While the season has been delayed and shortened, there is plenty for the Canton boys varsity hockey team to be excited about on the ice.
The Golden Bears are looking to rebound after a 2019-20 season that saw the young squad struggle to find consistent success. Canton returns four leading scorers from last season and both of its Captains to bring leadership and experience to a team that will rely on speed and depth in its few matchups this season.
Trey Bessette and Dustin Dodd, both seniors, will once again Captain the Bears. As the team’s third-leading scorer last season, Bessette will be tasked with centering Canton’s top forward line, while Dodd will bring a stabilizing veteran presence to the Bears’ defensive corps.
“We return so many players with experience. Experience is such a valuable asset to have in high school hockey,” said Head Coach Anthony Levato. “This is the deepest team I have had yet. And I can’t forget to mention the amount of talent that we are matching with that experience. This is a very exciting group and I am looking forward to seeing them compete again.”
Joining Bessette up front is Canton’s top scorer from last season, junior Rhett Palmer, who looks to add to his 53 career points, including 20 tallies from last season. On the back end, Dodd will be joined by senior Peter Coakley, who has been a mainstay on the blue line for the past two seasons. Adding to the Bears’ defensive depth this season is Daniel Mahoney, a junior who played forward in his first two seasons at the varsity level.
“Obviously it will be a little different, but I look forward to seeing the ice from a new perspective and being able to go out there and compete again,” Mahoney said of the position change.
Senior forwards Parker Hunt, Aiden Hoose and Charlie Grandaw and juniors Josh Aldous, Kaden Baxter, Tanner Hazelton, and Cayden Cady round out the team’s offensive upperclassmen. Joining them at the forward ranks will be sophomores Bradley Frank and Bowen Rodriguez, while first years Garritt Palmer and Brandon O’Shea return after having practiced with the Bears as eighth graders last season.
Rounding out the returning defensive unit are junior Scotty Ahlfeld and sophomores Logan Carrier and Nate Romano.
The Golden Bears add several new players to the squad this season, several of whom will compete for depth roles in the lineup. Senior Nick Estabrooks has rejoined the Bears after a two-year hiatus and looks to compete for a forward role. First year students joining the team this year include Jacob Rosales, Jack Murray, and Drew Blevins at forward, while Jonney McLear and Reid Doyle round out the team’s new blueline. Canton also has two eighth graders, Josh Ayrassian and JJ Ahlfeld, joining them this season.
“We have a lot to be excited about with our first year players,” said Assistant Coach Jake Newman. “They all bring a solid work ethic and positive attitude to the rink everyday and will make an impact right away by bringing skill and high hockey IQ to our lineup.”
“Our group of first year players is very exciting. They are really well rounded in the sense that they bring many different skill sets among different positions,” Levato added. “On top of that, their attitude and work ethic are excellent. They seem so to be very bought-in and committed to the success of the team. They all have pushed the envelope with this line up. And this is a tough line up to crack”
Canton has added more depth to its goalie pool this season as well. Two-year starter Hayden Todd returns for his junior campaign, joined by returning sophomores Cade Chezum and Doug Premo. First year Landan Denner joins the Bears this season as well.
While disappointed by the lack of competition thus far this season, the Bears have had time to build chemistry and become a tight-knit unit.
“This team has become very close over the course of this year,” Levato said. “They have done so much to prepare for this moment where we get to compete. In the process they have pushed each other, fought for each other and most importantly they have really become a tight knit group. It is a fun team to coach everyday.”
The boys varsity hockey team is set to return to action this Thursday with Senior night game vs Potsdam. The group of 30 players have been working with their coaches most of the year preparing for games that were never certain. There is certainly a high level of excitement for everybody involved.