Since the 1999-2000 season, the Milton boys’ hockey team has seen a roller coaster of successful and rough seasons.
At the beginning of the new millennium, the Yellowjackets posted four straight regular seasons of .500 or better records.
From there, the next nine seasons would be a little tougher, as they failed to record a .500 record. But now they are back on the upswing after posting records better than .500 in the past four seasons.
They will look to continue that upward trend in the 2016-17 season, as they will field an experienced team with eight seniors on the roster.
“Our experience will be one of our strengths,” said Milton coach Trevor Wagar, who is entering his seventh year as coach of the Yellowjackets. “Also our ability to learn quickly and our mental toughness will be big. All eight of our seniors will play a role in our success.”
In recent years, the Yellowjackets have struggled at times to find consistent offense, which is something Wagar is hoping his seniors can help change this season.
The team will be led this season by senior center Liam Fersing, senior winger Devon Jackson and senior center Brendan Green.
Wagar is looking to those three especially to help the team make sure they don’t struggle offensively.
“Liam is one of our best offensive players, and we are really hoping for him to hit his stride this year,” he said. “Devon is a great player and a smooth skater with a bullet for a shot and we’re hoping Brendan, who is injured right now, can bounce back and play a big role as a facilitator and scorer, as well as be one of our top defensive forwards.”
Another question mark for Milton this season will be the goaltending. Eric Roy, who had been the team’s stud goalie is now on the Vermont Lumberjacks Elite team.
“It’s definitely tough to lose one of the best goalies in the state,” said Wagar. “We have two goalies now though and are still trying to figure out who is going to hold down the fort for us.”
The team finished last season with a 13-7 regular season record, which gave them the No. 5 seed in the Division II playoffs. They took down Lyndon in impressive fashion with an 8-3 win in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Stowe in the quarterfinals 3-1.
This year, the top four teams from Division II last year (Woodstock, U-32, Stowe, Middlebury) have all moved up to Division I, which opens things up a little more for teams remaining in Division II.
“We have been successful in the past because of consistency and also having good players and goaltenders,” said Wagar. “This is always key in hockey, because it’s such a players game. I hope this year with losing four teams to Division I, it can help us get even closer to the top.”
The Yellowjackets open up their season on the road at Lyndon on Dec, 10. Six of the team’s first seven games will be on the road to start the season with the only home game being against Burr & Burton on Dec, 17 during that stretch.