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October 14, 2011 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

2011-12 Atlantic Hockey Preview

by Timothy O'Donnell/CHN Reporter

A capsule look at the Atlantic Hockey season.

Air Force

Head Coach: Frank Serratore

2010-2011 Record: 20-12-6 (14-7-6 AHA) 2nd AHA

Key Returnees: Kyle DeLaurell F JR., John Kruse F JR., Scott Mathis D SR., Paul Weisberger F SR., Jason Fabian F SO., Jason Torf G SO.

Key Losses: Jacques Lamoureaux, Derrick Burnett, Scott Kozlak, Sean Bertush, Brad Sellers

For the past four years, Jacques Lamoureaux and Derrick Burnett have been the central figures in the Falcons' attack to the tune of 113 goals and 259 points combined. But now the Falcons face life without their two stars.

While the departure of Lamoureaux and Burnett leaves a gaping hole, it gives others the chance to shine. One of those is Kyle DeLaurell. DeLaurell came into his own last season, posting 10 goals and 33 points.

Another Falcon who will be looked at to fill the void is John Kruse. Kruse scored 11 goals and added 18 assists last season, both more than double his totals from his freshman season.

But even if the offense falters this year, the Falcons will have Jason Torf back in net for his sophomore season. Torf, after a rough start last season, led the Falcons to the AHA Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. And the Falcons will need to lean on Torf early in the season as they figure out the offense.

With pretty much the same team still intact from last season, it would be no surprise is the Falcons are again making a run at the AHA Championship come March.

American International

Head Coach: Gary Wright

2010-2011 Record: 8-24-1 (7-19-1) 12th AHA

Key Returnees: Adam Pleskach F JR., Nielsson Arcibal F SR., Michael Penny F SR., Jon Muskar F SO.,

Key Losses: Tom Mele, Steve McLeod, Mike Little, Tomas Benovic

The Yellow Jackets have suffered mightily since joining Division I. They haven’t had a winning season since 1993-94; and since joining Atlantic Hockey in 2003, they haven’t won more than eight games in a season. And while last year there was improvement (up to eight wins from five the year before) the Yellow Jackets still have a while to go before they will compete for the Atlantic Hockey title.

There is hope for this season, and the future, for the Yellow Jackets. Coach Gary Wright brings back four of the top five point producers from last season, led by Adam Pleskach. Pleskach, entering his junior season, as led the Yellow Jackets in points his first two years.

Pleskach is joined up front by Niellson Arcibal. Arcibal has improved in each season and will look to continue that trend next season. Along with Arcibal another senior will be looking to end his career on a high note. Michael Penny is coming off a career year, where he posted 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) and will look to help carry the load with Pleskach and Niellson.

Of the Yellow Jackets' minimum losses this year, none of them present any huge holes to fill. While Tom Mele, Steve Mcleod, Mike Little, and Tomas Benovic all served as leaders on the Yellow Jackets, their production can easily be made up for by other players steeping into those roles.

While the Yellow Jackets return most of the team from last season, it by no means assures them of a better season. There is reason to believe that this team will begin to start a turnaround and one day compete for the AHA. It just won’t be this year.

Army

Head Coach: Brian Riley

2010-2011 Record: 11-20-4 (10-13-4) 9th AHA

Key Returnees: Danny Colvin F SR., Mike Hull F SR., Marcel Alvarez F SR., Ryan Leets G JR.

Key Losses: Cody Omilusik, Jay Clark, Drew Pierson, Joey Ammon, Pat Copeland

After three straight 11-win seasons, Brian Riley and the Black Knights are looking for their first winning season since 2007-2008. But they will have to do it without Jay Clark, the goaltender who has been a staple in net for the last three years. Clark started 20 or more games in each of those seasons.

This season, the job of replacing Clark will fall to Ryan Leets. Leets emerged last year, his sophomore season, and split starts with Clark, posting a .916 save percentage. And the Black Knights hope that Leets can carry that over into this season when he assumes the No. 1 role.

But, lucky for Leets, the Black Knights return just about all of their top scorers from last season. The only departure is last year’s leading goal scorer Cody Omilusik. Omilusik led the team with 18 goals and tied for the team lead with 31 points, but everyone else behind him, including Danny Colvin, Mike Hull and Marcel Alvarez, are all back.

Colvin and Hull will be looked towards to lead the attack up front this year, while Alvarez will continue to add firepower from the blueline. Alvarez has recorded 16 or more points in his three years at the academy and will no doubt want to go out with another.

With a strong group of seniors coming back and Leets taking over in net, the Black Knights look to be competitive this year. But with teams like RIT and Air Force in the same conference it will be difficult for the Black Knights to be champions this year.

Bentley

Head Coach: Ryan Soderquist

2010-2011 Record: 10-18-6 (9-13-5) 10th AHA

Key Returnees: Brett Gensler F SO., Joe Campanelli F JR., Brett Hartung F SR., Aaron Stonacek F SR., Kyle Rank G SR.

Key Losses: Erik Peterson, Dustin Cloutier, Joe Calvi

The Falcons are looking for a turnaround season. Just three years ago, they won 19 games, but that number has dropped in each of the next two seasons, reaching the low of 10 last year. But the Falcons return a strong group of underclassmen looking to turn things back around.

It starts up front for the Falcons where Brett Gensler is looking to build off an impressive freshman campaign. Gensler stepped in last season and led the team in goals (13) and finished second in points (24). The Falcons will look to him more this year as Erik Peterson (26 points) and Dustin Cloutier (24 points) have graduated.

But Gensler won’t have to do it alone. He will be joined by a trio of sophomores who will be looking to help fill the void left by Peterson and Cloutier. Joe Campanelli (18 points), Brett Hartung (15 points) and Dan Koudys (15 points) will all be called on more this year. All three, while having solid years at Bentley will need to produce some more if they are to replace Peterson and Cloutier.

While the Falcons will be able to replace their lost offensive weapons, they have to figure out their goaltending situation. Last season, Joe Calve and Kyla Rank split starts, with Calvi holding the edge with 20 games. But Calvi has now graduated and the No. 1 job could fall to Rank.

But this is not unfamiliar territory for the senior. Rank started 23 games in each his freshman and sophomore seasons. The Falcons will need him to play like he did his freshman year, where he won 12 games and posted a 2.68 goals against average.

If the Falcons can get solid play for Rank then they should be back on track to reach 20 win plateau.

Canisius

Head Coach: Dave Smith

2010-2011 Record: 13-19-6 (10-12-5) 8th AHA

Key Returnees: Ben Danford D SO., Preston Shupe F JR., Kyle Gibbons F SO., Scott Moser F SR., Dan Morrison G SR.

Key Losses: Cory Conacher, Vincent Scarsella, Eric Rex

Cory Conacher and Vincent Scarsella have been key cogs in the Golden Griffs lineup for the last four years. Both rank high in the Canisius record books for career points (Conacher ranked 7th, Scarsell 11th) and assists (Conacher 10th, Scarsella 6th). And now that they have graduated it leaves a huge hole to be filled.

“You can’t replace those guys with any one guy,” head coach Dave Smith said.

Which is why he is looking for the Golden Griffs to be balanced this year.

“We want to have four lines up front. We want to get scoring from everybody and have everybody contribute on the score sheet,” Smith said.

And Smith feels that replacing Conacher’s and Scarsella’s production with more than one player will make the Golden Griffs a better team.

Smith is looking towards his sophomore class to step up this year. And he feels the eight sophomores are ready.

“We expect our sophomores to come in and pick up where they left off last year and then some,” Smith said. “They’re going to be a big part of what we’re doing. They have to be by the numbers but they’re ready to take on that challenge."

And that class will be led by Kyle Gibbons, Ben Danford, and Taylor Law. Gibbons had 23 points last season and the Golden Griffs will need him to improve this year. Danford had 26 points last season, the most among Golden Griffs defensemen. Law, while recording 11 points last year, is someone Smith is expecting to step up this year.

“Taylor Law and Kyle Gibbons are two guys that continued to improve as the year went on,” Smith said. “Kyle scored big goals for us. Taylor played big minutes for us. We absolutely expect those guys to take the next step as hockey players.”

While the Golden Griffs lost Conacher and Scarsella, they have the pieces in place to be able to move on without them. It’s just a matter of if they can put the pieces together.

Connecticut

Head Coach: Bruce Marshall

2010-2011 Record: 15-18-4 (13-12-2) 6th AHA

Key Returnees: Cole Schneider F SO., Sean Ambrosie F JR., Billy Latta F SO., Jordan Sims F SO., Brant Harris F SO., Garrett Bartus G JR.

Key Losses: Andrew Olson, Jason Krispel, Justin Hernandez,

UConn surprised the Atlantic Hockey world last year with a run to the conference tournament semifinals. And while they Huskies may have exceeded expectations last year, they are looking to go even further this year.

The Huskies will again rely on their youngsters, including Cole Schneider. Last season Schneider led the Huskies, and Atlantic Hockey freshmen, with 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists). His 20 assists set a record for UConn freshmen.

But after last season, Schneider won’t be able to surprise teams this season and will need help in the Huskies are to succeed. Last year Schneider had three classmates who recorded over 20 points and they will be look towards to produce even more this year. Billy Latta, Jordan Sims, and Brant Harris are going to need to avoid having a sophomore slump and produce.

While the sophomores will carry the brunt of the offense, they will need some help. Sean Ambrosie will be there. Ambrosie improved greatly last year (10 goals, 18 assists) and the Huskies will look for more of the same from him this year.

Ambrosie and Schneider played together last year and had great success. If the two of them can pick up where they left off last year, then the Huskies could be in for a fun ride this season and could see their best season in awhile.

Holy Cross

Head Coach: Paul Pearl

2010-2011 Record: 17-16-5 (14-8-5) 3rd AHA

Key Returnees: Kyle Fletcher F JR., Rob Linsmayer F JR., Shayne Stockton F SO., Adam Schmidt F SO., Andrew Cox F SR., Jeffrey Reppucci D SO

Key Losses: Everett Sheen, Mark Znutas, Adam Roy

Last season was almost a revival season for the Crusaders. For the first time in four years, the Crusaders made their way to Rochester for the AHA semifinals, where they lost to Air Force.

But with the Crusaders will have some holes to fill if they want to back it back there. And it will start in net, where the Crusaders lost Adam Roy to graduation. Paul Pearl and the Crusaders do have the people who can step in though. Thomas Tysowsky is the most experienced of the bunch as a junior. But he won’t just be handed the job, according to Pearl. He’ll have to fight Derek Kump and Matt Ginn.

“All three of those guys are going to battle it out and see who can get through camp as the starter and see if they can hang on to the job,” Pearl said.

Up front the Crusaders lost perennial 20-point producer Everett Sheen and will need someone to fill his shoes alongside Kyle Feltcher. And there are several candidates on the young team that can do that.

“We got a lot of seniors this year that haven’t necessarily put up the numbers they probably wanted to in past, that will have a chance to (this year),” Pearl said. “We’ve got a good group of incoming freshmen. We’ve got a lot of guys that will be vying for Everett’s ice time and J.P (Martignetti)’s ice time. It’ll be very interesting to see who steps up and whether or not they can.”

And while Pearl may be looking towards some of his underperforming seniors to step up, there is also a large number of underclassmen started to produce last season. That group includes the likes of Rob Linsmayer, Shayne Stockton, Adam Schmidt and Jeffrey Reppucci. All four recorded 19 or more points, with Linsmayer leading the way in his breakout season with 34 points. If these four can continue to improve and produce then filling the hole left by Sheen won’t be too hard.

If the Crusaders can figure out who will be their starter in goal early, then there is a real chance that this team could make it back to Rochester and compete for the AHA championship.

Mercyhurst

Head Coach: Rich Gotkin

2010-2011 Record: 15-18-4 (12-13-2) 7th AHA

Key Returnees: Paul Chiasson F JR., Grant Blakey F JR., Daniel O’Donoghue F SO., Phil Ginand F SR.

Key Losses: Scott Pitt, Mike Gurtler, Ryan Raven, Steve Cameron, Ryan Zapolski, Taylor Holmstrom, Nate Jensen

Just three years ago the Lakers were playing for the Atlantic Hockey Championship. Since that loss to Air Force in the tournament championship game, the Lakers have had back-to-back 15-win seasons and haven’t made it past the quarterfinals.

The Lakers have a strong group of underclassmen looking to bring the program back, but their chances took a severe blow when key returnees Taylor Holmstrom and Nate Jensen both decided to transfer to Penn State, a move that coach Rick Gotkin said left him "heartbroken."

Paul Chiasson, a junior, will thus be left to carry more of the burden/. He has produced since his freshman year, and last he increased his production to 37 points. And the Lakers will need more of the same from Chiasson as their top scorer from last year, Scott Pitt, has graduated.

Daniel O’Donoghue finished last season with 20 points and if the Lakers are to go anywhere, another solid season from him is needed.

While the offense looks to take care of itself, the Lakers have a hole to fill in net. Ryan Zapolski graduated and leaves a gaping hole to be filled. Of the Laker’s returning goalies, senior Max Strang has the most experience, playing 14 games in his three years. While Strang has the most experience it should be a fight to see who can claim the No. 1 job. Stran has competition from sophomore Jordan Tibbett, and freshmen Jimmy Sarjeant and Jake Williams.

Niagara

Head Coach: Dave Burkholder

2010-2011 Record: 17-16-5 (15-10-2) 4th AHA

Key Returnees: Giancarlo Iuorio F JR., Ryan Rashid F SO., Scott Arnold F SO., Patrick Divjak F SO., Chirs Noonan G SR.

Key Losses: Paul Zanette, Bryna Haczyk, Ryan Annesley, David Ross,

For the second straight year Niagara will be looking to fill a major hole in their offense. Last year Paul Zanette and Bryan Haczyk had career years to replace Chris Moran and Ryan Olidis. But Zanette and Haczyk have now since graduated and leave another hole for head coach Dave Burkholder to try and fill.

“We’re hoping someone like Giancarlo Iuorio, he had 11 points as a freshman and had 33 last year as a sophomore,” Burkholder said. “Now he’s going to be a junior. We’re looking for him to do even more for us offensively.”

But Burkholder isn’t just looking towards Iuorio to step up. He’s looking towards his underclassmen who have had plenty of playing time in the past couple seasons.

“At every position we’ve been young the past couple years,” Burkholder said. “Our freshman and sophomore classes have garnered more playing experience than most young guys across the country.”

Some of those young players include Burkholder’s all-freshmen line from last year, consisting of Scott Arnold, Ryan Rashid, and Patrick Divjak.

“They produced unbelievably last year,” Burkholder said. "Arnold had 16 goals, (Rashid) had 13, and Pat was the glue of that line, being the playmaker. Even though they’re sophomores, those guys are going to be huge. We’re going to start season with those three together and they’re going to need to produce for us.”

With a strong returning group of underclassmen with more experience, the Purple Eagles look set to again to challenge for the championship. And after last season’s disappointing loss to Canisius in the first round of the playoffs, these Purple Eagles will be out looking for revenge.

Robert Morris

Head Coach: Derek Schooley

2010-2011 Record: 18-12-5 (13-9-5) 5th AHA

Key Returnees: Adam Brace F SR., Ron Cramer F SR., Trevor Lewis F SR., Zach Hervato F JR., Brooks Ostergard G SR.

Key Losses: Nathan Longpre, Denny Urban, Chris Kushneriuk,

Robert Morris enters this season still looking to break through for its first NCAA Tournament appearance, after years of building the program to respectability. It faces a challenge, however, of losing two of the most profilic scorers in Colonials history. Nathan Longpre (136 points) and Denny Urban (116 points) rank first and third respectively for most career points.

And that leaves two huge holes in the Colonial’s lineup. But the Colonials have the pieces in place. Coach Derek Schooley just needs them to step up.

Seniors Adam Brace and Ron Cramer will lead the charge. Brace and Cramer are both coming off career years and will need to continue their success this season. Of the returnees this year, Brace had the most goals (12) and assists (16) last season.
The biggest loss for the Colonials might be Urban, who gave the Colonials firepower from the blueline. Urban recorded 40 points last season. The next closest defenseman was James Lyle with eight.

But while the Colonials do lose some offensive firepower, their goaltender duo of Brooks Ostergard and Eric Levine are back. After a strong start last season Ostergard struggled a little which gave way to Levine to grab some starts at the end of the season. With both back, the Colonials have a very solid goaltender situation and can’t go wrong with either.

The Colonials have the pieces in place to again compete for the Atlantic Hockey title. Once they figure out where the production will come from, they will be ready to try and knock off Air Force as Atlantic Hockey kings.

RIT

Head Coach: Wayne Wilson

2010-2011 Record: 19-11-8 (15-5-7) 1st AHA

Key Returnees: Ben Lynch F SO., Cameron Burt F SR., Adam Hartley F JR., Chris Saracino D JR., Michael Colavecchia F SO., Shane Madolora G JR.

Key Losses: Andrew Favot, Mike Janda, Sean Murphy, Tyler Brenner, Mike Janda, Sean Murphy

The reigning regular-season champions enter this season with a bit of extra motivation. Last year, the Tigers reached the AHA Tournament championship game but fell to Air Force 1-0.

“It helps motivates us and gives us more incentive this year to do better,” head coach Wayne Wilson said. “Whenever you fall short of what your goal is its extra incentive for the next year.”

But the Tigers will have to fill some holes left by Andrew Favot and Tyler Brenner if they want to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Favot, who led the Tigers in points and assists last year, graduated after recording 130 points in his career and leaves an opening on the top line.

Brenner left after just three years in Rochester to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. But while in Rochester, Brenner made an impact. He ranked in the top five for points in every year and led the team in goals last year.

The Tigers will need players to replace Brenner and Favot if they are to go anywhere this season. And Wilson will be looking towards his returning players to fill that void.

“There are a lot of players that can step up,” Wilson said. “Cameron Burt comes to mind, Ben Lynch as a freshman last year played really well. Adam Hartley is another player.”

Burt, Lynch, and Hartley are no strangers to scoring. They all have produced since they arrived at RIT. Burt, entering his senior season, has already recorded over 100 points. Hartley improved in his second year, posting 11 goals and 14 assists, but will be looked towards to produce more.

Lynch, in just his freshman year last year, ranked third on the team in points (30) last year and trailed only Favot in assists.
While the offense may struggle a little without Favot and Brenner, the Tigers return one of the nation’s top goalies in Shane Madolora. Madolora posted the best save percentage in the country last year (.935), but Wilson believes he can get better.

“It was his first year taking over the No. 1 role,” Wilson said.”It was just before Christmas when he became the guy that played almost every game. That experience and a second year he can only get better.”

The Tigers aim to take back the Atlantic Hockey Championship this season. And with most of the team back from last season, the rest of Atlantic Hockey better be ready as the Tigers will be looking to avenge last season’s disappointing end and have a good chance of doing so.

Sacred Heart

Head Coach: C.J. Marottolo

2010-2011 Record: 6-25-6 (5-16-6) 11th AHA

Key Returnees: Matt Gingera F SR., Eric DeLong F JR., Ben Ketchum F JR., Kyle Verbeek F JR., Steven Legatto G JR.

Key Losses: Patrick Knowlton, David Berube, Evan Mladenoff, Oliver St. Onge

Just a year after reaching the Atlantic Hockey Tournament Championship game, the Pioneers plummeted to the bottom of the AHA standings last year. The Pioneers won just six games last year, after winning 21 the year before. And with little turnover in players, it will take a great improvement from the current group to get back to that 20 win-plateau.

The greatest area for improvement, if not the most important, is in net. Steven Legatto took several steps back last year, surrendering almost five goals a game last year. The Pioneers will need the Legatto of 2009-2010, when he won 19 games with a goals against average of 3.10, if they want to win more than six games this year.

Up front, the Pioneers will be led by Matt Gingera and Eric DeLong. Gingera is coming off his best season since he arrived in Fairfield, Conn. Gingera netted 21 goals last year and 30 points. DeLong has made quite the impact in his first two years, posting back-to-back 30 point season. But the Pioneers will need DeLong to put more pucks in the back of the net, as he scored only nine goals last year after 15 his freshman year.

While the Pioneers know what they will be getting from Gingera and DeLong, they will need help. Last year, the Pioneers had two skaters with double-digit goal totals. If the Pioneers can get more goals and better goaltending than they can have a much better season than last year. If not, get ready for another six win season.
 

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