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Prep hockey returns a talented nucleus

St. John's Prep's Tim Usalis is projected to play a key role this winter. (Item File Photo)

DANVERS — The St. John’s Prep hockey team lost nine seniors from last year’s 12-8-2 squad, including its top scorer, but coach Kristian Hanson says it’s business as usual as the Prep prepares for the 2017-2018 season.

“I think every team faces those challenges each year, so we just take it in stride,” said Hanson, now in his 11th year with the Eagles. “We lost a lot of good guys from last year’s team, but I think we still have the talent to get the job done this year.”

Headlining that group of departed seniors are captains Kyle Hentosh and Christian Kukas. Hentosh led the Eagles in scoring last year with 23 points, while Kukas added 10 points.

“Hentosh was a four-year, versatile player for us, and Kukas was a great leader, so it’s obviously tough losing those guys,” Hanson said.

But as Hanson mentioned, there’s plenty of talent on the Eagles roster. Senior captain Tim Usalis (11 points) is entering his fourth year on the team and his second year as a captain, while seniors Ryan Farrow (17 points) and Matty Tighe (12 points) have been named captains for the first time. Also returning to the fold is sophomore forward Brian Carrabes, who burst onto the scene last year with a 19-point freshman season.

“We definitely have a solid core returning,” Hanson said. “Tim was on the 2015 Super 8 championship team and he’s been around and seen a lot, so he’ll be a big leader for us along with Ryan and Matty. Brian is a talented kid who’s still developing, so we’re looking forward to seeing what this group does.”

Another interesting development to keep an eye on is at goaltender. Last year,  junior goalies Shane O’Brien and Cam Ludwig split time in net almost exactly 50-50. Both posted save percentages over .900 (.928 for Ludwig, .914 for O’Brien) and both notched two shutouts. But this year, O’Brien has left the team and opted to play junior hockey instead, leaving Ludwig, now a senior, as the No. 1 netminder.

But don’t sleep on sophomore Noah Dorsey-Sorofman, a Marblehead native who spent his freshman year as the No. 3 goalie on the roster. Hanson says he’s got plenty of talent, and he’ll get an opportunity to show it at some point.

Once again, the Eagles have a daunting schedule facing them this season, which is the norm for any Catholic Conference team. In addition to the conference games against Malden Catholic and BC High, St. John’s has games against Austin Prep (who knocked the Eagles out of the Division 1 tournament last year), Central Catholic and Pope Francis. The Prep will also go up against Bishop Guertin this year, considered by many to be the best team in New Hampshire.

Even the season opener is a tough one, with the Eagles traveling down to face perennial Super 8 contender Hingham.

“The schedule is always full of tough teams, that’s what happens when you play in a conference like ours,” Hanson said. “But I think it will be good for us. We’ll be able to compete against some of the best teams in the state to help prepare us for what is hopefully a long postseason run.”

St. John’s will open the season on Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. against Hingham at Hingham Skating Arena.

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