Expect more of this from Springfield D-man Dan Smyth this year.
Tom Lemieux is very clear in his message that expectations at Springfield don’t change.
“We want to compete for the Central League title,” Lemieux said. “It’s the same as every year. The league is very, very competitive this year and you can’t take a day off. There are a lot of teams that could beat each other on every night.”
One of those teams, though, could be the Cougars. Most won’t quite put them in the same breath as Radnor, Conestoga or Ridley, but Springfield will be able to make a push and for its sake, hopefully eat at the big boy table this year. If the Cougars are going to get there, it’s going to start at one particular end of the field.
“Our strength is the defensive side of the field,” Lemieux said. “They work really well together, they’ve been playing together for a while and they have a lot of game experience.”
The best of a talented group is senior Dan Smyth. Smyth proved his mettle a year ago and will be counted upon to take the next step forward. Lemieux said he expects Smyth to take on the opposition’s top scoring threat on a nightly basis and that the Cougars like their odds with that matchup.
“He competes and he’s a gamer,” Lemieux said of the St. John’s signee. “He’s very, very competitive and he’s worked very hard to be great.”
Smyth will have help, though. He’s flanked by a junior trio comprising of John Ferguson, Joe Hoey and LSM Matt Quagliariello, all of whom will give opponents fits. They’ll be the ones tasked with protecting senior goalie Jeremy Cavanaugh once he returns to the lineup. Nick Baratelle has been steady in the early going, but Lemieux figures that Cavanaugh’s the guy when he comes back.
“He’s a good stopper, he always has been,” Lemieux said of Cavanaugh. “He really worked on his clearing game in the offseason and it’s giving him an all-around game that makes him a solid keeper back there.”
While Lemieux is bullish on his defensive crew, he also praised the team’s all-around depth and that’s evident at the midfield. Despite losing junior middie Brian Todaro for what could be the entire season to a fractured vertebrae, the Cougars still have solid options there. Senior FOGO Mark Gurenlian isn’t your typical faceoff guy. He will also be one of Springfield’s top offensive threats out of the midfield, senior Glenn McCarry can do big things and senior Steve Halko provides a boost in the transition game thanks to his top-notch speed.
“He’s great in between the boxes,” Lemieux said of Halko. “He’s got great speed and he’s a real nice transition player. He plays with a ton of energy and the kids feed off of him.”
Lemieux also expects senior attackmen Vince Marra and Dan Dickinson and senior midfielder Chris Martin back next week, but until then, sophomore Lucas Spence has shown he can hold things down for the Cougars. One of Springfield’s leading scorers a year ago, the crafty Spence has gotten off to a hot start with two goals and five assists in the first two games. He’s got good vision and once the Cougars have their full complement of players back, Spence will be even more dangerous with the ball on his stick.
Springfield is an intriguing team because while it doesn’t have a too many superstars, it does have a good group of talented players and Lemieux knows what he’s doing. The Cougars had a brief stay in the District One tournament as they ran into three-time state champion Conestoga in the second round, but a first-round win over Upper Dublin was a nice building block. Can they be a team that raises eyebrows all year and parlays that into a big postseason?
– MATT CHANDIK
Good balance up and down the field
Strength at any position
Mark Gurenlian, Sr., FO and one of our top offensive threats at midfield
Steve Halko, Sr., offensive midfielder, great speed great in between the boxes, real nice transition player
Plays with a ton of energy, kids feed off of him