Hockey: Kelley-Rex Division Preview 2015-2016

Kelley-Rex hockey
Mansfield and North Attleboro will be two of the teams gunning to unseat Franklin and win a league title. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

Attleboro
2014-15 Record: 11-13-1 (2-8-0)
2014-15 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South semifinal
Head Coach: Mike Cripps

The Bombardiers made an improbable run to the Div. 3 South semifinal before being eliminated by Hanover. Even with a short bench and a goaltender that had never played before, Attleboro won three tournament games for the first time in program history and this year will try to build on that experience and get back to the postseason.

With 20 players on the roster, depth may not be Attleboro’s strength but there are some players that Cripps will be counting on to produce this season led by senior forward Keagin Larkin. He will be helped out on the forward line by junior P.J. Elliott and sophomore Sam Parker. Freshman Sam Larkin will also step in right away and Cripps said that he has been “impressive” during the opening two weeks of practice.

Senior goalie Tim Gile returns between the pipes after a season that saw him put on goalie pads for the first time. He will be joined at the goalie position by junior Tyler Koppy. In front of goal, seniors Will McKenzie and Jack Flynn and sophomore Sam McKenzie will be part of Attleboro’s defensive corps.

There may only be 20 players on the roster, but the Bombardiers are a tight-knit group and Cripps is hopeful that they can get back to .500 and another trip to the playoffs. He said, “Our team is a group of hard-working players with good chemistry. With our lack of depth, we have to avoid injuries and illness. I am very happy with the progress I have seen after the first week.”

Franklin
2014-15 Record: 17-4-3 (10-0-0)
2014-15 Finish: Lost in first round of the Super 8
Head Coach: Chris Spillane

How does Franklin follow up its first ever appearance in the prestigious Super 8 tournament? How does the program recover from losing 21 seniors off a roster that finished unbeaten in the Hockomock League and had one of the league’s most exciting hockey moments when it beat Xaverian in overtime in the Super 8 play-in game?

 

Those are tough questions that head coach Chris Spillane will be trying to answer in the coming weeks as he incorporates almost an entirely new roster. The top returning scorer from last season is senior Alex Bissanti, who chipped in with five goals as a junior. He will be joined up front by junior Adam Assad, who Spillane said has “lots of offensive potential.” In addition, the coach noted that he is looking towards a “strong” sophomore class to provide a spark offensively.

Ryan Shea was a rock in goal last season after getting his first playing time as a senior and the Panthers will be counting on seniors Nick Jasinki (five games in 2014-15) and Cam Benham to step in this year and have a similar impact. In front of the goalies, Franklin has a strong defensive corps led by senior captains Matt Pleshaw and Jack Chaffee. The defense has been bolstered by the return of senior Tyler Oaks, who had been playing for the South Shore Kings. Spillane called him a “strong offensive defenseman.”

It is only the third season for Franklin in Div. 1 and already the Panthers have accomplished more than most public school programs. This could be a transition year for Franklin but expectations remain high for a perennial power. Spillane said, “With the departure of 21 seniors, the success of this team will rely on finding a identity early in the season.”

King Philip
2014-15 Record: 7-10-3 (4-5-1)
2014-15 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: Paul Carlow

For the second time in three season, King Philip has changed coaches with Paul Carlow taking charge of the Warriors this winter after two seasons as the JV and assistant coach. Thanks to his experience with the program and with the players, Carlow, who was once a standout player for KP, called the transition “smooth.” He added, “I know the players and they know me, which has made it pretty easy. Everyone know what is expected.”

The Warriors numbers were not huge this winter and depth may not be a strength, but Carlow is excited about the talent that KP will send out on the ice with six forwards and six defensemen returning from last year’s squad. The Warriors will be led on the forward line by senior captain Matt Smith, while fellow captain Clay Guess will lead an experienced blue line group that also includes football star Corey Lombardo.

Sophomore Collin Cooke is a player to watch this season and is poised for a breakout winter after scoring 11 goals and 10 assists as a freshman. Fellow sophomore Dan McLoughlin could be a player that steps in and provides a spark along with junior Richie Lucente, who saw plenty of ice time last season. Carlow also said that junior Jeremy Smith should step right in at defense. He noted that Smith had the talent to get on the ice as a sophomore but was only limited by the experienced players ahead of him.

Carlow has added preseason scrimmages and has changed the schedule around to add teams like Nauset, Walpole, and Coyle to prepare the team for the rigors of the Div. 1 tournament. After narrowly missing out the past two seasons, Carlow is confident the Warriors can make a run to the postseason. “We need to be ready for the type of teams we’re going to face,” said Carlow. “We may not be the deepest team, we didn’t have 90 kids tryout like Franklin, but we’ve got speed and we can play.”

Mansfield
2014-15 Record: 10-11-0 (8-2-0)
2014-15 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South first round
Head Coach: Rick Anastos

Mansfield enters another season as one of the main threats to Franklin in the Kelley-Rex division. The Hornets, who are the only other team to have won the division (in 2011), are one of the few programs to consistently have the talent base to challenge the Panthers and this season is no different.

Junior forward Matt Farragher is primed for a breakout season after scoring 13 points as a sophomore and he will be paired up front with several classmates, including Pat Sunderland and Chad Piotti. Seniors Pat Graham, Shane Doherty, and Max Hoffman will return to give Mansfield strength in depth along its first two lines and the firepower to make the Hornets a dangerous team in the Hock.

Mansfield also has the potential to be strong defensively, as demonstrated by a scoreless tie with Winthrop on Saturday. Anthony Visconti, who gave up just more three goals per game last season, returns in goal and he will be helped out by senior defenseman Mike Arnold, who leads the blue liners, along with classmate Tim O’Brien.

The Hornets have experienced returning players, but there is plenty of youth coming through program as well with two freshman and five sophomores on the varsity roster. Franklin may remain the team to beat, but Mansfield is confident that it will be right there pushing the Panthers to the end.

North Attleboro
2014-15 Record: 12-8-1 (6-4-0)
2014-15 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South first round
Head Coach: Stephen Snizek

The Rocketeers made it back to the tournament last season but were knocked out in overtime by Milford in the first round. With Sean Young graduated, North Attleboro will be looking for someone that can step into his role as the primary scorer and make a run at a first league title in its final season in the Kelley-Rex.

There is a lot of depth returning for North this season led on the forward line by senior captains Andrew Casson and Brian Poillucci and juniors Zach McGowan and Erik Clements, each of whom have years of experience for the Rocketeers. Sophomores Jason McNeany and Andrew Wissler and a strong freshman class will add to the forwards over the course of the season.

Defensively, North Attleboro will count on juniors Paul Baker and Vincent Zammiello and senior Matthew Marceau on the back line. The defense will be key and Snizek is expecting his forwards to help back as well as the Rocketeers will be using freshmen Chris Ulrich and Ryan Warren in goal this year.

The Rocketeers have a lot of weapons and Snizek is excited for the talent coming through the program. He said, “We have a lot of weapons on offense and we need to get pucks to the net and drive in the dirty goals. Our forwards will need to play in all zones on the ice.  Not just the offensive zone.”

Taunton
2014-15 Record: 9-12-1 (2-8-0)
2014-15 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Head Coach: Kris Metea

The Tigers have been building the program for the past few years, developing young skaters, and waiting for a time that it can come together for a potential run at the state tournament. Head coach Kris Metea is hopeful that this could be the year, as Taunton boasts a talented forward line that could provide the goals needed to get to the playoffs. Metea said, “The eighth graders and freshmen that took beatings three years ago have all grown up and can physically compete with players in the Hockomock now.”

Among the players that Metea highlighted this season are junior Nick Terry, who is coming off an all-star season, and senior Tyler Pietrzyk, who will both be starters. Junior Zack Albert and sophomore Will Walsh will add depth to the forwards as well. Defensively, senior David Perry and junior Mike Volkmann will be two of the key players and add a physical component to the Tigers.

Taunton has three goalies on the varsity roster and Metea has confidence in all of them to win games. Senior Cam Pitts is the most experienced of the trio but junior Justin Chappell and freshman Griffin Speicher both will see time as well.

If Taunton can improve the power play and utilize its overall team speed, this could be an interesting year for the Tigers. “It has been a pleasure working with these players and see them grow up as hockey players and young men,” said Metea. “They have matured physically and mentally and are ready to take the next step to compete with the top end of the ever-competitive Hockomock.”

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Ryan Lanigan

Ryan Lanigan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of HockomockSports.com. You can contact him at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and follow him on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
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