EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School hockey team is back in action for what looks to be a challenging, but good year for the Townies.
Last season, East Providence went 13-3-0 in the regular season and cruised to the Division III title with a 2-1win over Mt. Hope in the championship series. The Townies finished with a 17-4 overall record.
The road to another possible title won’t be an easy one for the locals. There are some key losses to the East Providence line-up that need to be filled, including departed captain and leading scorer Ryan Barry who had a team-best 47 points a year ago.
The Townies are also without top defensemen Matt Hall and Keith Marquis who were both keys to the championship team last season. E.P. also lost depth in goal with the graduation of Shawn Medeiros.
This time around, East Providence will be a very young team with 17 freshman and sophomores in the lineup and only two juniors and two seniors.
Head coach Kevin Croke, assistant Mike Forrest and volunteer coach Ian Ridlon are back for their second year guiding the program. Even with the young team, Coach Croke feels that his team will still be good and that his seniors will have to lead the way for the teams success.
“I think we have a good team and I think we have more depth overall than we did last year. We were a team of character last year. Can we repeat that? That is going to be the pressing question. Troy Derrick and Kevin Hall are going to have to take the team on their shoulders and guide us down that road. And there is going to be a lot of pressure on them for us to be successful,” said Coach Croke.
Coach Croke still feels that his team is going to be fine if the offense can come together and gel, but says that last year’s team and this year’s edition are their own. He does think this group can be playing long into the postseason in March.
“Every year is unique. There is no replacing a player like Ryan Barry, the leadership of a Keith Marquis, the skill set of a Paul Lukas and the gritty determination of Matt Hall. This is a new team and it going to be it’s own team. Last year is last year and this year is this year,” Coach Croke explained.
Coming off a 4-2 win over the promoted Johnston-North Providence co-op, the Townies offensive lines and defensive pairings look set.
Senior captain Troy Derrick will be centering the first line with junior Josh Letendre to his left and sophomore Jared Estrella to his right. Sophomore Ryan Costa will center the second line with freshman Brynne Costa playing right wing and senior captain Kevin Hall playing on the left side. Sophomores round out the third line with Ryan Galvao at center and Sean Feeney to his left. The other winger on the line is to be determined.
“This is this team’s championship to win. Offensively if they can gel that’s going to be a big thing and I think we’ll be OK,” Coach Croke said. “I think Kevin’s line and Troy’s line are going to be the two deepest in the league. I think any other school will be challenged to have two lines with the talent that they have. I think we’ll be OK and I think we will play in March again and just see how far we get.
“Kevin had 36 points last year and Troy had 29 and they were not together, so they are going to have to lead their lines this year and I’m hoping for some comparable production let’s say both of their lines produce 40 goals each which is not out of the question. Hopefully our third line can contribute. I’ve talked to them, their going to be more out their to give our top two lines a rest and to give us some defensive shifts and I’m hoping they can score between 10 and 15 goals.”
On defense, sophomore captain Kyle Marquis will play alongside classmate Andrew Gordon on the first pairing. The second pairing will be sophomore Tyler Maxwell and freshman Austin Hartley. They’ll front one of the best young keepers in the league, sophomore Marc LaValley, who back-stopped the Townies’ run to the title last winter. Newcomer Mike Allienello is the back-up keeper.
“I kind of focus more on the offensive zone that’s why I rely so much on coach Forrest. But I certainly think that we have three great defensemen back there in Marquis, Maxwell and Hartley,” said Coach Croke. “The hot keeper will be in net. Whoever is hot on that particular day is going to be the starting goaltender. LaValley was one of the best in the league last year, and I expect him to be one of the best this year. Mike is going to give us great depth back there and we’re going to get him as much playing time as we can. But it is Marc’s net to defend at this point.”
The Townies begin their quest to repeat as league champs when they open their D-III regular season schedule Friday night, Dec. 7, against West Warwick/Exeter-West Greenwich at 9:30 p.m. at the West Warwick Civic Center. E.P. remains on the road the following evening, Dec. 8, against Cranston East at 7:40 p.m. at the Cranston Veterans Memorial Ice Rink.