The Bangor High School hockey team will have a new coach in Denis Collins and the Rams will be without five of their top six scorers from a year ago including center Joey Seccareccia, who will miss the season due to shoulder surgery.
But they will return senior left wing Phil Frost, whose 18 goals ranked him among the top three in Eastern Maine Class A, and junior goalie Chris Howat, who was second in goals-against average (2.29) and wins (9).
“We have high expectations,” said Frost, who also had eight assists. “We’ve looked good in practice. Everyone is working hard. Our offense should be one of our strongest points and it’s always good to have a veteran goalie who has played in big games and knows how to handle it.”
The big question mark appears to be on defense where seniors Adam King and Tyler Shanklin are the only seasoned veterans. They will be joined by another senior, Tom Bearor, along with sophomores Anthony Capuano, Cain Corkum and Cody Chapman.
Capuano played in five games last season and also played on the JV team along with Corkum, Chapman and Bearor.
King had five assists and Shanklin had one assist.
Capuano is the son of former University of Maine All-American defenseman Jack Capuano, the head coach of the NHL’s New York Islanders, and Corkum is the son of former Black Bear standout winger Bob Corkum, an associate head coach at Maine.
“The other defensemen have all practiced with the varsity for one or two seasons so I don’t think we’ll miss a beat at all,” said Frost.
“We are inexperienced on defense. However, they’re skilled,” said Collins, who will be assisted by Dave McMahon, major league baseball player Matt Stairs and JV coach Quinn Paradis.
Bangor was 12-7-1 a year ago and earned the third seed in the Eastern Maine Class A playoffs. The Rams were ousted in the semifinals by No. 2 Waterville as the Purple Panthers used a five-goal third period to triumph 7-2.
The Rams will have two lines that will be capable of putting the puck in the net on a consistent basis.
Frost will be joined on his line by sophomore Zach Papsadora (4 goals, 6 assists) and junior Connor Griffin (2 & 1). The other scoring line will be comprised of junior center Nic Cota (4 & 12) between sophomore Zeb Tuell (2 & 2) and Hungarian exchange student Adam Toth-Javor.
A hard-working third line will feature sophomore Carl Farnham (0 & 1) with senior Ian Roberts and junior Wyatt Frost.
Farnham played in 19 games a year ago and Roberts played in three. Roberts and Frost saw a lot of JV duty.
Sophomore Jordan Knapp is on the fourth line and saw JV service last season. He is joined by freshmen Galen Perry and Cam Dixon.
Junior Bobby Winchell will be the backup goalie and appeared in one varsity game last season.
Collins said he has been blessed with some “tremendous athletes” on his team including several members of the state championship soccer team and several more members of the Eastern Maine title-winning football team.
He said his players have “good attitudes.
“They’re willing to learn,” said the 50-year-old Collins, who was the JV coach last season under five-year head coach Ted Taylor.
He said players like Papsadora, Tuell, Farnham and Griffin will have elevated roles up front and will help compensate for the loss of Seccareccia, who had 13 & 11 a year ago and was a physical presence who intimidated opponents.
Collins will employ an up-tempo style of play which will emphasize quick puck movement and precise passing.
They are practicing at Sawyer Arena at 5:30 a.m. most of the time instead of late afternoon.
Collins explained that “I’m looking for commitment and dedication. We only want players who want to be here.”
“Obviously, we’re teenagers and we cherish our sleep,” said King. “But I do believe it shows a level of commitment. Most of us are getting used to it.”
King expects the Rams to receive a solid year from Howat after the goalie’s impressive sophomore season.
“He has gotten much better through the years,” said King. “He got a lot of playing time last year and played in some big games at the end of the year so that should be great preparation for him.”
Phil Frost said the transition to the new coach has “gone well.
“He’s a great coach,” said Frost.
“We like him and respect him very much,” said King who added that he expects the team to improve steadily over the course of the season as the young players develop with increased ice time. He also expects them to be very competitive in the playoffs.
The Rams will open the season on Saturday when they entertain Edward Little High School of Auburn at 4:40 p.m. at Sawyer.