With six Division I championships in the past decade, Fairfield Prep hockey has established itself as one of the state's top programs. Last season the Jesuits lost a thrilling 6-5 state championship game to Hamden and head coach Matt Sather said he expects his team to a title contender again, despite a much more youthful squad.

"We should be strong," Sather said. "We are still a little younger than usual ... lots of sophomores on the roster, but youth also brings enthusiasm."

Sather, a Prep alum, is heading into his 12th season at the helm of the Jesuits and has a career record of 172-73-12.

After an 18-4 season and the loss to Hamden, Sather said his team will be motivated to win its first championship since 2008. But, he recognizes that this is not the same Jesuits squad as last year.

Sather and the Jesuits said good bye to departed seniors Darric White (21 goals, 13 assists, now at Middlebury College), Jackson Bargiello (3 goals, 23 assists, now at Vermont), goalie Spencer Sodokoff (14-3, .920 save percentage, now at Rice Memorial Prep School-Burlington, Vt.) and Lucas Dennison (16 goals, 16 assists).

"This is not like a professional team, there is so much roster turnover every year, if you focus on the past you will have trouble picturing the future," said Sather. "So we are heading into the season thinking about blazing their own path, not reflecting on last year."

Sather said he will be turning toward this year's senior class ­-- captains Don Carnicky (4 goals, 4 assists), Bryan Puffer (10 goals, 17 assists) and goalie John Galiani especially -- to take control of the team.

"I think it will be tough to replace the offense that last year's seniors provided," Sather said. "But, I love the character of our senior class, led by the captains. They have already set a positive tone."

Sather said his teams strengths are, "speed, depth and goaltending."

Senior David Griffin (8 goals, 8 assists) and junior A.J. Unker (11 goals, 8 assists) will lead the offensive attack. David White, a sophomore, also brings some offensive help after scoring eight goals last season as a freshman. White is one of four sophomores who Sather will look to play an important role this year.

"If we are playing well this year, we should get scoring and offense from all positions," Sather said.

Prep will face tough tests from Hamden, Ridgefield, New Canaan, Xavier and rival Notre Dame-Fairfield in its path to return to the title game.