Hockey preview: Seniors leading the way for Blue Knights

Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley carrying momentum after deep playoff run

Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley’s Nathan Handy prepares to fire a wrist shot during a Central Mass. Division 3A semifinal game at the Wallace Civic Center on March 5. (Gary Fournier / Nashoba Valley Voice)

Last year produced memorable seasons for quite a few local boys hockey teams, with some enjoying deep tournament runs.

Groton-Dunstable and Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley lost in the Central Mass. Division 3 and 3A sectional finals, respectively.

While many teams lost a lot of talented players, another large batch return for this season. In the Dual County League, Westford Academy returns All-Conference selection Jason Bunyan, who had 25 points a year ago.

Over in Central Mass., Groton-Dunstable returns quite a bit and should remain extremely competitive, Littleton/Bromfield has a new coach in Kevin Lizotte, who had previously coached at St. Bernard’s, and Eric Short is back behind the bench for his 19th season with Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley.

Here is a team-by-team capsule look at area programs:

GROTON-DUNSTABLE

League: Central Mass Roy Conference

Last Year’s Record: 13-9-1

Key Players Lost to Graduation: Aidan Ferrara, Tyler Dodge, Ben Rivet and Will Zinkann.

Captains: Deaglan Garside, sr., defense; Brendan Ferrari, sr., forward; Alex Cianci, sr., forward and Ian Maguire, sr., defense.

Other Returning Letterwinners: Nate Glencross, jr., forward; Jacob Figueroa, jr., forward; Mike Hamill, jr., forward; Ryan Mosscrop, jr., goalie and Will Kenny, jr., defense.

Promising Newcomers: Alex Hillenberg, sr., goalie; Dylan Cianci, soph., forward; Cole Beigel, fr., forward; Brendan Camelio, sr., defense.

Head Coach Brendan McCann (5th season): “We have a good group of returning players and hope to be strong up front. Defensively we should be strong with Ian Maguire and Cory Hannemann on the back end, but we’ll need to weather the storm as Deaglan Garside will be out the first half of the season with an injury. With the graduation of Aidan Ferrara in net, we’ll look to the tandem of Ryan Mosscrop and Alex Hillenberg to take the reins.”

LITTLETON/BROMFIELD

League: Central Mass Coughlin Conference

Last Year’s Record: 9-10-2

Key Players Lost to Graduation: James Peterson, Danny Angell, Justin Montepeluso and Chris Berger.

Captains: Nick Brown, sr., forward; Ben Canfield, sr., goalie; Ben Hays, sr., forward; Sean Mizzoni, sr., defense.

Other Returning Letterwinners: Maddox Lizotte, soph., for/defense; Tim Kelleher, jr., forward; Derek Peterson, jr., forward; Henry Hays, sr., defense; Aaron King, jr., defense.

Promising Newcomers: Dylan Lokken, fr., forward; Kyle Tracey, soph., center; Ryan McNulty, soph., forward; Johnny Correri, jr., forward; San Dunn, soph., for.

Head Coach Kevin Lizotte (1st season; 10th overall): “We lost nine seniors so will need our underclassmen to step up and play key roles. While the younger players adapt to varsity hockey, we will rely one of the league’s top goaltenders in senior Ben Canfield.”

LUNENBURG/AYER SHIRLEY

League: Central Mass. Coughlin Conference

Last Year’s Record: 15-7-1, Division 3A Finalists

Captains: Matt Albert, sr., forward; Joey Robinson, sr., forward; Nick Granger, sr., goalie; Patrick Favreau, sr., forward;

Other Returning Letterwinners: Nathan Handy, jr., forward; Noah Razzetti, sr., forward; Tristan Gallant, jr., defense; Krystian Gallant, jr., defense; Brendan Ware, jr., defense; Ian Kenne, jr., goalie.

Promising Newcomers: Shea Arsenault, jr., forward; Jason Brandy, jr., forward; Chris Rooney, jr., defense; Travis Chesbrough, sr., forward; Ryan Miller, jr., defense; Ethan Favreau, sr., defense; Ryan Strout, soph., forward; Gavin Cloutier, jr., forward; Derek LaCross, jr., forward; Mason Pajari, fr., forward; Nick Fortier, fr., defense; Zach Plunkett, fr., defense; Nick Gamble, jr., forward.

Head Coach Eric Short (19th season): “We should be competitive with all teams on our schedule. We return two outstanding goaltenders and a solid group of junior defensemen. We lost some offensive production and depth to graduation last year but still have a core of talent and experience from the successful teams the last two season. Key to success this year will be the new players filling gaps up front and our ability to score goals. We will be strongest from the net out.”

WESTFORD ACADEMY

League: Dual County League Division 1

Last Year’s Record: 10-9-3

Key Losses to Graduation: Kevin Bruskiewitz and Tyler Guillemette.

Captains: Jason Bunyan, sr., forward; Kevin Egan, sr., defense; Kyle Wizst, sr., forward.

Other Returning Letterwinners: Dan Marshall, sr., defense; Matt Moore, sr., defense; Brady Bomal, jr., defense; Nate Brown, jr., defense; CJ Pacifico, sr., forward; Matt Curran, sr., forward; Dylan Breen, sr., forward; Evan Twombly, jr., forward; Ryan Durgin, sr., forward; Sean Milanette, jr., forward; Ryan McCarthy, soph., forward; Matt Cielakie, jr., forward.

Promising Newcomers: CJ Guglielmo, soph., goalie; Brad Walk, jr., goalie; Aidan Timlin, sr., forward.

Head Coach Bob Carpenter (24 th year, 44 th overall): “We return a solid nucleus at both forward and defense from last year. Our captains and seniors have done a great job setting a good example and building off of last years state qualifying team. Like always our league will be tough but we expect to be a competitive team.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Groton-Dunstable: Brendan Ferrari, sr., forward; Nate Glencross, jr., forward; Littleton/Bromfield: Maddux Lizotte, soph., for/defense; Ben Canfield, sr., goalie; Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley: Nick Granger, sr., goalie; Westford Academy: Jason Bunyon, sr., defense; Kyle Wizst, sr., forward.