Champion Eagles push for more

  • The Easthampton team, including Garren Fugiel, front, runs a drill during practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at Lossone Rink. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Garren Fugiel, left, looks for a shot against goalie Tyler Cortis during Easthampton practice, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at Lossone Rink. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • From left: Easthampton players Christopher Tenczar, Jake Batchelder, Jake Delisle and Garren Fugiel. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jake Batchelder, of Easthampton, moves the puck during practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at Lossone Rink. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • From left: Easthampton players Christopher Tenczar, Jake Batchelder, Jake Delisle and Garren Fugiel. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton hockey coach Bill Grise talks to his team during practice, Nov. 29 at Lossone Rink. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton players, including Christopher Tenczar, front, run a drill during practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at Lossone Rink. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Garren Fugiel, of Easthampton, takes a water break during practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at Lossone Rink. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Garren Fugiel, of Easthampton, takes a break during practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at Lossone Rink. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Defenseman Jake Delisle, of Easthampton, moves the puck during practice, Nov. 29 at Lossone Rink. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jake Batchelder, from left, Christopher Tenczar and Garren Fugiel run a drill during practice, Nov. 29 at Lossone Rink. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton goalie Tyler Cortis watches for shots during practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at Lossone Rink. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 12/7/2018 6:03:40 PM

Last season’s group of Easthampton High School hockey players had never participated in the playoffs prior to the 2017-18 season.

That all changed when the team not only made the post-season, the Eagles captured the Western Massachusetts Division 3A championship.

Not a lot was expected from Easthampton entering the tournament. Top-seed Chicopee and upstart Belchertown were the teams to beat.

Easthampton won its first sectional hockey title after it beat Belchertown, 5-2, in the championship game. It was the culmination of hard work and buying into coach Bill Grise’s system.

The season ended following a 5-2 loss to Lunenburg in the state semifinal at the MassMutual Center.

“That game was a lot tighter than the score,” Grise said. “They had more depth, but we gave it everything we had.”

The game was close and the Eagles left the ice knowing they gave it their best shot. Before they exited to the locker room, Grise approached the line of players and shook each one of their hands.

“I told them how proud I was of them and that we will be back next year,” he said. “They were in good spirits and they had a lot of good stuff to look back on.”

It’s a new season and Easthampton, which co-ops with Northampton, Hampshire Regional and Smith Vocational, will enter it as reigning champions. Most of the players from last season’s 12-4-7 squad are back and they have embraced the “team first’’ approach.

“We have a lot of players returning and I’m anticipating another good season,” said Grise, who stressed executing the fundamentals in both zones and an aggressive disciplined style of hockey. “Last year was electric and you hear around town how excited the kids are.”

Among the veterans are leading scorers Garren Fugiel and Christopher Tenczar. Another veteran, defenseman Jake Delisle, made a bold prediction following last season’s loss to Lunenburg.

“We will work even harder and our goal is to win states,” Delisle said after the state semifinal loss to Lunenburg.

That work ethic will be a carryover from the beginning of last season. The players bought into Grise’s system and all the little things to make a difference.

With more experience up front, the Eagles don’t expect to finish with seven ties again this season. Playing in those tight games may have paved the way for postseason success, but this time, Easthampton has the firepower to turn them into wins.

“Our kids made a lot of sacrifices to get where they did last year,” Grise said. “They put in a lot of hard work.

Assistant coach Nick Catjakis organizes off-ice activities. Besides workouts, the players spend time watching video.”

Fugiel is one of the region’s best players regardless of division. He scored 25 goals with 19 assists last season.

“He’s phenomenal,” Grise said. “Every time he’s on the ice, he’s the hardest-working kid. He has a knack for finding the back of the net. Put those two things together and he’s quite an asset.”

Tenczar had 12 goals and 17 assists. Jake Batchelder finished with eight goals and 12 assists. Seniors Ely Boyle, Gabe Brodeur, Mike McColgan, Jacob Ross, John Zatowski, and sophomores Cole Growhoski and Matt Sullivan all return.

The Eagles will miss goalie Nate Barnes, but will look to sophomore Tyler Cortis.

“He plays at a high level and he has confidence,” Grise said.

The Eagles know they will have a bull’s-eye on their backs this time.

“They’ll handle it pretty well,” Grise said. “I learned that the important thing is making the playoffs and after that, anything can happen.”

GIRLS HOCKEY — Northampton will have a pair of students lace up skates for Longmeadow.

Brigitte Goeler-Slough and Rowan Howe will play for the Lancers, who fell to Haverhill-Pentucket-North Andover in the 2018 state Division 1 tournament first round. Longmeadow went 11-7 last season.

Goeler-Slough has 23 goals and six assists last season. She has 50 points (39, 11) in her two-year career for Longmeadow.

Howe is a freshman goalie.




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