2019-20 Season Preview: Branford
2018-19 Record: 14-3-3
Tournament Result: As 4-seed defeated 6-seed Glastonbury 2-0 to win the Division II State Championship
Head Coach: Jim DiNapoli (4th season)
Key Returning Players: Jack Manware (F, Sr.), Spencer Engstrom (F, Sr.), Blake Kustra (F, Sr.), Zach Jones (F, Sr.), Chris Donadio (D, Sr.), Max Manware (D, Sr.), Jared Yakimoff (G, Jr.)
Impact Newcomers: Dan Farricelli (Jr. The Gunnery)
Goalie Situation: Junior Jared Yakimoff was Branford’s starter last year. At times, the quite capable senior Greg Lucente was given a look and he often lived up to expectations. This year, with Lucente graduated, Yakimoff, a DII Goalie of the Year finalist last year, looks to be one of the top goalies in the state. Yakimoff went 13-2-2 on the year and posted a 1.89 GAA.
Key Losses: Robbie Lionetti, Max Bunton, Greg Lucente (all to graduation)
Outlook: Branford was my tape to tape DII prediction last year and while I’d love to pat myself on the back for accurately calling them despite a talented DII field, they were loaded and it was an easy decision. Well, they’re still pretty damn loaded and return one of the top goalies at the DII level in junior Jared Yakimoff. The defending champs also bring back senior forwards Jack Manware (36 points), Spencer Engstrom (42 points), Blake Kustra (26 points) and Zach Jones (23 points). Normally post-championship, most teams at the high school level are picking up the pieces and looking where to rebuild, but that’s certainly not the case for the Hornets. They return possibly the most loaded group in the state. On D, they return last year’s Division II Defenseman of the Year in senior Chris Donadio (20 points) and they also return the ever steady senior Max Manware (17 points). The rich get richer with junior Dan Farricelli joins the fray coming over from The Gunnery. Losing Lionetti and Bunton certainly hurt but not the way they’d hurt other squads. Branford has a manageable schedule with six of their final seven games at home where they went 9-2-2 last year. They have the makings of a repeat but need to keep the pedal to the metal if they want that to happen.