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Hockey: Experience is necessary

Caswell and Carroll return to lead Bethlehem’s top line into the 2013-14 season

Bethlehem defenseman Robert Lemieux, right, battles for the puck during a recent hockey practice at the Bethlehem Area YMCA. The Eagles begin their season at this weekend’s Shaker/Colonie Thanksgiving Tournament at the Albany County Hockey Facility.

Bethlehem defenseman Robert Lemieux, right, battles for the puck during a recent hockey practice at the Bethlehem Area YMCA. The Eagles begin their season at this weekend’s Shaker/Colonie Thanksgiving Tournament at the Albany County Hockey Facility. Photo by Rob Jonas.

— Will this be the year the Bethlehem hockey team finally reaches the Section II Division I finals?

The Eagles have had opportunities before, only to be denied in the Sectional semifinals. But with a roster featuring a mix of senior leadership and young talent, coach Andre Rodrigue is hopeful they can make the jump this season.

“Every year, it’s our goal to win a Sectional championship,” said Rodrigue. “There’s a lot of parity in the (Capital District High School Hockey) league this year with a lot of teams losing kids to graduation and kids transferring. The league is wide open.”

The Eagles graduated several key players from last year’s team, including forwards Joe Verstandig and R.J. Diego, as well as goaltender Kevin Cooley. But, they have two of their leading scorers back in Andrew Carroll and Chris Caswell.

“Carroll and Caswell have been playing together (on the same line) all four years on varsity, and before that they played together in youth hockey,” said Rodrigue. “They work very well together.”

“We know where each other will be on the ice,” said Caswell.

Rodrigue is moving senior forward Zach Flagler to Caswell and Carroll’s line to replace Verstandig.

“Adding Zach to that top line adds that much more leadership and that much more speed to it,” said Rodrigue.

“He adds the speed factor, so he should be fine out there,” added Caswell.

The rest of Bethlehem’s offense will feature younger talent such as sophomore Evan Davis, junior Owen Talmage and freshmen Brian Harder and Zachary Nunez.

“I’m hoping to be able to rotate three (forward) lines,” said Rodrigue. “The majority of Section II has two solid lines. But the top teams that have a third line that can go out there and hold their own, those are the teams that win Section II titles.”

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