After a few down seasons in Division I, the Cranston West boys hockey team will now be competing in Division II, and hope to take the new conference by storm and immediately jump into title contention this upcoming winter season.
The Falcons look forward to facing some new competition, and embrace being the new kid on the block.
“I’m optimistic. The kids that are coming back, the juniors and seniors, they have played a lot of hockey. They have played a high level of hockey so we should be able compete in this league and be pretty successful,” said West coach Matt Brannon. “The kids are excited about it, (the move to Division II) gives them a shot to compete for a state championship so we’re excited … it’s like a breath of fresh air. The kids want to come to the rink and work, it’s a different energy this year.”
Although the Falcons will be moving down a level in competition, there will still be the challenge of getting familiar with their new opponents in Division II.
“It’s going to take time to get familiar with some of these teams. We see them at the rink but we haven’t really studied them too in depth. It’s going to take some time to get used to these teams and the new competition, but you know that you’re going to get everyone’s best shot being the top dog that moved down a division … these teams will want to play their best games against us,” said Brannon.
The Falcons return a large portion of their core from last season, including a whopping 12 juniors. Brannon feels that West will have a well-balanced lineup heading into the year.
“Senior Jaycob Hargreaves was our leading scorer last year, juniors Josh Zambarano and Cam Koretski will have a chance to really excel at this level, and defensemen Dylan Demers and Jack Drohen will be very key for us … those are the guys that we are going to really rely on to keep us going this season,” said Brannon, who also looks forward to seeing the seniors compete for a title in their final season. “Playing in the top division, you’re behind the 8-ball every game. I give my kids a lot of credit, they’ve worked really hard and have given me every ounce of energy that they’ve had. I’m excited for this senior class because they have experienced a lot of losing, so it’s going to be nice for them to be rewarded throughout the week.”
Overall, Brannon and company feel that the biggest key to success this season will be defense. The Falcons are deep on offense, and will look for the defensive unit and goaltending to emerge.
“We’re not going to change our style much from last year. We’re used to playing fast against the top teams so our speed will be key. In back, we lost a two-time all-state goalie, we have a senior and a sophomore competing for time so we’re going to have to get them comfortable stopping pucks,” said Brannon. “We have a lot of experience up front and we feel that we can take advantage of some teams with our speed, it’s just going to be a matter of getting consistent play from our defense.”