Puck drops on J/NP’s season

Puck drops on J/NP’s season

North Providence senior Brandon Tanguay, who is one of the top players returning to this season’s Johnston/NP co-op hockey team, was second in Division III in goals scored (31) and fifth in points (47) last winter. Johnston/NP, which topped the West Warwick/Exeter-West Greenwich co-op team in its season opener last Saturday night, will face Mount Hope and the Scituate/Woonsocket co-op team on the road this weekend. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Co-op hockey team welcomes big cast of returnees, four promising freshmen to Div. III campaign

NORTH SMITHFIELD – When it came to high-scoring high school hockey games last season, not many teams skated in as many as the Johnston/North Providence co-op team did.

Fifteen of Johnston/NP’s 18 games saw eight or more goals flash on the scoreboard, and while the locals lit the lamp often and averaged more than four goals a game, they were unable to match that performance defensively.

As a result, Johnston/NP ended its Division III campaign with a 4-13-1 record that was the co-op squad’s first losing record in its six seasons as a D-III team.

But this winter, Johnston/NP has its sights set on a top-four finish in the division and a return to the playoffs. Not only are 11 players returning from last year’s team, but two Johnston seniors who should help the defense are also back after taking last winter off, and four freshmen are expected to play key roles as well.

“We have 11 forwards, six defensemen, and three goalies,” reported co-head coach David Centracchio, who is again sharing the bench with co-head coach Steve Morrison and assistant coach Manny DaCosta. “And that’s the good thing this year. We actually have options to move people in and out, depending on how they’re playing.”

And three weeks since taking the ice for the first time in their preseason workouts, Johnston/NP looks promising. The squad kicked off its season last Saturday night by hosting the West Warwick/Exeter-West Greenwich co-op squad at the Rhode Island Sports Center on Route 146, and thanks to four goals and two assists by NP senior center Brandon Tanguay and two goals from NP sophomore Christian Campbell, Johnston/NP picked up a wild 8-6 victory.

Big contributions are again expected from Tanguay, who returned to the All-Division team after an excellent junior season that saw him finish second in the league in goals scored (31) and fifth in points (47). Tanguay’s four goals last weekend give him 66 for his career.

Campbell, who had 12 goals and 10 assists during his rookie season, joins Tanguay on the first line, which last weekend also saw Johnston freshman Zach Bernier join them and contribute an assist.

“We ended up grabbing four freshmen that are going to have an impact this year,” said Centracchio. “Bernier is a really good skater. He just has to learn the high school game, but he’ll adjust.”

Last weekend’s second line saw Johnston senior Mike Flori center JHS sophomore Ryan DiLorenzo and NP freshman Jeremy Gervais, who tallied his first varsity goal last weekend. NP senior Nathan Nye, who was unable to play last week, is also expected to be on the second line, and Gervais also promises to see playing time on the top line.

On the third line is NP senior Theron Papineau as the center, Johnston senior Sean Anderson, junior Gianna Gollotto, and sophomore Thomas Jones, and Centracchio and Morrison plan to rotate the four forwards.

All eyes will certainly be on Johnston/NP’s defense, and according to Centracchio, team defense will certainly be a key for his squad’s success.

“I’m looking for the forwards to help out, and I think having six defensemen and knowing that they’re competing for a job is also going to help,” said Centracchio. “Certainly having two senior goalies is a big plus.”

Those two senior goalies are last year’s starter, NP’s Jacob Frezza, and the starter from the previous two seasons, Johnston’s David Kelly, who was the MVP of the finals during Johnston/NP’s run to the D-III title three years ago, but elected to play junior hockey last winter. (Tanguay, Nye, Gibau, and Blais were also members of the 2014-15 championship team.)

“That also gives us options,” said Centracchio, whose number three goalie is NP sophomore Sean Tikiryan. “I think it’s going to make both of them certainly compete for the job, and I think they’re both going to benefit.”

On the blue line, Johnston junior Zach Morin is the top defenseman back, and he will be paired with JHS senior Justin Blais, who returns to the team after a year’s absence. NP senior Amara Gibau and freshman Aidan Dorgan are also featured among the top four defensemen, and a third set of defensemen who will see time are Johnston sophomore Ana Tonucci and freshman Bailey Morin.

Johnston/NP will play West Warwick/Exeter-West Greenwich, Narragansett/Chariho, and defending D-III champion Mount Hope four times during the season, as well as Pilgrim and Scituate/Woonsocket on three occasions. On Saturday at 7:15 p.m., Johnston/NP will take on the Woonsocket/Scituate co-op team at Woonsocket’s Adelard Arena.

“I think Pilgrim and Mount Hope, who were the two finalists last season, will be the teams to beat again,” said Centracchio. “But this year, I think we’ll definitely be competitive with each team.”

Senior goalie David Kelly is back with the Johnston/North Providence hockey team after a season’s absence.