The puck drops here

The boys hockey team does push ups on the ice at the MV Arena on the first day of practice. —Stacey Rupolo

Winter sports are upon us. This week Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) hosted tryouts for boys and girls hockey, boys and girls basketball, swimming, and indoor track. The Times checked in with boys hockey coach Matt Mincone, girls hockey coach John Fiorito, and swimming coach Jonathan Chatinover to preview the upcoming winter sport season. Next week we will hear from boys basketball coach Mike Joyce, girls basketball coach Sterling Bishop, and indoor track coach Joe Schroeder.

Boys varsity hockey

The team is looking to build on a 5-13-4 campaign from 2015. Coach Matt Mincone has 29 skaters and three goaltenders competing for varsity spots at tryouts this week.

“We’re young,” Coach Mincone said. “We have 12 returning players and 13 kids, including two transfers and six freshmen who were not on the team last year. We have an intact line of sophomores; Hunter Ponte and Willson Slayton, centered by junior Jacob Gunderson. They really jelled as a unit last year and they’ll stay together.

“This team will have a different identity. Scoring goals was a problem last year. We lost a lot of low-scoring, one-goal games. I don’t see us scoring a ton this year either, but I could be surprised,” he said.

Coach Mincone is focusing on providing strong defense for his trio of untested goaltender candidates. To that end, Tristan Araujo, a forward last year, will be logging ice time as a backliner this year.

The coach has paced a premium on competing hard every day, and has a pair of indefatigable players, co-captains Aksel Cooperrider and Jonas Lukowitz, as role models.

“I took a step back this summer and thought about my role as a coach and what works for this group,” Coach Mincone said. “My responsibility is to teach the core discipline of hard work. These are hardworking kids. Island kids are hard workers.”

Coach Mincone has a tradition of scrimmaging against strong teams, and has Division 1 powerhouses Framingham, Acton-Boxborough, and Falmouth, Maine, slated for scrimmages with his Division 3 charges this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena.

“There’s no point, no learning, from scrimmaging teams weaker than you,“ he said. The season home opener is on Dec. 17 against Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School.

Girls varsity ice hockey

The girls varsity hockey team is on the rebound from a 4-13-3 2015 season, which left them out of the state tournament after three consecutive tourney appearances.

Head Coach John Fiorito is optimistic about his squad. “We lost three players to graduation,” he said. “Julia Bettencourt, our goaltender, has good game experience, and Kylie Hatt, a senior defenseman, is probably the best player we’ve ever had at that position. She’ll pair with Julia Levesque, and we have two hardworking senior forwards in Lily Davey and Natalija Lakis. We’ll rely on those seniors, and we’ve got about a dozen returning players, including Meghan Sonia, Hailey Meader, Saige Araujo, and Genny Kent. We have six freshmen, and three will probably play varsity, including defenseman Lauren Boyd.”

Coach Fiorito is excited to see his girls hit the ice, and it seems that his players are, too. “You could see it at tryouts this week,” Coach Fiorito said. “We’re going to be better.” This team is up against schools that have the odds stacked in their favor, partially because of a rule that allows schools with low numbers to take players from neighboring communities, which is an advantage not available to island communities.

Tryouts have attracted more than 40 candidates, allowing the Vineyarders to have a junior varsity squad again this season. “The feeder program on-Island is terrific. Guys like Geoghan Coogan and Joe Mikos work hard on it. The future looks bright,” he said.

The Vineyarders open the season at Brookline on Dec. 10. The home opener is Dec. 14 against Bourne High School.