Rancourt, Mallory set to lead PHS hockey team
By DAN DOYON
December 05, 2013 2:00 AM
PORTSMOUTH — The three-hour bus ride following last season's 17-1 loss to Berlin in the Division III quarterfinals could have a big impact on the Portsmouth High School hockey team this winter. Clippers coach Al Brandano said the ride home after that defeat was an important bonding experience for the nine players on the bus. The focus had already turned to this season, which began with practices at The Rinks at Exeter last week. Portsmouth finished with a 6-13 record last season and will begin the regular season at home against Laconia/Winnisquam on Dec. 19.
"It was a tough loss for us, but that bus ride on the way home was one of the things that brought us together," Brandano said. "We did some soul-searching. The great thing is that memory of the ride and what they want to be. They want to be champions this year."
Brandano has guided Portsmouth to tournament appearances in four of his five seasons as coach and enters the season with 17 players on the roster. The added depth will allow the Clippers to skate three lines, a luxury Brandano hasn't had in his tenure.
Seniors Aaron Rancourt and Cody Mallory are the team captains. Rancourt led the Clippers with 22 goals and 11 assists last season.
"We look pretty good; we've got a lot of young talent with some good size and we're pretty excited about this year," Rancourt said. "I like our depth. We usually have only one or two lines. Now we can go three deep."
"There are a lot of good players here and we're hoping to have the best season that we could possibly have," Mallory said.
Brandano said Rancourt and Mallory are setting the tone for the squad. While Rancourt is the main sniper, Brandano is excited about Mallory's development.
"Cody had never played hockey before he came to us, and I've never seen a player develop in four years like he has developed," Brandano said. "When you watch him this year, you'll be shocked. He's our face-off guy, our go-to guy, and I can't say enough about where he's come from in the past four years."
Both Rancourt and Mallory are embracing their roles as leaders. "We just try to lead by example and make sure everyone is focused and ready to play," Mallory said."We've been here the longest and we know what it takes to win in this division," Rancourt said. "I think our role is to help develop the freshmen for future years as well as this year."
Other top returnees for Portsmouth include senior Nate Sweet, junior Reed Williamson and sophomores Luke LaCroce and Jack Alden. Senior Brady Marchewka and junior Eddie Ferrini will split time in goal.
"These guys have chemistry and they want to play for each other," Brandano said. "We're going to coach them like champions, because that's what they want to be. This will be a unique year for all of us and we'll see what we're made of."