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Greenfield hockey: Small team, big expectations?

If the Greenfield High School hockey team is going to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season, it is going to have to overcome a numbers issue.

The Green Wave lost six seniors from last year’s team, which went 14-4-2 during the regular season and finished third in the Fay Division. Greenfield also broke a three-year playoff drought when it picked up the fourth seed in the WMass Division IIIA tournament. The team’s stay in the playoffs was short-lived, however, when it dropped a 4-2 decision to fifth-seeded St. Mary High School in the quarterfinals.

Greenfield will open the 2012-13 season tonight when it travels to the Mullins Center practice rink at 8 for a game against Fay Division foe Belchertown High School.

There are plenty of pieces missing from last year’s team that was very capable of filling up the net. Eric “Punky” Cameron led the Green Wave in scoring but graduated last spring. He is not the only loss, as he takes with him classmates Cam Merrigan, Robbie Brook and Ethan Sprague, all of whom contributed offensively last season.

The Green Wave defense also took hits with the losses of Greg Richard and Dan Pereira.

That leaves Green Wave head coach Mike Duclos, who celebrates his 10th year with the program this season, with only 14 players on the varsity squad, which includes players from both Smith Academy and Mahar Regional School. But just because the numbers are not high doesn’t mean that Duclos does not believe his team can get back to the tournament.

“I honestly believe we are going to be alright,” he said about having small numbers. “We’re not going to be able to replace all the guys we lost but we have some kids that can put the puck in the net.”

Duclos said that he has two top lines that are both mostly made up of returnees and that playing in the Fay Division, that’s really all you need in order to compete. Junior Jake Elwell will center the top line after playing with Cameron last season and he gives the Wave a sturdy player to build around. Elwell can both set up other players and create his own shot. Senior Josh Brandl will look to replace some of the scoring lost by Cameron’s departure as he takes a wing spot on the top line, and classmate Dylan Dodge is another winger that will see an increase in ice time.

Senior Kyle Smith also returns this winter and will center the second line. Junior Jourdan York-Welcome will be a mainstay on one wing, while three eighth graders are currently battling it out for time on another wing. Tyler Townsley and Tyler Miner both are in the hunt for that final spot, while classmate Alex Malinkowski is also in the mix.

Senior Mike Duclos (the coach’s son) could be one of the best defensemen in the league both offensively and defensively. Junior Cam Woodward also returns and has looked strong in the preseason, giving the Green Wave a solid top defensive pairing. Freshman newcomer Clay Richardson will serve as the third defender on the team, while newcomer Teo Tarabucci is learning the position and rounds out the skaters.

One spot Duclos does not have to worry about for the foreseeable future is in between the pipes where sophomore Noah Foster-Marquis returns after serving as the Green Wave’s starter for the second half of last season. He will be backed up by freshman Jack Richardson (Clay’s twin brother). Duclos said that because his team lost so many scorers from last season and does have such few numbers, it will have to rely on strong play from the defense to win games.

“We’re not going to be able to get into shootouts,” he explained. “But we have a good set of defensemen, a strong goalie in Noah, and a lot of hard-working players. Our league is not all that strong, you have Agawam (High School) and then I think the rest of us should battle it out for some wins.”

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