The Stoughton High hockey team is young - there are more freshmen and sophomores (10) than juniors and seniors (8), but there is reason to expect Stoughton to bounce back from a 1-win season a year ago.
"We hope to improve on last year's record," head coach Dan Mark said. "I have a feeling we're going to be able to do that. We have some really good young players so I'm really looking forward to this season."
Despite winning only one game, a bright spot for Stoughton last year was the team receiving the James F. Mulloy Team Sportsmanship Award at a special ceremony at the TD Garden on March 18.
Even as the team looks to improve from last season, adding wins doesn't have to come at the expense of having exemplary sportsmanship.
Senior captain Cory Greenblat said he expects "nothing less than last year" in terms of sportsmanship.
"I don't see why we can't be one of the better teams and still have sportsmanship," he said.
Last Year's Record: 1-18-1
First Game: Stoughton hosts Foxborough at the Asiaf Arena at Brockton High School, Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. The Asiaf is Stoughton's home arena. Stoughton only win and tie last year came against Foxborough.
Head Coach: Dan Mark (32nd year)
Captains: Forward Cory Greenblatt (senior), Goalie P.J. Sheehan (junior) and Forward Brandon Lima (junior)
Burning Question: Can the Black Knights generate more offense?
Stoughton was shutout last season on 12 occasions. The team's season-high for shots on goal (26) was just two more than the opposition's season low (24). The puck spent a lot of time in Stoughton territory last season with P.J. Sheehan making almost 700 saves over the course of the 20 game season.
Coach Mark said more experienced defenders and more offensive output will help take some of the pressure of Sheehan.
Just where the offense will come from - the team is "still trying to figure that out," Mark said.
"I don' think there's going to be a lot of pretty goals," Mark said, but the coach was impressed with that he's seen in terms of shots on goal in the team's preseason scrimmages.
Outlook: As only a sophomore, Sheehan started in net and kept Stoughton competitive. The captain will be back in goal this season as a junior.
"He's improved so much," Mark said of his goalie. "He's been a force...It's good to know we have him back there."
In addition to his captains, Mark sees senior forward Imani Pina as someone who can provide leadership to the young roster.
Other seniors include forwards Nick Bruttaniti, Cody Buckman, Cameron Williams, Nick Keith and Greenblatt. Sheehan and Lima are the juniors.
Sophomores include forward Zack Swartz, goalie Ethan Rawl, and defenders Ryan McSweeney, Drew DiStefano and John Catrone. Freshmen include Eoin Doherty (defense) and forwards Albert Smith, Adam Potter, Mark Sheehan and Ben Litwack.
"I'm looking for some wins, a lot of goals, players working hard, just doing all the right things," Lima said.
P.J. Sheehan said the goal is to "get better every single game, every single practice."
"It's all about attitude and with the young players coming up it's a different team, different game, just have to work step by step," Greenblatt said.
After finishing 9-11 in 2009-2010 and just missing the postseason, the team has fallen to 4-15-1 in 2010-2011 and 1-18-1 last year playing against tough Hockomock League competition, but the outlook is brighter heading into this season.
"Everything goes in cycles," Mark said, "but I feel like we're on the up cycle, definitely."