By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Rockets ready to take flight
Like most years, the Needham High boys varsity hockey team enters the 2016-2017 season with some high expectations and goals to meet in the Bay State Conference.
Leading the Rockets this season will be a tandem of senior captains in forward Seth Jacobs, forward Joey Bruno, and defenseman Ricky Tamkin.
“All three of our captains have been in the program for three years,” said Needham head coach Mike Hoban. “They are all very familiar with the system and know what is expected of them on and off the ice. We’re confident that Seth, Joey, and Ricky will do a great job demonstrating leadership and providing production in all three areas of the ice.”
Two other forwards that Hoban expects to see solid all-around production from in 2016-2017 are sophomore Tom Chmielewski and senior Kyle Brady.
“Tom is young and provides us with a bright future. We’re excited to see what he brings to our offense this season,” said Hoban. “Kyle is entering his second varsity season with us and he was definitely one of our most improved players last season and he became a big part of offense down the stretch. He’s also coming off a heck of a soccer season (scored game-winning overtime goal vs. Wellesley in playoffs), so he’s definitely ready to put his legs to use again for us.”
Supporting Ricky Tamkin on the Rockets defensive core in 2016-2017 will be sophomore Trent Kamke, senior Joey Conry, and juniors Tyler and Dan McEvoy.
In net, the Rockets will turn to a pair of goaltenders in Ben Higgins and Dylan Jones to serve as the last line of defense.
“Ben served mainly as our backup last season and did a great job when his name was called upon and Dylan excelled with the JV team,” said Hoban. “Both guys are definitely hungry to earn the starting job and it is going to be good competition throughout the next few weeks of practice.”
Colman, Doherty lead Seb’s into battle
St. Sebastian’s has for long been a powerhouse hockey program in the state of Massachusetts. In recent years, Seb’s has pumped out premiere collegiate and NHL talent such as Brian Boyle (Tampa Bay Lightning), Noah Hanifin (Carolina Hurricanes), and Danny O’Regan (San Jose Sharks).
In 2016-2017, head coach Sean McCann will turn to a new group of senior leaders to guide the Arrows towards another successful season in the ISL.
With the departure of 2015-2016 30-point getter, RJ Murphy, to the USHL, Seb’s forward corps will be led by senior captains Jack Doherty (Needham) and Brendan Goostray (Wellesley).
“We’re going to be very young up front with five of our 12 forwards being freshmen,” said McCann. “Jack and Brendan are experienced players with good knowledge of the game of hockey, so I’m expecting some of their experience and knowledge of the game to spread amongst the group as the season goes on.”
The Arrows’ defensive unit will be lead by senior captain Eric Jeremiah (Hanover) and junior Blake Colman (Needham).
“Eric is a solid leader and two-way player that will provide stability in both areas of the ice,” said McCann. “I’m excited to see what Colman can bring to the table as well. He’s a very strong kid who plays a solid stay at home defensive style and provides offensive upside, he can be a kid we rely on pretty heavily to take care of the back end.”
Alex Vasonte will man the pipes for Seb’s in 2016-2017, and coach McCann says he is confident in his senior goaltender after Vasonte’s solid campaign as a junior in 2015-2016.
“We’re obviously looking for Alex to provide stability and hoping that he can take a step up and steal a few games for us and solidify that back end like he did a season ago,” said McCann. “He played really well last year; [we] need him to be a rock back there again for us.”
As far as expectations go, McCann says that the 2016-2017 Arrows are just focused on taking it one game at a time.
“I expect us to do well. We have several guys that I believe are going to go on and succeed at the Division One level,” said McCann. “The idea is to take care of how we play in our league and take it one game at a time. The better you do in your league, the better opportunity you have to succeed, and we play in a really tough division (Keller Division) with some very talented teams (Nobles, Belmont Hill, Lawrence Academy), so it’s definitely going to be a challenge.”