November 5, 2010 PRINT Bookmark and Share

ECAC Preview, 2010-11, Part II

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Clarkson Golden Knights

Head Coach: George Roll
2009-2010 record: 9-24-4
Key Returnees: Brandon DeFazio, F, Sr.; Louke Oakley, F, Jr.; Bryan Rufenach, D, Sr.; Nick Tremblay, F, Jr.; Paul Karpowich, G, Sr.
Key losses: Matt Beca, F; Jeremiah Crowe, D

Clarkson is coming off one of the worst seasons in the program's storied history, and it has people in Potsdam on edge. The Golden Knights are picked to finish last again this season, though there is plenty of reason to believe that won't be the case.

"We're coming off a really poor year in many areas, but I don't feel that about our team," Roll said. "Obviously it's easy to be confident at this stage, but I really like what I see so far.

It's not about lack of talent. We still have a very talented team, it's just that last year, it seems that everything snowballed. Whether the injuries, or the puck luck — but you make your own puck luck. ... There was a lot of little things, but we weren't far off last year. We knew it was a rebuilding year, but with the injuries it was tough."

The loss of Matt Beca, consistently one of the best two-way players in the league, is huge. But he's the only major loss, essentially. Plenty remains — the question is whether that's a good thing or just means more of the same.

"There's a lot of guys who for whatever reason haven't put up the numbers we thought," Roll said. "Nick Trembley, Louke Oakley had a great start until he got injured and wasn't the same, Julien Cayer who's been injured for two years.

"But there are freshmen like Ben Sexton and Allan McPherson who we feel can step in and make an immediate impact."

There are the usual rumblings whenever a team struggles like Clarkson has, that the coach is on the hot seat.

"I put enough pressure on myself that I don't worry about the external pressure," Roll said. "Obviously Clarkson is not accustomed to what happened last year, and I fully understand that. But for me, I want to focus on getting our team in the right state of mind and get off to a good start and gain that confidence back."

The season has been strange so far, getting pummeled by Nebraska-Omaha then defeating St. Cloud State the next day. Similarly, Clarkson shut out, then got shut out, in two games against Bowling Green.

Colgate Raiders

Head Coach: Don Vaughan
2009-2010 record: 15-15-6 (lost ECAC Quarterfinals)
Key Returnees: Brian Day, F, Sr.; Francois Brisebois, F, Sr.; Robbie Bourdon, F, So.; Austin Smith, F, Jr.; Corbin McPherson, D, Jr.; Mike McCann, F, Fr.; Alex Evin, G, So.
Key losses: David McIntyre, F; Jason Williams, F; Ethan Cox, F

A top-four finish a year ago came crashing down with a two-game quarterfinal loss to perennial playoff nemesis St. Lawrence. But Colgate's run last year came with an exceptionally young team, which has raised expectations for this season, rightfully so.

The loss of the outstanding David McIntyre is certainly a blow, but he only had 11 goals last year, fourth-highest on the team. A smattering of other dependable seniors have graduated too. But what the Raiders return is a dynamic bunch of forwards that are ready to explode, including Brian Day (four goals in four games already this season), Francois Brisebois and Austin Smith.

Goaltender Alex Evin was also a freshman last year, and he appears approved significantly from a solid rookie campaign.

The Raiders opened the year with four non-league games that included two one-goal losses at Lake Superior State. So that doesn't instill a huge boost of confidence at this point. But we'll find out more as they open the league season in the North Country this weekend.

Cornell Big Red

Head Coach: Mike Schafer
2009-2010 record: 21-9-4
Key Returnees: Joe Devin, F, Sr.; Patrick Kennedy, F, Sr.; Nick D'Agostino, D, So.; Locke Jillson, F, Jr.
Key Losses: Colin Greening, F; Ben Scrivens, G; Blake Gallagher, F; Riley Nash, F; Brendon Nash, D; Justin Krueger, D

Cornell loses 51 of its 107 goals from a season ago, including all-everything forward Colin Greening — plus Hobey finalist goalie Ben Scrivens.

Goaltending is the least of Cornell's worries, however, with capable understudy Mike Garman back for his junior year, complemented by Ithaca native Andy Iles. Iles, a smaller goalie than Cornell is traditioanlly used to, had better numbers than NHL First Round pick Jack Campbell last year, as the two split time with the U.S. Under-18 team.

"All the goalies we've always had, people think size, but I recruited a kid named Matt Barnes to Western Michigan (when Schafer was an assistnat), and he was 5-foot-4 and he was one of the best goalies in the league," Schafer said. "Andy has got a great work ethic, he's very mobile in the net. He's got a great pedigree — he won a championship in high school, won a championship in prep school — he had better statistics than Jack Campbell. He's very, very tough in net."

Replacing that scoring will be a key, but Cornell does have plenty of talent returning — it's just a matter of them stepping into their increased roles and executing.

Patrick Kennedy, Locke Jillson, Joe Devin, Sean Collins — who hasn't been on a power play since he's been here," Schafer said, pointing out the talent that remains. "The only people who haven't been replaced at Cornell at Nieuwendyk and Dryden.

"It's having the confidence to make the transition. You know they can score — do they have the confidence to do it against good competition?"

The defense is young — Mike Devin is the only senior. It is mobile and talented, however, it's just a matter of harnessing that. So far, scoring hasn't been a problem, but the Big Red have allowed 12 goals in two non-league games.

"Knowing the growth of Nick D'Agostino, and other young guys, I think we'll be even more mobile back there," Schafer said. "People say we're a defensive first team — but, we always want defense because in situations like this year, when you don't know who's going to score, you can still win by keeping it out of your net."

So far, though, that hasn't happened. The defense features a couple of interesting newcomers who fit the talented-but-raw category — Mathieu Brisson, the first major fruit from the labors of assistant coach Casey Jones' French-Canadian recruiting efforts, and highly-regarded Belarus native (by way of Shattuck-St. Mary's) Kirill Gotovets.

Dartmouth Big Green

Head Coach: Bob Gaudet
2009-2010 record: 10-19-3
Key Returnees: Scott Fleming, F, Sr.; Adam Estoclet, F, Sr.; Matt Reber, F, Sr.; Evan Stephens, D, Sr.; Joe Stejskal, D, Sr.
Key losses: Joe Gaudet, F

Dartmouth has had a couple of rough seasons, after years of close-but-no-cigar ECAC runs that were filled with talented players who have since played in the NHL. But the Big Green appear headed back towards those lofty heights, and though this isn't the most talented Dartmouth team Gaudet has had, it is deep and balanced and loaded with upperclassmen.

"We've got a veteran team (9 seniors and 9 juniors)," Gaudet said. "I like the mix of our team. Last year was tough for us — a really tough start. I thought we were an excellent team (in the second half). We found a niche for our team, a style of play, an identity. We have a good-sized team."

Joe Stejskal is a top-notch defender, who flirted with leaving for the pros, but returned. Meanwhile, senior Scott Fleming, who scored an under-the-radar 22 goals last season, is back to anchor the offense.

"Scott Fleming is a 20-goal scorer, Adam Estoclet is a great player, but they're not household names, but they're really good," Gaudet said. "I think defensively we're going to be a vastly improved team."

A perennial question mark, and bugaboo, is the goaltending, and it's no different this season, unfortunately for the Big Green. Senior Jody O'Neill got the first two starts, and his save percentage is well under .900.

Rensselaer Engineers

Head Coach: Seth Appert
2009-2010 record: 18-17-4
Key Returnees: Allen York, G, Jr.; Tyler Helfrich, F, Sr.; Chase Polacek, F, Sr.; CJ Lee, F, So.; Bryan Brutlag, F, Sr.; Marty O'Grady, F, So.; Alex Angers-Goulet, F, Jr.
Key Losses: Brandon Pirri, F; Jerry D'Amigo, F; Paul Kerins, F; Eric Burgdoerfer, D

A promising season a year ago saw RPI get its best win total since 2003-04, as things finally started coming together for Appert in his fourth season. But with thoughts of greater heights dancing in RPI fans' heads for this season, top sophomores-to-be Brandon Pirri and Jerry D'Amigo signed pro deals just before the start of the school year.

While a blow, of course, Appert said there is still reason for optimism because of all that remains.

"They made us better, and we're going to continue to support them," Appert said. "(But) what made me looking forward to this year was our seniors, not Jerry and Brandon. That's no offense to them. But if you look around college hockey last year, the teams with a great senior class were on top. You win with your seniors in college sports — and we have a very good senior class, led by the reigning Player of the Year (Chase Polacek)."

Appert was philosophical about whether there should be a rule protecting NCAA teams from the kind of late-summer raiding his team suffered.

"You'd love that, but I don't know if it's possible," Appert said. "We have a competing force to our North. You should say there should be a (NHL) rule, but then kids would go to Major Junior, then leave from there. ... So at the end of the day, they exceeded our expectations on the ice and in the weight room, we had good relationships with them — so you feel good about it and move forward.

"There's no reason a player shouldn't come to any one of these great schools. I think we can go head to head with any program in the country and show them why they should come. We have a great hockey program with a lot of history and tradition, we have 4,000 fans that fill our building every night, we've won two national championships, put many players onto the pros, and you're going to earn one of the most elite educations money can buy. So we're not concerned with that part of it."

Appert has helped bring physical play and discipline to the Engineers, but there is more to be done in those areas if they are to take the next step.

"Winning puck battles on the walls and the front of the nets — we need to get better at those two areas, and have more pride in having the puck and not throwing it away," Appert said. "We were more of a rush team last year, and not as much puck possession. And we need to prevent taking too many penalties."

Union Dutchmen

Head Coach: Nate Leaman
2009-2010 record: 21-12-6 (Lost in ECAC final)
Key Returnees: Adam Presizniuk, F, Sr.; Keith Kinkaid, G, So.; Jeremy Walsh, F, So.; Kelly Zajac, F, Jr.; Greg Coburn, D, So.
Key losses: Mario Valery-Trabucco, F; Jason Walters, F; Mike Schreiber, D; Mike Wakita, D

Union is coming off the best season in its Division I history, winning 21 games and going to the ECAC tournament final before losing to Cornell. There is optimism that this could be an even better season for the Dutchmen, such as making the NCAAs for the first time in Division I.

Union did suffer some big losses, with the graduation of top scorers Mario Valery-Trabucco and Jason Walters, and top defensemen Mike Schreiber and Mike Wakita. But the Dutchmen have a significant amount of talent back and an experienced one at that.

Adam Presizniuk is more than capable of filling much of the scoring punch that left, and he already has five goals in the team's first eight games. Jeremy Walsh, Kelly Zajac and Greg Coburn — brother of Philadelphia Flyers' defenseman Braydon Coburn — have all shown the ability to take their game up a notch this season. And Keith Kinkaid was a revelation in goal as a freshman last year, and is running with the opportunity to be the sure No. 1 this season.

It's tough to fully gauge Union from its early-season schedule, since it's been played against clearly inferior opposition. But the Dutchmen have been dominant, and scoring goals in bunches. They open the ECAC schedule at Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, so things will start to get tougher.

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