A new day is dawning for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) boys hockey team, preparing to drop the puck in the 2017-2018 season opener against Sandwich High School at 3 pm Saturday at the refurbished Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena in Oak Bluffs.
Last year’s 4-13-2 squad graduated seven seniors, and Head Coach Matt Mincone looks to improve this year with a young but experienced group of 18 returnees that include five seniors, six juniors, seven experienced sophomores, and five freshmen who have excelled at the youth program level.
Coach Mincone likes a lot about his team. “There is great chemistry between these kids,” he said. “You can hear it in the way they talk to each other. We have to play every shift as if it were the last shift we ever play, and the kids have put in the work. We want to be a tough team to play.
“You could see it in the annual scrimmages we had last weekend against Lexington, Acton-Boxboro, and Oyster River [N.H.] high schools. We only scored three goals, but we had a lot more chances than we did in those scrimmages last year,” he said.
Mr. Mincone singled out the scrimmage play of several freshmen in comments on vineyardhockey.com this week. Mike Wallace, Hunter Meader, and Peter Gillis were given recognition for their hard work against Oyster River.
In addition to new talent, the Vineyarders move from D3 to D2 competition this year. “Division Three is where we should be,” Mr. Mincone said this week. The Vineyarders remain in the Eastern Athletic Conference, now a four-team affair with Bishop Feehan, Bishop Stang, and Coyle and Cassidy high schools. The Vineyarders move to the Cape and Island League for the 2018-2019 campaign.
The Vineyarders will face new opponents and some teams they encounter rarely, including Silver Lake, Nauset (twice), Attleboro, Cardinal Spellman, Weston, and Old Rochester. “We will play teams that are more like us,” Mr. Mincone said.
Then too, the Vineyarders have new home ice after a complete refurbish of the Ice Arena. “That makes a difference, just the fact that the glass around the ice surface is now all the same height is a positive, and the new look adds a little extra spark,” he said.
Junior Ian Trance is team captain. Seniors include goaltender Zach Fullin, forwards Jack Murray, Henry Pardo, and Jacob Gunderson, and defenseman Nick Bischoff.
Juniors include Mr. Trance, forwards Colin Henke, Willson Slayton, Sean Hegarty, and Hunter Ponte, and goaltender Michael Metcalf.
Sophomore forwards Joe Serpa, Logan Araujo, and Colby Zarba, along with defensemen Kenny Hatt, Jackson Pizzano, Jackson Pachico, and Hoffie Hearn, all logged significant ice time at the varsity level last year.
Newcomer freshmen include defender Elias Gunderson and forwards Hunter Meader, Michael Wallace, Peter Gillis, and Aiden Marek.
“The biggest difference is that all these kids have played before,” Mr. Mincone said. “Most had a lot of ice time last year. We want to be a tough team to play defensively.”
The coaching staff has undergone some changes as well. Dace Moore has joined the team as goaltending coach, and Geoghan Coogan comes aboard as assistant coach for defense and skating skills. Mr. Mincone has named veteran assistant Max Sherman junior varsity coach. “We have eight incoming eighth graders playing JV, and Max is going to run that program with Jeremy Peters the same way we run the varsity program,” he said.
Mr. Mincone is optimistic about the season based on what he’s seen from last weekend’s scrimmages against skilled Division One teams, like Lexington and Acton-Boxboro. “We did not play scared. We competed. You know it will be a rollercoaster as we go forward, but we want to win the EAC and to qualify for the Division Three state tourney,” he said.