Warriors earned more wins, were more competitive in ’15-’16
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
WAKEFIELD — A change did the Warrior boys’ hockey team some good this winter with a new head coach and a new system in place. While Wakefield did show improvement in 2015-16, there is room for the team to get even better next season.
Wakefield posted a 4-13-3 overall record and while that was two more wins than the previous year, the Warriors did come up short of their ultimate goal which was to make the state tournament.
While Wakefield didn’t realize its dream of making the postseason, there were some thrilling moments and the Warriors were much more competitive against their Middlesex League brethren than they have been in recent years.
“We definitely improved. Coming in the coaching staff wanted to change the culture,” said Head Coach Chris Gianatassio, who just wrapped up his first season. “As far as wins and losses, changing the overall culture would help take care of that. We wanted the players to have a sense of pride and a strong work ethic. We did a complete 180 degree turnaround.
“We took a couple of steps in the right direction. We went 4-13-3 and that was the most wins the program’s had in three years. We also had the most points in three years and the most goals scored in three years,” continued Gianatassio. “There is always room for improvement. In our 13 losses, I think we pulled the goalie in nine of them. We really didn’t get blown out. We were very competitive.”
Wakefield posted a 1-13-2 record in the Middlesex League Freedom division with the lone league victory coming in the season opener against Lexington. Wakefield also played Stoneham and Melrose to a pair of 3-3 ties.
Three of Wakefield’s wins came against non-league competition as it defeated Saugus (4-0), Somerville (4-1) and Lowell (8-4). The Warriors also tied Danvers, 3-3.
There were several one-sided games that the Warriors were involved in. They lost to Reading (6-0), Arlington (7-0), Stoneham (6-1), Burlington (7-0) and Wilmington (5-1). Wakefield also played Stoneham, Burlington and Wilmington tough as well. The Warriors also did better against their Freedom division rivals in the first meetings and at home as well.
It should also be pointed out that Wakefield plays in one of the best leagues in the state for public schools. There were also three teams selected for the Super Eight with Freedom division champion Burlington being a fifth seed. Reading and Arlington both lost their play-in games but both teams were also highly regarded by the Super Eight selection committee.
“Eight of the teams from our league qualified for the state tournament. Three were picked for the Super Eight,” said Gianatassio. “The league is very difficult when you are trying to rebuild and we are in the process of doing that. You are playing the best teams every night. The Middlesex League is the best public school league in the state.”
The Warriors had three games where they lost by goal and several where they lost by two or three goals but were in the contests until the very end. Wakefield trailed Burlington 2-1 before two goals in the final minute resulted in a 4-1 setback. Wakefield was also tied 1-1 with Wilmington after two periods but the Wildcats went on to prevail by a 4-2 score.
“We sometimes put ourselves in a hole early by letting in a couple of quick goals. We couldn’t make up for that,” said Gianatassio. “We had difficultly putting together three full periods. We would have two very good periods but we would have that one period with a couple of breakdowns and by taking a couple of penalties. In the games that we won, we played well for three full periods.
“To be a better team, we can’t have those breakdowns,” added Gianatassio. “This was the first year with a new staff. I think we laid a strong foundation to build on for next year.”
The seniors and the captains provided great leadership on and off the ice this past season said Gianatassio. The senior captains were Anthony Funicella, Dylan Melanson, Steve Marino and Ben Yandell. The rest of the seniors included Alex Darcy, Zach Kane and Steve Melanson.
Dylan Melanson (two goals and 10 assists for 12 points) was Wakefield’s lone Middlesex League Freedom division all-star. Melanson played on defense.
Funicella, a forward, was tied with junior forward David Melanson in points with 17. Funicella scored eight goals and assisted on nine goals.
Marino (7-4-11), Darcy (1-3-4), Kane (5-3-8) all played up front, while Steve Melanson (0-1-1) played on defense.
Yandell played in goal and played 21.8 periods with a 3.99 goals against average. He had a save percentage of .869.
“The seven seniors, four of them captains, faced adversity and they came together,” said Gianatassio. “Our ultimate goal was to reach the tournament. We didn’t reach that goal. We’ll miss the seniors but the underclass players have something to build on.”
The juniors on the team included forwards Braedan Langlois (5-2-7), Pat Leary (2-2-4), David Melanson, Sean McNall (2-2-4), PJ Iannuzzi (4-4-8) and Justin Sullivan (0-1-1), forward/defenseman Ben Coccoluto, defensemen Mike Ruane and Ty Collins, and goalie Nick Porter (7.2 periods played, 3.33 GAA, .893 save percentage.
The sophomores on the roster included forward Pat Roche, defensemen Ryan Chambers (1-1-2) and goalie Tyler Pugsley (27.2 periods played, 3.31 GAA, .885 save percentage).
The freshmen on the roster included forward Tom Harrington (2-9-11) and Dan Guarino and defensemen Mike Lucey (2-1-3) and Jake Regan.
“Tyler Pugsley was in goal for us in three of our wins this year,” said Gianatassio. “He will return his junior year. He’s had two years experience to grow and develop.
“David Melanson and Pat Leary are going to be next year’s captains,” continued Gianatassio. “David had 17 points with four goals and 13 assists. We are going to lean on him a lot next year.
“PJ Iannuzzi had eight points, Braedan Langlois had seven points, Sean McNall had four points and Ben Coccoluto, he was hurt most of the year, will be back with three years experience,” added Gianatassio. “Ty Collins returns on defense, Pat Leary had four points and Nick Porter played some time in goal.”
In addition to the juniors, the Warriors return two sophomores and four freshmen.
“Ryan Chambers and Pat Roche, he was hurt, are two sophomores that will be returning,” said Gianatassio. “We also have four freshmen. Tom Harrington scored 11 points as a freshman and he could be a top player in the league in the next year or two. We have three more freshmen, Jake Regan, Mike Lucey and Dan Guarino, who played.”
The assistant coaches included Mike Manfredi, Michael O’Brien and Rico Piatelli.
The Warriors will be seeking to reach the goal that has eluded them the past several years, a state tournament berth.
“We’ll miss the seniors but we’ll have some familiar faces back next year,” said Gianatassio. “We took a big step in the right direction. We need to take the next step in the process. We need to pay attention to the little details. We need to play hard every shift. We were in most of our games. We’re getting closer. Next year we hope to be there (in the tournament).”