Star power keyed the Greenwich High School girls hockey team's success last season, as the high-scoring duo of Hannah Jeffrey and Meghan Spezzano made a habit of recording clutch goals in seemingly every game.
This year, the scenario will be quite different for the Cardinals.
With the team's two all-time leading scorers in college, balance is the word a new-look Greenwich team is emphasizing.
"We may not have as much firepower as we had last year, but I think we could have more balance," Greenwich coach Brett Farson said. "We have nine freshmen and a lot of enthusiastic players, so I think our team is deeper this year."
Greenwich, which opens its 2012-13 campaign Wednesday on the road against rival Ridgefield, showed its inexperience a bit during Monday's scrimmage against a formidable Portledge School squad. But the Cards did flash some potential in its 7-0 loss at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
"For the freshmen, this was their first high school game and I thought they got better as the game went on," said Cardinals senior defenseman Caroline Lee, one of the team's four captains. "Throughout the season we will communicate better and improve."
The Cardinals raised their level of play as the season progressed last winter, advancing to the FCIAC finals and earning a berth in the quarterfinals of the Connecticut State Girls Hockey Tournament.
"We have a lot of mature players on our team and with the new players and their potential -- that's definitely going to help us out," said Cardinals senior defenseman/forward Emily Bacon. "We miss Meghan and Hannah, but we have the potential to fill that big void."
"Our defense is comprised of mostly upperclassmen who are pretty used to the game and we are helping out the forwards and younger players as they get used to the game at the high school level," Marullo said. "We have a lot of incoming freshmen that are getting used to the team and they are stepping it up. Their potential is really high."
"We always start off the season a little bit slow, but as we get a feel for the other teams and the game, we get stronger as the games go on," McDermid said. "We'll be up there toward the end of the season."
AT THE HELM: Farson begins his second season as head coach of the Cardinals. He guided GHS to a record of 14-8-1 in his first season with the team. The Cards reached the FCIAC finals, where they lost to powerhouse New Canaan, then were edged by Ridgefield, 5-4, in the state quarterfinals. Greenwich advanced to the FCIAC championship game by downing Ridgefield, 4-3, in the semifinals. Mike Erensen returns as Farson's assistant coach.
WHO'S GONE?: Jeffrey graduated as the team's all-time leader in goals (115) and points (196). Spezzano left with a program-best 102 assists and finished with 82 points. Also graduating was Nikki Greenwald, who helped anchor the Cardinals' defense.
WHO'S BACK?: McDermid, Graves and Ferguson are experienced players who have a penchant for being around the puck. Lee, who battled injuries the previous two seasons, should contribute on defense along with Marullo and Bacon. Freccia is a solid goaltender, who improved over the course of the season a year ago, making big saves in key postseason moments.
"Last year, we had the dynamic duo (Jeffrey, Spezzano), but this year we're also returning some power," Lee said. "Even though we lost our dynamic duo we still have the goal of getting to FCIACs and states."
WATCH OUT FOR: Freshman goalie Lisa Lewis saw some time between the pipes against Portledge. Lewis, one of nine freshman on the team, begins her first season on the squad along with Monique Pera, Erika Hvolbeck, Lockesley Freccia, Amy Wyle, Monica Stevenson, Caitlin Brady, Haley Raftery, Annabel Randolph and Claire Eschricht.
STRENGTHS: Freccia was rock solid in goal in many games last season. The Cardinals could be strong defensively with an experienced group returning. McDermid contributed offensively last year and has the potential to frequently light the lamp, along with Ferguson and Graves.
"Even though we are still switching up the lines, a lot of us know how to work together," McDermid said. "I see a good future coming for us."
WEAKNESSES: The Cardinals must fill the scoring void left by the graduation of Jeffrey and Spezzano.
"Last year we had star players, this year we have balance," Marullo said. "We have a lot of players that have to step it up."
SHOWDOWNS: After visiting Ridgefield Wednesday, the Cardinals will host Stamford Thursday at 8 p.m. at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink. They will host New Canaan (Jan. 7), Fairfield (Jan. 14), Ridgefield (Jan. 21), Darien (Jan. 29) and Wilton (Jan. 31).