For the first time in a few years, there’s some hope surrounding the Warwick Vets hockey program. The ’Canes have won just seven total games the last four years in the state’s lowest division, but it may be time to turn over a new leaf.
An influx of talented freshmen, a new coach and an overall progression from returning players has excitement in the air. Though there is also the threat of a potential school closing looming, the ’Canes are focusing on the hockey they’ll be playing this year and the potential they have to succeed.
New head coach Mike Boyajian has been an assistant coach at Cranston West most recently and at Toll Gate and Pilgrim before that, but he played at Vets in the early 2000’s. Watching from a distance, he wanted to help the program turn it around.
Now he has his chance.
“It was one of those things where we would see them playing before (Cranston West) last year and you just wanted to help,” Boyajian said. “Our goal is to get his program healthy again.”
The ’Canes haven’t played an official game yet, but Boyajian is pleased with what he’s seen so far. Against Woonsocket in the Injury Fund last weekend they lost 7-5, but got four goals from freshmen who are feeling right at home in their first year on the ice.
“We’ve got a good young core,” Boyajian said. “We’ve got four good freshmen who came up through the junior leagues who are going to be impact players right away.”
All four of the freshmen are playing on Vets’ top two lines.
Gregory Fontaine, David Kowalik and Jacob Mitchell have made up one line, with Timothy Chafee getting in as well. Fontaine scored a hat trick against Woonsocket.
They’ll all be scoring threats.
“They should not have a problem putting the puck in the net,” Boyajian said. “Once they start learning our systems, and get a little more polished, they’re going to do some damage.”
Joining those four in the top six for Vets are seniors Colin Peters and Anthony Parisi.
Defensively, Vets is sticking with three returning players at the moment in veterans Kyle Veyera, a senior, and Tyler DiPetrillo and Oliver Pinheiro, both juniors. Veyera was the team’s leading scorer last year while DiPetrillo dished out six assists. Pinheiro volunteered to play defense this year after playing forward the past two years.
Others, like junior Jacob Pelletier, may also rotate in from time to time.
“Our goal is to have these kids as best prepared as we can for the Friday and Saturday nights,” Boyajian said.
In net, there might be a slight learning curve, as Vets is using two players who have never played before, seniors Michael Palombo and Colby Howard. They both volunteered to try it out, and they’re competing for time.
“I was admiring them,” Boyajian said. “To volunteer to play goal, you’ve got to have a couple loose screws. They’re both willing to do it. We’re going to use both of them and see how it goes.”
Other players on the roster include juniors Henri Guiot, Virakchai Thongdee and Joseph Thrope and sophomores Peter LaPorte, Brandon Major, Dylan Tindle and Stephen Quinn.
It’s a mix that Boyajian thinks can help Vets take significant strides from the past few years. It won’t be easy, but the ’Canes are playing in the seven-team Division III and should be able to compete with at least a few of the teams.
But they’re not looking too far ahead. They have two games this weekend – against Narragansett at 7:30 p.m. at Thayer Arena on Friday and at Benny Magiera on Saturday at 9 p.m. against the West Warwick/EWG co-op.
It might end up being the last season at Vets, but either way, it will be a season focused on taking plenty of steps in the right direction.
“You concentrate on those two games,” Boyajian said. “With a group like this, a lot of young players, a lot of inexperienced players, you can’t let them get too far ahead of themselves.”