Brett Hale led his Old Town High School Coyotes to an 11-7-1 record last year after the Coyotes had won just five games the previous two seasons combined.
And the Eastern Maine Class B Coach of the Year feels his Coyotes, semifinalists a year ago, can challenge defending two-time Eastern B champion Brewer’s supremacy.
Messalonskee of Oakland drops down from Class A and will be among the other challengers. The top seven teams among the 10 will make the playoffs.
“If there’s a team out there right now that can [challenge Brewer], it’s us,” said Hale.
He graduated Eastern Maine Class B Player of the Year Cody Cross, but David Wilcox is coming off a 24-goal campaign and will be joined on the top line by juniors Trevor Francis and Aaron Pinkham.
“That line is as strong as any line in Class B,” stated Hale. “David and Trevor are two of the best players in the league.”
He also has a quality second line with veterans Alex Leithiser, Kyle Dubay and Nick Nadeau and a good third line that can spell the top two lines.
Peter Wilcox, David’s twin, spearheads a solid defense corps with Sam Peabody and converted forward Ethan Harris. Goaltender Nathan Colannino was chosen to the All-EM Class B second-team and All-Rookie team last season.
“He’s incredible. He’ll win games for us,” said Hale.
Presque Isle coach Carl Flynn said there is an “awful lot of parity in B if you remove Brewer.” He has his top three scorers back in All-EM B second-teamer Isaac Lajoie and linemates Connor Shaw and Adam Flynn.
All-Rookie team pick Tyler Seeley heads up the second line with Cody Merrill and Alex Michaud.
Like Hale, Flynn said he has a useful third line.
Sophomore Andrew Michaud and impressive freshman Colin McKay will headline a youthful and promising defense corps.
Senior Nic Davis has looked “very good” in inheriting the goaltending job from All-EM third-teamer Josh MacFarline.
Orono coach Greg Hirsch expects his Red Riots to end a four-year playoff drought.
Hirsch considers Mike Brown “one of the best goalies in the league,” and he will be protected by four seasoned junior defensemen “who will be the backbone of our team. We’re going to rely on them to keep our goals-against down, but they can also score.”
Rock-solid Zach Williams, speedsters Andrew Holt and Conor McKaig and reliable Corey Danielson are the defensemen.
Matt Cloutier is considered one of the best players in the league by Hirsch, and he will be on the top line with Dan Perry and Swedish exchange student Viktor Domberg.
Scoring depth is a question mark, but Hirsch is hoping second-liners Tyler Higgins, Mike Fowler and Nash Allan-Rahill can chip in.
First-year Hampden Academy coach Bill Schwarz expects his Broncos to be more competitive thanks to three lines he can rotate on a regular basis.
All-EM Class B honorable mention Cooper Williams is a constant threat, and he will be accompanied on the top line by fellow seniors Marc Albert and Kalvin Kosta-Vogel. Cooper Antone, Mike Ward and Matt Closson comprise a productive second line and third-liner Luther Vom Eigen is considered by Schwarz to be “one of the best freshmen I’ve seen in a while.” Tom Burger is a valuable utility forward.
Kent Reichel and Josh Kocic will be the mainstays on defense and Cody Varney is the most experienced of the three goalies vying for the vacant starting job.
John Bapst will again be coached by Gene Fadrigon, who led the Crusaders to their first-ever top seed in his last season (2008-09), going 16-2.
“I have six seniors who were here when I was here [previously] and they will be the key. It’s a pretty strong corps to build around,” said Fadrigon.
That group is comprised of All-EM third-teamer Joey Pate, Alex Beals, Mark Dieuveuil, Nick Doucette, Geoff Glifort and Deven Romain.
All are forwards except defenseman Dieuveuil.
All-Rookie team forward Jacob Fletcher and Alex LaFrance could be important secondary scorers. Ethan Handley and Kurt Massey key the defense in front of experienced netminder Jaron Leonard.
Houlton-Hodgdon, EM finalists a year ago, suffered heavy graduation losses and second-leading scorer Parker Sanderson transferred to Bangor High.
“Our four defensemen will be the strength of our team,” said coach Joel Trickey.
All-Rookie team selection Jimmy Fitzpatrick will be joined on defense by D.J. McGary, Cole McLaughlin and Josh Bragan.
Another All-Rookie defenseman, Brandon Ward, has been moved to forward and will try to fill the huge offensive void left by departed forwards along with Sam Fitzpatrick, Eugene Ivey and Lucas Grant.
All-EM B first-team goalie Malik Abouleish will be replaced by Chase Brewer, Hugh Farrar or Payton Porter.
“An ideal season for us would be .500,” said Trickey.
Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse has a three-time All-Eastern Maine Class A goalie in Nate DelGiudice and will regain the services of influential defenseman Travis St. Pierre from Kents Hill. He will also have a dangerous top line in Sam Dexter, Chase Cunningham and James Varney.
Winslow will be led by All-Rookie forward Cameron Grenier, Dayton Bourassa, Josh Larsen and defenseman Erik Crawley.
Lawrence features All-Honorable Mention forward Christian Carpenter along with Tyler Boudreau and defenseman Luke Lawrence.