The Connecticut Division I boys hockey championship does not always go to the Catholic schools, nor to the FCIAC powers in the southwest corner of the state, but that’s the way to bet.
In particular, the way to bet is Fairfield Prep, winner of 11 out of the past 20 titles under coach Matt Sather, and GameTimeCT preseason hockey polls tend to reflect that. The Jesuits are the choice again for No. 1 to start 2019-20.
They graduated plenty of talent, and there could be growing pains, much like last season, but they always seem to find a way to be there at the end, no matter how the season goes.
Darien also received a couple of first-place votes. A plethora of talented forwards return for the Blue Wave with Jack Massey back to anchor the blue line.
Notre Dame-West Haven, which rallied with five straight wins to make last year’s Division I final, took third place in the preseason poll with a lot of contributors returning.
Ridgefield, which received the other first-place vote, and Greenwich tied for fourth. The FCIAC rivals come from different directions, Ridgefield looking to replace a lot of graduated standouts from a team that went unbeaten through the FCIAC playoffs, Greenwich with a lot back.
Xavier, with a new coach and standout forward Aden Hotchkiss back from the Gunnery, is sixth, and New Canaan, fresh off an overtime win over Greenwich on Monday, sits seventh as of the preseason.
Much like the fourth-place tie, the eighth-place tie features Hamden, which has is putting together a lot of new faces, and West Haven, which has a lot of players back. In 10th is Northwest Catholic, a semifinalist last year that bade farewell to some big-time players but had young contributors last season.
Defending Division II champion Branford, a favorite to repeat, is just outside the Top 10 to start.
2019-20 Preseason GameTimeCT Top 10 Hockey Poll
|TEAM (1st place votes)||REC||PTS||LAST||DIV|
|1. FAIRFIELD PREP (10)||15-9-1||126||1||I|
|This Week: Wednesday at Ridgefield (Winter Garden), 6 p.m.; Saturday at Immaculate (Danbury), 7:40 p.m.
The Bottom Line: Will they roll to a championship? Will they have a year like last season, struggling early and growing steadily? The defending Division I champions are favorites to start, as they so often are.
|This Week: Wednesday at Wilton (Winter Garden), 8:30 p.m.; Saturday at Hamden, 2:15 p.m.
The Bottom Line: All those sophomores last year? They're (dramatic closeup) juniors this year. OK, Darien has to replace some important cogs, but it's well regarded.
|3. NOTRE DAME-|
|This Week: Wednesday at Immaculate (Danbury), 5:30 p.m.
The Bottom Line: The Green Knights made a run to the final after an up-and-down regular season. They've got a lot back, including their young goalie.
|T4. RIDGEFIELD (1)||22-1||75||2||I|
|This Week: Wednesday vs. Fairfield Prep (Winter Garden), 6 p.m.; Saturday vs. Xavier (Winter Garden), 7:40 p.m.; Monday at McMahon/Norwalk (SoNo Ice House), 8 p.m.
The Bottom Line: The undefeated dream fell three games short, but what a year that was last season. A lot of the big names graduated, but some key players have returned.
|This Week: lost to New Canaan 3-2 (OT); Wednesday at Xavier (Wesleyan), 7:15 p.m.
The Bottom Line: A couple of goalies return, and some interesting underclassmen are back, too, for a team that reached the FCIAC final last season.
|This Week: Wednesday vs. Greenwich (Wesleyan), 7:15 p.m.; Saturday at Ridgefield (Winter Garden), 7:40 p.m.
The Bottom Line: A tumultuous season ended with an unexpected upset of Ridgefield and trip to Ingalls. Veteran coach Karl Sundquist, formerly of Avon and Cheshire, takes over.
|7. NEW CANAAN||14-8-1||38||8||I|
|This Week: def. Greenwich 3-2 (OT); Wednesday vs. Hamden (Darien Ice House), 7:10 p.m.; Friday at Prout (R.I.) (Providence College), 7 p.m.
The Bottom Line: Several young additions to the lineup have caught the interest of some rival coaches. They'll add to a few solid veterans. They all teamed up for an overtime win to start the year.
|This Week: Wednesday at New Canaan (Darien Ice House), 7:10 p.m.; Saturday vs. Darien, 2:15 p.m.
The Bottom Line: A whole lot of the Green Dragons' offense graduated or departed; their goalie, too. They'll rebuild a bit but remain a program on a lot of others' radar.
|T8. WEST HAVEN||10-11||32||NR||I|
|This Week: Wednesday vs. Guilford, 6 p.m.; Saturday vs. Fairfield, 1 p.m.
The Bottom Line: The Westies were young last year and return most of those youngsters. They don't return their coach, though: Longtime boss Joe Morrell stepped down, and former assistant Steve Harris takes the reins.
|This Week: Wednesday at East Catholic (Cromwell), 7:40 p.m.; Monday vs. South Windsor (ISCC), 3:30 p.m.
The Bottom Line: Yes, a lot of the players that carried the Lions to Ingalls are gone. There is still a fair bit of young talent returning.
|Dropped out: Branford (9).
First-place votes in parentheses and points tabulated on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
|Others receiving votes: Branford (19-3-4) 14; Notre Dame-Fairfield (9-13) 12; Westhill/Stamford (12-11) 4; Sheehan (19-6-1) 3; Farmington Valley (11-12-2) 2; Glastonbury (14-9-2) 2; Hand (18-5-1) 1; Immaculate (6-10-4 as New Fairfield/Immaculate) 1.|
|The following voted: Media: Media: Luke Devoe, CTHSHockey.org; Erik Dobratz, WTNH-8; Michael Fornabaio, Connecticut Post; Tim Jensen, Patch Media Corp.; Greg Lederer, Cheshire Herald; Mike Madera, Elm City Newspapers; Dan Nowak, New Haven Register; Pete Paguaga, Hearst Connecticut Media; Jim Stout, MaxPreps.com. Coaches: Dean Diamond, Housatonic; Shaun Gallagher, Ridgefield; Matt Sather, Fairfield Prep; Larry Vieira, Notre Dame-West Haven.
Poll compiled by Michael Fornabaio