Graduation was selective when it came to coach Chad Totman’s Cortland-Homer hockey squad, which opens the season Friday and Saturday in the Capital district with two games in the Shaker-Colonie Thanksgiving Tournament.
While only three on the 19 players on the Golden Eagles roster last season — when the team went 4-8-1 for fourth place in the Section 3 Division II American Division and finished 8-12-1 overall — left the high school ranks in June, they were the team’s top three scorers. Team MVP Clayton Larson, who was an all-league honorable mention forward, led the way with six goals and 10 assists for 16 points. Fellow forwards Josh Button, a second-team all-league selection, and honorable mention Nick Johnson both had 14 points on eight goals and six assists.
In addition, junior forward Trevor Andrews (5-4-9) is not playing for the Golden Eagles this season.
All told, the quartet accounted for 27 of the 46 goals Cortland-Homer scored last season and 53 of the squad’s 108 total points. Another junior forward, Zane Grihin, the team’s co-Coaches’ Award winner last season, also did not return.
Junior defenseman-forward Jonathon Frederick, the Golden Eagles’ co-Coaches’ Award winner last season, is the top returning point-getter after scoring five goals and assisting on eight more for 13 points a year ago. Classmate Jackson Brazo, a forward and last year’s co-Most Improved Player, was next with 12 points on four goals and eight assists.
Both goalies return this season. Sophomore Brandon Ludwig made 503 saves and had a goals-against average of 3.32 in 19 appearances while junior P.J. Shager made nine saves with a goals-against average of 3.86 while seeing time in three games.
Other returnees for Cortland-Homer are senior defensemen Jared Berry (2-6-8) and Ben Gravel (1-1-2), senior forward Matt Pelowski (1-0-1), junior forwards Mike Turck (3-5-8) and Louis Nardis, junior defensemen Cooper Swartwout (team Most Improved Player, 1-3-4), sophomore forwards Jake Prunier (1-2-3) and Trevor Jubran (0-2-2) and sophomore defensemen Josh Cargen (1-2-3), Drew Bilodeau and Michael Jewett, who is back after a year away from hockey.
Berry and Gravel are the captains.
The team’s newcomers are freshman forwards Dante Patriarco, Nate Evans, Dominic Tutino, Adam Jubran (Trevor’s brother) and Nick Djafari and freshman defenseman Nick Gravel (Ben’s brother).
“Our new players have really impressed me this year with how well they can handle the puck and understand the game,” Totman said.
To open the season — Totman noted that things will change when some players get healthy — Gravel, Turck and Prunier will be on the first line, Pelowski, Brazo and Cargen the second line and Jubran, Patriarco and Evans the third line, with Tutino and Djafari the alternates. Totman also noted that Nardis, Jubran and Patriarco are working back into form from various issues.
The defensive pairings set by Totman are Berry with either Gravel or Jewett and Swartwout with Frederick, with Bilodeau set to step in as needed.
“We need to remain positive when times get tough and play more physical, taking away time and space,” Totman said. “Our goals are for players to give full effort, be coachable with no excuses and sacrifice for the team. We want to to take 35 shots a game, not give up any goals in the first or last minutes of any period, play in at least 22 games (the second round of sectionals) and improve on our record again this year.”
The Golden Eagles are once again in the Division II American this season, along with defending sectional champion and state Division II runner-up Skaneateles, CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt, Clinton and Oswego. “The top team on our side will likely be Skaneateles, with the rest of us battling it out for the remaining playoff spots,” Totman said. “I can see our team getting to second place.”
Paul Quinlan returns as an assistant coach, joined in that capacity this season by Howie Thomas. “We added Howie to our coaching staff this year,” Totman said. “He comes with a ton of experience and knowledge. I have a lot of respect for him, as he was my one of my coaches in youth hockey and high school hockey. He is great at giving kids those fine details in skills.”
Nov. 25 – *vs. Shaker-Colonie (S-C Thanksgiving Tournament), 11:00; 26- *vs. Bethlehem (S-C Thanksgiving Tournament), 7:30; 29- at Oswego, 7.
Dec. 3 – *at Watertown IHC, :30; 6- at Clinton, 7:30; 13- CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt, 7; 16- SKANEATELES, 7; 20- at Cazenovia, 7; 29- ONTARIO BAY (GOLDEN EAGLES HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT), 5; 30- *CAZENOVIA OR RYE TOWN/HARRISON (GOLDEN EAGLES HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT), 11:30 or 1:45.
Jan. 3 – *ROME FREE ACADEMY, 7; 6- WHITESBORO, 7; 11- at New Hartford, 7:30; 14- *at Mohawk Valley, 1; 17- at Auburn, 6; 20- OSWEGO, 7; 24- *at Ithaca, 7:30; 27- CLINTON, 7.
Feb. 2 – at CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt, 7; 7- at Skaneateles, 7.
An asterisk (*) indicates non-league games. Home games at McDonald Sports Complex