The Brewer High School Witches and Bangor High School Rams have a lot in common this season as they begin their hockey seasons on the road Saturday.
Both have a solid crew of forwards back and both have some issues when it comes to depth on the blue line.
And the respective coaches and players feel their teams are capable of being better than last year’s team.
The Witches returned to Class A after winning their first hockey state championship in Class B in 2006-2007 and posted an impressive 17-5 record and earned the second seed in the EM Class A playoffs. They were upset by Waterville 4-3 in the semifinals.
“I think we should be pretty good,” said Brewer coach Bill Schwarz. “If we stay healthy and everybody remains eligible, we could be one of the top two or three teams in the east.”
“We’ll be able to run three lines out there [consistently] which we couldn’t do as much last year,” said Brewer senior right wing Ryan Nadeau, the team’s second-leading scorer a year ago with 17 goals and 28 assists. “That will give the first two lines more rest and enable them to play with more energy.”
“The biggest thing this year is we have a lot of speed up front and we have it throughout our top three lines. They’re all pretty equal [speed-wise],” said senior center Dylan Fitzpatrick, who led the team in scoring with 34 goals and 30 assists. “And we have some young talent that’s really going to help our team.”
Fitzpatrick and Nadeau will be linemates and joining them will be senior Steve Farley.
To create more scoring balance, junior Nick Risser (21 & 18), who had been with Nadeau and Fitzpatrick last year, will center the second line between promising freshman left wing Tyler White and sophomore RW Evan Nadeau (2 & 8), Ryan’s brother.
The third line will feature senior Chris Shedd between junior Jamie Williamson and freshman Jacob Chapman. A fourth line will consist of the Perry brothers, Josh and Joey, with T.J. McCormick.
“We should be able to score goals,” said Schwarz.
Senior Dave McNally has been moved from forward to defense to complement seasoned veterans Chris Lopez, Andy Bush and Matt Helfen.
Schwarz is hoping inexperienced Garrett Gonzales and Lucas Lamond can eventually provide serviceable depth on the blue line.
“[McNally] is definitely adapting well to defense,” said Fitzpatrick. “He has really stepped up for us.”
Goaltending should be a definite strength as junior Eric White returns. He was 13-5 a year ago and allowed an average of just two goals per game. Senior Matt Sloan will back him up.
The Rams graduated their leading scorer in Christian Dionne (9 & 18) but Johnny Warren (10 & 10) and David Pardilla (17 & 3), who tied for second, headline a healthy list of returnees.
“We’re big, we’re quick and this is probably the deepest team we’ve had in a while. We only graduated four kids,” said coach Ted Taylor whose Rams finished 11-10 and were eliminated by Waterville (4-1) in the quarterfinals. “This year’s team would beat last year’s team.”
“We’re real deep up front. Even our fourth line [is good],” said senior defenseman Chad Kelley. “Our power play should be pretty good.”
Senior right wing and captain Warren said another vital ingredient is the team chemistry and attitude.
“We have much more drive and determination than we had the previous two years,” said Warren. “Everybody has their head on straight. We’ve got more discipline now.”
Warren and left wing Pardilla will be joined on a line by center Darren Casey-Covell, who transferred from Orono.
“[Casey-Covell] has looked great so far. He’s a strong kid,” said Taylor.
Joey Seccareccia and Phil Frost, coming off impressive freshman seasons, will flank freshman Nic Cota on the second line with junior Cody McInnis centering the third line between juniors Nate Lewis and Devin Lyshon. Junior Ryan King will center the fourth line between junior Jacob Turmell and senior Alan Reese.
Veterans Nick George (4 & 10), Kelley (0 & 9) and Adam King will headline the defense corps. George has exceptional offensive capabilities.
Senior Cam Taylor has been moved from forward to defense to supply some depth.
“That’s really going to help us out,” said Warren.
Junior Josh Couturier and senior Colin Popper are also in the mix on the blue line.
Long-time stalwart Andrew Riley has departed so backup Zach Hamilton, a junior who appeared in a handful of games a year ago, inherits the job.
“He’s a good goalie. He had the potential and skill to be our starting goalie last year. The only reason he wasn’t was because Andrew was so good,” said Warren.
Bangor opens at Houlton against Houlton-Hodgdon on Saturday at noon while Brewer visits Edward Little of Auburn on Saturday night at 7:30.