Boys hockey preview: Amero hopes off-season work translates to wins

Wilton High boys hockey coach Brett Amero was well aware of the graduation hit his team took. Fortunately, so were his returning players.

“We have a lot of different holes to fill, but the players realized that and worked like crazy in the off-season,” said Amero. “That hard work should hopefully pay off this season. Some people think it’s going to be more of a building year for us, but I think we may be able to avoid that and be competitive.”

The Warriors got off to a terrible start last winter, losing their first seven games. Then came an inspired turnaround that included 10 wins in 13 contests, vaulting Wilton into the Division II state tournament, where the season ended with a 4-2 loss to Trumbull in the quarterfinals.

The graduation losses, however, are severe. Gone are leading scorer Matt Kobyra and defenseman Jon Meissner, both of whom made the All-State second team, along with several other primary contributors.

The one area that wasn’t affected was in goal. Senior Nick Wells and junior Derek Prario, the team’s netmnders last season, are both back.

“Having those two return is big for us,” said Amero. “Especially with a lot of new players, it’s nice to have experience in goal.”

Wilton also looks solid on defense. Senior Henry Lee and sophomore Jameson Hill were among the team’s top-four defensemen last winter, and junior Josh Worley also played regularly.

“Henry has been our on-ice leader,” said Amero. “He has a real nice shot and is tough to get around. Jameson is big and a pretty conservative player. He plays the angles well and is hard to beat.”

Seniors Dan Miller and Thomas Hojnacki will also be part of Wilton’s defensive corps this season.

On offense, Wilton will look to senior center Alex Pagliaro, the team’s second-leading scorer last year, to make up for some of the lost production.

“This could be a breakout year for him,” said Amero about Pagliaro. “He has the potential to be a big goal scorer.”

Joining Pagliaro on Wilton’s top line are junior winger Joey Cullinan and sophomore winger Kyle Jonas, who played in the Darien youth program last year.

Senior center Charlie Schaeffer, senior winger Sean Donohue and sophomore winger Ned Zawislak will comprise the second line, and senior center Thomas Castaldi and sophomore wingers Mitch Alexander and Christian Hansson will be on the third line.

Sophomore winger David Craven may also see time as a forward.

“We need some secondary scoring outside of the first line,” said Amero. “I would like to keep those three (Pagliaro, Cullinan, Jonas) together, so that means some of the other forwards have to step up.”

Notes: Wilton opens the season on Wednesday at 5:10 against Tri-Town at the Winter Garden in Ridgefield.

Kobyra and Meissner were both selected to the All-FCIAC first team last year.