Richie Rodgers' team instead has moved up to the 'A' division this year along with Christ the King and St. Edmund's. Holy Cross moved from the 'AA' division, where it struggled for the past two years, into the 'A' division to join St. Joseph by the Sea, Kellenberg and Mount St. Michael to assemble what should be a very competitive division.
"We've turned the page," Rodgers said. "To be able to say we've made it to the third game of the finals in our first two years of existence, there's nothing to be ashamed of."
A third consecutive trip to the finals is tougher in the 'A' division for Molloy, but the nucleus is there for the Stanners.
Six seniors return for Molloy with a wealth of experience, including defenseman and team captain Alex Kalaf. Forwards Chuck Graves, John DiGregorio, Nicky Wilk, Brendan Gebert, Chris Edele and junior Joey Evangelista return a bulk of the Stanners' scoring. Newcomer Greg Silverman will join sophomore Mike Sangiamo as two of the club's better defensemen.
Also back is junior goaltender Adrian Podprika. Sophomore Mike Koening will serve as the back-up in between the pipes.
"We wanted good hockey and we feel we got it [in the 'A' division]," Rodgers said. "Every game is going to be a tough one, there are no gimmies. We're going to have to fight to the last second in each game."
The realignment should also benefit Holy Cross, which finished last season 3-12-1 in the 'AA' division. According to Knights head coach Mike Mitchell, who is also the league's commissioner, despite returning only five players from last year's team, Holy Cross should have at least three solid lines.
"I feel confident with the team I have," Mitchell said. "Any line we put out there can do the job. We have a good mix of returning players and guys coming up from JV."
Back from last year's team are seniors Adam Stuckey in the net, defenseman and team captain Tim Fung, and forwards Mike DiNubila and Dan Lipoli. Newcomers include junior forward Bryan Benini, sophomore forward Ray Wilson, sophomore defenseman Mark Goetzger and freshman forward Pat McHugh. The Knights are already off to a good start, defeating Bishop Ford from the 'B' division, 9-1 Friday.
Christ the King, like Molloy, makes the jump from the 'B' division into the 'A.' Fourth-year head coach Pat Boller expected the transition to be relatively easy, with a wealth of the scoring back as well as experience on defense and in goal.
But then Boller learned junior goaltender Nick Montelene, a projected starter, was academically ineligible until January and the team was left to rely on a pair of inexperienced sophomores and a freshman in goal until then.
"Our inexperience in goal is the hardest challenge," Boller said. "It's not a matter of confidence in those guys, it's just that they don't have the experience. Hopefully one of them can step up and become the starter."
Scoring should not be a problem for the Royals. Back from a team that went 6-8-2 and lost to eventual 'B' division champs St. Edmund's in the third of a best-of-three semifinal series are senior forwards Sal Croce, Vinny Dove, Billy Murphy and Steve Weber as well as juniors Greg Cutrone and Bobby Glade. Also returning is sophomore Jakob Kubrak, a player Boller said should be one of the top defensemen in the league.
Unfortunately for Boller, his goaltenders will face a tough test right out of the gate as the Royals will face Kellenberg Memorial, one of the elite teams in the 'A' division, twice in their first three games. The Firebirds defeated Christ the King, 11-3, in the season opener Saturday.
After losing to Molloy in the 'B' division semifinals last year, St. Francis Prep should be considered one of the contenders for the 'B' division title this year, especially with Queens rivals Molloy, Christ the King and St. Edmund's - the 'B' division champ last year - in the 'A' division.
While Denny Gryz, Byorn Song, Mike Begy and Pete Lilkendey are gone from last year, a strong crop of players return for the Terriers, including seniors Adam Discepolo, a forward who is the captain of the team, and assistant captains Ken D'Andrea, a defenseman, and Dan McCloskey, a junior forward.
Senior forwards Pat Chatteron and Mike Feri, the St. Francis Prep senior class president and juniors Steve Cameron and Luke Desmond round out the top returnees. Paul Desmond, Luke's younger brother, and John Leistman are two of the team's top newcomers and junior Jason Black and sophomore Mike Giacomino should share time in goal.
"Hopefully we'll be better, only time can tell," said Terriers head coach Billy Turner. "We should be an aggressive forechecking team that should be able to create neutral zone turnovers."
The McClancy Crusaders have struggled the last two years with a lack of players. This year's roster has only 13 players on it, although that is up from last year. Mike Brenneis lost just two players from last year and with only two seniors on the squad, McClancy should start to climb the ladder in the 'B' division, which also features St. Raymond, Salesian, Cardinal Spellman and Xavier.
Leading the way for McClancy are junior goaltender Manny Lorras and junior Chris Knipe, a center/defenseman as well as the lone seniors on the team, forward John Mascetti and goaltender Chris Gavalas. Brenneis has also been impressed with sophomore forward Cesar Quintero, who he expects will add some scoring punch.
"We basically have the same group as last year so we're improving on what we had last year. They're a year older, a year stronger. I expect bigger and better things from this team."
©2000 Community News Group
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