City boys' hockey teams battling low numbers, but retain high hopes
While each school will put a solid boys' hockey team on the ice this winter, Cheverus, Deering and Portland are all battling low numbers.
The Bulldogs had the most success a year ago, going 9-9-1 and losing 6-3 to Kennebunk in the Western A preliminary round of the playoffs. This season, Portland could be the classic tale of quality being more important that quantity. The Bulldogs don't even have enough varsity players to run regular practice drills, but if the team can stay conditioned and healthy, there enough good players are on the roster to compete.
Senior Scott Briggs and junior Bronson Guimond were both SMAA second-team all-star defensemen last year. They'll make life difficult for the opposition and look to score some goals themselves. They're joined by sophomore Anthony Bowden. Freshman John Gatti will receive trial by fire in goal. Offensively, senior Jason Knight leads the way. He was the leading scorer among forwards on his team a year ago (9 goals, 12 assists). Junior Eddie Apon.will be all over the ice, helping out offensively and defensively.
Seniors Ben DiBiase and Rudy DiMillo return to the team after a couple years away. Sophomores Marcus Griffin (forward) and Sam Perdomo (defense/forward) also saw time a year ago. Sophomore Ryan Jurgelevich will be the backup goalie and play forward. All of these players have skill, have either produced on the ice or in other sports in the past, or are primed to make a mark this winter.
"The expectations are to improve everyday both individually and as a team," said second-year coach Andy Gildart. "The guys who have played hockey since they were young are going to have to stay focused and motivated throughout the season. It is going to be hard playing teams like Falmouth, Scarborough, and Thornton Academy when we don't have a full bench. The other teams on are schedule are no pushovers either. I hope we can play a 'spoiler' role again this year."
Portland opened Saturday with a 5-1 loss at powerhouse Falmouth. Alex Casey had the goal and Briggs had the assist. Gatti stopped 31 shots.
The Stags, who went 3-14-1 and didn't make the playoffs last season, welcome new coach Dan Lucas, who played professionally for the Maine Mariners and Philadelphia Flyers. He's assisted by Guy Delparte, another former pro player, and two members of the 2005 Class A state champions, Bryan Lavoie and Tim Webber.
Defense could be the strength as junior Josh Courtois, senior John McDonald and sophomore Harry Ridge all return. Sophomore Max Boucher steps in as the goalie.
On offense, look for seniors Matt Cartmell and Kyle Sangillo to lead a balanced attack. Sophomore Tommy Sullivan will also be in the mix. Cheverus has its share of challenging games, but early on, the Stags have a chance to earn some wins and get out of the gate on a positive note. There are plenty of question marks on the team, but look for the new coaches to mold this squad into a formidable team by year's end.
"It's a young team," said Lucas. "A nice mix of returning and younger players. Our scoring will be spread out. A sense of urgency and a willingness to work as a team is the expectation. We're trying to get everyone to learn and to get excited about playing hockey. We're trying to create a winning atmosphere."
The Stags lost 1-0 at home to Massabesic/OOB in the opener Saturday. Boucher made 15 saves in defeat.
The Rams also have a new coach, but he's well known in the area. Jack Lowry led Cheverus to its first and only Class A state titles in 2005 and 2006. He was a standout player in Massachusetts who competed at Boston College and in junior hockey. He takes over a team that has some talent and could be primed for a move up the standings.
Junior Connor Petropoulos and seniors Ben Rodick and Travis Wade are dangerous scoring threats. Senior Riley Asbury and junior Taylor Py anchor the defense. The goalie spot will be manned by either sophomore Nick Martin or sophomore Jackson Stevens. The Rams (2-16 with no playoffs a year ago) have a very favorable early schedule and should be able to gain some early confidence. Deering should easily eclipse last year's win total and if all goes well, could be in the playoff hunt.
"I've been very pleasantly surprised so far," Lowry said. "It's a lot of work, but it's fun. There hasn't been much continuity here so we've designed a program. The kids have been very receptive. We have some really skilled players. Our defense is very strong. We weren't very disciplined last year. Our big focus is to eliminate the silly stuff and focus on what we can control. We'll go out and play hard. We hope to win the games we should win. A .500 season would be fantastic."
The Rams tied visiting Marshwood/Traip 4-4 in the opener Saturday. Deering got goals from four different players (Alex Eye, Petropoulos, Rodick and Wade).
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org