The Section V hockey coaches released their preseason poll earlier this week, with Fairport receiving the most votes, and the most top votes. Pittsford was a close second.
Many top players from the top teams a year ago have moved on, leaving voids for other players to come up and fill.
The season kicked off with a few games Tuesday with most teams starting the regular season this weekend.
As the season begins, here are five questions we have going into the 2015-2016 season:
What makes Fairport a contender?
Head coach Chris Moretter laid out the attributes he likes about the 2015-2016 Red Raiders, and the rest of the Section V coaches must see the same traits.
Fairport has experience — winning experience. The Red Raiders won the Class A title two years ago and lost to McQuaid in the finals last season. Moretter said even the players called up from JV have experience winning at that level.
However, the backbone of the Red Raiders is goaltender Ethan Kaiser, who posted a 1.14 GAA, .942 save percentage and five shutouts last season.
Kaiser won the job two years ago going into sectionals and has never given it back.
“We’ll certainly be relying on him as we go along,” Moretter said. “Knowing we have a solid backstop, the rest of the team rallies around that. They take great pride in team defense and they know if they make a mistake that Ethan is back there.”
Moretter added that the depth of this year’s team is something they haven’t had in years.
“All four lines have a lot of skill and can contribute in different areas,” he said.
What are some other teams to watch?
— Pittsford is always a team to watch and was voted a very close second to Fairport in the coaches poll. Head coach Steve Thering said experience at the forward position will be the strength of the Panthers.
“We were a very young team last year. By the end of our season, our starting line was all sophomores,” Thering said.
The forward position will be helped by adding Ryan Walpole and Trevar Hall, who have returned from their travel league teams.
— Webster Thomas was voted third in the coaches poll, and the top team in Class BB.
Like Fairport, the back end will be the strength of the team for Thomas, starting with goalie Dalton Jerzak. He had a 1.54 GAA with a .922 save percentage and four shutouts a year ago.
— Hilton has always been a team near the top but has never gotten over the hump to win a sectional title.
Hilton head coach Chris Monfiletto said with the help of many returning players from a year ago, this could be the year.
“We have built an attitude already in the first two weeks being together that we can take that next step,” Monfiletto said. “We just have to believe in ourselves and accept that belief.”
What about McQuaid, which won the state Division I title last year?
It’s hard to imagine a team going through a roster overhaul like McQuaid is this year. The Knights have three returning players from a year ago, leaving head coach Al Vyverberg in a situation he said he’s never been a part of in his 29 years at the school.
“When people ask me how I think we’ll do, I say I don’t know,” Vyverberg said. “I like what I see, but be honest, I really have no idea how we’ll do. I don’t even know who will be on my power play yet.”
Among the talent missing from the state championship team is last year’s top scorer and Division I Player of the year Jack Dugan. He is now at Northwood School in Lake Placid playing for former Amerks head coach Chadd Cassidy.
What will Victor be like now that David Farrance has moved on?
Last year’s AGR Player of the Year has moved on to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program after leading the Blue Devils to the Section V Class BB championship, while scoring 46 points as a sophomore.
In 18 games with the with the Under-17 team, Farrance has nine points (two goals, seven assists).
Despite losing Farrance, Victor head coach Mike Ferreri said he still thinks the target is on their back in a deep class.
“Every time you’re sectional champs, everyone is gunning for you,” he said. “If you look at BB, there are quite a few teams that will be really good this year.”
What ever happened to the first AGR Hockey Player of the Year?
Brendon Rothfuss led Section V with 37 goals as a senior at Webster Thomas in 2006-07 and was named AGR Player of the Year.
Since then, Rothfuss played junior hockey for three years and then went to The College at Brockport, where he played hockey and lacrosse. He graduated in 2014 with a degree in physical education.
Rothfuss is in his first year as the head coach of Brighton/East Rochester/Honeoye Falls-Lima. He said he thinks the Barons may surprise some people this year.
“I expect to be competitive in every game,” Rothfuss said. “Losing eight games by a goal last year and six in overtime, it shows this team is right there.”