the preseason gearing up for the regular season games, working on putting lines together and setting up plays to get the kids used to working with each other.
The Knight coach came away from his team's first public expedition, the third annual alumni game on Nov. 28, quite pleasantly surprised at what his kids were capable of and hopes that it is indicative of what they can accomplish this season.
"I thought they played really well for what little practice they had getting used to each other," he said.
The Knight coach is carrying four freshmen this season, something he hasn't done in 10 years, but something that is basically necessary with the small numbers out for the team this year.
The backbone of the team will have to be goaltender Matt Boucher, who in his senior season, emerges from behind the shadow of Rob Gallagher for his chance to shine.
Boucher stepped between the pipes on a number of occasions last year and will be counted on to backstop the Knights as they go up against the Division II powers.
"I think Matt's going to be the backbone of our team," Antonucci said. He's a good goalie and a good athlete."
The senior netminder struggled in the opening minutes of the alumni game, allowing a pair of goals in the first two minutes, but settled down and shut out the former Knights for the remainder of the first period and all of the second period.
Freshman Shawn Goggin will be the backup goaltender and he held the alumni scoreless in his one period of play in his varsity debut.
Colin Piper and Adam Foss will be returning for another year and if last year is any indication, will likely be counted on for a good chunk of scoring. Foss scored three goals in the alumni game and Piper added another.
On defense, the top returning players are Andy Hamill and Wyatt French, both of who played significant minutes for the Knights last season and will be expected to chip in a lot in the new season.
Also hoping to make an impact on the squad are Mike Burns, Kienan Miller, Nick Moore, Sam Hart, Alex Lapar, Alex Boucher, CJ Sirrell, Brad Riley and Jake Vontz.
While the numbers are down (Antonucci learned that St. Thomas had 61 kids out for hockey this winter), the veteran coach has learned to roll with the punches over the course of many years at the helm and he knows this is just one more punch to roll with.
"We'll just see what happens," he said. "We'll work with what we've got. We've always done it that way."
The Knights have the advantage of opening the season with two games on their home ice at the Pop Whalen Arena, giving the newer members of the team a chance to get their feet wet in a game situation before heading out on the road.
"I think that's good for our younger kids to get their feet wet," said the Knight coach of opening the season at home. "You can tell them all you want, but until they see it, they don't always believe you."
The Knights will open with home games against Oyster River and Goffstown before heading on the road for their final game before the holiday break.
Highlight games on the season schedule include a meeting with traditional power Spaulding at Pop Whalen on Jan. 22 and a trip to Dover on Jan. 16.
The first game of the season is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 14, at 7:45 p.m. at Pop Whalen Arena as the Oyster River Bobcats come to town. The Knights return to their home ice on Wednesday, Dec. 16, to take on Goffstown at 7 p.m.