Each and every season, the two biggest goals of the Danvers High varsity hockey team have remain the same: win the Northeastern Conference, and capture the Division 2 state championship.
Those remain unchanged heading into the 2017-18 campaign. But staying focused on the team mantra of playing one shift at a time and not getting caught up in any hoopla that may surround them will be just as important for the Falcons this winter.
The defending conference champions appear in excellent shape to repeat and make a much more fruitful playoff run than the one that saw them unceremoniously bounced in their first playoff game last March. Danvers returns 69 goals and 186 total points from a year ago and possess most of the ingredients -- speed, skill, depth and defense -- that make up championship teams.
“The team chemistry is excellent, from the goaltending to the defense on out,” said head coach Steve Baldassare. “What we need to do is remain consistent and remember the things that allowed us to have success a year ago.
“You can talk about grandiose ideas, like winning the conference or the state title, and that’s great. But what matters when we’re on the ice is to win that shift, and if we can put together a bunch of good shifts we’ll win the period. Put a bunch more together, and we’ll win another period. That’s what we want to do, every game.”
Four seniors will wear the captain’s ‘C’ for the Blue and White this winter. Linemates Tommy Mento (30 goals last winter) and center Conor Purtell (a team-high 26 assists) combined for a whopping 89 points and put fear into opposing goalies all over. There’s a good chance they’ll be joined up front by fellow captain Nic DiSciulo, who averaged more than a point per game with 10 goals and 13 assists.
Ironman Matt Taylor, who gobbles up minutes on defense like few others locally, is also a captain and can be counted on not only in his own end, but also rushing the puck up ice, having produced 25 assists a year ago.
There’s plenty more in the Falcons’ cupboard, too. Senior Yegor Bublik (13-4-1, 2.02 GAA) is back in goal, with ever-improving Rob Prentiss (2 wins) eager to push him for the starting job. A trio of talented blue liners, senior Colin Desmond and sophomores J.P. Kelter and Owen Desmond, will form a solid top four with Taylor.
Juniors Jack Thibodeau at center and right wing Jared Mscisz are just two of the forwards itching to prove themselves with increased ice time this winter as they slot into second line roles. Sophomore Tyler Puska, a talent in his own right, will likely skate with them, and others such as sophomores Calvin Mansfield and Will Flynn, junior Cooper Adrien and senior Jon Tansey are all a year older and a year better.
To top it off, the Falcons also have a few freshmen who are raw, but have evident skill and could work their way into the varsity lineup.
“When you’re the defending conference champs, everyone wants to knock you off -- that includes our non-league foes, too,” said Baldassare. “We have to be aware of that every game, every period, every shift. It’s about bringing your best all the time and playing up to your ability. If we do that, we’re going to be just fine.”