Published in the December 23, 2015 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The hockey team has returned to the ice and is eyeing a return to the state tournament for the first time since 2012.
The Pioneers concluded with the 2014-2015 season with a 7-9-5 record. Lynnfield has a strong nucleus back on the ice this winter along with a promising group of new additions, which has enabled the locals to begin the season with a 1-1 record.
“We have had an excellent mix of upperclassmen, underclassmen and freshmen this year,” said Pioneers head coach Jon Gardner. “We want to make the tournament and make some noise. We haven’t been in contention in the Cape Ann League since I have been here, and we are looking to be in contention for a league championship in February. We should have our best year yet if we can stay healthy.”
Two senior captains will lead the Pioneers this year. One is center Dan O’Leary.
“Dan was our leading scorer last year and we are expecting him to do more this year,” said Gardner. “He is going to be a big part of our offense.”
The Pioneers’ second senior captain is forward Rob LoConte.
“Rob was our second leading scorer last year and we are looking for him to be involved in all facets of the game,” said Gardner. “He was a big contributor last year and we are expecting him to do it again.”
In addition to O’Leary and LoConte, the Pioneers will also have three assistant captains this season, including defenseman Matt Miller.
“Matt has been on the varsity team the past four years,” said Gardner. “He should log the most minutes of anyone on the team.”
Assistant captain Derek Crampe will be playing left wing this season.
“Derek had a great year last year and is one of our smartest players,” said Gardner. “He doesn’t make many mistakes out on the ice and we expect that again.”
Assistant captain Greg Miles will be playing center this winter.
“Greg is a high energy guy who is physical and blocks a lot of shots,” said Gardner. “He is a great character guy for us.”
The Pioneers are also welcoming back senior winger Billy Cole, who missed last season with an injury.
“Billy has been excellent so far,” said Gardner.
The Pioneers also have high hopes for senior right wing Jack Ganter.
“Jack is without question our hardest working player,” said Gardner. “He never takes a shift off.”
The Pioneers are welcoming several promising new additions, including freshman defenseman Jagger Benson.
“Jagger has been an excellent addition to the team in all aspects of our game,” said Gardner. “He is basically running our power play and our power play looks good so far.”
Gardner said freshman forward George DeRoche has played well for the Pioneers.
“George is extremely intelligent on the ice,” said Gardner. “He has a high hockey IQ and is a skilled skater.”
Gardner said the Pioneers’ depth will be the locals’ biggest strength this season.
“We have a lot of depth at forward,” said Gardner. “I can roll out three lines and can feel confident about anyone out on the ice.”
While Gardner is pleased with the Pioneers’ start to the season, he said the locals need to keep working hard to improve each day.
“We need to improve our penalty kill,” said Gardner. “We gave up two power play goals against Newburyport. We need to generate more five-on-five offense.”
The Pioneers opened the 2015-2016 season with a 4-0 victory over Cambridge Rindge and Latin Dec. 12.
Sophomore Cooper Marengi scored the Pioneers’ first goal 9:11 into the first period, assisted by sophomore Tyler Murphy. The Pioneers had a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period.
Miller scored the locals’ second goal 6:27 into the second period, assisted by Benson and DeRoche.
Cole scored the locals’ third goal with 3:32 remaining in the third period, assisted by Miles. Miles scored the Pioneers’ fourth goal with 22 seconds remaining in the game. Cole and Ganter were credited with the assist.
Junior goalie David Langone recorded 12 saves in net for the Pioneers.
“It was a good start to the season,” said Gardner. “We are happy to finally start out the year 1-0.”
Clipped by Newburyport
The Pioneers fell 4-1 to Newburyport on Dec. 19.
Lynnfield took an early 1-0 lead after junior forward Johnny Percoskie found the back of the net 5:40 into the first period, assisted by Benson and LoConte. The Pioneers had a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period.
Newburyport scored its first goal eight minutes into the second period, tying the game at one. The Clippers scored its second goal 28 seconds later, which gave Newburyport a 2-1 at the end of the second period.
Gardner said the third period was a “dog fight,” where a total of eight penalties were called on both squads. The Clippers took a 3-1 lead with 9:55 remaining in the third period.
Newburyport scored its final goal after the Clippers went on the power play at the end of the game.
“It was a good game,” said Gardner. “We were pleased because it could have gone either team’s way.”
The Pioneers host Gloucester on Wednesday, Dec. 23, beginning at 8:15 p.m. Lynnfield travels to Saugus on Monday, Dec. 28, beginning at 12 p.m.