A year after missing the Division 1 state playoffs for the first time in 18 campaigns, Notre Dame-Fairfield boys ice hockey coach Marty Roos hopes this is the year his club rights the ship.

But it certainly won't be easy. The Lancers lost three starters to graduation-- including experienced goalie Eric Sugrue-- and two more to transfer. After the dust settled, the Lancers have a relatively young club.

"They're good kids, they have a good attitude and they give me everything they got," Roos said. "But kids leave, that's just what happens."

Compounding the experience exodus is the Lancers' notoriously difficult schedule that includes an early season affair with defending Division 1 champ-- and crosstown rival-- Fairfield Prep, as well as two games apiece against ND-West Haven and Hamden.

"I don't ease up on the schedule," Roos said. "If we can't beat the top teams more than 40 percent, we don't deserve to make the state playoffs."

But Roos is confident in his young club. He expects junior Scott Kline to replace Sugrue in net. Kline had a 2.66 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 2010-11 as Sugrue's backup.

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"We're going to find out how good our goaltending is," Roos said.

Three defenders will anchor the back line for the Lancers. Junior Frank Zumbo and sophomores Greg Ferris and Frank Sullivan are tough and physical. Sullivan also is a good puck mover.

Up front, Dave Canfaratta returns after a year at Salisbury Prep. Canfaratta had 25 points for Notre Dame two years ago and teamed with physical sophomore winger Christian La Croix should be able to put the puck in the net.

But Roos is not counting solely on the players named. He knows if his club is going to achieve its goal of returning to the state playoffs this year, it'll take a team effort.

"We have 12 forwards, six defense and two goalies," he said. "It'll take our whole team to be successful."

And he also knows if his club can get to the Division 1 tournament, all bets are off.

"It's like going to a dance," Roos said. "You never know what can happen at the dance."