High school hockey preview: Can Easthampton challenge for a Wright Division title in 2023-24?

Easthampton goalkeeper Paige Galpin deflects a shot from Greenfield last season at Lossone Rink in Easthampton.

Easthampton goalkeeper Paige Galpin deflects a shot from Greenfield last season at Lossone Rink in Easthampton. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By HANNAH BEVIS

Staff Writer

Published: 12-18-2023 4:15 PM

Modified: 12-18-2023 4:37 PM


When asked about his team’s goals for the 2023-24 high school hockey season, Easthampton head coach Tim Pfau didn’t hesitate for a second. He knew what his answer would be. 

“Wright Division champions,” he said. “I think it’s our year.” 

If there ever was a year for the Eagles to make a bid for the league title, this is the time for them to do it. They have a senior-heavy roster this season, featuring mainstays like goaltender Paige Galpin in net, a blue line led by senior Drew Thompson and juniors Caellum Hauge and Zach Phakos and a forward corp led by senior Zach Roy, who notched 42 points last season, along with 20-goal scorer Mike Thompson. Though top performers like Ethan Marowitz, Jack Belcher-Timme, Peter Sullivan and Owen Duda did graduate last year, this season’s squad is more than capable of filling their skates. 

Almost more important than the team’s skill is the experience they bring to the ice, and specifically their experience playing together and under Pfau’s guidance. Practices now are more about maintaining the muscle memory they already have, rather than having to teach players an entirely new system. 

“It's almost like it's not even coaching at this point. This senior class, I've had since they were sophomores, my first year…. They know what's going on,” Pfau said. “The systems are all the same that we play, practice runs smoothly, the power play is a little bit different this year to suit their playing styles more. It's putting them out there and they're all smart enough and creative enough to just play hockey. They know what they’re doing.” 

Pfau even threw out a “bold prediction,” saying he thought up to six players could crack the double-digit marker in goal-scoring. The Eagles have always been a high-scoring team – last year they were one of the top in the state with 108 goals. That should continue with a roster that includes top goal-scorers like Anthony Torchia, Robert Herman, Hunter Stockseth, Mikey Thompson, Drew Thompson and Roy. 

Easthampton knows it won’t be easy – the Eagles have some tough teams in the Wright Division they’ll have to battle to earn their way to the top. Their season is off to a good start, though – they skated to a pair of convincing wins over Wright foes Belchertown and Southwick, outscoring them by a combined 10-3, and Pfau likes his team’s odds against fellow conference opponent McCann Tech, as well as last year’s Wright champion Greenfield. The Green Wave especially could pose a tough challenge for the Eagles, but he believes that this team will be able to rise to it. 

“I still respect Greenfield a lot. I think it's gonna be two good games against them,” Pfau said, referring to matchups with the defending champion Green Wave on Jan. 3 and Feb. 17. “I think this year these kids can win the Wright Division. So that's our goal.” 

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It helps that the Eagles, made up of a co-op of Easthampton, Northampton, Hampshire and Smith Vocational students, have one of the largest programs in the area. There were 37 players signed up for hockey tryouts this year, enough to form three separate squads – a varsity roster and two junior varsity rosters. It’s a privilege to even be able to commit to hosting that many teams, and Easthampton knows that many teams are struggling just to fill out a varsity roster. Having the ability and the interest to create these ‘developmental’ squads primes the Eagles to be in a good spot for many years to come. 

“We're very fortunate,” Pfau said. “They're getting a great opportunity to develop. I think that's one of the best things about our program and our athletic department, is the administration fully supported two JV teams in the JV league. So these kids are getting more playing time than ever. We added practices for them. I think we have one of the best-run hockey programs in western Mass., as far as administratively what we do to elevate our players.” 

COACH: Tim Pfau

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Wright/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 12-7-1

ROSTER: SENIORS — Zach Bramucci, Paige Galpin, Gabe Growhowski, Zach Roy, Hunter Stockseth, Brennan Stortz, Drew Thompson, Mikey Thompson; JUNIORS – Jacob Ouimette, Rob Herman, Brett Baranowski, Caellum Hauge, Zach Phakos, Anthony Torchia; SOPHOMORE – Parker Christy; FRESHMEN – Jae’vian Lopez, Tommy Bixby

TIGERS LINK UP WITH PACERS

Last year’s South Hadley hockey team was a hard-working but tiny squad, featuring just over a dozen skaters when everyone was healthy, which wasn’t always the case. 

Because of those dwindling numbers, South Hadley joined up with Chicopee’s co-op this winter.

Eight South Hadley students are skating for the Pacers this year – Michael Beaulieu, Devin Carleton, Camren Carpenter, Tyler Denison, Caleb Lundgren, Mason Peters, Brayden Vincent and Chris Walczak.

CARDINALS FLYING HIGH

Once again, there’s a large contingent of players from Gazette area schools helping to lead the way on both the boys’ and girls’ hockey teams at Pope Francis. 

Thirteen players from local schools are competing for the Cardinals girls team, and eight of those 13 are returners from last season. Amherst’s Ivorie Arguin and Granby’s Grace Sands earned additional honors this year, serving as two of the team’s five captains. 

Other players skating for Pope Francis include Amherst’s Felix Goeckel (goalie), Hopkins Academy’s Madeline Labrie and Addie Wright, South Deerfield resident Camryn Rogowski, Northampton’s Maceo Walsh, along with Megan Ehm, a German exchange student attending Northampton, Granby’s Nadiya Champigny and Maylee Champigny, and Southampton native Giada Musa, Huntington native Brianna York and Holyoke native Keighley Gworek.

Belchertown’s Zachary Buffone (senior) and RJ Cormier (senior) are among the locals on the boys roster, as the team opened with a win (Notre Dame, West Haven) and a loss (Don Bosco, N.J.) over the weekend. The Cardinals are without the services of head coach Brian Foley this winter, as the veteran mentor was suspended for a year by the MIAA last week.

Amherst

COACH: Mike Rousseau

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Fay/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 13-5-3

ROSTER: SENIORS – Cooper Beckwith, Skylar Ferro, Liam Flynn, Josh Goodhind, Yuuki Ishida, Ethan Nompleggi, Evan Scott; JUNIORS –  Brach Applegate, Connor Arguin, Eric Chen, Jack Dyjach, Spencer McDonald, Stephen Rich, Connor Welch, Nate Ziomek; SOPHOMORES – Graham Arguin, Josh Feldman, Jason Kim, Alex Marlin, Ethan Mooney, Ben Remensnyder; FRESHMEN – Sawyer Ferro

OUTLOOK: In general, Amherst is set up for another strong showing this season. Last year’s team wasn’t very senior-heavy, and there’s a significant number of returners who are back with another year of experience. Most notably, the team’s two leading goal scorers, Jack Dyjach and Yuuki Ishida, are both back; Dyjach picked up a hat trick and added an assist in the team’s first game of the year. 

The ‘Canes will also led by senior captain Cooper Beckwith and senior assistant captain Ethan Nompleggi. Beckwith notched three points (1G, 2A) in the team’s first 6-2 win over Southwick. Seniors Liam Flynn and Skylar Ferro are also players to watch for the Hurricanes this season. 

The biggest hole that Amherst will have to fill is in net – senior goaltender Charlie May graduated after an impressive senior campaign. The team has two goalies on the roster, junior Spencer McDonald and sophomore Jason Kim; McDonald got the start in the team’s first game, making 18 saves on 20 shots. 

Belchertown

COACH: Jordan McCarthy, first year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Wright/4

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 11-8

ROSTER: SENIORS – Caleb Reardon, Caiden St. Laurent, Christopher Wood; JUNIORS – Charles Fijal, Owen Hess, Jack Mandeville; SOPHOMORES – Donald Rogers, Vincent Ting, Curtis Wojnas; FRESHMEN – Rulon Anderson, Gavin Harrington, William Mitus, Brodie St. Laurent; EIGHTH GRADERS – Grayden Kendall, Andrew Lambert, Leopold Liu

OUTLOOK: Eight seniors graduated from last year’s Orioles roster, and four of those seniors were double-digit goal scorers. That’s a lot of skates for Belchertown to fill, and it’s not going to be easy for this year’s team. 

Charles Fijal is likely going to be a big goal-scorer for Belchertown this season; last year he recorded 11 goals and 11 assists, and he’s going to be looked to again to lead his team’s offense. 

The good news for Belchertown is that the team returns both of its main goaltenders, Donald Rodgers and Curtis Wojnas. Last year those two split time in net, and having them both back as potential options for a starting netminder is reassuring for Belchertown.