Ice hockey: Milford Indians open season Saturday

You can't erase an entire high school hockey season from your memory, but, if you could, Milford Co-op coach Sal Follo would like to delete 2015-16. To say it was close to a nightmare would be a gross understatement. The Indians managed only four wins and a tie in 20 games and missed qualifying for postseason play. That had happened only once in the last eight years for a Milford team.

The numbers were stark. Milford scored 53 goals (2.65 per contest) and gave up 127 (6.35).

"We were blown out in six games," said Follo, who will start his 23rd season at Milford when the Indians open with Norwich Free Academy/St. Bernard at the Milford Ice Pavilion on Saturday at 1 p.m.

"There's only one way to go for us, and that's up,” Follo said. “It was tough getting through last year, but we did it. We had way too many breakdowns in the defensive zone. You can't give up as many shots as we did and expect to win."

Milford graduated Brandon Argyros, Nash Ericson, Luke Gibbs, Tom Cicarelli, Tommy Sampson and Jacob Comeau.

“It was a nice group who contributed as sophomores when our team reached the semifinals before losing to Amity," Follo said. "They'll be missed."

Ironically, this year's team will also have six seniors on it, led by last year's leading scorer Andrew Gobany (Platt Tech) who scored 15 goals and added nine assists for 24 points.

Follo also has nine incoming freshmen and will have four goaltenders at his disposal.

"Having that many younger players will be a plus," Follo said. "They'll be pushing the older guys. The competition level will be high."

After two scrimmages (Glastonbury, Greenwich), a pair of sophomores, Luke Alfano (Foran) and Doug Tancredi (Jonathan Law) are battling it out to see who'll get the start in goal on Saturday.

Alfano got the most starts, 16, as a freshman. He had a 5.50 goals-against average while making 323 saves (20 per game). The other three, including freshman A.J. Bolduc (Platt Tech) and junior Eddie Watt (Platt Tech), could all see varsity action.

"We'll let them battle it out," Follo said. "So far, I like what I see."

Follo hasn't solidified his lines yet, but he already has two defensive pairs set to go.

He'll team senior assistant captain Doug McLenithan (Foran) with junior Jake Burwell (Foran). His second match-up will be senior Tyler Tanych (Foran) with Nate Ross, a transfer from Notre Dame-West Haven who sat out last season. Ross is a senior who attends Foran.

Other players who are likely to start on one of three lines include senior Jimmy Cronin (Foran), senior Ryan Fortier (Foran), junior Jordan McLenithan (Foran) and sophomore Jacob Rooney (Law).

Follo takes a 210-235-9 record at Milford into this season. Overall he's 244-235-9 in 26 years of coaching. Vin Corso returns as an assistant for his ninth season. Tom Muir and Bob Fortier are new additions to the staff.

"We're cautiously optimistic," Follo said. "Right now, the primary goal is to qualify for the state tournament (in Division II). And, as you know, every game in our division is a battle. There are ten teams in the SCC (Southern Connecticut Conference) who play division two hockey and it looks like everyone is going to be good. We have to battle teams like Cheshire, North Branford (a finalist the past two years), Amity, Branford and East Haven on a regular basis."

Outside the conference, Milford will meet Trumbull, Watertown-Pomperaug, New Milford and New Fairfield/Immaculate, which moved up from Division III to Division II.