Back in March, Fairfield Prep won the Division I state championship. But head coach Matt Sather's second straight (and ninth overall) CIAC crown came with a price.

The Jesuits graduated eight players and lost five others to transfer and will go into the 2014-15 season looking to replace not only experience, but leadership.

"We have a lot of holes to fill, especially scoring," Sather said in his prospects report to the Citizen. "But the offensive emergence of (Will) Schlichtig, (Ryan) Deering and (Justin) Blanchette during last season's state tournament bodes well."

Still, whether those three can replace the offensive firepower of Matt Wikman (27 goals, 16 assists), Dean Lockery (13 goals, 11 assists) and Kenny Kochiss (11 goals, 22 assists) who all graduated, remains to be seen. Deering, a senior, only scored five goals last season, as did Blanchette, a junior. Schlichtig, also a junior, netted just one goal.

But Sather is hopeful that those three, along with seniors Brandon Powell, Jack Quinn, Vinny D'Amore, Jack Taubl and Will Dempsey and juniors Geoff Hadden and Jack McGovern will provide a solid core for the Jesuits -- who went 16-4-3 last season and defeated Darien 2-1 in overtime to win the Division I title -- to once again challenge for the championship.

"Hadden, McGovern and D'Amore will anchor a rebuilt defensive corps," Sather wrote. "Taubl will take over in the nets after waiting patiently for three seasons. He is extremely capable. One wild card is the return of Quinn, a very talented scorer after missing the better part of two seasons with injuries."

Taubl played in just three games last season, winning all three and finishing with a 1.00 goals against average and a 93.9 save percentage.

Prep opened the season on Wednesday against Ridgefield. The Jesuits play again on December 20 at 4 p.m. at Darien against the Blue Wave.

ND-FAIRFIELD

Like, Prep, the Lancers will be looking to fill a lot of holes after graduating nine players from last season's Division I semifinal appearance.

"After graduating such a large senior class, the goal will be to get the new players on the same page," head coach Dr. Steve Hetherman wrote in his team's prospectus. "They keys for our success will be playing strong defense and staying healthy."

Tri-captains Jonathan Suporn, Justin Dupuis and Seamus O'Rourke will lead the Lancers -- who lost to Darien in the Division I semifinals last season and finished with an 18-5-1 record -- along with returning players Ryan Gawricki, Brendan Barger, Tyler Henchcliffe, Nick Carlotto and Mark Russo.

According to Hetherman, Notre Dame's "team chemistry" and "team culture" will be strengths as the Lancers look to return to the Division I tournament and challenge for the SWC title (they won both the regular season and tournament crowns last year).

"For us to have success, our top players have to be the best players on the ice at each practice and at each game," Hetherman wrote.

The Lancers opened the season on Wednesday against East Catholic and will play on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Bennett rink against Notre Dame-West Haven.

WARDE-LUDLOWE CO-OP

Tom Roche takes over as the head coach for the Warde-Ludlowe co-op program and will look to build around captain Zach Weinstein (defense) and returning players Trevor DeMilt (forward), P.J. O'Reilly (forward), Matt Roberts (forward), Wade Petro (defense) and Kyle Greenhut (goaltender).

"We have a good mix of players," wrote Roche in his prospectus to the Citizen, banking on a roster of six seniors, nine juniors, eight sophomores and two freshmen. "I am very pleased with how they are developing. We have good speed, good puck movement and good goaltending. That being said, we still have a ways to go. Our goal is to bring the state championship back to Fairfield."

The Mustangs finished 7-13 last season, qualifying as the 15th seed in the Division II tournament before losing to Amity 4-3 in the opening round.

They also went 7-5 in the FCIAC and made the playoffs as the 6th seed.

celsberry@ctpost.com