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The Chittenden County boys hockey guide

12:00 AM, Dec. 07, 2012 EST

Colchester's Matt Cuce (left) and Essex's Lucas Martin (right) are key players for teams with Division I boys hockey title plans. / Free Press file

Burlington

* Coach: Leon Lifschutz (third season)

* Last season: 1-19; lost to Colchester in Division I playdown

* Key returnees: Jack Breen, defense, junior; Max Moreau, defense, junior; Tommy Burchard, defense, junior

* Key newcomers: Dustin Rinehart, goaltender, junior; Stephanie Landry, goaltender; junior

* Outlook: The buzzword for the Seahorses: Development. Burlington has struggled to field numbers, but a small spike in participation -- 16 skaters, plus three goaltenders -- gives the program optimism for the future. "We are really looking to peak towards the end of the season and get ready for next year," Lifschutz said.

* Opener: Wednesday vs. North Country

Champlain Valley

* Coach: Mike Murray (third season)

* Last season: 7-13-1; lost to Rutland in Division I playdowns.

* Key returnees: Alex Bulla, defense, junior; Kaleb Godbout, defense, sophomore; Brendan Gannon, forward, junior; Cam Rivard, forward, sophomore; Will Bernicke, forward, junior

* Key newcomers: Ryan Keelan, forward, freshman; Jack Hall, forward, freshman; Drew Pitcher, defense, freshman

* Outlook: While the Redhawks might have some depth and experience concerns on the blue line, their attack consists of four equal lines, a strength in the Murray's eyes. "I don't know if we are a favorite -- we might be a year away -- but we can certainly contend." Two returning goaltenders are competing for the No. 1 spot, Murray added.

* Opener: Thursday vs. South Burlington at Beech tournament

Colchester

* Coach: Greg Murray (15th season)

* Last season: 15-8-1; lost to BFA-St. Albans in Division I final.

* Key returnees: Matt McBride, goalie, senior; Matt Cuce, center, junior; Avery Steele, forward, sophomore; Jared Antoiniak, junior, defense; Devin Dessormeau, senior, defense.

* Key newcomers: Jared Rylant, forward, sophomore (transfer from BHS); Will Steele, forward, freshman; Eric Swan, goalie, sophomore.

* Outlook: Although they lost seven players to graduation, including captain Nate Frieberg, the Lakers return five of their top two six forwards from last season's runner-up finisher and will be a strong contender this winter. Cuce was the team's top point getter last year with 17 goals and 31 assists while McBride was the go-to goalie in the playoffs.

* Opener: Dec. 13 vs. Rice at Beech Tournament

Essex

* Coach: Bill O'Neil (40th season)

* Last season: 20-1-1; lost to Colchester in Division I semifinal

* Key returnees: Jack Cabanaw, defense, senior; Pat Abbott, defense, senior; Nate Foice, defense, senior; Steve Morse, forward, junior; Steve Jurkiewicz, forward, senior; Brody Almeida, forward, junior; Nate Nelson, forward, junior; Luc Leblanc, forward, senior; Brock Paquette, goaltender, junior.

* Key newcomers: Too early to tell.

* Outlook: Defense has been the Hornets' strength in recent years, a key reason the program currently holds a 34-game unbeaten streak in regular-season play that began in January of 2011. This Essex outfit should be no different with a bevy of seasoned defensemen. Morse, who broke his collarbone in the opening-round playoff win last year, returns as the team's leading scorer.

* Opener: Dec. 19 at At South Burlington

Milton

* Coach: Trevor Wagar (third season)

* Last season: 8-13-1; lost to Northfield in Division II quarterfinals.

* Key returnees: Seniors Jackson Hickey, forward, senior; Seth Amstein, forward, senior; Ben Jackson, defense, senior; Brandon Rhoades, goaltender, junior.

* Key newcomers: Ian Pelkey, defense, junior; Will Jenkins, defense, junior

* Outlook: With the additions of Pelky, a Rice transfer, and Jenkins, who played for the program two years ago, the Yellowjackets' strength lies with blue-line depth. Wagar's hope is to develop more forwards after Hickey and Amstein, the top players for a Milton squad focused on a winning season and a deep playoff run.

* Opener: Today vs. Northeast Clinton, N.Y., at the Missisquoi tournament.

Mount Mansfield

* Coach: Bruce Garrapy (first season)

* Last season: 4-16-1; lost to Milton in Division II playdowns.

* Key returnees: Adam Oler, forward/defense, junior; Ryan Heath, defense, junior; Joe Airoldi, goaltender, junior; Ben Hoar, forward, junior; Nils Meisterling, forward, junior.

* Key newcomers: None

* Outlook: Defense and goaltending are the strengths for a MMU squad that is in search of scoring productions after key losses to graduation. "We are trying to generate some guys," said Garrapy, who returns for a second stint as the Cougars coach. "These guys are working hard and I'm excited to see them improve during the year. I think we will surprise some people for sure."

* Opener: Saturday vs. Lyndon

Rice

* Coach: Mark Young (fifth season)

* Last season: 7-15; lost to BFA-St. Albans in Division I quarterfinal.

* Key returnees: Anthony Phillip, forward, sophomore; Shawn Remillard, forward, sophomore, Alex Morse, senior, forward; Kyle Grady, forward, junior; Caleb Connerty, forward, junior; Joey Gagne, defense, junior; Vincent Gauthier, defense, senior; Emerson Prager, defense, sophomore.

Only have three seniors.; Austin Sherburne, forward, senior (missed whole season)

* Key newcomers: Alan Vincent, defense, junior.

* Outlook: While they are still young, the Green Knights return 14 players, including the dangerous scoring duo of Philip and Remillard. Rice also possess a stout group of defensemen who can skate and move the puck well. Vincent, a transfer from Middlebury, gives Rice size on the blue line. "We have a realistic goal of playing .500 this seson," Young said.

* Opener: Thursday vs. Colchester at Beech tournament

South Burlington

* Coach: Sean Jones (11th season)

* Last season: 17-4; lost to North Country in Division I quarterfinals

* Key returnees: Bernie Thibeault, defense, senior; Mike Cunavelis, defense, senior; Matt Fisher, defense, senior; Connor O'Toole, defense, senior. Eric Craig, forward, senior; Tommy Royer, forward, senior; Matt Baechle, forward, junior.

* Key newcomers: Too early to tell.

* Outlook: A group of savvy defensemen, including Thibeault, a team captain, will be counted to lead the Rebels squad, which lost some production to prep-school defections. A player who opted to stay, Royer will help anchor the offense for a Rebels squad hoping to advance past the quarterfinals, a recent nemesis for the program.

* Opener: Thursday vs. South Burlington at Beech tournament

 

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Burlington

Boys Basketball

Rank School Record
1 Rice Memorial High School
South Burlington, VT
14-3-0
2 St. Johnsbury Academy
Saint Johnsbury, VT
15-3-0
3 Burlington High School
Burlington, VT
17-3-0
4 Mt. Mansfield Union High School
Jericho, VT
14-4-0
5 Williamstown High School
Williamstown, VT
16-0-0

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