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October 17, 2013 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

ECAC Team Preview Capsules

by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer

Princeton\'s Andrew Calof is a unheralded player that could put up big numbers this season.

Princeton's Andrew Calof is a unheralded player that could put up big numbers this season.

The ECAC will be as deep as it has been in many years. Last season, Yale broke a 24-year ECAC drought and won the national championship, something some people thought might never happen again. Furthermore, ECAC rival Quinnipiac was the opponent in the national finals. Who knew the ECAC consolation game would become the national championship game?

“We have known, as coaches, how tough this league is for a long time,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet. “It is a really hard league because of the style of play, the great coaches and the quality of players we have. Every game is a battle and whoever emerges is a battle tested team.”

The usual suspects should end up near the top. Look for teams like Rensselaer and Dartmouth to take a step forward this season.

Brown

Head Coach: Brendan Whittet
2012-13 Record: 16-14-6, 7-9-6 ECAC (T-7th)

Changes: Brown lost star goaltender, Anthony Borelli, who took his team to the ECAC finals last year. In 28 games he was 14-9-5 with a 1.84 GAA and a stingy .942 save percentage. Along with the loss of Borelli, the Bears lost five others to graduation, but none were in the top five of scoring.

The Bears bring in a recruiting class of eight, which includes four forwards, two defensemen and two goaltenders. The most important pieces of Brendan Whittet's class were the goaltenders, Tyler Steel and Tim Ernst. Both of them should be tested and given playing time throughout the season.

Strength: Brown prides itself on its hard-working nature. Last year great defensive play led Brown to its best postseason performance in years. This year's team should be no different, except Borelli won't be there. Senior Dennis Robinson will be the key piece on the blue line. He was a plus-9 on a team that struggled offensively.

Weakness: Goaltending was the strength of Brown last season with Borelli, but the Bears will enter this season with huge question marks and a gaping hole. Marco De Fillippo has played in 26 games over his three-year Brown career. He has struggled with a GAA north of 3.3 and a save percentage .905 over his 26 games. By the end of the season, Brendan Whittet could be relying upon two freshmen in net.

2013-14 Outlook: The Bears keep building and in four years it has come a long way. Brown will be better offensively and Matt Lorito will look to build upon his impressive campaign last season, where he placed second in the ECAC and fifth nationally with 22 goals on the season. Lorito was voted by the media as a preseason All-ECAC member.

The offense as a whole came on late last year, but they will need to find balanced scoring from multiple skaters. Last season, no one besides Lorito had more than seven goals. Defensively, Brown should be solid but who will ultimately get the bulk of the playing time between the pipes?

Prediction: 8th

Clarkson

Head Coach: Casey Jones
2012-13 Record: 9-20-7, 8-11-3 ECAC (T-10th)

Changes: The core of the Golden Knights are back and the changes in the lineup due to graduation were minimal. Clarkson lost just three to graduation and just four percent of its goal scoring from a year ago. But its lineup struggled when it mattered most.

Clarkson brings in eight freshmen, including two NHL draft picks. Highlights of the class include a seventh-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, forward Troy Josephs, defenseman James De Hass and arguably the most important in the class, Finnish goaltender Ville Runola. Runola and fellow freshman, Steve Perry, should challenge sophomore Greg Lewis for playing time this year.

Strength: With so much returning among the forward ranks, Clarkson's goal scoring should improve. The experience should dot the lineup and be the relative strength of the team this year. It was something that got the better of the Golden Knights last season, when it came to key situations.

Weakness: Greg Lewis was the No. 1 in net last season as a freshman, starting 33 games. But he was last in all major goaltending categories in the ECAC. He will be challenged for playing time and should only improve with the experience he has gained.

2013-14 Outlook: Clarkson should improve upon last season. How much improvement will ultimately be the question? With improved goaltending, Clarkson could find itself fighting for a home-ice berth come the end of the season, but there are still a lot of holes and question marks, and if they don't get answered, it could be another long season.

The Golden Knights won’t be relying upon freshmen to step up, like many teams in the ECAC this season. This could be an advantage but it will still have a lot to prove, as last season was a downright struggle from the net out.

Prediction: 12th

Colgate

Head Coach: Don Vaughn
2012-13 Record: 14-18-4, 6-13-3 (11th ECAC)

Changes: The Raiders lose second-leading scorer Robbie Bourdon and Kurtis Bartliff, who had 17 points last season, to graduation. On defense Colgate loses three of its top six defensemen from last season, a defense that struggled much of last season.

The biggest addition will be the return of newly-anointed captain Spiro Goulakos, who missed most of the second half due to Lymphoma. He was the Raiders best defenseman in the first half of last season and his addition back into the roster will be a huge one.

Colgate will add a recruiting class of nine this season, along with transfer Brooks Herrington who played 18 games in two seasons for Vermont.

“Most of our programs try to create an identity and a culture,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughn speaking of his large incoming class. “I think in many cases we try to recruit players that fit that mold and we have tried to do that with this class. That said we will have ten new faces on our roster, many of which will have to play. It will be a steep learning curve and we will try to do a lot of things we have done in the past, but it is a challenge. We will have try to find our identity early and hope those young guys can step early if we are going to find success.”

Strength: Colgate should have one of the more explosive first lines this season. The Spink twins (Tylor and Tyson) and Kyle Baun were already high-flying performers last season. They are extremely fun to watch and will probably go under the radar for much of the season. The supporting cast up front should also be talented, as players such as Joe Wilson, Mike Borkowski and Darcy Murphy are all returnees that had 15-plus points last season.

Weakness: As fun as Colgate was to watch last season, it played a dangerous game defensively. Coming into this season, the Raiders will be breaking in three new starters with little experience on defense. You wouldn't expect a huge improvement defensively coming into the season, but if the Red Raiders can improve there and in net, they could be extremely dangerous.

2013-14 Outlook: Colgate can score, as it almost always has under Don Vaughan. All of the questions will be on defense and in net. If things fall into place there, Colgate could surprise this season. But if they don’t, it could be a long season in Hamilton.

Prediction: 9th

Cornell

Head Coach: Mike Schafer
2012-13 Record: 15-16-3, 8-11-3 ECAC (T-9th)

Changes: Cornell loses some production in leading scorer Greg Miller and his 33 points, John Esposito's 11 goals, and defensemen Nick D'Agostino and Braden Birch. Although some talent is gone, there will still be a lot to work with.

Mike Schafer again adds a solid recruiting class of nine players. It is a big class but includes a talented core that will compliment the talent that Cornell already has in all positions. Junior teammates for St. Michaels in the OJHL, Mike Buckles and Patrick McCarron, will highlight the class. Buckles is a fourth-round pick of the Florida Panthers but McCarron has tons of upside. It’s not the most talented class that Schafer has brought in but it is still strong.

Strength: The so called ‘sacred seven’, which is the six defensemen and goalie, should be the strength of the Big Red this season. Despite losing D’Agostino and Birch on defense, junior Joakim Ryan leads a talented group on the blue line. Andy Iles will also return for his senior season between the pipes.

Weakness: Last season, the Big Red struggled with discipline. They were the most penalized team in college hockey, averaging 17.97 PIMs per game. Combined with a sub-par special teams — a power play and penalty kill ranked in the 40s nationally — it was a lethal combination, helping to derail what seemed like would be a special season through the first two months.

2013-14 Outlook: The Big Red are deep heading into the season. With seven NHL draft picks on the roster, the ability is there to prove that last year was just a blip on the radar for a consistently strong team. Last year, Cornell was inconsistent and was never able to gain momentum, something not often seen from the Big Red.

Andy Iles has been relatively consistent over his three year Cornell career, but has still shown room for improvement. This year is huge for him, and pivotal for Cornell. He enters the season as arguably the second-best goaltender in the conference, but he could easily find himself at the top when the dust settles at the end of the year.

Cornell had the talent last year to be strong but failed to produce. This year, all is anew, and provides a chance to capitalize on the missed opportunities of last year.

Prediction: 3rd

Dartmouth

Head Coach: Bob Gaudet
2012-13 Record: 15-14-5, 9-9-4 ECAC (T-5th)

Changes: Dartmouth lost two big names up front, Dustin Walsh to graduation and Matt Lindblad to the pros, while on defense the Green lost Captain Mike Keenan to graduation.

”Losing Linblad early hurts us a lot, but I am proud when a player leaves and does well like he has,” Gaudet said. “It gives other guys an opportunity to step into the role that he filed for us or to take a much bigger role on our team.”

Strength: The top line is poised to be strong, as Tyler Sikura and Eric Robinson were consistent contributors last season. Sikura led the big Green in both goals and points last season, while Robinson is arguably one of the strongest power forwards in the ECAC.

“(Tyler) Skiura will be a really good player for us this year,” said Gaudet. “It says a lot that he is a captain as a junior. He is an excellent player, a skilled hard worker with great hockey sense.

“Eric Robinson had a great first half for us last year. He struggled as his linemates got juggled around. He is a big and strong power-forward and will be important for us along with Tyler this season.”

Weakness: At times last season, goaltending got the better of the Big Green. As a sophomore, Charles Grant should be the No. 1 coming into the season. He started six of the last eight games last season and became the go-to guy down the stretch. But expect Cab Morris, a senior, to be in the mix.

“Our goaltending is going to be fairly open this season,” said Gaudet. “We have three really different goalies and it will be hard to say who will get the nod, night in and night out.”

2013-14 Outlook: The Big Green should produce tons of offense this season and the young guys that dotted its lineup last season will be a year older. “We have a great group of young players,” said Gaudet.

With those young players, Gaudet should be able to fill some holes in his lineup. Guys like Eric Neiley, Tim O'Brien, whom Gaudet calls the fastest player he has ever coached, Brandon McNally and on defense Ryan Bullock the Big Green should be deep this season.

Sikura should have a big season and he has the ability to find himself in ECAC player of the year talks by the end of season. Robinson may have the best shot in the league.

Prediction: 4th

Harvard

Head Coach: Ted Donato
2012-13 Record: 10-19-3, 6-14-2 (12th ECAC)

Changes: Harvard was set back by an academic scandal last season that saw multiple players taken off its roster. But those players have returned for this season. Defensemen Mark Luzar, Patrick McNally and Max Everson will don the famous Crimson jersey again this season, along with goaltender Stephen Michalek.

Harvard struggled last season and loses its top two scorers, Luke Grenier and Alex Fallstrom to graduation. Harvard also loses star defenseman Danny Biega, along with forward Marshall Everson.

Harvard’s recruiting class is top notch and filled with talent again. Alex Kerfoot is a fifth-round draft pick of New Jersey, Sean Malone is a sixth-round draft pick of Buffalo, and Luke Esposito was the BCHL rookie of the year in 2012-13. The Crimson will also add three other forwards. On defense the Crimson will add three, Clay Anderson, Victor Newell and Kevin Guiltinan.

Strength: The Crimson have a plethora of young talent. Forwards Jim Vesey and Brian Hart will enter their sophomore campaigns and there are many others who also have talent which should not be ignored. Add a top tier recruiting class to the midst and Harvard could easily find itself near the top at season’s end.

As strong as the young forwards are for the Crimson, the defense looks poised to be the strength of this team.  Three of the four returning players from the acdemic scandal are defensemen and bring in experience that no freshmen could. With ten roster defensemen, including seniors Dan Ford and Danny Fick, an inconsistent defense last year should become a deep, impressive group on the blue line this season.

Weakness: Goaltending may again be the issue in Cambridge, as both Rafael Girard and Stephen Michalek have struggled throughout their careers. Michalek had a 3.19 goals against average in 2011-2012 while Girard had a 3.01 GAA last season. Those two may share the goaltending, but one of them will need to step up in a big way to pull Harvard out of the ECAC cellar, where it finished last season.

2013-14 Outlook: Harvard coach Ted Donato said, “Our freshmen class will be under pressure to perform mainly because we graduated a good number of guys. But I do think year in and year out that your team wins and loses games because of your upper classmen. We are looking for our returners to make a big jump in performance and we have a lot of new players in the lineup each and every night. It may take a bit of time but it’s an exciting group.”

The Crimson will be one of the more interesting teams to follow this season and fans could be watching a team with tons of raw talent grow. Harvard is a team that could end up much higher than anyone expects in the preseason but experience and cohesion may become an issue. Only time will tell.

Prediction: 7th

Princeton

Head Coach:  Bob Prier
2012-13 Record: 10-16-5, 8-10-4 ECAC (T-7th)

Changes: Like its Ivy counterpart, Brown, Princeton will be charged to replace its stalwart goaltender. Mike Condon, now in the Montreal Canadiens organization, started and single-handedly led Princeton to many of its victories last season, with a 2.48 GAA and a .923 save percentage.

The biggest losses for Princeton were on the blue line. Michael Sdao, now a member of the Senators organization, and four-year veteran Eric Meland both graduated. Freshman goaltender Colton Phinney could ultimately be the long-term replacement for Condon. The class also includes scoring forward Ben Foster, who had 39 points in 65 games in the USHL last season. Quin Pompi on defense should also bring some skill to the blue line.

Strength: Andrew Calof was an all-ECAC preseason selection by the coaches and his continued presence in the lineup will make Princeton better. The top three for Princeton should be its strength on the season. Also returning are forwards Tyler Magueri and Andrew Ammon. Magueri was the second option for the Tigers last year, with 9 goals in 31 games. Developing the second and third options will be key this season.

Weakness: Like Brown, the question marks in net abound. Ultimately, though, senior Sean Bonar may be ever capable. He has shown glimpses in the past of being a solid goaltender. In 2010-11, he was 8-6-1 with 2.20 GAA and a .912 save percentage, but his numbers have not been the same the last two seasons with a GAA north of 3.15 and a save percentage under 90 percent. Replacing Condon will prove to be a tough task.

2013-14 Outlook: Princeton lost an important piece from last season and may not have properly replaced it. If the goaltending is again solid, the Tigers will be fine. If it goes south then it could be a long season. Andrew Calof should have another monster season for Princeton. He will be in the conversation for ECAC Player of the Year and the all-ECAC teams come seasons end.

Prediction: 11th

Quinnipiac

Head Coach: Rand Pecknold
2012-13 Record: 30-8-5, 17-2-3 ECAC (Regular Season Champion)

Changes: Quinnipiac graduated 11 seniors following its historic 2012-13 campaign, including four defensemen and Hobey Hat Trick Finalist goaltender Eric Hartzell.

In 2013-14, the Bobcats will welcome a pair of 2013 NHL Draft picks, Connor Clifton and Peter Quenneville. Freshmen defensemen Devon Toews and Joe Fiala will also look to strengthen a vacated defensive core.

Strength: Quinnipiac’s top six has potential to devastate its ECAC Hockey counterparts, as junior Matthew Peca and senior twins Connor and Kellen Jones will likely return to the first line. In 2012-13, the trio combined for 83 points, including 40 goals.

Senior Jordan Samuels-Thomas and sophomore Travis St. Denis will most likely battle for spots on the second line. Last season, Samuels-Thomas garnered a team-leading 17 goals, 14 coming in the second half. Meanwhile, St. Denis amassed eight goals, leading all Quinnipiac freshmen.

Weakness: The Bobcats’ defense was its success in 2012-13, finishing first in Division I with 1.67 goals-per-game. With that said, Quinnipiac graduated four of its starting six defensemen, leaving a large hole.

Quinnipiac will attempt to fill the gap by plugging its freshmen and others off the bench, although the transition may be rocky at first.

2013-14 Outlook: Quinnipiac should be poised for another season in the top half of the league. There is no doubt the Bobcats will put up goals, especially at the top of the lineup. The main battle will be replacing so many depth guys that it built much of its success upon last season.

“We lost 11 seniors,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “There will be a lot of brand new players. We will have to forge a whole new identity and find a new goaltender. We will have to play our freshmen. Every four years we have this big class that leaves and we have this challenge. It will be a big challenge for us.”

Prediction: 5th

-Bryan Lipiner

Rensselaer

Head Coach: Seth Appert
2012-13 Record: 18-14-5, 12-7-3 ECAC (2nd)

Changes: Gone is leading scorer defenseman Nick Bailen and his 31 points. His loss is huge on the blue line but the Engineers come out of the offseason relatively unscathed, losing only three depth forwards to graduation.

The Engineers bring in five recruits this season including defenseman Parker Reno, who was a top player in Minnesota High School and a finalist for the Mr. Hockey award.

Strength: RPI is arguably the deepest team in the ECAC coming into the season, returning nine of its top 10 scorers from last season and 14 of its top 16. 

Goaltending will also be strong, as sophomore Jason Kasdorf looks to build upon his impressive second half last season. As a freshman, Kasdorf saw limited time early in the season but impressed in the latter stages, going 11-2-0 in RPI’s last 13 regular-season games. When the dust settled, Kasdorf finished the season second in both major goaltending categories with a 1.62 GAA and .935 save percentage.

Weakness: How do the engineers replace Bailen and his offensive prowess on the blue line? The defensive corps as a whole promises to be strong but the offensive quarterback will be missing from the blue line. The Engineers should have enough on the front line to cover for the lost offense, but great power plays require a strong offensive defenseman. It may be the one piece they are missing heading into the season.

2013-14 Outlook: With no glaring weaknesses, the Engineers could be poised for a great season and a long run. Sophomore goaltenders struggle at times, but Kasdorf is poised to break that trend and he is an early candidate for the Dryden award as the league’s top goaltender. RPI is tested with a strong early-season schedule, which already includes a loss to Boston College.

Prediction: 1st

St. Lawrence

Head Coach: Greg Carvel
2012-13 Record: 18-16-4, 9-9-4 ECAC (T-5th)

Changes: Gone are two all-Americans, Kyle Flanagan with his 15 goals and 32 assists, and defensemen George Hughes. The Saints also lost five others to graduation, a roster that was inconsistent for much of the first half of last season but turned it on in the second half.

The Saints will add 10 freshmen on the season, including Matt Carey, younger brother of teammate Greg Carey. He should be the star of the class, but had to sit out a year due to an eligibility issue last season. SLU will rely heavily on their freshmen class for production and look for some of the new faces to step up.

“Our club is in a transition period,” said SLU coach Greg Carvel. “We also have a huge incoming class, with 15 returners and 11 new faces on our roster. We lost two all-American players and I am hoping we can fill those holes with our recruiting class, rather than returners. Our team will really be relying upon how quickly the new guys will adjust to the college level. I imagine we will have growing pains, but Greg Carey and our incoming class will be the key.”

Strength: Carey is and has to be the strength of this team. He was the national leader in goals last season, with 28, and he was fourth in points with 51. His success this season will determine the Saints' season. He is arguably the top offensive weapon in the ECAC.

Weakness: As strong as Carey is on offense, the Saints will need others to step up to generate the offense needed to win games. Flanagan was the playmaker on the top line with Carey and he has since graduated. St. Lawrence is left with a huge hole on the top line.

2013-14 Outlook: Depth will be an issue and somebody will have to become the playmaker for Carey. The offense, other than the Flanagan/Carey line, was often stagnant last season. On the other hand, if players step up, the Saints have an experienced goaltender in Matt Weninger that could provide the support when needed.

Prediction: 10th

Union

Head Coach: Rick Bennett
2012-13 Record: 22-13-5, 10-8-4 ECAC (4th, ECAC Tournament Champion)

Changes: Union had many changes in the offseason. It lost four of its top five scorers, along with star goaltender, Troy Grosenick, who gave up eligibility to go pro. Sophomore defenseman Tim Boyle and senior forward Josh Jooris both signed pro contracts late in the offseason, forgoing their eligibilities. Those three coupled with the losses of Wayne Simpson, Kyle Bodie and Greg Coburn to graduation will leave gaping holes at the top of the lineup.

Union adds a solid recruiting class, with former UNH recruit Mike Vecchione and Michael Pontarelli as the headliners. They are two of eight incoming freshman for the Dutchmen.

Strength: Union will again have a strong defensive unit this season headlined by two of the best in the ECAC. Although Coburn graduated, the Dutchmen still have Shayne Gostisbehere and Mat Bodie anchoring their blue line. Both Gostisbehere and Bodie found themselves on the media preseason all-conference team, while the former also found himself in high regards with the coaches. The top two look strong, but the bottom three might be interesting as Union will be playing with at least two freshmen on a nightly basis, with only four returning defensemen.

Weakness: Offensively, the Dutchmen have lost a lot of their top-end production. Coming into the season four of their top five scorers are gone. Goal scorers will need to step up to replace the numbers, but Union does have some of the core left — Daniel Carr and Max Novak each had 20-plus points last season. But the question is whether they will have the production they have received up and down the lineup. No team has lost more of its top tier production in the last two years than Union.

2013-14 Outlook: Union is the two-time defending Whitelaw Cup champions, but unlike the last few years, the Dutchmen will enter with major holes that need to be filled. They should still finish in the top half of the league, but that is contingent upon whether it can get consistent goal scoring.

Colin Stevens should be a capable replacement for Troy Grosenick between the pipes. Last season in 12 games he had a 1.62 GAA and .931 save percentage, which were pretty impressive for the limited time that he saw. However, Stevens was injured on the team's opening weekend and his status is unclear.

Prediction: 6th

Yale

Head Coach: Keith Allain
2012-13 Record: 22-12-3, 12-9-1 ECAC (3rd) National Champions

Changes: Winning a National Championship usually brings about a plethora of changes, and Yale was not immune. In comparison to other ECAC teams, the losses were actually rather minimal. Yale lost playmaker Andrew Miller, power forward Antoine Laganiere and top goaltender Jeff Malcolm to graduation. They were three huge pieces to the Yale puzzle.

Yale brings in a strong class of freshmen and will need to find a goaltender fast. Keith Allain brought in two freshmen goalies, Alex Lyon and Patrick Spano. Lyon seems like he would have the edge but Allain believes both could be number-one goalies in the future.

Up front, Yale added Chicago Blackhawks third-round pick, John Hayden. Hayden a 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound forward was named MVP of the USHL/NHL Prospects game. Yale will also add forward Frank DiChara to the mix. Dichara led Dubuque to the Clark Cup last year. He had 34 goals and 38 assists in 75 games for the Saints.

The biggest loss, perhaps, was that of assistant coach Red Gendron, who took the head coaching job at Maine. His presence will be sorely missed.

Strength:  Yale’s strength will always be its high-flying offense and this year should be no different. It will return leading scorer Kenny Agostino and eight other forwards who scored 10 or more points last season. Replacing Miller on the top line will be tough, but the Bulldogs have the talent to do so. With names such as Jesse Root, Stu Wilson, Clinton Bourbonais and Trent Rufolo, the Bulldogs once again are stacked up front.

Weakness: It seems like every year Yale’s biggest question mark is its goaltending, and that is certainly true this year. Jeff Malcolm was inconsistent at times, but came on strong late. With two freshmen and junior Connor Wilson vying for the starting job, it should be a while before we know who will be starting on a given night. Wilson was 0-3 last season with a 4.82 in five appearances.

2013-14 Outlook: Questions in net could derail another potentially great season. The offense is certainly poised to bring consistent scoring to the table, but will it be enough if the goaltending goes south? If the goaltending is strong, Yale is poised to stay at the top of the league and compete in the NCAAs again.

Prediction: 2nd

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