Next up in our top 20 teams are the Ward Melville Patriots at No. 7. This is another one of Long Island’s long standing programs with a rich history of success, and this season won’t be any different as they will be right in the thick of things in Suffolk Class A. They aim to rebound after last season’s narrow defeat in the semifinals. Head Coach Jay Negus who has been leading this team since 2013 says that they lost a lot of seniors from last year, and he will be waiting to see which players step up this year.
One focal point of Ward Melville’s attack is the senior Niko Barbero who’s committed to Siena. Barbero comes into this season as a team captain and will look to follow up a junior season in which he scored 18 goals and added nine assists for 27 points. He’ll definitely have the opportunity to do even more this season in the absence of 2022 graduates Kevin Dolan and Nick Stoecker.
This year, with some key losses in the midfield with 2022 graduates Tyler Flynn and Tyler Ruffini, the opportunity presents itself for seniors Andrew Belli and Aidan Valieko (Connecticut College) to have a breakout season and provide a huge jolt offensively. Unfortunately the midfield will also be without current senior Nick Bruckner due to an ACL injury which will only further emphasize the need for big production from each player in the rotation.
One of the biggest luxuries on this team is the dominance they possess at the face-off X with not one but two elite division one commits in senior Michael Kitevski (BU) and junior Madden Murphy (Princeton). This is a two-headed monster that typically only private schools can say they have. They each have an extremely high rate of success at winning the face-off to themselves and Murphy has consistently proven that he can take the ball right down the field and find the back of the net.
Ward Melville has consistently had a defense that has been backed by strong goaltending and this season it appears like it will be senior Charlie Giachetti (St. John Fisher) who will be getting the nod as the starting goalie. Last season Giachetti saw brief playing time behind Zach Licavoli and recorded 18 saves. The depth at the goalie position is prevalent as they played a total of four goalies during the winter in Giachetti, Ben Thayer, Ethan Shulder, and Davon DiFede. They will be without defenseman Frank Carroll who was part of the class of 2022, but one of the keys to their defensive alignment who returns is the junior Binghamton commit Aidan McMinn who enters year three as a varsity starter. He’s a caused turnover machine with his ability to deflect and knock down passes. McMinn’s physicality and toughness will reflect in their defensive identity this season. Adding to this high caliber defense is senior Dan Cosentino the LIU commit. Last year this was a shut-down unit that allowed only 5.7 goals per game.
According to coach Negus, two young guns that might have the opportunity to be in the fold this season and see minutes is sophomore midfielder Callan McLaughlin and freshman defenseman Liam Cronin.
With a number teams competing in Class A, this makes each game on the schedule so important when positioning for playoff seeds. Before league play begins the Patriots will get the regular season underway with a non-league matchup against Chaminade on March 25th. Their first league game will be on the 28th when they go against Half Hollow Hills. Some of their other notable league games include Connetquot (4/15), Huntington (4/27), and Northport (5/9). Mixed in on the schedule as well is another non-league opponent Garden City (4/1).