Boys Hockey: Jones, New Canaan expect to be competitive
Published 8:37 pm, Thursday, December 14, 2017
NEW CANAAN — A lot has changed in the last year.
After reaching the FCIAC finals and state semis a year ago, the Rams lost 15 players from last year’s team as well as coach Pat Gore, who opted to step down during the offseason.
The good new however, is that taking over the New Canaan program is Clark Jones, a man already familiar with the Ram skaters.
“I know most of these kids,” Jones said. “I’ve coached every one of them in some way shape or form, a lot of them for a number of years.”
While that makes the feeling-out period almost nonexistent from a personal standpoint, Jones still had to introduce the team to a brand-new system.
“I think the biggest thing right out of the gate was getting them to play a certain way,” Jones said. “And they’ve taken to it pretty quickly, which is good…they’re doing their work in practice is how do they execute in a game so we’ll see this week.”
Junior captain Gunnar Granito was, unexpectedly, unsure how this season would play out during the offseason, but was encouraged after learning of the Jones hire.
NEW CANAAN RAMS
COACH: Clark Jones (first season)
2016-17 RECORD: 16-3-1, 9-1-1 FCIAC
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jr. Gunnar Granito, forward. The 2017-18 season will be Granito’s third at the varsity level. Granito played sparingly as a freshman, and saw his role expand last year as a sophomore. Now, a captain, Granito and his lethal wrist-shot will be the focal point of the Rams attack.
GAME TO WATCH: Dec. 23 vs. Darien. The two rivals, both with high aspirations, meet in just the third game of the year. Both teams have to face a gauntlet to start the season, and this matchup should provide an early boost to both teams emotionally, as well as a barometer for where each stands early on.
OUTLOOK: New Canaan is coming off a season in which it reached the FCIAC finals and Division I semis, but it lost 15 players and its coach from a season ago. There will be plenty of new faces for the Rams, but first-year coach Clark Jones is confident his team will be competitive.
-Anthony E. Parelli
“Once we heard it was Clark, we knew we were in business.” Granito said. “He really knows what he is doing, and with the talent that we have this year, he’s going to be able to make a lot out of it.”
Despite being a junior, Granito already has two years of experience at the varsity level, and is just as confident in his own leadership ability.
“I’ve been on the team as long as anyone,” Granito said. “So, I’m not afraid to say whatever it takes to get the guys going and get us to the next level.”
There will be no early adjustment period for the Rams, who jump right into the fire starting Saturday at Notre Dame-West Haven and followed by matchups against Hamden, Darien and Ridgefield — last year’s FCIAC and state champion.
“We’ve got the skillset,” Jones said. “From a skill perspective, we have the ability to go toe-to-toe, it’s just, can we execute? I don’t mind going against some quality teams out of the gate, if anything it will teach us what we can and can’t do.”
It will also help provide a clearer picture of the goalie situation.
New Canaan had a stellar two-man rotation last year in Peter Windas and Liam Mooney, but both are gone, and the net will be left to junior Jack Spain and senior Oliver Jardim.
“We’re going to see who fights for the spot,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t say that there’s a starter, they’re going to earn it every week.”
Obviously, experience is lacking in the New Canaan locker room, but according to Jones, talent isn’t.
And he’s excited to see how that talent will translate when the lights turn on.
“A lot of these kids are ready from the skill perspective and the pace they can play at,” Jones said. “So now it’s, how can we play the game when the rink is packed and the game means something?”
He’ll find out in a hurry.