It looks like a whole new world in Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference boys hockey. Last year it seemed it was just a matter of time before the coronation was held for Darien High School, which not only won the league crown but followed that up with the school’s first state championship in 45 years.
This year, with Darien losing a deep group of talent to graduation — not to mention its head coach, Chris Gerwig — the league appears to be wide open. Yes, there are the usual suspects: Darien, New Canaan, Greenwich and Ridgefield, a pack that can regularly be found residing among the top 10 in the state. Combined, the four schools have won the last 12 FCIAC titles and 19 of the previous 20.
But the list of contenders for the 2015-16 season might be twice as deep as it has been in recent years.
This time it might not be far-fetched to throw St. Joseph, the Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe co-op, the Staples/Weston/Shelton co-op and even the newly formed Stamford/Westhill co-op into the mix.
The conference has always been top-heavy but do not forget that besides Darien’s state championship last season, the FCIAC has also had three other schools win Division 2 state titles in the last six years (St. Joseph in 2009, Trumbull in 2012 and Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe in 2009). It all starts this weekend but until further notice the road to the FCIAC championship runs through Darien.
The Blue Wave, who have won four FCIAC championships since 2000, had a tremendous run last year. After a 10-1-1 regular season, they won three playoff games and then beat three conference teams in winning four state games to end the hard-to-believe, 45-year drought. The Blue Wave, however, lost several key contributors from last year’s team to graduation, a group led by forwards Jack Pardue and Nic Tuzinkiewicz and goalie Will Massie. But new coach Mac Budd, who replaces the retired Gerwig, should have enough talent available, including forward Jake Kirby, defenseman Sam Knowlton and first-year goalie Daniel Voight, to make a strong run at a repeat.
The Cardinals had a great year but were left empty-handed and with a bad taste in their collective mouths. The Cardinals, who will be led by forward KC Cunningham, lost to Darien in the FCIAC final and then dropped a 1-0 decision in the Division 1 state championship game. Coach Bob Russell probably won’t need to use too many motivational tricks on his team after the way last season ended.
Like Darien, New Canaan always seems to be a contender for the FCIAC championship. The Rams lost one regular season game last year and only have five seniors on the roster this season. But they should have enough returning players, such as forward Tyler Hill and defenseman James Franzis, to get over the hump this time.
Ridgefield, St. Joseph
Ridgefield (10-2 last year in the league), a balanced group led by forward Jimmy Wilkinson, also figures to be strong again. St. Joseph should contend with high-scoring Adam Usinger and goalie Ryan Wilson leading the way, despite the departure of head coach Marty Crouse.
It won’t be easy for teams such as Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe, Staples/Weston/Shelton or Stamford/Westhill to gain even footing with the top four or five teams, but there is a chance. Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe had a winning league and overall record last year while Staples was also over .500 overall. Westhill was another team with a winning record and figures to be even stronger this season since its merger with Stamford High.
Jake Kirby, Darien forward
Tyler Hill, New Canaan forward
KC Cunningham, Greenwich forward
Sam New, Staples/Weston/Shelton forward
Ryan Johnson, Staples/Weston/Shelton forward
Nick Rich, Stamford/Westhill forward
Sam Knowlton, Darien defenseman
Hunter Hazelton, Darien defenseman
James Franzis, New Canaan defenseman
Colin Kelly, Greenwich defenseman
Liam Mooney, New Canaan goalie
Christian Compolettaro, Stamford/Westhill goalie
Darien: Forwards Riley Mullin, Max Romeyn, Herbie Hazelton, Max DeBaradinis, Jake Kirby, Owen Collins, Jay Dickson, Ed Glassmeyer, Ben Brown; defensemen Sam Knowlton, Hunter Hazelton, Scott Voigt, Harry Congdon, Henry Hathaway, Matt Smith; goalies David Voigt, Brendan Bumgardner
New Canaan: Forwards George McMahon, Brooks Gammill, Tyler Hill, Ryan Hart, Harry Gelnaw, Chase Glover, Gunnar Granito, Tyler Ferraro, Jack Webster; defensemen James Franzis, Teddy Hood, Drew Morris, Ben Webster, Shane Pickering, Quinn Hays; goalies Liam Mooney, Peter Windas.
Greenwich: Forwards KC Cunningham, Michael Mozian, Cal McKinney; defenseman Colin Kelly; goalie Nick Bozzuto.
Ridgefield: Jimmy Wilkinson, Jeff Pracella, Teo van Wees, Harrison Chuma, Ben Welsh; goalies Sean Keegans, Rian Stewart.
St. Joseph: Forwards Nick DiSabella, Will Foldesi, Adam Usinger; defensemen Will Gilbert, Andrew Van Etten, Connor Hurley; goalie Ryan Wilson.
Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe co-op: Forwards Jake Fuss, Owen Emmendorfer, Jack McCormick, Kevin Boldrighini; defensemen Charlie Pippert, Rutger Gaillard, Jeremy Ziegler; goalie Mike Grace.
Stamford/Westhill co-op: Forwards Nick Rich, Cooper Healy, Chris Clemmenson, Owen Killian, Griffin Smith, Ryan Hart; defensemen
John Nielsen, Everett Dolan, Mike Longo, Gunnar Erickson; goalies Christian Compolatero, Connor McDonough.
Trumbull: Forwards Brady Jensen, Matt Mocker, John Therriault; defensemen Jake Liebowitz, Sam Guttman; goalie Will Guttman.
Trinity Catholic: Forwards Kyle Bernard, Connor Scanlan, Mark Yu, Martin Hankanson, Daniel Bernard, Quinn Thompson, Dareios Linss, Marco D’Elia, Matt Lombardo; defensemen Logan Healy, Zach Lockwood; goalie Chris Parish.
Staples/Weston/Shelton co-op: Forwards Ryan Johnson, Sam New, Jesse Greenspun, RJ Gupta; defensemen Ian Offenberg, Billy Hutchinson, Sebastiaqn Zeman, Sam Zaritsky; goalies Zach Bloom, Angus Fuori.
Norwalk/Brien McMahon co-op: Forwards Matt Cavanagh, Patrick Aux, Danny Frattaroli, Kevin Remson, Dylan Persons; defensemen Will Haskell, Derek Lue, Nate Gordon, Stephen Pare; goalies Phil Uva, Kevin Elzea, Grant Riordon, Wyatt Machette.
Wilton did not reply to requests for information.