Just how good this year’s Falmouth High School boys’ ice hockey team is will probably never truly be known. The Clippers—on paper—have one of their best collections of talent in some time. Buoyed by a strong run through the postseason last year, which resulted in a loss in the Division 1 south semifinals, coach Paul Moore’s team had its sights set high for this year.
Could they have finished in the top 20 in the state? Undoubtedly. Could they have won the south? It was very possible. Could they have gone to the Garden? Yes, they could have. FHS would have been one of the favorites to make a run at it.
Instead they’ll have to settle for trying to make a run at the Cape and Islands League title. Along with rival Barnstable, they’re the favorites to win that crown. Sandwich High looks like it might be a little frisky and could crash that party. At least we will get to see how that plays out.
Coach Moore said that it will be tough to make up for the loss of 100-point scorer Nick Champani and blue line big shot Jake McKenzie, along with several other seniors. Still, the Clippers are loaded with talent up and down the lineup and should be very good.
Leading the way is senior co-captain Stone Devlin, who should lead the team offensively. A four-year varsity player, Devlin broke into the lineup as a freshman and was a spark plug on the third line. Now he’s pretty much going to be depended upon to drive the bus for the Clippers as he makes his own bid to join the 100-point club.
It won’t be easy for the team’s first line center to get there. During a normal year he would probably do it without issue after posting 29 points as a sophomore and 35 last year. He enters this season with 69 career points and will need 31 to get to the magic number. With a 12-game regular season and potentially two postseason tournament games, he would have to average over two points per outing to reach the mark.
“This is a rotten shame for these kids that they don’t get the full season. No tournament, it’s tough,” coach Moore said. “We’re just hoping to make the best of a bad situation and go play some hockey and have some fun.”
Likely joining Devlin up front on the first line will be wingers Daren McDonald and Kevin Coyne. McDonald (9 goals, 14 assists last year) and Kevin Coyne (3 goals, 2 assists). The juniors both are entering their third season with the varsity and are looking to make the leap to the next level. McDonald showed a knack for getting up the wing with speed last year and scored some big goals for the team. Coyne is one of the smartest players on the squad and can make plays.
Senior Harry Hennessy will center the second line for Falmouth. A playmaker, Hennessy came on during the second half of the season last year and began to get comfortable with his role. He finished with four goals and six assists. The hard-nosed Aaron Schlezinger will ride one wing, and Bud Driscoll opens the season on the other. Schlezinger and Driscoll weren’t big offensive producers a season ago as sophomores, but both should see improved numbers with greater playing time. Schlezinger is a “pitbull” on the ice and creates havoc and opportunity while Driscoll has been the nicest surprise for the coaching staff during camp. “That kid was on a mission and he’s come back a different player,” Moore said.
Another great surprise has been the arrival of freshman Charlie Bardelis. Freshmen only make the varsity under Moore if they will be on the ice a lot, and Bardelis should. “He cracked our top nine forwards and he belongs there,” Moore said. “He’s a goal-scorer and he has a head for the game.”
Juniors Cole Johnsen and Cole Spellman are currently the wingers on the third line.
Senior Max McDonald was out sick to start the season, but will settle on one of the top lines by opening night. One of the co-captains, McDonald found the back of the net six times last year and had 12 assists. He brings physicality and speed to the lineup.
Junior James Walden will center the fourth line to start the year. A heady player, Walden should see opportunities to get on the ice throughout the season. Junior Evan Hooper and freshman Gabe Meehan will ride the wings on the fourth for FHS.
On defense, the duo of juniors Tommy Peterson and Kyle Souza lead the way. Most of the time the top two blue liners will be separated in order to balance things out, but each will see a whole lot of ice time. Peterson (1 goal, 9 assists) is in his third year with the varsity and is a good decision-maker and distributor of the puck. One of the power play quarterbacks, he is just now coming into his own and should be a big player for the next two years.
All of the things that describe Peterson can be used to describe Souza as well. The third-year varsity contributor started pulling the trigger on perimeter shots more often during the second half of the season a year ago and the offense benefited. He finished with two goals and six assists, and was strong on the back end.
“We’re going to lean on them,” Moore said about the top two D-men.
Sophomore Brady Turner played in about half of the team’s games last year after getting called up at the midpoint of the campaign. He brings a physical style and has a good hockey IQ. Connor Hennigan got into seven games as a freshman last year and will see more time in year number two. Sophomore Patrick Gonsalves transferred back home to FHS after a year at Upper Cape Tech, and showed flashes with a solid tryout to make the varsity team. Freshman Chris Shanahan is a strong skater who should be in one of the top pairings to start the season.
Rounding out the team for Falmouth is a great situation in goal, with two players who each want to be the number-one keeper, and have what it takes to be the number one. Sophomore Jack Braga took over the job as the top guy about two-thirds of the way through the season a year ago and that’s when the Clippers’ season turned for the better. Braga has a big frame and puts himself in position to make saves. Once he settled in last year, the team gained confidence as a whole and had fun playing in front of him.
Braga is going to be pushed by senior Gunnar Stevens, who transferred back to FHS after playing at St. John Paul II High School. Stevens was the top keeper for the Lions last year on a team that finished up 18-3-3.
“We have a really good competition in the net to see what rises to the top,” Moore said. “That kind of competition makes everyone better...we’ll see how it plays out.”
Sophomore Stephen Mello will serve as a backup keeper for the Clippers. Mello was the junior varsity starter for most of last season.
Falmouth opens the season with one of its toughest games of the year. On Wednesday, January 6, they’ll drop the puck against Barnstable High for the first of two regular season meetings. FHS went 2-0-1, with an overtime victory in the draw, last year against BHS.