Warriors hope to improve and work their way back to being a contender
Published in the December 14, 2015 edition.
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
WAKEFIELD — It was just a few years ago that the Wakefield Memorial High boys’ hockey team was one of the best teams in the Middlesex League Freedom division. The Warriors were playing for Div. 1 North sectional championships and even made the state final one winter as they were regular participants in the postseason.
First year head coach Chris Gianatassio is seeking to get Wakefield back to where it should be as he takes over for John Pellerin who is gone after one season as head coach.
While getting back to being a perennial contender in Div. 1 North may be a lofty goal at the moment, the Warriors would like to at least reach the state tournament and improve upon their 2-14-4 overall record and 2-12-2 record in the M.L. Freedom division.
“Things have been going well. The senior leadership on the team has been great. The seniors are the heart and soul of this team,” said Gianatassio. “The boys have been working hard to embrace my philosophy.”
The Warriors have scrimmaged Cambridge, Andover and Gloucester. They beat Cambridge 8-2, were blanked by Andover, 3-0, and edged by Gloucester by a 4-3 score. Wakefield scrimmaged Triton Regional over the weekend as well in its final tune up.
“We scheduled four scrimmages to get the bumps out of our system before our opener against Lexington,” said Gianatassio.
The Warriors have four senior captains and they are Dylan Melanson, Anthony Funicella, Ben Yandell and Steve Marino.
Melanson is a defenseman, while Funicella and Marino are both forwards. Yandell was the starting goalie a year ago before a shoulder injury ended his season. He returns to play in goal once again.
Wakefield has 25 players on its roster which will mean some depth on the bench. There may be several who play on the varsity and JV depending on the schedule and the need for more playing time for several underclassmen.
Returning seniors on defense include Logan Dunn and Steven Melanson. They will be joined by juniors Ben Coccoluto, Mike Ruane and Ty Collins. Sophomore Ryan Chambers and freshmen Jake Regan and Mike Lucey round out the blue line corps which is nine deep.
There are 11 more forwards on the team in addition to Funicella and Marino. The other seniors are Zack Kane and Alex Darcy.
There are big group of junior forwards including David Melanson, Justin Sullivan, Pat Leary, Sean McNall, PJ Iannuzzi and Braeden Langlois.
Sophomore Pat Roche and freshmen Tom Harrington and Dan Guarino will also play up front at forward.
Yandell returns to play goal. He will be joined by junior Nick Porter and sophomore Tyler Puglsey. Porter is a returning transfer returning from Malden Catholic while Pugsley took over in net a year ago as a freshman when Yandell was lost to injury.
“We play in the best public hockey league in the state,” said Gianatassio. “There are numerous teams that will be considered for the Super Eight. The Middlesex League does very well in the Div. 1 North tournament as well. Every game is going to be a battle.”
Gianatassio believes that Reading and Woburn will be among the stronger teams in the Middlesex League Liberty division, although Arlington and Winchester are typically very good, too. In the M.L. Freedom division, Burlington and Wilmington have won state titles in recent years. Melrose has become much stronger over the past couple of years and Watertown won the Div. 3 state title last winter.
“Every game is tough is this league, and if you make the state tournament, you are ready because of the schedule,” said Gianatassio. “The team is eager to get going. I couldn’t be happier with the way they have worked so far. Now we need to execute in games.”
Wakefield opens up the season on Wednesday night at 5 p.m. when it takes on Lexington on the road at The Edge Sports Center in Bedford.