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There’s a new sheriff in town for the Rockport hockey program, and he is a very familiar face.

Kyle Nelson, a 2015 graduate of Rockport High School, former two-year captain of the team in 2014 and 2015, and a former assistant coach with the program in 2017 and 2018, is looking to bring the program back to prominence.

Nelson played on Rockport’s last state tournament team in 2013, and he brings in two assistant coaches, Brendan and Conor Douglass, who also played in the state tournament multiple times for Rockport.

“We’re trying to get back to what worked when the program was making the tournament almost every year,” Nelson said. “All three of us are Rockport guys and former players who were there in some of the better seasons. We want to bring that culture back to the program.”

Nelson is implementing a new system and so far, he likes the way the team has bought in.

“There’s a lot of teaching going on right now,” he said. “We’re really slowing it down and trying to get them to play a new style. It’s been going well so far. We have a big senior class and they’ve bought in.”

The Vikings, who are a co-op program with Rockport, Manchester Essex and Ipswich, are led by three captains, one from each school.

Rockport HS senior Billy Garlick returns at forward as does Manchester Essex senior Anthony Curcuru, both have at least two previous seasons of varsity experience. Ipswich junior captain Rowan Silva, the team’s leading scorer a season ago, returns to the team’s top line.

The Vikings have several other key players returning to the lineup outside of its three captains.

Junior Kyle Khani leads Rockport’s stable of defenseman, a puck mover who also plays well in his own end. He will be joined by Gus Johnson and Aidan Arnold on the blue line.

Junior Frew Rowen is back in the lineup and is one of the team’s best skaters along with fellow forward, senior John Andrew.

Rockport also has two important additions to the team in senior forward Andrew Guelli and senior goalie Cal Twombly. Both played their freshman and sophomore seasons but switched to basketball as juniors. Guelli was one of Rockport’s leading scorers two years ago while Twombly looked strong in net while backing up Max Kivekas. Twombly and senior Walker Knowles are competing for Rockport’s starting job.

“So far the mix of players has looked solid,” Nelson said. “We’ve been moving our feet well and we have speed. It’s all about staying positive. That’s the key to this season. Everything is new for them, which can be frustrating at times, but if they stay positive, work with their linemates and keep building chemistry, I think they can be competitive with everyone.”

The Vikings, who finished 4-11-4 a season ago, set up shop in the Commonwealth Athletic Conference, which has turned into a deep conference over the years.

Shawsheen is usually the frontrunner and looks to be that way again this season, but Essex Tech, which is in its third season in the CAC, also looks to be strong. Northeast, Nashoba Tech and Minuteman round out the CAC.

“The conference is pretty tough but I honestly think we can compete with anyone,” Nelson said. “We just need to get more comfortable with every practice and put it together on game day.”

Rockport hockey at a glance

Last Year’s Record: 4-11-4

Head coach: Kyle Nelson (1st season)

Captains: Anthony Curcuru, Sr., F; Billy Garlick, Sr., F; Rowan Silva, Sr., F.

Key Returning Players: John Andrew, Sr., F; Gus Johnson, Jr., Def.; Kyle Kahni, Jr., Def.; Frew Rowen, Jr., F; Aidan Arnold, Soph., Def.

Strengths: The Vikings have a lot of team speed and they are experienced.

Concerns: The team is settling into a new system with a new head coach.

Coach’s Outlook: “Our goal is obviously to make the tournament, finish .500 or better. It’s cliche but to do that everyone has to do their job. We are putting in a new system and so far the team is buying in.”

Season Opener: Saturday at Northeast (7:50 p.m.)

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