Boys hockey preview: Defense a strength for Wilton

Tyler Everitt and the Wilton boys hockey team saw their season end early with the CIAC’s decision to cancel the remaining state tournaments.

Tyler Everitt and the Wilton boys hockey team saw their season end early with the CIAC’s decision to cancel the remaining state tournaments.

Gretchen McMahon / For Hearst Connecticut Media

The Wilton boys hockey team enters the new season with a new head coach.

Mark Mangino, an assistant the last two years, takes over for John Misrendino, who resigned following the 2018-19 season.

Mangino inherits a squad that went 9-11-1 last winter, losing to Newtown in the opening round of the Division II state tournament.

One challenge for Wilton could be putting pucks in the net. With Dean DiNanno and Brandon Jonsson graduating and David Overbeeke transferring to prep school, the Warriors lost much of their offense.

“It’s going to be hard to replace somewhere around 50 goals that those three guys combined for,” said Mangino, whose team opens the season tonight (Dec. 18) at 8:30 p.m. against Darien at the Winter Garden in Ridgefield. “But we return some really good seniors and have added some skilled newcomers. Our defense is going to be very strong, so maybe we can make up the differential that way, by allowing fewer goals.”

Senior captain Tommy McHugh is part of a four-player defense that also includes classmates Lucas Thelen and Kevin Fung and junior Owen Pettit, who played club hockey the past two seasons.

“That’s a very good group,” Mangino said. “Tommy McHugh is a classic stay-at-home defenseman; Lucas Thelen can contribute on offense; Kevin Fung is a good skater; and Owen Pettit is a nice addition.”

Junior Logan Motyka returns in goal, although he is being pushed by freshman Mitchell Stenger.

“Logan has improved a lot over the last few seasons and gotten better for this year,” Mangino said. “Mitchell is probably 6-foot-4 or 6-5 or 6-6 and is a tall presence in net. We are going to let each one start a game and then take it from there.”

Junior Jackson Kelly and senior Tyler Everitt will center Wilton’s top-two lines and take turns anchoring the third line as well.

“Those two guys are going to be really imortant for us,” Mangino said. “They are going to log significant ice time.”

Senior Nico Kouvaris and junior Ryan Sorbo (who has moved from defense) are likely to be the wingers on the first line, with junior Luke O’Neill and sophomore Colin Lenskold skating on the second line and junior Charlie Hastings and freshman Nikolai Naydenov on the third line.

Wilton’s roster also includes sophomore forward Michael McHugh, freshman forward Sean Lengyel, senior defenseman Nick Wert, and freshman defenseman Graham Wayland. Wert switches back to defense after serving as the team’s back-up goalie the last two years.

“I think we can compete in Division III,” said Mangino. “Playing in the FCIAC is always a challenge, and we open the season against Darien and Ridgefield, who are two of the best teams in the conference and the state. But we’re hoping those types of games will make us better for the state tournament.”

Notes: Former Wilton standout Ryan Equale, who was an All-American at the University of Connecticut, has joined the coaching staff as an assistant.