Center Ryan Duval has been skating with Stephen Pease and Jake Esposito to form an all-senior first line. Three-zone workorse Jared Brann centers the second line with fellow senior Tyler Costello and junior Nick Aleckna, and the third unit has junior pivot Mike Castro skating with wingers Vitaly Knowles, a junior, and Joe Emma, a senior. Another 12th grade winger, Tommy Cashin, has also found the scoresheet already.
All nine of those forwards have already scored at least one point, with Castro’s two goals and four points leading the way. And don’t believe that the line designations are an indication of player talent; Castro, for instance, could be a top line player on several area teams, but balance in the forward ranks allows Jackson to use him as a scoring option on a checking line.
The offensive options don’t stop up front, either. Senior defenseman Joe Griffin may well be his team’s most gifted player offensively; he’s always had the skating ability and a booming shot, and now that he’s in better shape this season, said Jackson, his game has exploded.
Griffin is paired with fellow senior Mike Jesi, while sophomore Nick Pease skated with another talented senior, Jake Jesi. Junior Jake Giacchino and sophomore Brendan Crowther are two other rearguards that get worked into nightly mix, protecting the cage in front of second-year starting goaltender Mitch Nekorowski.
“We like the balance that we have,” said Jackson. “We’ve got a lot (15) of seniors who really want to get back into the playoffs, but it’s like you always hear: one game at a time. That’s the mindset we have to take.”
With so many new faces in the St. John’s Prep lineup this season, there have certainly been some newcomers who have played big roles in the team’s 2-0 start. One of those is senior forward Mark Etherington of Danvers, who saw scant few varsity minutes a year ago, but has made up for lost time this season.