ECAC Preview, 2006-07
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Coach: Don Vaughan
2005-06 record: 20-13-6
League finish: 2nd (lost in ECAC tournament semifinals)
Changes: The Raiders lost seniors Jon and Ryan Smyth, as well leading scorer Kyle Wilson, but certain recruits appear poised to make an immediate impact. Said Vaughan, "We have David McIntyre who we would expect to step in and contribute right away. He'll see some time on our power play. Jason Williams, he committed to us a year ago, so he's pretty anxious to get things going. He's a smart player, sees the ice very well. Both of those guys are going to see some quality minutes."
Strength: Goaltending and defense. Returning for the Raiders in net is Mark Dekanich, last year's Ken Dryden Award winner for the best goaltender in the league. With a 2.29 goals against average and a .924 save percentage, Dekanich was one of the top goaltenders in the country. In addition, Dekanich plays behind a very stingy Raider defense.
Weakness: Lack of offensive depth. "I think we have enough offense as long as we stay injury-free," admitted Vaughan. "I don't think we have a lot of depth in terms of offensive production, but who does anymore? We're hoping to get the most out of what we have — guys like [Tyler] Burton and [Marc] Fulton."
Outlook: Colgate gets the nod over Harvard as the CHN preseason favorite simply because of the high quality goaltender. This may be the year where it finally all comes together, especially since Colgate seems to be actively preparing for success, scheduling four in-season tournaments — more than anyone in the country. Was this to prepare for the playoffs in March? "That's exactly why we did it," said Vaughan. "When you get to the postseason — the most important part of your year — it comes down to a tournament format. We all know how hard it is to get to Albany, but we've been there three years in a row, and we haven't been able to get to the championship game. I thought that the opportunity to play in tournaments would prepare our guys for playing back-to-back games in a tournament-type format."
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 1st
Coach: Ted Donato
2005-06 record: 21-12-2
League finish: 4th (won ECAC tournament championship)
NCAAs: 1st round (lost to Maine)
Changes: The key losses for the Crimson include captain Peter Hafner and starting goaltender John Daigneau, who was named the Most Outstanding Player at the ECAC Championships in March. However, they return almost all of their primary offensive threats. Furthermore, defensemen Chad Morin (cousin of former BC star J.D. Forrest) and Alex Biega (fifth round draft choice of the Buffalo Sabres) highlight the highly-touted incoming class for the defending ECAC champions.
Strength: Depth and special teams. Said Donato, "One of the key strengths on our team is that we don't rely on any one or two individuals. Last year, on any given night, a different line could be our best line." Additionally, last year's Crimson squad was among the nation's best in both power play and penalty kill situations.
Weakness: To start the year, goaltending is a concern for the Crimson. "Who knows how it will play out?" said Donato. "We have a senior goalie (Tobe), a couple freshman goalies (Kyle Richter and John Riley), and a sophomore (Mike Coskren) that returns. Those guys will all compete, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities that we could have one of those freshmen goalies come in and really end up being our most important recruit because it's the most important position. That's something that will be played out."
Outlook: If Harvard finds solid goaltending and plays better on the road in league games (where it was a surprising 4-6-1 last year), it has the potential to be even better than last year's Crimson team. Still, Donato remains realistic, saying, "We realize that we're going to need to really integrate our new guys and improve throughout the season if we're going to have a chance to repeat."
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 2nd
Coach: George Roll
2005-06 record: 18-17-3
League finish: 8th (lost in ECAC tournament quarterfinals)
Changes: The Golden Knights only lost three seniors to graduation, only one of whom (Jeff Genovy) was in their top 10 in scoring. Nick Dodge, last year's leading scorer for Clarkson, will serve as team captain. As Roll notes, "Everything starts with Dodge — what he brings to each and every game, his work ethic." The nightly lineup for the Knights could very well feature no freshmen at all.
Strength: Home ice advantage. Last year, the Knights enjoyed a league best 14-2-2 record at home. This season, the same type of success at home will be important, as visitors to Cheel Arena will include Miami and the defending national champion Wisconsin Badgers. A big part of their success at home was their penalty kill, which ranked as the best unit in the ECAC last season.
Weakness: On the flip side, last year's Clarkson team struggled to a 3-15 record on the road, but even more telling was their occasional lack of poise and a 2-6-1 record against Dartmouth, Colgate, Cornell and Harvard — last year's top four teams in the league.
Outlook: Said Roll, "We're really excited. The personnel is certainly there, and the potential that we have, especially up front, is probably the best we've had in a while here at Clarkson." The experience gained by last year's relatively young team, especially by goaltenders Kyle McNulty and David Leggio, should have the Knights challenging for the ECAC championship.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 3rd
Coach: Mike Schafer
2005-06 record: 22-9-4
League finish: 3rd (runner-up in ECAC tournament)
NCAAs: Quarterfinals (lost to Wisconsin)
Changes: Cornell's top two defensemen, Ryan O'Byrne (Montreal) and Sasha Pokulok (Washington), as well as its top goaltender, former Hobey Baker finalist David McKee (Anaheim), all chose to leave school early and pursue professional careers in the NHL. In addition, the Big Red lost its leading scorer, Matt Moulson, to graduation. The incoming players, especially goaltenders Troy Davenport and Ben Scrivens, and scorers like NHL Draftee Tony Romano, will likely be counted on more than any Cornell freshman class in recent history.
Strength: Knowing how to win. "Once you get the season going, you have to win games and figure out how to win games with new teams," said Schafer. "Every team is different. Over the last four or five years, we've always been in the top 10, as far as defense, in the country, but our offense has fluctuated. Some years, it's very good, and some years, it's been very mediocre. You've got to figure out ways to win games different every year." Telling signs that the team knows how to win is last year's 10-4 record in one goal games and a 17-3-2 record when scoring the first goal.
Weakness: It seems unnatural to think that the Big Red defense may be a weakness, but the reality is that this is the thinnest the Red have been on defense in recent memory. "We knew that David was going to leave, which enabled us to recruit goaltenders," said Schafer. "But with Sasha and Ryan, we had a feeling that one of them might go, but obviously not both of them. It definitely left us shorthanded at the defensive blueline. As an Ivy League school, you can't go back and pick somebody up in the summer months when someone leaves."
Outlook: The Cornell coaching staff hopes that its upperclassmen can step up and that it will get some production out of a highly-touted group of freshman forwards. With everything the team lost over the summer, this year might require one of Schafer's finest coaching performances.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 4th
Coach: Bob Gaudet
2005-06 record: 19-12-2
League finish: 1st (lost in ECAC tournament semifinals)
Changes: After winning its first regular-season title in school history last year, this season's edition of the Big Green is faced with the challenge of losing its most successful senior class ever. In fact, Mike Ouellette, Eric Przepiorka, Jarrett Sampson, Garret Overlock and Sean Offers comprised the winningest class in the history of Dartmouth hockey. Now, incoming freshmen such as Josh Gilliam (who scored an impressive 104 points last season in the OPJHL), as well as returning players such as Tanner Glass and Grant Lewis, will attempt to steady a team that has lost a great deal of its offensive firepower and leadership.
Strength: Knowing that every game counts. Last season, the Big Green needed an incredible second half run to finish atop the league standings. "We want to be prepared from the drop of the puck this year," said Gaudet. "We had a tough start last year, and we had to dig ourselves out of a hole. It's something we want to have an emphasis on — to be as highly conditioned as we can, to be mentally prepared, and to realize that every single game counts. There are very few things you can control, but you can control your preparation, your work ethic, and your attitude."
Weakness: Uncertainty. With the aforementioned loss of a terrific senior class, it remains to be seen who will step up and fill the void. Gaudet seems optimistic, saying "My hope is that everyone's going to step up.I feel good about the guys who are returning."
Outlook: The graduated class of 2006 was invaluable for Dartmouth — not only in terms of on-ice production but also for leadership and other intangibles that will be impossible to replace immediately. The Big Green have some talented players, and Gaudet will certainly help them realize their full potential. However, it is reasonable to expect a slight dropoff from last season.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 5th
Coach: Rand Pecknold
2005-06 record: 20-18-1
League finish: 9th (lost in ECAC tournament quarterfinals)
Changes: Entering their second season in the ECAC, the 2006-07 Bobcats return their top seven scorers from last year, as well as their starting sophomore goaltender, Bud Fisher. Also, Quinnipiac will open its brand new hockey arena in January, which Pecknold described as "a state of the art facility that we really feel is one of the best rinks on the east coast for college hockey."
Strength: Reid Cashman and the No. 1 line. Last season, the Bobcats' primary offensive unit — comprised of Brian Leitch (45 points), Jamie Bates (41 points), and Ben Nelson (38 points) — was among the most dangerous in the league. And they all return, along with Cashman, who was an All-American last year on defense while finishing tied for second on the team in scoring with 41 points. Said Pecknold, "It's always great when you have a defenseman who can score. He makes our power play go." That power play unit ranked 12th in the nation last year.
Weakness: Depth. Last year, Pecknold did not seem to find consistent scoring beyond his top line and power play. However, barring a sophomore slump, David Marshall (34 points last season as a freshman) should be able to take some pressure off Leitch and Cashman.
Outlook: Last season, the Bobcats started well and ended well, but suffered through a midseason slump during which they won only twice in a 13 game stretch. They will be tested early (six of their first eight are on the road), but expect a breakthrough year for the Bobcats, and come March, Quinnipiac could very well be putting its new arena to good use, hosting an ECAC playoff series for the first time.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 6th
Coach: Nate Leaman
2005-06 record: 16-16-6
League finish: 6th (lost in ECAC tournament first round)
Changes: Last month, coach Nate Leaman signed the first ever multi-year deal in the history of Union's hockey program — suggesting that its athletic department may be prepared to take hockey more seriously than ever before. Said Leaman, "It's a huge step in culture. It's a baby step on the ice. We're still working on the equipment and recruiting budgets." After its most successful season since 1996-97, the Dutchmen will experience a considerable amount of turnover this fall, with a large incoming freshman class of 10 players. Still, the most notable change is the departure due to graduation of star goaltender Kris Mayotte.
Strength: Returning players. Last year, Union struggled offensively, averaging only 2.37 goals per game, but 12 of their top 15 scorers return. Said Leaman, "[A strength is] our depth with our forwards. And we have five returning 'D,' which will help us. All five played a lot of minutes [last year]."
Weakness: Goaltending. Almost every night, Mayotte was the key to Union's success, and now, Leaman will have to find consistent goaltending from elsewhere. Although he has 24 games of playing experience at Union, probable starter Justin Mrazek did not play well last season. The other candidates to fill the void are senior Daniel Tatar and incoming freshmen Rich Sillery and Shaun Williams.
Outlook: If the defense plays as well as they did last year, and if the offense — now a year more mature — finally begins to click, the Dutchmen could be one of the surprise teams in the league this season.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 7th
Coach: Joe Marsh
2005-06 record: 21-17-2
League finish: 5th (lost in ECAC tournament quarterfinals)
Changes: The Saints come marching in to the new season without their top five scorers from last year, including the 2005-06 ECAC Player of the Year, T.J. Trevelyan, who graduated and signed with the Boston Bruins last month. Incoming forwards such as Casey Parenteau, Mike McKenzie and Tom Bardis will be counted on to continue St. Lawrence's recent reputation as one of the fastest, most potent offenses in the ECAC.
Strength: Discipline. Perhaps as a direc result of their team speed, last year's Saints squad was assessed the fourth fewest penalty minutes in the country. This was a key part of their success, as their opponents amassed an astounding 187 more penalty minutes than the Saints over the course of the season.
Weakness: Loss of firepower. John Zeiler, Kyle Rank, and of course, Trevelyan, were among the most productive forwards in the league last year, helping the Saints scored 3.25 goals per game — the second best offense output in the league behind Dartmouth. Only one 20 point scorer (sophomore Kevin DeVergilio) returns. Still, Marsh remains optimistic. "We've got a really good balance of guys," said the 22 year coaching veteran. "I'm looking at guys that are seasoned veterans. Everyone came back in fabulous shape, from the bottom up."
Outlook: The Saints will need to find some offensive depth quickly, or otherwise, an 8th place projected finish is generous. "I think we're going to be a pretty high energy team, with lots of speed," said Marsh. "We have a lot of younger players — 10 freshmen. We've got a good nucleus back, but certainly, it's really important for us to mature quickly if we're going to be in the hunt."
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 8th
Coach: Seth Appert
2005-06 record: 14-17-6
League finish: 7th (lost in ECAC tournament first round)
Changes: The Engineers have lost four of their top six scorers from last season, including leading scorer Kevin Croxton, but the most notable change comes behind the bench. After Dan Fridgen was forced to resign in March, Rensselaer hired Seth Appert, who played college hockey at Ferris State and went on to be an outstanding recruiter and assistant coach at Denver. Also, in one of the more inspiring stories of the offseason, senior Kirk MacDonald, the team's top scorer in 2004-05, is expected to return after missing last season while battling testicular cancer.
Strength: New direction. It's about time for a change of scenery for the Engineers, and Appert will bring a much-welcomed new voice and direction to the Rensselaer program. After experiencing two national championships at Denver, he certainly has the ability to turn the program around. Said Appert, "Their resistance [to change] has been very limited, if at all, and I give our players full credit for that. It's one thing for our staff to implement what we want, and another thing for them to buy in."
Weakness: "The question mark is our blueline," said Appert. "We're extremely young." In addition, it is reasonable to expect some growing pains associated with Appert's transition.
Outlook: Appert is a proven winner, and once his systems have been implemented in Troy, Engineer fans might once again have a reason to freak out more than once a season.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 9th
Coach: Guy Gadowsky
2005-06 record: 10-18-3
League finish: 10th (lost in ECAC tournament first round)
Changes: Following the graduation of starting goaltender — and Hockey Humanitarian Award winner — Eric Leroux, the Tigers are left with some uncertainty as to who will take over the role of starter. Their incoming players are highlighted by forwards Cam MacIntyre, Tyler Beachel and Mark Magnowski. MacIntyre in particular, after emerging as one of the BCHL's top scorers last season, has the potential to be an immediate force in the league.
Strength: The incoming class. During the course of their careers, the players mentioned above will look to give a new meaning to the term "Princeton offense." The group of 10 freshmen is perhaps the most underrated recruiting class in the league.
Weakness: Goaltending. Said Gadowsky, "[Leroux] is a big loss, on and off the ice. It's up to the other guys to try and win the number one spot. I think all three of them are capable of doing it, so that should be a good battle. And that competition should make everyone better. Still, goaltending and the defensive aspect might be a bit of a question mark."
Outlook: Last year, the Tigers enjoyed late-season home sweeps against Cornell and Colgate, as well as Clarkson and St. Lawrence. But despite improving their record each of the last three years, expect difficulties on the blueline and in net, especially during the early portion of the season. Once this year's large freshman class has a year of experience under its belt, Princeton could enjoy some long-awaited success in the years to come.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 10th
Coach: Roger Grillo
2005-06 record: 5-20-7
League finish: 12th (lost in ECAC tournament first round)
Changes: Despite losing a handful of seniors to graduation, of whom perhaps the most valuable were defensemen Pete LeCain and Paul Crosty, none were among the top 12 in team scoring last season. The biggest change was the surprise retirement of goaltender Adam D'Alba, who will remain at Brown to focus on his academics as a business economics major.
Strength: The experience of the many returning players who struggled through a humbling five-win season last year could be a huge strength for the Bears. Said Grillo, "Obviously last year was a tough year with a lot of close game losses, but I think it'll make us a stronger, more mentally tough, battle-tested team."
Weakness: Goaltending and penalty killing. The loss of D'Alba leaves Grillo with a considerable question mark between the pipes, as his only remaining options are returning sophomore Mark Sibbald — who only has six games of playing experience — and incoming freshman Dan Rosen from the USHL. Additionally, last season's Brown team was successful in killing penalties less than 80 percent of the time, placing them among the worst penalty killing units in college hockey.
Outlook: Last year's team was woeful in almost every statistical category; Brown only averaged 2.16 goals per game. However, with all of their top scorers returning, the Bears seem poised to improve this year. Said Grillo, "We weren't able to finish games [last season]. It became a pretty emotionally and mentally tough situation. But I think it made us stronger. We have great character on this team, and I think we'll surprise a lot of people this year."
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 11th
Coach: Keith Allain
2005-06 record: 10-20-3
League finish: 11th (lost in ECAC tournament quarterfinals)
Changes: Following the end of the 28-year Tim Taylor era at Yale, the Bulldogs move forward under new coach Keith Allain, a Yale alumnus who, since he graduated in 1980, has served as an assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues and the US Olympic team.
Strength: Optimism for the future and, eventually, goaltending. Said Allain, a former goaltender, "I believe that hockey goaltending is the most important position in all of sports. We'll spend a lot of time with the goalies. We also have Mike Richter as a volunteer assistant coach. One thing I want for Yale is for it to be a destination for talented goaltenders."
Weakness: Transition. Allain, with his experience and work ethic, may very well be able to turn the Yale hockey program around, but this season might represent a necessary year of adjustment and transition. "This whole season will be a feeling out process for me," said Allain. "I've directed my attentions more towards learning our team, rather than trying to learn the league."
Outlook: For the long run, the outlook is positive, but Yale, and its new coaching staff, may have to go through some struggles first. Either way, a new era of Yale hockey is underway. "I'm not paying much attention to the past," said Allain, who also noted that he communicates frequently with former coach Taylor. "We're looking towards the future. I've told each one of my players that they have an opportunity to write their own book, so to speak."
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 12th