The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs know that every team goal in the NCDC is a mountain to climb, but that is especially true of repeating as the Division champions. The Monarchs won the division, climbing just two points higher than the Boston Junior Bruins last season.
This year, the Jr. Monarchs hit the ice with a largely new crew, coming back with just three total returning players.
“We have a lot of new faces who are just not familiar with the NCDC level of play,” said Head Coach Clint Edinger. “You start with your 70-man roster, then you’re down to 40 and 32 and then you’re trying to find the 23 best pieces of the puzzle for a 48-game season. From what they see in a Spring Showcase to a camp with 40 guys, it’s hard to prepare them for what the level of play really is. Whether it’s prep or U18 that they’ve played before, junior hockey is different – harder, heavier and quicker.”
The Jr. Monarchs will lean heavily on returning blueliners Daisuke Egusa and Zander Lizotte and second-year forward Chris Repman. Lizotte is entering his third season with the Purple and Gold, while Egusa is in Year 2 along with Repman. All three players had college offers for last season, but all wanted to return. With 34 points in 76 games, Lizotte is already the highest-scoring Monarchs defenseman over a career.
From there, the Monarchs faithful – and there’s always lots, with the Monarchs having some of the best home crowds in the NCDC – will get to know 20 more newcomers.
“With 20 new players, you’re hoping everyone can play a leadership role. We have some guys up front we expect good things from,” added Edinger.
Janick Wernicke is a native of Vienna, Austria, while Alex Laracy started the 2021-22 season with the Monarchs before suffering an injury that took him out of the lineup. He’ll be expected to jump right in and make an impact.
Jimmy Fallon and Nate Palumbo, a former Worcester Academy scoring dynamo, are looking strong up front as well.
On defense, Simon Laferriere comes in from a strong career in the CCHL and longtime Cape Cod Whaler Will Murphy will join Egusa and Lizotte in forming a strong foundation on the blue line.
Czechia native Denis Valenta has plenty of North American experience coming from Rice Memorial Prep. He comes in with offensive upside, as does former Holderness School standout and Boston native Jake Waterman.
The Monarchs have a very deep organization in Hooksett, N.H., and are always looking to promote players from within. Evan Roy is one of those players who make the jump from formerly playing on the Monarchs’ USPHL 16U and 18U teams. He had a very strong 18U season last year, posting 14 points in 19 games.
The North Division is a tough course to master. Late in the season last year, the difference between winning the division and losing out on playoffs was five points.
“Every single game is a war and a battle,” said Edinger. “You simply cannot underestimate any team in the league. You only get two tries against non-division opponents and we were lucky last year to at least split with every one of them, and we swept one.
“Our identity this year is to be the hardest-working team on the ice, if we can build from net out,” Edinger added. “Going into the season, I already love the camaraderie and team chemistry of this team.”