Oct. 29, 2015
South Burlington, VT
The 2014-15 season was one of the most successful for the Rice Memorial Prep Hockey team in several years. Overall, the Knights posted about a .500 record, but made tremendous strides as a Semifinalist in the Albany Academy Rider Cup, and Stanstead Invitational. The Knights also had a historic run in the MPHL, finishing the League Playoffs with victories over St. Michael’s School, and Stanstead College, before losing in the MPHL Championship Game to Ridley College.
Heading into this season, Rice is excited to continue to move forward. They will need to fill the shoes of departed Renat Nigmatullin, Nick Martineau, Jack Buckley, Austin Smith, Anthony Phillip, Cam Hamblett, Roey Aharonovich, Sean Remillard, Alex Dumouchel, Kyle Haskins, Hunter McTague, Pat Smith, and team MVP Goalie Aidan Ethier. Nine new players will put on the Knight’s jersey for the first time this season, but fourth-year head coach Dennis Vickers likes what the newcomers bring to the team.
“I think there’s a real energy, a real enthusiasm,” said Vickers. “We do have a lot of new guys and they’re thrilled to be a part of Rice Prep Hockey. What you get from new guys is energy. They come in, they’re wide eyed and really happy to be part of everything that we have going here. They bring a lot of ability for us to shape and mold. It helps us as a staff and I think it helps our veterans to say to them ‘This is who we are. This is how we do things.’ I think that reaffirms it to everybody who’s communicating to them the full identity of what we want our program to be.”
“We’ve really been fortunate for throughout my history here to have good captains and leaders,” Vickers said. “Both Cooper and Riley just do everything the right way. They have the total respect of their teammates. They have the trust of the staff. Their work ethic and preparation are second to none. Then the guys we have in our senior class like Sam Begin, Jan Silvala, and Konsta Jaakola, they get it. They understand what the standard is here on and off the ice. They want to try to establish new heights for the program over the course of their final year.”
The Knights are experienced offensively with the bulk of their scoring returning, but Vickers expects there is a lot of room for improvement.
“I think we need to continue to develop offensively,” said Vickers. “Since I’ve been here historically, we haven’t been a juggernaut in that category, but we continue to emphasize scoring in practice. We return six double-digit scorers this year. So we’re leaning on those guys, but will need to count on our new guys to try to amplify our ability to put the puck in the net.”
The Knights will be led offensively by Seniors – Cooper Norton, Riley Smith, and Konsta Jaakola (Helsinki, Finland) up front. They will look to returner Junior, Logan Stanislas (St. Albans, VT) to up his production, and newcomers Timur Nigmatullin (Kiev,
Ukraine) and Patrick Pirri (Merano, Italy) to help contribute. Other newcomers, Ryan Sidney (Halifax, Nova Scotia), Zach Prive (Morrisville, VT), and Stefano Caucci (Montreal, QC) will be needed to also chip in and help contribute offensively.
With only 2 new incoming defensemen, Vickers is confident that his veteran defensemen can help carry the program early and get the new guys on the same page quickly.
“If you’ve got a solid back end, with your goaltender first and foremost, and your defensive corps, you can be in a position to win some games,” said Vickers. “I think the guys that we do have returning in Silvala, Begin, and Mangan played key minutes for us and have the ability to manage the game. The new guys that we bring in, we’ll try to work into the fold. They all bring something specific to the table that we think can help us get better. Whether that be a steady stay-at-home defender, a puck mover or a guy that can gain you zones with his skating. We have different elements and that’s what I’m most excited about, those diverse pieces.”
Seniors, Jan Silvala (Tampere, Finland) and Sam Begin (Sherbrooke, QC) will anchor the defensive corps for the Knights this season. Sophomore, Paddy Mangan (South Burlington, VT) is fresh off a solid season, and a trip to USA Hockey Select 15 National Camp. Newcomers, Juniors, Scott Mueller (Nashville, TN), and Slava Nigmatullin (Kiev, Ukraine) round out the defense.
One of the biggest challenges the Knights will face this season is replacing Aidan Ethier between the pipes. However, Coach Vickers is confident in his 3 goaltenders. Returners, Junior, Jason St. Pierre (Jay, ME), and Senior, Shea Spanier (Williston, VT), look to increase their role on the team. While newcomer, Senior, Kevin Belanger (Montreal, QC), looks to help solidify the competition for time in the net.
The MPHL is one of the best and most challenging leagues in the nation and this season is no different. The Knights will have to battle through a difficult 50-game schedule.
The Knights open their home schedule, with 2 contests vs. perennial power Northwood School on Sat. Oct. 31 @ 6:35pm and Sun. Nov. 1 @ 2:00pm at Cairns Arena. MPHL play begins on Nov. 13-15 as all MPHL teams travel to Burlington, VT for the Kick-Off Weekend.