October 20, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

2011-12 ECAC Preview

by Geoffrey Thompson and Justin Churchill/CHN Reporter

A capsule look at the 2011-12 ECAC season.

Brown Bears

Head coach: Brendan Whittet

Last season: 10-16-5 (8-12-2 ECAC, 9th)

Who's gone: Harry Zolnierczyk, F; David Brownschidle, F; Jesse Fratkin, F

Who's back: Jack Maclellan, F, Sr.; Chris Zaires, F, Jr.; Dennis Robertson, D, So.; Bobby Farnham, F, Sr.; Garnet Hathaway, F, So.; Matt Wahl, D, So.; Jeff Buvinow, D, Sr.

Outlook: Brown's record wasn't as good, the team didn't make another magical run to the ECAC final four, but in Brendan Whittet's second year helming his alma mater, the program made strides in other ways, continuing its change of culture that is so important.

It's still a very young team that will need improvements from everywhere to move up the standings. Mike Clemente in goal, now a
senior, has to show he can do it for the long haul after showing flashes over the last two years.

Jack McLellan is a quiet leader who has had productive seasons as a sophomore and junior under Whittet. Now he must step up even more as a senior, to lead himself and the team to new heights.

Clarkson Golden Knights

Head coach: Casey Jones

Last season: 15-18-2 (9-12-1 ECAC, 7th)

Who's gone: Brandon DeFazio, F; Scott Freeman, F; Bryan Rufenach, D; Mark Borowiecki, D

Who's back: Louke Oakley, F, Sr.; Matt Zarbo, F, So.; Corey Tamblyn, F, Sr.; Allan McPherson, F, So.; Jake Morley, F, Sr.; Nick Tremblay, F, Sr.; Paul Karpowich, G

Outlook: A good start gave way to a poor second half, and then getting swept at home by Harvard in the first round of the ECAC playoffs. The school then kept head coach George Roll twisting in the wind for a couple months before letting him go. Roll's teams had fallen back after making consecutive NCAA appearances in 2007 and 2008, but improved by six wins last season. It wasn't enough.

As unceremonious the departure of Roll was, the hiring of Casey Jones is a win for Clarkson. He's been a proven recruiter in
assistant coaching stints at Ohio State and Cornell, and knows the territory. Roll left him with plenty to work with, and either coach could've gotten the program back to the top half this season.

Paul Karpowich has taken a lot on his shoulders in three seasons between the pipes. If he can get some help elsewhere this season, his numbers could be special.

Colgate Raiders

Head coach: Don Vaughan

Last season: 11-28-3 (4-15-3 ECAC, 12th)

Who's gone: Francois Brisebois, F; Brian Day, F; Austin Mayer, F

Who's back: Austin Smith, F, Sr.; Robbie Bourdon, F, Jr.; Kurtis Bartliff, F, Jr.; Chris Wagner, F, So.; Thomas Larkin, D, Jr.; Corbin McPherson, D, Sr.; Eric Mihalik, G, So.

Outlook: Colgate had an abysmal three wins, none in ECAC play, with just four weeks to go in the season. From there, the Raiders went 8-4-1, winning three-game series at both RPI and Union, to make the ECAC final four. It was baffling how Colgate was so bad all season, but it showed flashes in the end that gave hope for the future.

With just two of the top nine scorers departing, the Raiders have plenty there to turn things around. Freshman Eric Mihalik was a find in net last season, and should get the bulk of the work this year. "A big part of our success down the stretch was our goaltender," Vaughan said of Mihalik, who started slowly before eventually wresting away the starting job from Alex Evin. "It starts in goal and we get most of our 'D' corps back again. The cupboard's not bare."

Austin Smith's production dropped to 10 goals after scoring 17 and 16 his first two seasons. But the Dallas native remains capable of big numbers.

Cornell Big Red

Head coach: Mike Schafer

Last season: 16-15-3 (11-9-2 ECAC, 4th, lost ECAC tournament championship game)

Who's gone: Joe Devin, F; Tyler Roeszler, F; Mike Devin, D; Mike Garman, G; Patrick Kennedy, F

Who's back: Greg Miller, F, Jr.; Nick D'Agostino, D, Jr.; Sean Collins, F, Sr.; Locke Jillson, F, Sr.; John Esposito, F, Jr.; Jordan Kary, F, Sr.; Andy Iles, G, So.

Outlook: Mike Schafer has taken Cornell to the NCAAs seven times in his tenure, but last season may have been one of his best coaching jobs. He took a lot of new players, and many others in new roles, and got off to a bad start before molding them into a formidable team down the stretch. There is still a lot of work to be done, and players that need to prove themselves, for Cornell to get back to NCAA-level.

Cornell brings in one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, particularly outside of the huge powerhouses like North
Dakota, Denver, BC and the Big Ten schools. Whether that group can mold itself fast enough will dictate how far the Big Red can go.

Sophomore goaltender Andy Iles will get most of the playing time in net with the unforseen departure of senior-to-be Mike
Garman. The pair split time last year. Having one goaltender ride things out is normal for Cornell, other than last year, but Iles — an Ithaca native — is small compared to your typical Big Red netminder.

Dartmouth Big Green

Head coach: Bob Gaudet

Last season: 19-12-3, 12-8-2 ECAC (3rd place)

Who's back: Sr. G James Mello (17-9-3, 2.21, .926); Sr. Doug Jones (8-21—29); Jr. Dustin Walsh (10-10—20); Sr. Nick Walsh (10-7—17); Sr. Connor Goggin (4-10—14); So. Matt Lindblad (13-15—28)

Outlook: Last year, the Big Green was on a cusp of its first national tournament berth in over 30 years — again — but a tough semifinal loss in the ECAC tournament ended the team's hopes. Dartmouth surprised most around the ECAC last season; led by top goal scorer Adam Estoclet (16-13—29), the team finished in 3rd place.

Head coach Bob Gaudet lost eight players to graduation last year, however the 14-year coach has brought in a strong class of freshmen including Eric Neiley, who was a standout at Phillips Exeter. In Neiley's senior season, an injury limited him to 10 games, but the Warminster, Pa., native managed to rack up 40 points in that limited span.

Dartmouth returns preseason all-conference goaltender James Mello. Last year the senior posted a 2.21 goals against average, which was good for second best in the league. Even with Mello between the pipes, defensively the Big Green will have to find a way to fill the void left by graduated defensemen Joe Stejskal and Evan Stephens. Look for senior Connor Goggin and junior captain Mike Keenan to step up on the first line.

One area of practicular prowess for the Big Green is offense. The grouping of sophomore Matt Linbald, junior Dustin Walsh, and senior Doug Jones will be very formidable. Though the offense is fairly young, Gaudett's new acquisitions look to be promising. Expect to see a high-scoring offense in Hanover.

Harvard Crimson

Head coach: Ted Donato

Last season: 12-21-1, 7-14-1 ECAC (10th place)

Who's back: Danny Biega (11-19—30); Alex Killorn (15-14—29); Connor Morrison (5-14—19); Alex Fallstrom (7-5—12); Marshall Everson (4-7—11)

Outlook: Ted Donato will be entering his eighth season behind the Crimson bench. The former NHLer will look to improve from his team's disappointing 10th-place finish last year.

The Crimson only lost seven players to graduation, however the loss of goaltenders Kyle Richter and Ryan Carroll will be tough to deal with. Look for sophomore Raphael Girard and incoming freshman Steve Michalek to take over between the pipes.

Harvard will also be boosted by the return of preseason all conference defenseman Danny Biega. The junior is arguably one of the best defenseman in the country. Last year the Carolina Hurricanes draft pick racked up 30 points, leading his team in scoring. Biega is the key to the success of the Crimson this season; if he has another great year, the team could really turn some heads.

Offense was clearly Harvard's weakness last season. The return of Alex Killorn will be beneficial — the senior picked up 15 goals last season. Juniors Connor Morrison and Alex Fallstrom should also pick up a good amount of points this season.

Donato's incoming freshman class may be the strongest in the ECAC. Out of nine players, five were picked in this year's NHL draft. Forwards Colin Blackwell and Petr Placek should see a good amount of ice time, while Toronto draftee Max Everson will make an impact on the blueline. If Harvard continues to recruit well, the team could climb back up the standings.

Princeton Tigers

Head coach: Bob Prier

Last season: 17-13-2 (11-9-2 ECAC, 6th)

Who's gone: Mike Kramer, F; Kevin Lohry, F; Taylor Fedun, D; Matt Arhontas, F; Cam Ritchie, D

Who's back: Andrew Calof, F, So.; Derrick Pallis, D, Sr.; Eric Meland, F, Jr.; Rob Kleebaum, F, Jr.; Sean Bonar, G, So.

Outlook: Princeton has enjoyed the longest stretch of success in the program's history, including two NCAA appearances. But the Tigers have lost the architect of all that, with coach Guy Gadowsky leaving for Penn State. In comes Bob Prier, a St. Lawrence assistant.

Gadowsky didn't leave things totally bare for Prier, but the new coach has a lot of work to do. It returns the leading scorer in
Calof, but a lot of the remaining scoring has departed. Losing highly-touted recruit Zach Hyman after the Gadowsky news broke, certainly will sting.

Keep an eye on ... Sean Bonar had a strong freshman year in net, getting the majority of the playing time. But he still needs to prove he can do it over the long haul, particularly in this transition year.

Quinnipiac Bobcats

Head coach: Rand Pecknold

Last season: 16-15-8 (6-9-7 ECAC, 8th)

Who's gone: Zach Hansen, D

Who's back: Scott Zurevinski, F, Sr.; Connor Jones, F, So.; Jeremy Langlois, F, Jr.; Kellen Jones, F, So.; Yuri Bouharevich, F, Sr.; Loren Barron, D, Jr.; Ben Arnt, F, Jr.; Eric Hartzell, G, Jr.

Outlook: Quinnipiac has been reliably formidable since joining the ECAC seven years ago, though has never quite gotten over the hump into elite status. Coach Rand Pecknold recently received a contract extension.

Hansen is the only player among the team's top 20 scorers from a year ago who isn't returning. There's no superstar there — yet — but just a well-balanced team. Eric Hartzell wrested the goaltending job away from Dan Clarke and put up impressive numbers. If he does that again, Quinnipiac could finally hit top-four status.

Brothers Connor and Kellen Jones stormed onto the scene last year, helping Quinnipiac to some impressive early-season wins. This is their chances to take that to another level.

Rensselaer Engineers

Head coach: Seth Appert

Last season: 20-13-5 (11-9-2 ECAC, 5th), lost first-round NCAAs

Who's gone: Chase Polacek, F; Tyler Helfrich, F; Bryan Brutlag, F; Joel Malchuk, F; Allen York, G

Who's back: Nick Bailen, D, Jr.; Brock Higgs, F, So.; Mike Bergin, D, Sr.; CJ Lee, F, Jr.; Marty O'Grady, F, Jr.

Outlook: RPI made its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1995 last season, squeaking in after losing a first-round ECAC playoff series. Seth Appert's rejuvenation of the program is certainly in full swing, but the Engineers lose a lot of talent. It is also being affected by a number of injuries in the early seasno.

Appert has done a great job rebuilding this program, but it may take a step back before going forward again, losing a two-time Hobey finalist in Polacek and a stalwart netminder in York.

Nick Bailen is as good an all-around defenseman as there is in the ECAC.

St. Lawrence Saints

Head coach: Joe Marsh

Last season: 13-22-5 (6-15-1 ECAC); 11th (Lost to Yale in the ECAC Quarterfinals)

Outlook: There was not much turnover in the vital pieces of St. Lawrence’s roster since last season. Starting goaltender Matt Weninger returns along with leading scorer Greg Carey. The most significant change on the roster occurred behind the bench, as coach Joe Marsh added Greg Carvel, a former St. Lawrence captain, as an assistant to replace Bob Prier, another former captain, who went to Princeton. Marsh then decided to take a leave of absence, anointing yet another former St. Lawrence captain, Mike Hurlbut, the interim head coach. Having favorite sons like Hurlbut and Carvel, whose most recent coaching gig was as an assistant to the Ottawa Senator’s Cory Clouston, around will help the stability, but it will be hard to fill Marsh's shoes.

St. Lawrence relied heavily on their special teams play last year, using their advantages to put pucks in the net. They held a 20 percent success rate with the man advantage, while their penalty kill units stifled their opposition with an 84.8 percent success rate. Their units play a balanced system and help St. Lawrence stabilize themselves during games. Their power-play shooting percentage of 15 percent dwarfed their opponent’s 9.5 percent, and they must continue in 2012 to gain ground on the conference.

It is difficult to pinpoint a single weakness in a team that went 6-15-1 in conference play, but if there is one glaring hole it would be St. Lawrence’s goal scoring. Greg Carey led the ECAC in goals scored with 23 in 2010-2011, but beyond Carey there is a significant drop off in production. St. Lawrence’s next best finishers potted 13 (Aaron Bogosian) and 12 (Kyle Flanagan), which won’t be enough to compensate for a defense that allowed the third most goals in the ECAC.

Greg Carey will continue to pile up goals and points for St. Lawrence’s first line, but expect his offense to be overshadowed by his team’s defensive deficiencies, particularly in goal, where it appears to be another revolving door effort.

Union Dutchmen

Coach: Rick Bennett

Last season: 26-10-4 (17-3-2 ECAC); 1st (Lost to Colgate in the ECAC Quarterfinals)

Outlook: Union may struggle to keep pucks out of their own net after the loss of senior defenseman Brock Matheson. Union led the ECAC last year with a paltry 43 goals against. Starting goaltender Keith Kinkaid started 37 games for Union in 2010-2011, and with Kinkaid no longer in the picture, the team will need to rely on sophomore Troy Grosenick to keep their goals against low. 30-point man Adam Presizniuk has also departed, leaving a considerable scoring role to be filled.

While 2010-2011 was a stingy year for Union’s opponents in terms of goal scoring, this team will need to use their star power forwards to outscore their opponents. An impressive forward corps returns Kelly Zajac, Jeremy Welsh, and Daniel Carr to terrorize opposing defenses. If there is one aspect of this team I don’t expect Coach Bennett to tinker with much, it will be Union’s high flying offense, ranked second in goals for in 2010-2011 with 75.

Union’s crease will be tended by a large question mark to begin the year. Without the services of Keith Kinkaid, the large burden of backing a regular season conference champion will fall onto the shoulders of sophomore Troy Grosenick. If Grosenick is unable to fill the shoes, freshman goalies Colin Stevens or Dillon Pieri will get their looks from Coach Bennett.

Expect Union’s offense to continue its scoring prowess. If Union is able to get their goaltending situation in order and Grosenick shows the ability to shoulder the workload, look for another strong year from the Dutchmen.

Yale Bulldogs

Head coach: Keith Allain

Last season: 28-7-1 (17-4-1 ECAC, second, won ECAC tournament), lost second-round NCAAs

Who's gone: Jeff Anderson, F; Chris Cahill, F; Denny Kearney, F; Broc Little, F; Jimmy Martin, D; Brendan Mason, F; Mike Matczak, D; Ryan Rondeau, G

Who's back: Brian O'Neill, Sr., F; Andrew Miller, Jr., F; Kenny Agostino, So., F; Kevin Limbert, Sr., F; Kevin Peel, Sr., D

Outlook: Yale has spent three straight years now among the elite teams nationally, and was the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAAs last year. But the Elis could not get past Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAAs to earn an elusive Frozen Four bid for the league.

Yale loses a lot of talent, and has a lot left. It may be enough to compete in the ECAC, but it will have a hard time
maintaining its lofty national status. And it has a lot of question marks in goal once again.

Brian O'Neill has steadily increased his production every year, becoming an indispensible player and ECAC Player of the
Year candidate. He is also the sparkplug of the team. He was tossed out of the NCAA loss to UMD because of a hit to the head, right after sparking a comeback bid. He won't have as much help around him, but with one more season left, he'll be hungry to erase that memory.

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