ConVal boys hockey ready for new season

  • peterborough, conval, ice hockey v kearsarge

    peterborough, conval, ice hockey v kearsarge

  • peterborough, conval, ice hockey v kearsarge

    peterborough, conval, ice hockey v kearsarge

  • peterborough, conval, ice hockey v kearsarge

    peterborough, conval, ice hockey v kearsarge

  • peterborough, conval, ice hockey v kearsarge
  • peterborough, conval, ice hockey v kearsarge
  • peterborough, conval, ice hockey v kearsarge

It is no secret that the ConVal boys hockey team will look different this season.

After losing almost half of last year’s roster to graduation and most of the first line, it is hard for the Cougars not to.

“We are probably one of the younger teams in our division,” said coach Josh Upham, who is entering his first full year as head coach. “We have to work from the ground up.”

It will take some time for this group to learn how to play in Upham’s system. Upham took over half way through last year after serving as the team’s assistant and guided ConVal to five wins over the final eight games.

While the Cougars were unable to make the postseason, the team played well under Upham, which made him an easy choice for the job. And even though it is like the program is starting over, ConVal will also be playing in a revamped Division III where eight of the 12 teams make the playoffs.

“The close games are going to be key,” said Upham. “We’re just looking to improve and learn how to win.”

The biggest loss will be that of goalie Parker Wheeler. Wheeler was the first team all-state goalie for Division III last year and played big minutes in each of his four high school seasons, including the last two as the starter.

But there are plenty of other spots Upham will have to fill. He also lost starting forwards Ryder Thompson, ConVal’s leading scorer, and Tom Wall, defenseman Cam Walton and Hunter Joseph, who played just about everywhere last season. The Cougars also had a deep bench because of the 11 members of last year’s senior class.

So it will take a while to figure out who will fill Wheeler’s spot between the pipes. Entering Wednesday’s opener at Kennett, the defending Division III champions, Upham has made the goaltending position an open competition.

He has three potential candidates to fill the spot and Upham is waiting for one to rise to the challenge. He has senior Brandon Garabrandt, who learned under Wheeler for the last few seasons, sophomore Sean Stinehour, who also plays the position in lacrosse, and freshman Kevin Foley.

Right now, Upham will rotate goalies in for each game until there is a clear cut favorite.

“My intention is for the goalies to play the entire game they are assigned,” said Upham.

The team’s most experienced player coming back is senior Mason Ellis. Ellis, who played mostly first line forward last year, will return to defense.

With the goalie position still up in the air, Upham wants to make sure he has enough in front of whichever one is playing.

“Mason’s our most seasoned player,” said Upham. “We wanted to make sure we had a strong back end.”

Joining Ellis on defense will be junior Andrew French, who made the transition from forward to defense last year, as well as sophomore Jason Haley and freshman Cam Henke.

“We’re so young, so there is room for a lot of growth,” said Upham. “I would say by midseason we should start to look like a better team.”

The forward line will be almost entirely rebuilt from last year. The three graduated starters accounted for most of the team’s goals and it will take a large group of Cougars to help fill the void.

“We lost 77 percent of our goal scoring from last year,” said Upham. “We’re going to struggle on the offensive end at times.”

Sophomores Erik Leger and Patrick Joseph will be seeing an increased role for the first time, but will also be the go to offensive players.

“We expect good things out of them,” said Upham.

Seniors Zack Mackey and Isaiah Claggett-Singleton have the varsity game experience that will be so crucial to the offensive production, while juniors Travis Burke and Ryan Thibault should see plenty of ice time.

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