Many teams that begin their season 0-2, 1-4 and 3-6 can make plans elsewhere for mid-March. Not Fairfield Prep, which could trademark its way of building and teaching an inexperienced team, testing itself through a tough regular-season and out-of-state schedule and being ready to go to Ingalls Rink. The Jesuits once again have some building to do and have promoted their backup goalie to No. 1. We’ll see where they are after nine or 10 games.
NEW COACHES, BIG SPOTS
Four of the 15 Division I teams have new coaches for 2019-20. Rich Minnix, fresh off a Division III title with LHK, is the new boss at Notre Dame-Fairfield. Karl Sundquist takes over Xavier. Immaculate, independent again after a decade’s co-op with New Fairfield, is led by Brian Lugo, who actually took over for a few games at the end of last season. And West Haven has a new coach for the first time in over two decades, as assistant Steve Harris takes over for Joe Morrell. Five other teams have new coaches as well.
Another year, another set of co-op drama. E.O. Smith re-added Tolland after a year on its own, but the Bucks won’t be going all the way this year: Their participation numbers make them ineligible for the Division II tournament, much like Suffield/Granby/Windsor Locks and New Fairfield/Immaculate last year. Both of those teams are back eligible this year: SGWL in Division III, and Immaculate, minus New Fairfield, in Division I. Probably the most interesting other co-op news is that the Redhawks, based out of Norwich Free Academy, are no more; three of their players joined the Eastern Connecticut Eagles, who have players from 11 different schools.
HORNETS STING TWICE
OK, not everybody is back in Branford, but a lot of the core of last year’s Division II champions does return, and the Hornets return as a Division II team. It’s a notoriously difficult division in which to repeat, for a number of reasons, but Branford is a favorite. Rivals like WMRP, a semifinalist last year, or Westhill/Stamford, returning a lot of talent, will have a say.
With 2018-19 Division III champion Lyman Hall/Haddam-Killingworth/Coginchaug moved up to Division II, it could be runner-up and crosstown rival Sheehan taking over as favorite. The Titans have tons of offense: See their opener, when they beat JBWA 10-7. Standout goalie Tyler Robertson has graduated along with a couple of key performers. Someone like the Newington co-op, the other Division III semifinalist that remains (Hand also moved up and, with a deep team, could make noise in Division II), could challenge, too.