With players lacing up their skates across the Commonwealth this week, let’s take a look at five storylines for the 2023-24 boys’ hockey season before opening night on Thursday, Dec. 7.
New faces behind the bench
Mark Leewas at the helm of the St. Mary’s of Lynn program for 37 years, racking up 497 wins, seventh-most in state history. With his retirement, Matt Smith, a Spartan assistant since 2015, takes charge. At Westford Academy, Chris Carpenter steps onto the top step on the bench with retirement of his father, Bob, who guided the Ghosts for 27 seasons.
With the MIAA introducing ‘competitive equity’ tool, the four divisions feature many movers and shakers. In Division 1 last season, there were 49 teams; for the next two seasons, there will be only 41.
Division 2 will shift from 42 teams to 40, despite the additions of Malden Catholic, Milton, North Andover, and others. Division 3 jumps from 44 programs to 50 and Division 4 goes from 52 squads to 55. Lowell, Marblehead, and Melrose are a few of the teams joining Division 3 and Medway, North Reading, and Wilmington represent examples shifting to Division 4.
Catholic Conference strong, once again
Five of the top nine seeds in the Division 1 bracket consisted of Catholic Conference teams. Many of those squads have reloaded and are poised to make noise, once again. Senior forwards Cam Umlah and Christian Rosa will pace St. John’s Prep and Connor Fryberger leads a formidable Catholic Memorial group. John Flaherty will be back on the bench at BC High after an extended leave last season. Mike Flaherty returns behind the bench for BC High after an extended absence last season.
Shakeup in the Middlesex League?
Reading, which enjoyed a fantastic run to the Division 1 semifinals last season, returns a strong core, anchored by senior netminder Chris Hanafin. Senior Cam Fahey teams up with TJ Michel and Matt Fichera to provide solid minutes. Winchester and Woburn could also make some as Belmont and Arlington look to reload, rather than rebuild, following the graduation of star players.
Garrett Reagan Summit signals the official return of hockey
The 15th Garrett Reagan Summit, scheduled for Sunday at the New England Sports Complex in Marlborough, will feature 70 boys’ and girls’ teams — serving as the unofficial ‘welcome back’ for hockey teams and fans. Action kicks off as Waltham and Billerica face off at 9:40 a.m. in the first of 35 scrimmages throughout the day.
Cam Kerry can be reached at email@example.com.