Division I Preview
Defending CIAC Division I champion Fairfield Prep graduated an abundance of talent from last season’s team, including New Haven Register All-State and All-Area forward David White. But the Jesuits once again are solid front to back and it’s the back most teams will have to overcome.
Prep has the best 1-2 goaltending tandem in seniors Matt Beck and Chris Gutierrez. Both had under a 2.00 goals-against average last season and both will have their share of starts throughout the season. Graduations, transfers to prep school and decisions to move on to junior hockey have affected every team. Notre Dame-West Haven, Notre Dame-Fairfield, Hamden, Xavier and West Haven all have its strengths and weaknesses and are teams that can challenge Prep.
FCIAC teams New Canaan, Darien, Ridgefield and St. Joseph will challenge from the south and Glastonbury and Simsbury are among the top challengers in the north. But the wildcard could be East Haven. The Easties are going to be an exciting, high-scoring team with their speedy forwards and talented front line led by Mike Falanga.
Division II Preview
On paper, this division looks wide open with nearly a dozen teams in the running for the CIAC D-II title. But the one team folks should be wary of is Amity.
The Spartans were the top seed in the D-II tournament last season and were stunned when No. 17 seed Newtown beat them 2-1 in the first round. The Spartans were stung by the early departure and led by standout forward Adam Shea, surely have motivation to go on a big post-season run this season.
Another team to watch is Milford with speedy forward Zach White leading the way. Branford, Hand, Cheshire, North Haven, North Branford, Trumbull, New Milford and Fairfield Warde-Ludlowe are among the teams in the central/southern part of the state that are challengers for the D-II title. East Catholic is among the top teams from the North.
Division III Preview
This is another wide-open division. Masuk has the inside track for the title with all six defensemen from last season returning, along with four of its top five scorers back. New Fairfield/Immaculate is another team that has improved and will be tough to beat led by goalie Ryan Dobos. The team picked up former junior hockey forward Frank Hacklits, who will complement a solid group of forwards. Sheehan has improved this season and should challenge for the title along with Stamford and Newtown.