The Houlton-Hodgdon Black Hawks open a new season, under a new head coach, Saturday at 1 p.m. when they host John Bapst at the John Millar Civic Center.
Assisting first-year coach Tony Marino are Dean Clark and Dave Wilson, former Black Hawks varsity coach.
The Black Hawks are hoping to improve on last year’s 5-13 record. However, last weekend, the Black Hawks took three losses in the John Bapst preseason hockey tournament with 4-1 losses to Brewer and Presque Isle; and a 9-0 defeat from Bangor.
“I want the team to practice hard, play hard and take what we focus on in practice and execute it in the games,” said Marino. “I want these kids to be in the top hockey condition so we have the ability to finish strong.”
Leading the Black Hawks this season are senior captain Gage Hunt and assistant captains senior Brandon Malone, along with junior Cameron Clark.
“Gage hustles and is an intense physical player on defense,” said Marino, “while Brandon is a versatile two-way player on offense or defense. Cameron is a highly-skilled skater and puck handler.”
Rounding out the returning starters are seniors Lucas Grant, Alex Casillas and Chase Brewer.
“Lucas is an all-out workhorse,” said Marino. “Alex is an all-around solid player and Chase fills the net and is very skilled.”
Marino explained that the Black Hawks lost experienced players who brought a certain amount of intensity to the game.
“We have a lot of team speed and intensity,” said Marino. “We seem to have a fair amount of workhorses and kids working very hard to battle for the puck.”
Marino said he was “expecting big things” out of senior Ethan Nickerson; juniors Lucas Peabody and Rachel Harmon; and freshmen Josh Malone and Elizabeth Ward.
Others filling out the Black Hawks lineup are: juniors Jessi Tracy and Seth Hannigan; sophomores Gunnar Briggs, Adam Casillas, Billy Phillips and Kendrick Wilson; and freshmen Tyler Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Fitzpatrick, Morgan Grant, Jamie Palmer and Caleb Tribou.
The Black Hawks will be looking to “play smart and stay out of the penalty box,” said Marino.
“We need to have the ability to adapt to different teams and different playing styles,” he added. “We need to stay motivated and focused on our goals as the year progresses.”
The Black Hawks will face a strong schedule and Marino looks for Messalonskee, Waterville, Hampden and Presque Isle to be the teams to beat in their division.