ECAC Season Preview, Part II
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
The second of two parts on the ECAC, which is the last league to get its regular season going, because its six Ivy League schools are limited to 29 games (unlike the 34 everyone else gets). See Part I here.
Coach: Mike Schafer
2007-08 Record: 19-14-3 (12-9-1 ECAC)
How they finished: Depleted by early defections and transfers over the last couple of years, Cornell did not have a typical season we've come to expect over the last decade or so.
Changes: The Big Red lost four players from last year's team, but should easily absorb the losses. Character forwards Topher Scott and Ray Sawada will be missed, but are not irreplaceable. Most of Sawada's 10 goals came in the postseason, and he never quite lived up to being a third-round NHL pick power forward billing. Cornell recruited five players — out of six — at 6-foot or higher, including 6-3 forward Sean Collins and 6-4 defender Sean Whitney.
Strengths: As usual, the Big Red are "balanced at all positions," said Schafer. Up front, Colin Greening and Riley Nash are a formidable tandem, each with their own unique skills. They are complemented by a bevy of quality two-way players. Defensively, there are two players from each of the four classes, led by senior Jared Seminoff, and the talented junior class — Justin Kruger and Brendon Nash. Troy Davenport was supplanted by Ben Scrivens (junior) in net last season, and Scrivens had a strong year. He may get pushed by freshman Mike Garman.
Weakness: Cornell needs "better transition offense through tighter defensive play." That is the Cornell mantra, and it slipped away from them the last couple of years.
Outlook: Cornell could make a run back to the NCAAs, if the freshmen can contribute right away, and the goaltending holds up.
CHN Predicted Order of Finish: 3rd
Coach: Joe Marsh
2007-08 Record: 13-20-4 (7-13-2 ECAC)
How they finished: A horrible stretch run, despite sweeping the final regular-season weekend, then another three-game playoff series loss to Colgate. It was a more promising season at the start.
Changes: The Saints feature a large (9) class, made up entirely of Americans, which is interesting for a team that can almost see Canada (not Russia) from its backyard. The melting pot includes players from Florida, Arizona, Missouri and Pennsylvania, suggesting the Saints are looking for new ways to remain competitive — or maybe it's just a one-year coincidence. Forwards Charlie Giffin and Jordan Hack are the only significant losses. Neither of the two senior goalies were spectacular, though they were solid.
Strengths: There is balanced scoring up front, led by good two-way senior Brock McBride. Three seniors anchor the defense, Zach Miskovich, Shawn Fensel, and Jared Ross.
Weakness: Goaltending has been an issue in recent years, with Marsh rotating as many as four at a time. Alex Petizian had a good freshman year, then faltered last year. But he has gotten the bulk of the time this year as a junior so far, and been impressive. A return to form for him, and the Saints will be all right.
Outlook: They have the talent all around, a traditionally strong program with great coaching. If the goaltending holds up, the Saints can make noise.
CHN Predicted Order of Finish: 4th
Coach: Nate Leaman
2007-08 Record: 15-14-6 (10-7-5 ECAC)
How they finished: The Dutchmen finally got the top four finish they had long coveted, but were once again unable to win an ECAC playoff series, dropping the second-round best-of-3 to Cornell.
Changes: A typical crop of good recruits, replace a tiny group that departed. Losing Josh Coyle and Torren Delforte up front should have minimal impact. Coyle never built on his 14-goal junior season. Goalie Justin Mrazek leaving puts things in Corey Milan's hands full time.
Strengths: "We return our top five scorers (for the next two years), and we graduated only one defenseman," Leaman said. "Last Year, the team gave up the fewest shots in the history of our program as Division I." ... The Dutchmen also return All-Rookie team goalie Corey Milan. Continued maturity will presumably lead to more consistency. The team is rock solid on defense with three seniors — Lane Caffaro, Brendan Milnamow and Mike Harr. The defense has been strong so far, except for a season-opening five-goal game against Quinnipiac (non-league).
Weakness: The power play and penalty kill were not very good last year, and the team struggled to score consistently. Milan's goaltending, while good at times, was a relatively low .905 save percentage.
Outlook: Once again, it's all about the goaltending. Leaman has whipped his roster into shape over four years, and now needs Milan to hold up.
CHN Predicted Order of Finish: 6th
Coach: Rand Pecknold
2007-08 Record: 20-15-4 (9-9-4 ECAC)
How they finished: Coming off an appearance in the ECAC tournament finals the season prior, Quinnipiac started strong last year but faded hard, losing seven in a row to end the regular season. The Bobcats defeated Brown in the first round of the ECAC playoffs, but then lost an ugly three-game playoff to Harvard, getting outscored, 18-8.
Changes: Quinnipiac lost a lot of good veterans, like Jamie Bates, Dan Lefort, Dan Travis and Ben Nelson. The freshman class is 11 strong.
Strengths: "We're excited about the upcoming year as we return a good nucleus and have a healthy influx of freshmen," Pecknold said. "We have four senior defensemen, Dan Henningson, Andy Meyer, Mark Nelson, Matt Sorteberg, and we look to them for leadership and experience."
Weakness: "We need to find a way to replace Jamie Bates and Ben Nelson. Two great offensive players," Pecknold said. Goaltending is not great either, but freshman Nick Pisellini is pushing to supplant Bud Fisher as No. 1.
Outlook: Goalie Bud Fisher has been adequate, but last season, he was sub-adequate. Unless that situation resolves itself, the Bobcats face a rebuilding year.
CHN Predicted Order of Finish: 7th
Coach: Seth Appert
2007-08 Record: 11-23-4 (6-13-3 ECAC)
How they finished: Knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
Changes: The coaching staff is high on incoming freshman defenseman Mike Bergin.
Strengths: "Our biggest strength is our D corps and goaltending," Appert said. "We are big (five players at 6-foot-2 or bigger), physical and mobile on our blue line. All of our junior and sophomore defense played in key roles and we add talented freshman Mike Bergin (Dallas NHL). Peter Merth is our top defender and Bryan Brutlag our best offensive defenseman." ... Goalie Mathias Lange returns from a strong junior campaign (.916) and looks to become the elite goalie in ECAC. He is joined by talented freshman Allen York (Columbus NHL Draft pick).
Weakness: "Our question mark is goal scoring and power play," Appert said. "Our leading scorers were two freshmen last season and we will need scoring by committee as well as freshmen contributions. (Tyler) Helfrich, (Chase) Polacek and Brutlag had good freshman years but need to improve power play production and performance. ... We will need seven or eight 20 plus point producers to get the scoring by committee needed to move up the deep and talented ECAC schedule."
Outlook: It's already been a tough start for the Engineers, as Appert continues to try to rebuild the program, now in his third year. Appert has been given a long leash, but the natives will get restless soon without signs of progress.
CHN Predicted Order of Finish: 11th
Coach: Roger Grillo
2007-08 Record: 6-21-4 (6-13-3 ECAC)
How they finished: It was a first-round exit after a rough season for the Bears.
Changes: One change that wasn't made was their coach, despite speculation to the contrary. The five seniors that left were troopers, but didn't win much.
Strengths: Dan Rosen is a solid goaltender. Senior Ryan Garbutt is the only returning player to score more than seven goals (12). Senior defenseman Mike Stuart battled injuries, but was one of the team's few plus players last season.
Weakness: Scoring will be tough to find. The defense is not deep.
Outlook: Another tough season in Providence.
CHN Predicted Order of Finish: 12th