December 11, 2012

Prep Journal: Spartans start The Year After strong

By Mike Zhe

Senior defenseman Joe Lace is a workhorse for Lawrence Academy. (Dave Arnold Photography)

When a championship team graduates 11 players that, collectively, formed the heart and soul of the squad, the natural progression is a step back the next season.

Chances are, we’ll probably see that from reigning New England elite tournament champion Lawrence Academy at some point. But tucked away in these opening few weeks of the season are some reasons why the step back might not be all that large.

The two biggest of those reasons? Defense and goaltending.

“Defensively and in goal,” said coach Kevin Potter, “I think we’re a good as we’ve ever been here.”

In seniors Joe Lace and Mike Russo, the Spartans’ defense is anchored by a pair of four-year guys who’ll log all kinds of minutes. Lace is headed to Division 3 Bowdoin next year.

“They’re on the ice all the time,” said Potter.

Lace and Russo lead a solid corps that includes junior Cam Knight, whose sophomore season was derailed by a broken collarbone; repeat junior Brendan Joyce, a transfer from Needham High School; and Brendan Flanagan, the “big guy” on the blueline at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds.

In goal, the arrival of Drew Michals, who cracked Central Scouting’s prelim rankings of draft-eligible players, kept the position a positive in the wake of Nathaniel Heilbron’s departure. Jon Stratton is also in the mix.

The flip side is that up front, only two forwards who saw significant time last year are back – Williams College-bound George Hunkele and his linemate, Tommy Newton. Newcomers Michael Snow, a transfer from Arlington Catholic, and Richie Cardello, who comes in from Cardigan Mountain, could provide a boost, too.

The Spartans (1-0-1) may lack the star power of a year ago, when forward Devin Tringale led them to their first New England title. But with one notable result in the books – Saturday’s 2-2 tie at Belmont Hill, one of the ISL’s projected top teams – they served early notice that they should not be dismissed in The Year After.

Game of the Week

Salisbury School vs. Kimball Union, Friday, 11 a.m.

The annual Flood-Marr tournament hosted by Nobles and Milton this weekend is a feast for hockey fans, and one of the main courses is served early.

Salisbury (4-1) brings back most of its defense from the team that entered last year’s postseason as New England’s top-ranked team. KUA and its four Division 1 commits – Nick Roberto (Maine), Casey Miller (UMass), Niko Rufo (Providence) and defenseman Doyle Somerby (Boston University) -- can score with the best of them.

New England Prep School Power Rankings

1. Belmont Hill (3-0-1)
2. Kimball Union (4-0)
3. Salisbury School (4-1)
4. Avon Old Farms (3-0-1)
5. Cushing Academy (3-1-1)

6. St. Sebastian’s (3-1)
7. St. Paul’s School (3-1)
8. The Gunnery (5-0)
9. Dexter School (3-0-2)
10. Choate (3-0-1)

11. Governor’s Academy (2-2-1)
12. Westminster (2-1)
13. Kent School (3-1)
14. Lawrence Academy (1-0-1)
15. Noble and Greenough (1-2-1)

16. Brooks School (3-0-1)
17. Rivers School (2-1-1)
18. Berkshire School (3-2)
19. Canterbury (3-0-1)
20. Hotchkiss (2-2)

Mike Zhe can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @MikeZhe603.