Despite needing to wait more than a week to get his entire team on the ice, including starting goalie Andrew Leitch, St. Joseph’s hockey coach Tim Kelly has had a chance to see his team at full strength and likes what he sees.
"I think we have a good group, returning seniors, juniors and new sophomores that are a pretty good mix and pretty good talent," he said. "I think we’re looking pretty good right now."
The wait was due to the Mount Greylock football team’s run to a Western Massachusetts Division III Super Bowl. But with everyone on the ice, the Crusaders are starting to figure out their systems, specifically their breakouts, which they spent the majority of a practice on last week.
"There’s a lot of refinement left there," Kelly said. "It’s a little coarse, but we’ll get it to work."
While there will be new faces giving St. Joe’s a different look, the one constant has been Leitch between the pipes and he’ll be back there once again this year.
"He works hard. We try to work him hard at practice. Sometimes the practices aren’t favored in his area, but we can work on other things," Kelly said. "But for the most part, he likes being there and he likes stopping that puck. That’s for sure."
The first line of defense is made up of four defensemen: Juniors Cody O’Dowd and Lance McColgan, sophomore Brett Pecor (McCann Tech) and freshman Nick Lillie (MT). With four blueliners, there shouldn’t be any argument over ice time, and Kelly said he saw his defense already using quick shifts during the Jamboree.
O’Dowd is the seasoned defenseman on the back end for St. Joe’s.
"He plays a smart game, so the stats won’t look good," Kelly said. "Brett is right behind him. He’s picking up real nice."
McColgan played forward last year, but with a need for a fourth defender, he moved back to defense, a position he’s played plenty in the past. As for Lillie, Kelly said he’s a strong, good-sized kid with good skating skills.
As for the forwards, Andrew’s brother Eric and Luke Perry will lead the way. Both will be captains this year. Joining them on the top line will either be Derek Romejko or Andy Cella. Kelly said he’s been trying some different line combinations looking for the best chemistry.
Adding to the depth up front this year is a host of skaters. Greylock sophomore Dan Flynn, who saw key minutes with the boys’ soccer team in the fall, brings a good deal of speed, as does Mike Bloom. Bloom, who attended Drury last year, transferred to McCann, which took him away from the Wahconah hockey team and placed him on the St. Joe’s team.
Ed Laird, Samantha MacWhinnie, Mike Moreno and Spenser Tanner complete the 15-man roster.
"I think they have some good passing, skating skills," Kelly said of his forwards. "I think their speed, for freshman and sophomores, for the most part, there’s quite a bit of speed there. Of course the junior and seniors there, we have some pretty good speed."