This could be the year the Fairfield co-op hockey team returns to state and FCIAC prominence.

The Mustangs only graduate two from a squad that reached the Division II state tournament a year ago. Fairfield's head coach Mark Pettorini believes this could be a big year for his club.

"I'm hoping it's going to be a great year," Pettorini said. "We have a great chance to do some damage in Division II this year."

Fairfield returns 20 upperclassmen and 13 seniors. Leading the squad will be third-year goalie Connor Frawley. Frawley won nine games last year.

Fairfield's offense is expected to be led by senior forwards Mike Aquila and Matt Larouche. Aquila will likely center Fairfield's top-line with sharp-shooting winger Kevin Robinson as its top-left wing.

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"He's very quick on the outside," Pettorini said of Robinson.

On defense, Fairfield will be anchored by captain Dan Silvestri. Fellow defender Conor Scharlop is, according to Pettorini, "a big, hard-hitting [defenseman] with a hard shot."

Though Fairfield has many returners, Pettorini's pleased his club has bought into a team-first mentality. He believes his squad will have to play as team, since it lacks a premier talent.

"We don't have any superstars on this team," Pettorini said. "We have a good base of blue-collar hockey players ... we're not looking to one or two guys to anchor this team."

Still, Pettorini was an assistant when the co-op team reached the state finals in 2008 and believes this squad could even challenge of the FCIAC's elite.

"It's definitely wide-open," Pettorini said of the FCIAC. "The opportunity is there for one of the powerhouses to not be on top.";