EXETER, NH -- In 16 games since the start of November, the Spartans have lost only twice. Anyone who knows the sport of hockey knows this many wins can’t happen with just superstars on a roster. It requires players across all forward lines, all defensemen and all goalies pulling in the same direction, and every player putting every ounce of energy into their role.
Seacoast Spartans Prep head coach Nick Therrien was excited about how good a couple of his forward lines and defensemen have played this season, helping them to a 14-2 run over the space of two months.
Mergim Berisha is a ’98 center from New Jersey who has anchored one of the Spartans’ best two-way lines.
“Mergim is one of the most coachable players we’ve had. He is extremely fundamentally sound and trustworthy,” said Therrien. “He is a player who can play in any position. If someone is in the box, or we need someone to fill in on the first power play unit, he is trusted to get it done. We rely on him heavily for the penalty kill.”
Berisha formed a close on-ice bond with right winger Aaron Garrison this season. The two have played a with a few different left wingers, but the Berisha-Garrison duo has stuck together. Garrison had 18 points and Berisha had 15 points in 32 and 33 games, respectively.
“Aaron has blazing speed. He has solid skill. His speed allows him to create a lot of turnovers,” said Therrien. “His speed and quickness are annoying to opponents, and because of that, he’s drawn some penalties – including some majors – that have allowed our power play to go to work. Drawn penalties is not a very utilized stat, but it is a stat that Aaron has done very well with, and which usually helps us win games.”
Cam Judkins is a ’98 left winger out of Pembroke, Mass., who has been a true utility man for the Spartans.
“He is another player from whom you’re going to get 100 percent,” said Therrien. “He’s another player we rely on shorthanded. He’ll go into the lane and block shots. He’s coachable and he wants to get better. He carries himself in such a professional manner. He is just a winner.”
Back on the defense, the Seacoast Spartans Prep squad has a couple of ’99 left-shot blueliners that have been key to every win, Colin Tracy and Evan St. Pierre.
“Colin led Bow [N.H.] High School to a Division 2 state title. In high school, he scored two points per game and was one of the best defensemen in the state,” said Therrien. “He is 6-feet-2-inches, with a long reach and he uses his stick well. He’s active with hits, and he competes extremely hard.”
St. Pierre, from Charlestown, N.H., is a player whom – like Garrison – draws on a vast reservoir of quickness.
“Evan is a very mobile defenseman. I trust him against anyone,” said Therrien. “His speed allows him to be in on any battle. If ever we give up an odd-man rush or the defense gets caught, he can get back and eliminate them.”
St. Pierre and Tracy are also very adept in the classroom, which will help them during college recruiting. Tracy also gets to learn about the college hockey life from his brother Shane Tracy, a captain at Curry College.
“All five of the players mentioned above have taken NCAA campus visits,” said Therrien.
The most recent sequence of events for the Seacoast Prep U16 team has the Spartans playing outstanding hockey.
Prior to the holidays, the Spartans traveled to Sherbrooke, Que., and put up a strong performance at the Bishop’s College Christmas Showcase. They won their first three games convincingly in the round robin. They fell in the semifinals to eventual tournament champion Newbridge Academy. Newbridge scored two late goals for a 2-0 verdict.
Since Christmas, heading into the new year, the Spartans avenged an early-season loss to the Boston Advantage U16 team with a convincing 4-1 victory.
Up front, the group of Cy Leclerc, Alex Liebel, Griffin Bono, Tristan Thibeault, and Jameson Bakke have been the offensive leaders.
“They’ve been playing both sides of the puck, buying into the systems, and playing really well,” said Seacoast Prep U16 head coach Kurt Mallett.
On the back end, Nate Shirley, Elijah Chapman and Cole Crusberg-Roseen have been the standouts, along with goalies Austin Sequeira and Ethan Kavanaugh.
“Both goalies, in the last five games, have given us chances to win,” said Mallett.
“We’ve turned a corner. We had a pretty good start, then went through a funk, when guys were in limbo about whether to stay with us or join their high school programs,” added Mallett.
“As a program, we did not want to do anything damaging to high school hockey. I felt very badly watching our young players and their families agonize over the decision to go or to stay. Due to new legislation in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, makes it impossible to do both. That really impacted their play,” said Mike Addesa, Seacoast Spartans college prep director. “We left the decision to the players and families – we put no pressure on them at all. The majority decided to stay with the Seacoast 16U program. They put their decision behind them, and as a result, their play has taken major steps forward.”