LARCHMONT – Nobody was in a hurry to leave the rink after Mamaroneck suffered a humbling loss to Pelham last January. The mood was heading south in a hurry before a frank locker room conversation perhaps saved a promising season.
In a matter of weeks, the Tigers were celebrating a state championship.
There is plenty of talent coming back for an encore, so the biggest questions that have to be answered in the weeks ahead revolve around leadership. It’s probably a good thing Will Payne, Tommy Spero, Matt DiCicco, James Torre and Michael Carducci were paying attention last winter.
Now the committee of captains needs to find a voice.
“We learned that it was OK to have fun in hockey and it was OK to lose,” Spero said on Wednesday after practice. “We won a lot of games last year and mostly it came from chemistry. We had a lot of team dinners, we hung out and watched movies, we had a good laugh, we had a good time.”
They learned from the likes of Alex Ewald, Will Kirk and Jason Bienstock.
“All of the guys this season have been on this team for two and three years, so they got to be around the captains from the past two seasons,” Mamaroneck coach Mike Chiapparelli said.
The most important message is part of each preseason conversation.
“Every team wants to say they knocked off the defending state champions,” Payne said. “We have to give every game our all no matter who we’re playing against.”
The banner is on hand, but it’s unclear when it will be hung.
Spero is the heart-and-soul goalie who made one goal stand up in the state final against West Genesee. He’s got help, too. Andrew Garguilo is expected to get time in net, as well. Nick Campbell is the lone returning defenseman so there will be opportunities for a string of upperclassmen who got valuable minutes last season on the varsity B team.
Up front, the Tigers are coming back with DiCicco, Payne, Carducci, Torre, Connor LeBlanc, Harrison Schreiber.
“That’s six kids who got a lot of ice time for us last year,” Chiapparelli said. “That’s a good start and then we have two lines up from the B team that are talented, too. So we’re back with a lot of depth with probably 17 or 18 seniors.”
Mamaroneck opens the season Nov. 26 against Shaker/Colonie in Albany. The first home game is Dec. 2 against Rye.
“We lost a lot of seniors from last year, so we’re going to need kids to step up this year, work hard,” said Payne, who may see time at defenseman if needed. “We’ll have a huge target on our backs. … I don’t think we’re taking any steps back. The kids who weren’t on the team last year are hungrier to win another state championship. They all want a ring before they go out.”