November 4, 2010 PRINT Bookmark and Share

2010-11 ECAC Preview, Part I

by Matthew Ruffini/CHN Reporter

Brown Bears

Head Coach: Brendan Whittet
2009-2010 record: 13-20-4 (6-12-4 ECAC) ECAC 11th place
Key Returnees: Jack Maclellan F Jr., Harry Zolnierczyk F Sr., Jeff Buvinow D Jr., Chris Zaires F So., Jeremy Russell D Sr., Mike Clemente G Jr.
Key losses: Aaron Volpatti, Devin Timberlake, Scott Van der Linden.

First year head coach Brendan Whittet was brought in to Providence to not only turnaround the win/loss column but also to change the culture of the program. The Bears have struggled mightily the past decade, and for many of the other ECAC teams a trip to Providence usually meant two points. The Bears did finish with a losing record and an 11th place finish in the ECAC, however, their performance in the ECAC playoffs showed that the program was in the right direction.

Not too many people gave Brown a chance in the first round of the playoffs against RPI. Yet the Bears, behind a great series from goalie Mike Clemente, took game one and three and advanced. Clemente and was up to the task against the conference champs as they surprised the experts once again in the quarterfinal by taking two of three from Yale in New Haven. The Bears would eventually lose in the semifinal round to Cornell, but their playoff run put the rest of the ECAC on notice that the Bear program was on the rise.

The 2010-11 Bears will be without Aaron Volpatti and Devin Timberlake, two key leaders who will be missed. With the progress of forwards junior Jack Maclellan and senior Harry Zolniercyzk and Junior defenseman Jeff Buvinow leadership shouldn’t be a problem. The Bears also have one of the better goalies in the conference in Mike Clemente, who is now entering his junior season and should improve with more experience.

"We're going to be a young team (10 freshman). The majority will see quality minutes this year," Whittet said. "We want to play with a chip on our shoulder and it's easy to use (our preseason rank — 11th) as a motivational tool.

"Last year was interesting to be part of, because we caught a wave at the right time and things clicked. Guys played their roles to a 'T.' ... It was a great stepping stone, but last year was last year. I want the guys to come in and know nothing is going to be easy."

Harvard Crimson

Head Coach: Ted Donato
2009-2010 record: 9-21-3 (7-12-3 ECAC) ECAC 9th place
Key Returnees: Michael Biega F Sr., Alex Killorn F Jr., Conor MorrisonF So., Daniel Moriartyf Jr., Chris Huxley D Sr., Ryan Grimshaw D Jr., Kyle Richter G Sr.,
Key Losses: Doug Rogers, Louis Leblanc, Alex Biega,

The 2009-10 campaign was a very disappointing one for the Crimson players and fans. A ninth-place finish was not what most experts and Donato had in mind. Freshman Louis Leblanc and Senior Alex Biega were expected to lead the Crimson back to the top of the ECAC. However, that didn’t happen as the Crimson struggled out of the gate going 0-6-2 in the month of November.

Harvard struggled to find the consistent play that coach Donato was looking for as the Crimson never won more than three straight during the season and had a brutal February going 2-8. The Crimson were able to surprise some by sweeping the Tigers at Princeton in the opening round of the ECAC playoffs but they were easily defeated in the quarterfinals by rival Cornell.

Leblanc and Alex Biega, who combined for 33 points, have moved on to the NHL leaving behind some very large shoes to fill. The two other Biega Brothers will be expected to pick up where Alex left off. Michael Biega, now entering his senior season is coming off a year in which he was second in the team in points. The youngest of the three, Danny, had a strong freshman season and should only improve and get stronger. Conor Morrison and Alex Kilorn also impressed last season and will be counted on even more this season.

The Crimson return veteran goalies Kyle Richter and Ryan Carroll, both of which are looking to improve upon disappointing seasons.

Princeton Tigers

Head Coach: Guy Gadowsky
2009-2010 record: 12-16-3 (8-12-2 ECAC) ECAC 8th place
Key Returnees: Mike Kramer F Sr., Matt Arhontas F Sr., Taylor Fedun D Sr,. Kevin Lohry F Sr., Michael Sdao D So., Alan Reynolds G Sr.
Key losses: Dan Bartlett, Mark Manowski, Jody Pederson, Brad Schroeder, Zane Kalemba

Princeton will be looking to put last season behind them, a season full of injuries and disappointments and look to get back to the NCAA tournament as they did in the 2008-09 season. Injuries to the defense, a subpar offense and inconsistent goaltending doomed the Tigers' season. The Tigers were seventh in the ECAC in goals and last in power play goals. Goaltender Zane Kalemba was coming off a very impressive season in 2009 but was not the same dominating force in 2010.

Dan Bartlett and Mark Manowski, two seniors who put up solid numbers last year, are no longer with the team. Another key loss will be the leadership void from the departure of defenseman Jody Pederson. The Tigers do have some young talent that will be expected to fill the holes, including 10 incoming freshman. Freshman defenseman Michael Sdao and forward Eric Meland, both played significant minutes last season and the Tiger coaching staff will be expecting even more from them this season.

Alan Reynolds, Mike Condon and freshman Sean Bonar are the goaltenders on the Tiger roster for the upcoming season. Last year Reynolds made eight starts and was 4-3.

Quinnipiac Bobcats

Head Coach: Rand Pecknold
2009-2010 record: 20-18-2
Key Returnees: Scott Zurevinski, F, Jr.; Jeremy Langlois, F, So.; Zach Hansen, D, Sr.; Zach Davies, D, So.; Dan Clarke, G, Jr.
Key losses: Brandon Wong, F; Eric Lampe, F; Jean-Marc Beaudoin, F

Last season, few teams played better than Quinnipiac in the first half, as it went 13-1 with signature wins against ECAC rival Cornell, Hockey East opponent Massachusetts and a season-opening sweep against Ohio State. December and January were not as kind to the Bobcats as they went 1-10-2 and fell out of the national rankings. The Bobcats finished the season 20-18-2 and made it to the quarterfinal round of the ECAC playoffs before losing to Union in three games.

The second half of last season left a sour taste in the mouths of many Bobcat players, however, new captain Scott Zurevinski feels the team has learned from their mistakes to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“Last year was a tough year, but at the same time it was a positive learning experience for everyone," Zurevinski said. "Good teams don’t become great until they learn how to win and lose as a team and last year, as a group, we experienced both. We’re looking to use the positives and the negatives of last year to help us have a successful season and play consistently from the beginning of the year to the end.”

Many of the familiar faces that have become fan favorites in Hamden — such as Brandon Wong, Eric Lampe and Jean-Marc Beaudoin — are no longer around. Zurevinski and the other assistant captains will have to step into leadership roles.

“There’s no need to change a whole lot about how I approach the game now that I’m captain," Zurevinski said. "I definitely need to step up in all areas, but as far as how I play the game and act in the locker room, it’s important not to change and just keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Quinnipiac’s success over the years has been primarily due to a dynamic offense. Scoring goals is usually not a problem for the Bobcats, as was the case last season when they were fifth in the ECAC in goals per game and second in power play goals. This season scoring goals could provide more of a challenge.

“It’s evident that we lost a few great players at the end of last season, but at the same time our coaching staff has done a great job with replacing those players with this year’s freshman class and also through the development of our veterans," Zurevinski said. "We have a lot of unseen talent and firepower in our locker room and those guys will step up and pick up the slack.”

Defensively, the Bobcats have a nice mix of veterans and underclassmen that should only improve from last year. Starting goalie Dan Clarke has a front row seat to the defense and he has liked what he has seen so far.

Pecknold also feels that the competition between the goalie s will develop them into something special now and in the future.

“We hope Clarke can continue to develop and mature," Pecknold said. "We also expect, and want Hartzell and McGann to push him for time. That will make him more competitive and better in the long run.”

St. Lawrence Saints

Head Coach: Joe Marsh
2009-2010 record: 19-16-7 (9-8-5 ECAC) ECAC 5th place
Key Returnees: Kyle Flanagan F So., Brandon Bollig F Jr., Aaron Bogosian F Sr., George Hughes D So., Peter Child D Jr., Matt Raley D Sr., Robby Moss G Jr.
Key Losses: Travis Vermeulen, Mike Mckenzie, Alex Curran, Derek Keller, Jeff Caister, Kain Tisi

The Saints were a surprise team to most in the ECAC last season. Not many expected the Saints to be challenging for a top five spot in the conference, and if it wasn’t for a sub par February in which the Saints went 1-4-3, a top three spot could have been possible. The Saints would make it to the semifinal round of the ECAC playoffs before losing to Union.

After the 2008 season the main question for the Saints was how they would replace the defensive talent they lost when Shawn Fensel, Matt Generous and Jared Ross graduated. The Saints didn’t miss a beat on defense throughout last season (5th in ECAC in GAA), as some veterans and younger players filled the voids. Freshman George Hughes and Sophomore Peter Child combined for 35 points, while seniors Jeff Caister and Derek Keller did not miss a game. With Caister and Keller gone, more will be expected from Hughes and Child.

The big question for the Saints this season could be on the offense, both Travis Vermeulen and Mike Mckenzie have moved on. Both players combined for 76 points and Marsh called Vermeulen “the best defensive forward he has ever coached.” The Saints also lost two senior goalies in Kain Tisi and Alex Petizian. Junior goalie Robby Moss made seven starts last season with a record of 3-1-1.

Yale Bulldogs

Head Coach: Keith Allain
2009-2010 record: 21-10-3
Key Returnees: Brian O'Neill, F, Jr.; Broc Little, F, Sr.; Denny Kearney, F, Sr.; Jimmy Martin, D, Sr.; Kevin Peel, D, Jr.; Brendan Mason, F, Sr.
Key losses: Mark Arcobello, F; Sean Backman, F; Thomas Dignard, D

Despite losing key seniors, Sean Backman, Mark Acrobello and Thomas Dignard, Yale actually returns its top three point getters. With the nation’s top player in goals per game last year returning in Broc Little, as well as many other offensively gifted players, the offensive onslaught should continue in New Haven, and will look to lead a team towards a third straight ECAC regular-season title.

The ability to handle adversity is another contributing factor for the success Yale has had in recent years. Last season the Bulldogs were on cruise control to the NCAA tournament with few speed bumps in the way. During the ECAC playoffs, Yale lost senior forward Sean Backman to injury when he broke his heel at a pool in the school gym. Yale had to go into their playoff series against Brown without one of their best offensive players and leaders. The Bulldogs lost the series to Brown and when the NCAA tournament came around not many expected Yale to get past the first round against North Dakota. However, Yale did win and then took Boston College down to wire in a shootout eventually losing 9-7.

“That’s just the nature of team sports, every team faces adversity, every team goes through ups and downs," Allain said. "It’s the teams that handle it the best and learn from it that have success and we did just that, which is why we beat North Dakota and gave BC a run for their money.”

The Bulldogs will need to regain some of that toughness if they are to repeat as conference champs. Replacing the offensive production of Backman and Acrobello and the defensive leadership of Dignard will not be easy but Allain does not feel that is an excuse for the team to have any kind of let down.

“Losing players is a part of college hockey, we have established a certain style of play and we have recruited players that fit that style. Our leading scorer last year was a sophomore and we expect everyone on our team to contribute.”

Brian O’Neill was that sophomore that led the team in points with 45 and will be expected to produce even more. Yale will also have to deal with the challenge that they are now the hunted.

“Yeah, I think it’s safe to say we have a bit of a target on our back given the success of the last couple years as far as teams paying more attention to us and giving us their best game," Little said. "As far as dealing with higher expectations, I don't think guys really pay much attention to where we’re ranked or where we are supposed to finish. Our team knows how hard it is to win games in college hockey and how much work is required to be one of the top teams in the nation, so that’s what we focus on.”

While the Yale offense was very productive last season, the situation in net was not nearly as stable. The Bulldogs were ninth in the conference in goals against average and dead last in save percentage. Billy Blasé, Nick Maricic, Jeff Malcolm and Ryan Rondeau all split time in net last year as the Bulldogs struggled to find any consistency with their goaltenders.

“Hockey is a team game; all six players on the ice get scored on, not just the goalie. I feel our goalies learned a lot from last year which will only make them stronger this year,” said Allain.

Blasé has graduated leaving Maricic, Malcolm and Rondeu to battle for the starting position. Of the three of them Maricic made the most starts last season, in 14 games he was 7-4-2 with a 2.95 GAA.

“A national championship is our goal and anything less than that will be considered a disappointment for sure," Little said. "It’s been nice the last couple years getting to the tournament and then winning a game last year, but there’s one more step to take and were working towards that this year.”

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