Ridgefield had it all last year and ended up with it all as well: league and state titles. The Tigers lost an All-Star team’s worth of talent, but they succeeded in large part because of their depth, so there are still strong building blocks back to make a run at championship defenses.
Greenwich looks to be the team to beat at this point because of skill and numbers, but you never discount venerable programs like Darien and New Canaan.
Greenwich. Healthy, deep and with some promising young talent, the Cardinals seem poised to make a run at postseason titles in coach Chris Rurak’s second season.
Alex Mozian, the explosive scorer who missed all but three games due to injury, will be part of a formidable first line with Sean Pratley and Nikita Kovalev, whose father Alexi had some renown in the NHL.
Top scorer Matt Baugher is also back along with Matt Davey up front, while the defense has numbers, led by Nic Pelletier-Martinelli and Connor Santry.
Rurak has three goaltenders on the roster. In the battle for the starting spot, keep an eye on promising sophomore Ben Nash.
The Cardinals fell to New Canaan in the FCIAC semifinals and the opening round of the state playoffs. Their stays this year should be longer and potentially very rewarding.
Ridgefield. The Tigers’ dream season was constructed in large part by a strong senior class that has moved on. But coach Sean Gallagher’s cupboard is hardly bare.
Nick Cullian and Will Forrest will be two of the conference’s top scorers. Liam Galloway, Ty Fujitani and Thomas Lombardozzi lead the defense. Matteo van Wees, one of the state’s top players, has moved on, but brothers Simon (defense) and Kees (forward) will make impacts.
Sean Gordon replaces Sean Keegans in goal.
These may not be last year’s Tigers, but there is still enough quality personnel for a repeat.
Darien. The Blue Wave dipped below .500 a year ago after consecutive state titles and three straight trips to the final.
Darien remains young but more experienced, with Will Dickson (second on the team in points last year), Bennett McDermott and Will Johnston on the first line. Three-year starter Hunter Hazelton and James Gregory form the top pair on defense.
The top scorer from a year ago, CJ Hathaway, will center the second line. Henri Pfeifle is in goal.
The Blue Wave will take a climb back up the standings this winter. How high remains to be seen.
New Canaan. Clark Jones takes over a team that was hit hard by graduation and will need players in increased roles to pick up the slack. Gunnar Granito is one of the state’s most dangerous forwards, with Quinn McMahon and Chase Glover looking to bolster the offense.
Shane Pickering and Walker Ker return on defense, while Jack Spain and Oliver Jardim will share time in goal.
Fairfield Co-Op. Fairfield might be a risky sleeper pick given all the talent that has moved on. That included goaltender Charlie Capalbo, who inspired the area with his battle against leukemia.
Fairfield has a number of standouts that will make it a compelling follow, including defenseman Will Von Brauchitsch (25 points), center Kyle Mazza (19 points) and Avon Old Farms transfer Sawyer Coseglia.
15 Players To Watch
Matt Baugher, Greenwich
Sawyer Coseglia, Fairfield Co-Op
Nick Cullinan, Ridgefield
Will Forrest, Ridgefield
Chase Glover, New Canaan
Gunnar Granito, New Canaan
Hunter Hazelton, Darien
Cooper Healy, Westhill/Stamford
Nikita Kovalev, Greenwich
Jake Lovato, Trinity Catholic
Matt Mocker, Trumbull
Alex Mozian, Greenwich
Sam New, Staples
Kevin Remson, Norwalk/McMahon
Will vonBrauchitsch, Fairfield Co-Op
Darien: RW Will Dickson, C Bennett McDermott, LW Will Johnston, D Hunter Hazelton, D James Gregory, C CJ Hathaway, LW Hudson Pokorny, RW Robbie Stewart, D Connor McCarthy, D Brian Zaffino, D Matthew Stein, G Henri Pfeifle, G Nick Elwell.
Fairfield Co-Op: LW Sam Shepard, C Kyle Mazza, RW Sawyer Coseglia, D Will Von Brauchitsch, D Carson Rush, G Will Capalbo.
Greenwich: F Alex Mozian, F JT Lawrence, F JT Lawrence, F Matt Baugher, D Connor Santry, D Nic Pelletier-Martinelli, F Sean Pratley, F Matt Davey, F Charlie Graves, F Nikita Kovalev, D Ryan Columbo, G Robert Bray, G Dylan Dreher, G Ben Nash.
New Canaan: F Gunnar Granito, F Quinn McMahon, F Chase Glover, G Jack Spain, G Oliver Jardim, D Shane Pickering, D Walker Ker, D Justin Wietfeldt, D Bennett Ong, D William Crane-Morris, D Eric Wills.
Norwalk/McMahon: F Kevin Remson, F Remmy Gibson, F Dylan Parson, Brian Denke, G Max Vurtuci, D Bobby Gumer.
Ridgefield: F Nick Cullinan, F Will Forrest, F Del Irving, F Kees van Wees, F Kieran McGowan, F Matt Walker, F Brady McSpedon, D Liam Galloway, D Simon van Wees, D Kevin McNicholas, D Ty Fujitani, D Dan Parson, D Thomas Lombardozzi, G Sean Gordon, G Jack Rahlfs.
St. Joseph: F Jack Pisani, F Sean Attanasio, F Tommy Flynn, D Dareios Linss, D Liam Gelston, C Sam Bracchi, G Will Brady, G Chris Higgins.
Staples/Weston: F Sam New, D Casten Ernberg, D Brian Grey, G Zack Bloom, D Rob Wemhoff, F Cameron Day, F Ryan Purgay, F Matt Bidgood.
Trinity Catholic: F Jack Kinahan, F Will Tellini, F Jay Bacco, D Jake Levato, D Logan Healy, G Andrew Ellis, G Lance Lippmann.
Trumbull: Matt Mocker, Alex Jackel, Damien Styrc.
Westhill/Stamford: Ryan Hart, Cooper Healy, Gavin Dolan, Everett Dolan, Jordan Marchese.
Wilton: LW Tyler Everitt, C John Fung RW Brandon Jonsson, D Jack Dinanno, D Luke Terradista, Tommy McHugh, Tyler Everitt, Lucas Thelen, Luke O’Neill, Jackson Kelly.