ECAC Team-by-Team Preview Capsules
by Justin Churchill/CHN Reporter
Head Coach: Brendan Whittet
2011-12 Record: 9-18-5
Changes: The Bears lose two big-time players with the departures of Jack Maclellan (15-15—30) and Bobby Farnham (8-13—21). But the biggest issue was the loss of top recruit Kevin Roy and his goaltender brother Derick. The brothers were slated to come to Brown, but after Kevin enjoyed a stellar season in the USHL, he decommitted and went to Northeastern instead, taking his brother with him.
However Whittet is still very passionate about the group of freshmen he has brought in.
“We only want guys who want to wear our uniform,” Whittet said. “If they don't want to wear it, then so be it.”
Whittet added, "I don't really want to get into it anymore. It's taken so much of my energy. Would we like to have him here? Of course. To lose him is not what we envisioned. But our program has moved on."
Strengths: The team can only go up after finishing 12th in the ECAC last season. Sophomore Ryan Jacobson emerged, finishing second on the team with 21 points and should have another solid season. Defenseman Dennis Robertson also had a strong campaign with 16 points.
Weaknesses: Goaltending looks like it is going to be an issue for Brown. There is only two on the roster after the loss of Mike Clemente to graduation and Derick Roy to Northeastern. Marco DeFilippo will be the starter, but he does not bring a lot of experience. The junior only has 13 games played over his career and the team will likely lean on him plenty.
“Our problem has been consistency,” said Whittet. “We want to learn from our experiences and we struggled down the stretch. Some of it was out of our hands, but a lot of it was in our control.”
Outlook: This team will need quite a few players to emerge in order to improve its status at the bottom of the ECAC. “The biggest thing we have to do going into this year is to understand that effort, the consistency, and the approach we need to take in order to win in a very good hockey league.” Whittet said. "We need to gain that consistency that all winning programs have. We do know what we need to improve on. Our team defense will not allow us to be successful unless we improve it."
The sophomore class will be important. Matt Lorito missed time last year with a broken wrist, so he was setback as a freshman. Ryan Jacobson scored 12 goals and has a good upside.
"The foundation has been set to have a successful year," Whittet said. "We're not going to deviate from the task at hand. We're going to compete for championsghips and my guys firmly believe that, and I will do everything in our power to make sure we maintain a sense of consistency."
Head Coach: Casey Jones
2011-12 Record: 16-17-6
Changes: Top scorers Nick Tremblay and Louke Oakley graduated, along with stalwart goaltender Paul Karpowich.
Strengths: Clarkson is hoping for Ben Sexton to finally break out, hopefully healthy finally for a full season. Jones is hoping his young defensive corps develops into a strength to help the inexperienced goaltending.
"Last year, they had nights where they had rookie games, and other guys had to carry big minutes," Jones said. "It limits you with how aggressive you can be. With a deeper 'D' corps, and more experience, it will afford us to play a lot more guys in more situations. Now they can play at the intensity level they can for a whole game and back-to-back nights."
Weaknesses: Goaltending is a big issue this year with Karpowich's departure. Freshmen Greg Lewis and Andrew Hunt were brought in to battle, but Hunt was not good in the team's exhibition loss and hasn't seen action in the first three official games. Lewis has played in all three games. Holdover senior Cody Rosen, who somehow was once a seventh-round pick of the New York Islanders, was lit up in one game and will likely see little time.
Outlook: "Last year, we were completely inexperienced on the blue line and had a veteran goaltender, and it kinda flips around this year," Jones said. "We'll try to have good team concept in front of whoever it is. ... It's a work in progress. All showed they're very capable at this level."
Head Coach: Don Vaughan
2011-12 Record: 19-17-3
Changes: The loss of both Hobey finalist Austin Smith and his linemate Chris Wagner wipes out half of Colgate's offense from last season. Wagner decided to bolt after just two years, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall. The third linemate, Joe Wilson, is back, but will need help picking up the slack.
Newcomers include four recruits from the same junior team, Cornwall of the CJHL. That group includes twin forwards Tyson and Tylor Spink, and forwards Kyle Baun and Mike Borkowski. Baun already has a league Rookie of the Week honor under his belt.
"They were on the power play together, so that's a real plus for us," Vaughan said. "They'll have to adjust to the speed and tempo of college. I'm thinking of using that group together on the power play simply because they worked so well together at the junior level."
Strengths: The Raiders have a solid backline, including the return of drafted seniors Thomas Larkin and Jeremy Price. Eric Mihalik has experience in net, but his play has been inconsistent.
Weaknesses: Scoring is usually not a problem for Colgate, and maybe it won't be again, but going into the season, the Raiders aren't exactly sure where it will come from. The Raiders went out and put up 10 goals in their opener against Niagara, but have struggled since. Look for Robbie Bourdon to up his goal total from 12 last season. The Raiders lost 11 players from a year ago, a remarkably high total for a team of this nature.
"Everybody is going to have to play and contribute," Vaughan said. "Offense will be more by committee than last. Overall, too, there's going to be a steep learning curve, we'll be playing 7-8 freshmen in key roles. But, as a staff, it will be fun. We like our team speed, we're quicker. Our transition game should be good."
Outlook: Two losses against Miami were followed with a split with Bowling Green. The league schedule starts against Cornell next week. "We all know with young teams we're going to have to be patient," Vaughan said. Colgate will struggle to be in the top half — but then again, it has overcome doubters before.
Head Coach: Mike Schafer
2011-12 Record: 19-9-7
Changes: The team lost four key seniors, including Sean Collins and Keir Ross, but most of the core is back, including last year's large and talented freshman class. That's augmented by a strong new crop of freshmen, led by dynamic center Christian Hilbrich and big defenseman Reece Willcox.
Strengths: Cornell's strength will be its lack of glaring weakness. The Big Red are solid in every area, and have another rock in goal in Andy Iles, who played every minute last season.
"He's the most different goaltender I've had, he's 5-8, but at the same time he ranks right up there, because at the point of the shot, he's square and set," Schafer said. "He can do that in his own way. He ranks right up there. He was the most consistent from start to finish last year as any goalie I've had."
Assuming John Esposito and Brian Ferlin are healthy for a full season, that will be a big gain for the Big Red. Ferlin had two different injuries before his season was finally shut down, but he showed tremendous potential as a power forward freshman last season.
"I don't think people really saw the impact that he's going to have on a full year," Schafer said. "So we're expecting him to have a full year, be healthy and be an offensive force in this league. And he developed defensively throughout the course of the year. He only showed a little bit of what he can do offensively as a player."
Weaknesses: The thing Schafer will most want to turn around is the special teams. Typically a strong suit in the Schafer era, last season the power play was at just 16.5 percent, and, more glaring, the penalty kill was just 80 percent. Typically, Cornell teams have had penalty kill efficiencies in the high 80-percent range.
Outlook: Cornell once again came agonizingly-close to a Frozen Four bid last season, only to fall late to Ferris State in the Regional Final. Now, expectations are high again. Cornell plays one of the toughest non-league schedules in the country, if not the toughest, with two home games against Colorado College, two games at Denver, the Florida tournament that includes Ferris State, Minnesota-Duluth and Maine, and the Thanksgiving-weekend game at Madison Square Garden against Michigan. Three of the last five years, Cornell has played Boston University in that game, and it's been an electric atmosphere. But Cornell has not yet won it.
"In all my years of coaching, it's probably the most exciting event, with the exception of maybe the Frozen Four," Schafer said. "We're excited.
"It's back to square one of learning how to win, managing expectations that we don't put the cart before the horse," Schafer said. "We want to establish ourselves early, establish how we'll play as a team, learn how to win, play on the road."
Head Coach: Bob Gaudet
2011-12 Record: 13-16-4 overall
Changes: The Big Green loses two goaltenders in James Mello and Jody O'Neill to graduation. Along with the likes of some key role players like forward Doug Jones (11-14—25) and defenseman Connor Goggin (7-10—17). Gaudet did land a big recruit in Nick Bligh. The forward is the only ECAC player on the NHL central scouting preliminary list and comes to Dartmouth from the EJHL's South Shore Kings,
"He attended a pro camp this summer and I watched him on film in that. He did very well,” Gaudet said of Bligh. “ I am looking for him to make an immediate impact.”
Strengths: Gaudet has a lot of returning offensive threats, including forwards Matt Lindblad, Eric Robinson and Tyler Sikura. Junior goaltender Cab Morris showed up well in the few starts he had last season. However, the biggest strength Dartmouth has is the return of a healthy Dustin Walsh. The forward had a very good start last season before getting injured.
“A lot of people don't recognize him as a household name now, Dustin Walsh is as fine a player as I have had at Dartmouth,” Gaudet said. “ He was injured all of last year with the exception of a handful of games and in those games he was just an outstanding player.”
Weaknesses: Injuries seemed to be a huge issue for this team last year. Mello was found to be playing with injured hips throughout the season, attributing to his dip in form. Mello has since graduated and had hip surgery following the season. Forwards like Lindblad and Walsh were also forced out of the lineup on multiple occasions. Gaudet had the talent on his team to at least make the ECAC finals in Atlantic City, but injuries prevented that.
Another glaring issue is the power play. Last season the team could not find the answer to score with the man advantage for most of the season. Gaudet will be tinkering with the lineup once again,
“We got a whole different cast of personnel that is going to play on the power play,” Gaudet said.
Outlook: This team has a star in Walsh and the team will be successful if he comes out playing like he did last season. If the team avoids the injury bug and has a strong start it could be making a run for the ECAC championship in March.
Head Coach: Ted Donato
2011-12 Record: 13-10-11 overall
Changes: Crimson head coach Ted Donato has done extremely well with his recruiting class again. Harvard arguably has the best freshmen class in the ECAC. Brian Hart comes in from a great tenure at Exeter academy in the New England Prep School League, while local kid Jimmy Vesey comes to the team after a great season with the South Shore Kings in the EJHL.
“I think all five of the freshmen forwards have a chance to contribute and to make us a more dangerous team five on five.” Donato said.
There have been some serious losses to the Harvard lineup though. Standout forward Alex Killorn graduated and is now playing in the AHL. Killorn (23-23—46) put up some very impressive numbers last season, as he lead the team in scoring. Defenseman Ryan Grimshaw may not have been a high scorer, but his presence will certainly be missed on defense.
Strengths: This is a good senior class. Years of excellent recruiting have led to plenty of promise over the next few years. Senior Danny Biega is the best defensemen in the ECAC and a potential All-American. His final season under Donato will be a memorable. Senior Marshall Everson will lead the offense with help from the likes of sophomore defenseman Patrick McNally and senior Alex Fallstrom.
Weakness: Harvard had a serious issue finishing out games last season. In fact they tied the NCAA record for ties in one season with 11 total. “I have been on both sides where you are one goal away from having a much different record either way,” said Donato. “One goal in our league ends up being the difference more often then not between the top team and the bottom team.”
The talent is there. If the team could have turned half of those ties into wins, they would have had an impressive record ahead of the National Tournament.
Outlook: This could be the start of something big for Harvard. The talent possessed on the team is in a perfect position for a solid regular season and could make a run at the National Tournament.
“We feel like we have a real good core of leadership,” said Donato. “I think in general the atmosphere is positive and there is a level of excitement building off of a strong finish last year.”
Head Coach: Bob Prier
2011-12 Record: 9-16-7
Changes: Not a lot has changed for the Tigers ahead of this season. Second-year head coach Bob Prier brings in just five new freshmen. Forward Kyle Rankin highlights the incoming class after a successful time in the USHL playing for Sioux Falls. The team only lost two seniors to graduation, so there is a lot of experience in the ranks for Prier to work with.
“We are really excited about our leadership,” Prier said. “We're really excited about having a more veteran squad."
Strengths: Junior forward Andrew Calof (17-14—31) is poised for another good year leading the Tiger offense. The rest of the offense has the potential to be good this season and it needs to happen. The depth of the team can certainly lead to an improved record this season.
“We are certainly back healthier than the end of last year and we're looking forward to getting going with a little more depth.” Prier said.
Weaknesses: Sean Bonar and Mike Condon are both good goaltenders, but the defense in front of them has to improve after finishing last in the league a season ago. Senior defenseman Michael Sdao is arguably the best player on this Princeton team, so the potential is there.
Outlook: There doesn't seem to be a real edge on this Princeton team. Calof may be a strong player, but someone must step up behind him. If any of the freshmen can contribute right away it will greatly help the Tigers' chances of earning a home playoff series in the first round.
Head Coach: Rand Pecknold
2011-12 Record: 20-14-6
Changes: There isn't a lot of glaring changes on the Bobcat roster, but there certainly could have been. Head coach Rand Pecknold was pegged by many to take the UMass head coaching job vacated by Toot Cahoon.
“In the end, UMass is a phenomenal program,” Pecknold said. “I just felt that Quinnipiac was the right place for me. I love it here and my family is settled. I had two great opportunities and I had to pick one. I am happy with the one I chose.“
Pecknold's decision to stay affirms his confidence in the program he has built over the last 18 seasons.
The biggest additions for Quinnipiac this season is a pair of freshmen goaltenders, Michael Garteig out of the BCHL and Jacob Meyers from the NAHL. Tom Hilbrich is a massive 6-foot-7 defenseman that will certainly be someone to watch this season.
Strengths: The Jones twins, Connor and Kellen, are back and keep improving the Quinnipiac offense. The brothers combined for 77 points last season and are poised to lead the team yet again. Not to be overshadowed by the twins is sophomore forward Matthew Peca (8-31—39) who had an excellent freshman year.
“Connor Jones, Kellen Jones, and Matt Peca. That line that played together the second half of last season, they all return,” Pecknold said. “We were certainly were a little nervous, the way the NHL has been pulling players out.
"What separates (Connor Jones) is his motor. He has a great motor, great drive, his compete level is off the charts. He was highly-touted when we got him, but he's worked so hard since he got here."
In goal, senior Eric Hartzell will be strong between the pipes after a solid season splitting time with Dan Clarke.
The "second" line consists of Bowling Green transfer Jordan Samuels-Thomas, who has already left a mark with a late game winner against Maine last weekend, and Jeremy Langlois, a 6-foot-3 draft pick of Winnipeg.
Weaknesses: The Bobcats had the best penalty kill in the ECAC last season, but had a problem ranking up those penalty minutes. This needs to be addressed this year, as it can hurt the potentially massive offensive production the team can have.
Outlook: This team has been picked to finish fourth in the ECAC by the media. That sounds reasonable.
Head Coach: Seth Appert
2011-12 Record: 12-24-3
Changes: RPI brought in a large freshman class, though none has contributed offensively yet through four games.
Strengths: The forwards didn't score a lot last year, but showed good potential and depth to make people believe they can take off this year. "C.J. Lee took over the team from mid-January on," Appert said. "His play and will really drove us and we started getting other guys on board. And I thought that the freshmen gained some real valuable experience." Lee is without a point, however, in four game so far.
There is also strength in goal with Bryce Merriam, along with freshman Jason Kasdorf, who is highly-regarded. In front of them is Nick Bailen, who had 22 points from the backline, but was also a team-worst minus-14. The Engineers will also look for more from sophomore Jacob Laliberte, who was highly-touted but struggled along with everyone else, only scoring five goals. He already has three so far this season.
Weaknesses: RPI could not find consistent offense last season, and its own coach said perhaps it was too soft at times.
"We just didn't have team buy in," Appert said. "We didn't do a good enough job as coaches and players. We take pride in being hard to play against, being physical, team first, and when we played that way, we scored plenty of goals."
Outlook: RPI knew it would take a step back coming off the 2011 NCAA Tournament appearance, but didn't expect that far of a step back. Now it's time for a regroup, and there's plenty of talent there to do it. And considering the team had just three wins at New Year's, the second half, including a playoff series win over Clarkson, gave it confidence for this season.
"The most important thing is having 27 guys who are on board and committed to the way we want to play as a program," Appert said. "The first half of last year, we had a lot of guys that were worried about themselves, and that was my fault."
Head Coach: Greg Carvel
2011-12 Record: 14-19-3
Changes: The big change was the announcement that long-time coach Joe Marsh decided to retire, but he missed all of last season medical leave anyway, so the transition had already begun. Officially, Greg Carvel is now head coach after serving a year as a co-coach of sorts with Mike Hurlbut.
Strengths: The Saints are strong up with Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey threatening to become this year's version of Colgate's Smith-Wagner connection. George Hughes anchors the defense.
Weaknesses: The Saints have not been able to find consistent goaltending for years. However, this problem may be resolving itself. Matt Weninger showed flashes last season that made Carvel a believer. Then, Carvel brought goaltending coach Kris Mayotte from Cornell, and Weninger is off to a great start.
Outlook: The Saints were picked to finish sixth in the preseason, but may be geared up to finish higher. Already with a CHN Team of the Week under its belt for a two-game sweep of Maine, St. Lawrence has much reason for optimism.
Head Coach: Rick Bennett
2011-12 Record: 26-8-7
Changes: Coming off a thrilling Frozen Four run, Union returns most of its team. The big losses up front were Jeremy Welsh, who left a year early after a stellar junior season, and Kelly Zajac. On defense, the only main loss was captain Nolan Julseth-White.
Strengths: It starts in goal, as Troy Grosenick returns for his junior season off a 1.65 goals against average a year ago. But really, the team is deep all over. Despite losing the top two scorers, three other 30-point-getters from last season are back, in Daniel Carr, Wayne Simpson and Kyle Bodie. Defensively, Mat Bodie had 29 points and played strong defensively. And the team returns Shayne Gostisbehere, who turned heads with his excellent two-way backline play as a freshman, and was ultimately drafted in the third round by Philadelphia.
"He's a shooter," Bennett said of Carr. "When he's on, he'll have hopefully anywhere from 3-5 shots per game. He has a burning desire to score goals, like Welsh."
Weaknesses: Darned if we know.
Outlook: Getting to a Frozen Four is very hard, even if you're a huge school. But coming off what happened last season, everyone will be thoroughly disappointed if it doesn't happen again. Such is the nature of the beast. "Respect is basically earned," Bennett said. "We're a long ways away from being complacent, that's our mantra."
Head Coach: Keith Allain
2011-12 Record: 16-16-3
Changes: The loss of leading scorer Brian O'Neill to graduation will be tough for the Bulldogs. The forward put up a line of 21-25—46 and was the only player on the team to hit the 40-point plateau last season.
Coach Keith Allain has brought in a strong class of freshmen. Exeter standout Matt Beattie headlines the group; he was one of the top players in all of New England prep school hockey last season. Bruins draft pick Rob O'Gara also comes to the Bulldogs from the New England prep school ranks after a solid playing career as a defenseman at Milton Academy.
Strength: Offense has been a strength of the Allain regime, and Yale has a lot of talent returning in senior Andrew Miller (7-29—36), junior Kenny Agostino (14-20—34), and senior Antoine Laganiere (19-14—33). The team should have another strong power play with such firepower returning.
Allain still has a tandem of senior goaltenders in Jeff Malcolm and Nick Maricic. The experience both players provide will come in handy for the young defensive core. The competition for the starting job also should make for a good show according to Allain.
“Both seniors have played a fair amount through their careers and I think it is going to be a great battle,” Allain said. “They came back to school both confident and ready to compete for the job.“
Weaknesses: There does not seem to be a lot of experience defensively for Yale with only two upperclassmen on the blue line in senior Colin Dueck and junior Gus Young. The lack of experience could become a problem. It will be up to the veteran leaders to help the freshmen adapt to the college game.
Outlook: Yale will likely finish in the middle of the pack, but a bit higher then last year.
“I think we have an outstanding group of returning veteran players that are going to give us experience, leadership, and talent.” Allain said.