2014-15 ECAC Preview, Part 2: Cornell looks to repeat as Ivy League champs

By DJ Powers
Jimmy Vesey - Harvard University

Photo: Harvard University forward and Nashville Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey will lead the Crimson offense in 2014-15 (courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

 

This season, the Ivy League members of the ECAC feature a combined 23 NHL prospects representing four of the six schools. Harvard leads the group with 10 prospects, followed by Cornell with seven. Dartmouth and Princeton are the only Ivy League members without an NHL prospect on their rosters.

Cornell University
NHL prospects: 7

The defending Ivy League champions will look to successfully defend their crown when they open their 2014-15 season on Oct. 31st versus Nebraska-Omaha.

Last season, Cornell claimed their second Ivy League championship in three years. While the Big Red returns much of last season’s squad, there are some holes to be filled, as well.

The most notable is in goal with workhorse starter Andy Iles having graduated. The Ithaca, NY native posted a 16-10-5 record that included one shutout in 31 games and was named the Ivy League Player of the Year. The 1882:57 minutes that Iles played led all Ivy League netminders.

The daunting task of replacing Iles this season falls to the trio of sophomores Mitch Gilliam and Ryan Coon, and freshman Hayden Stewart. Gilliam played in just two games, posting a 1-0-0 record. Coon did not see action last season.

With the uncertainty and inexperience in goal, Cornell will be relying on their excellent defensive corps to stabilize things on the back end. Anchoring the defense is senior assistant captain Joakim Ryan (SJS). The Rumson, NJ native is coming off of a stellar junior campaign where he led all Big Red defensemen with 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) in 32 games en route to earning a unanimous selection to the All-Ivy League First Team. What Ryan lacks in size (5’10”, 183 lbs.), he makes up for with his superb skating and puck-moving ability. And he utilizes those assets quite effectively, not only offensively but defensively, as well.

Another key loss that Cornell suffered was that of top scorer Brian Ferlin, who opted to forego his senior year to sign with the Boston Bruins. Although Ferlin’s departure is significant, the Big Red’s forward lines will again have great depth and size this season.

Among those leading Cornell’s offensive attack are seniors John McCarron (EDM) and Joel Lowry (LAK). Both players amassed identical point totals last season (24 points on seven goals and 17 assists). McCarron, who will serve as team captain, continues to be a physical presence for the Big Red. One notable area where he has made great strides is in his crisper passes.

Like McCarron, Lowry also provides a physical presence for Cornell up front. The Calgary, AB native has established himself as a clutch scorer, as evidenced by his three game-winners and three power play tallies. An area where Lowry has really developed is in his shot – he shoots with greater accuracy and his shots are of better quality.

Another forward that the Big Red will be looking to for increased point production is sophomore Matt Buckles (FLA). The Toronto, ON native is coming off of an outstanding freshman campaign where he posted four goals in 29 games. Buckles showed glimpses of his great offensive skills and ability to use his 6’2”, 218-pound frame effectively. With a year now under his belt and a stronger body, Buckles is poised to potentially have a breakout season.

The Big Red has seven newcomers this season, including wingers Jared Fiegl (ARZ) and Dwyer Tschantz (STL). Fiegl, a former University of Denver recruit, is noted for his great hands and accurate shot. Tschantz holds the distinction of being the first-ever Delaware native to be taken in the NHL Draft. He is noted for his size (6’5”, 221 lbs.) and excellent mobility.

Brown University
NHL prospects: 3

The Bears open their 2014-15 season on Oct. 31st at Army.

Inconsistent play plagued Brown throughout last season and the team wound up finishing a disappointing ninth in the ECAC. This season, however, the Bears are poised to be a much better team.

Brown graduated seven players and the team’s most significant losses were at defense. The Bears lost three defensemen, including ECAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year Dennis Robertson (CAR). The Fort St. John, BC native led Brown in defensive scoring last season with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 30 games.

Anchoring the Bears defensive corps this season is junior Brandon Pfeil. The West Vancouver, BC native is coming off of a terrific but injury-shortened sophomore campaign where he posted 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 21 games. He missed three weeks in the early part of the calendar year due to a hand injury. Pfeil is a 6’2”, 185-pound mobile defenseman blessed with great hands who is expected to take over the quarterbacking role on Brown’s power play.

Another key player the Bears lost was goaltender Marco De Filippo. The Auronzo Di Cadore, Italy native appeared in 11 games, posting a 3-7-0 record. De Filippo served as backup to returning sophomore Tyler Steel. The Kelowna, BC native posted an 8-10-3 record that included one shutout in 21 appearances. Steel is a 6’2”, 175-pound netminder who play with great composure and possesses an excellent glove.

Last season, Brown featured one of the ECAC’s most dynamic top lines in senior Matt Lorito, and juniors Mark Naclerio and Nick Lappin. The line, which played together only part of the season due to injuries, accounted for an astounding 52 percent of the team’s goals.

Lorito, the Bears co-captain this season, missed the ECAC playoffs last spring due to a leg injury. The Oakville, ON native co-led Brown with 19 assists and finished with 29 points in 29 games. Lorito is a small (5’9”, 170 lbs.) forward who is very slick with the puck. During his collegiate career, he has played both center and wing. This summer, Lorito attended the New Jersey Devils’ prospect camp.

One issue that the Bears will need to address this season is getting point production from players other than their top trio. Among the players that Brown will be relying on are three newcomers in centers Sam Lafferty (PIT) and Max Willman (BUF), and RW Tyler Bird (CBJ).

Lafferty, who was originally scheduled to matriculate in the fall of 2015, is noted for his superb skating and playmaking ability. Willman is noted for his tremendous offensive skill set and high-tempo game. Bird is a power forward noted for his pro-style shot and release. Head coach Brendan Whittet is overjoyed about what all three can provide to help his team.

“They all possess high-end skills,” said Whittet if his young trio. “Sam was a kid that was going to defer admissions for a year. After some interaction that we had with the (Penguins) administrative staff, we all felt that it wasn’t in our or Sam’s best interest, so we decided that he should come to Brown this year. Max is a dynamic offensive player that has those high instincts that you can’t teach. Tyler is a player that plays a man’s game and is really good at the top of the circles. He also has a ton of upside.”

Dartmouth College
NHL prospects: 0

The Big Green open their 2014-15 season on Nov. 1st at Harvard.

Few NCAA teams were hit harder with injuries last season than Dartmouth. Not surprisingly, it took a devastating toll with the team finishing tied for tenth in the ECAC.

One of the most significant injuries to the Big Green was that of senior Eric Robinson, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last November. The good news for Dartmouth is that Robinson returns this season as a redshirted senior. The Foxborough, MA native has been one of the offensive catalysts for the Big Green. Robinson, who will serve as one of the team’s assistant captains, is a 6’3”, 205-pound forward whos established himself as one of Dartmouth’s clutch scorers. Head coach Bob Gaudet is excited to have Robinson back, as well.

“It’s rare that we have a fifth-year senior on our team, but Eric had surgery and wanted to come back,” said Gaudet. “He was able to work it out with his (academic) schedule and has looked really good so far. Eric is a good role model for our younger guys because he works so hard. Eric is healthy and we’re just happy to have him back for another year.”

With Robinson back, Dartmouth returns all of their forwards from last season. Leading the group is senior assistant captain Eric Neiley. The Warminster, PA native is coming off a superb junior campaign where he led the Big Green with 29 points (16 goals, 13 assists) in 32 games and earned a spot on the All-Ivy League Second Team. Like Robinson, Neiley is also one of the Big Green’s offensive catalysts and is especially dangerous on special teams. This summer, Neiley attended the New York Rangers’ prospect camp.

Two of the three players that Dartmouth lost to graduation were defensemen in stalwarts Taylor Boldt and Nick Lovejoy. While the two are significant losses, the Big Green’s defensive corps is shaping up to be quite good this season.

Anchoring the defense is senior Rick Pinkston. The Trenton, MI native played in 32 games last season, posting six points (two goals, four assists). Pinkston is primarily a defensive defenseman, but he has shown some good offensive skills, as well. He is one of Dartmouth’s top penalty killers and shot-blockers. Gaudet notes that Pinkston brings many key elements to the blueline.

“Rick has always been one of our top six defensemen and brings a real physical presence for us in that he’s so strong,” Gaudet said of Pinkston. “His role has been primarily on the defensive side and he’s an excellent penalty killer. Rick just brings a lot of stability and consistency to our lineup.”

Of the Big Green’s six newcomers, two are defensemen including River Rymsha. The Huntington Woods, MI native is a 6’2”,195-pound puck-moving defenseman noted for his great hockey instincts and shot. Rymsha is eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft.

Although Dartmouth graduated Cab Morris, the team returns their other two netminders from last season, including junior Charles Grant. The Berwick, NS native got off to a slow start but had an excellent finish to his sophomore campaign. He posted a 9-13-3 record that included one shutout in 25 games and earned a spot on the All-Ivy League Second Team. Grant is a 6’2”, 180-pound netminder with great athleticism who is also willing to aggressively challenge shooters.

Harvard University
NHL prospects: 10

The Crimson open their 2014-15 season on Nov. 1st versus Dartmouth.

This season, Harvard features the most NHL prospects of any ECAC team. Although the Crimson have 10 prospects listed on their roster, it remains to be seen if junior Colin Blackwell (SJS) will be able to resume play at some point this season. The North Andover, MA native missed all of last season due to post-concussion syndrome that he suffered in his sophomore campaign two years ago. Head coach Ted Donato notes that while he is hopeful of getting Blackwell back into the lineup, he’s also cautious.

“We’re hopeful that Colin will be back, but we don’t have any time table right now,” said Donato. “With his type of injury, you want to be especially careful with it. So it’s a situation that we’re going to continue to evaluate. When Colin was playing, he was a tremendous player. He brings a lot of energy and speed to our team. So hopefully he’ll be healthy and be back in our lineup this season.”

Harvard returns last season’s squad nearly intact, having lost just five players. Perhaps the most significant loss is stalwart defenseman Dan Ford, who has graduated. Nevertheless, the Crimson’s defense is shaping up to be an excellent and more experienced group.

Anchoring Harvard’s defense this season is senior captain Max Everson (TOR). The Edina, MN native is coming off of a solid junior season where he posted six points (all assists) in 23 games. Everson provides not only a physical presence but is also one of the team’s top penalty killers.

Of Harvard’s seven newcomers, three are defensemen, including towering Wiley Sherman (BOS). At 6’7” and 220 pounds, the Greenwich, CT native is the tallest player on Harvard’s roster. Sherman is a shutdown defenseman noted for his mobility.

Goaltending will be an intriguing position to watch this season as senior Steve Michalek (MIN) battles 6’5” freshman Merrick Madsen (PHI) for playing time. Last season, Michalek split time with now-graduated Raphael Girard, appearing in 18 games. He finished with a 5-8-2 record that included two shutouts. Madsen is an athletic goaltender who moves remarkably well for his size.

While junior Jimmy Vesey (NSH) continues to lead the Crimson’s offensive attack, sophomores Sean Malone (BUF) and Alex Kerfoot (NJD) are expected to be big contributors as well. Malone is coming off a stellar freshman campaign where he was named the Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Year. The West Seneca, NY native led Harvard with 14 assists and finished with 20 points in 31 games. Where Malone really excelled last season was on special teams.

Despite some lingering injury problems, Kerfoot played exceedingly well in his freshman campaign. The West Vancouver, BC native posted 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 25 games. Kerfoot uses his speed and quick feet advantageously and this was particularly evident in his cycling with the puck. Now healthy, Kerfoot is poised to have a breakout year as a sophomore.

“Alex has the ability to be an offensive catalyst for us and we feel that he could be an important part of our success,” Donato said of Kerfoot. “He’s dangerous one-on-one and is the type of player that makes others around him better. He battled injuries all last year, so we’re hoping that Alex can be the impact player that we know he’s capable of becoming.”

Princeton University
NHL prospects: 0

The Tigers open their 2014-15 season on Oct. 31st versus Yale in the Liberty Hockey Invitational in Newark, NJ.

A new era dawns on Princeton hockey this season with Ron Fogarty taking over as the Tigers’ new bench boss. He succeeds Bob Prier, who resigned after three seasons. Fogarty, who came to Princeton from Adrian College (DIII), is the third Tigers head coach in five years.

Fogarty inherits a team that struggled in numerous areas last season, most notably on offense. Princeton finished 58th nationally, averaging a mere 1.88 goals per game. The team’s 60 goals were the second fewest in the NCAA last season. Only Alabama-Huntsville posted fewer goals.

An increase in their point production this season is further challenged by the fact that the Tigers lost their top two scorers in graduates Andrew Ammon and Andrew Calof. The duo accounted for a quarter of the team’s points last season.

If Princeton is to be successful, scoring will have to come by committee. Among those leading the Tigers’ offensive charge are senior captain Tyler Maugeri and sophomore Ryan Siiro.

Maugeri missed significant time last season due to injury. The Malibu, CA native played in just 18 games and finished with seven points (five goals, two assists). Maugeri is crafty with the puck and really excels on the power play, where three of his goals were scored last season.

Siiro is coming off an excellent freshman campaign, leading Princeton in rookie scoring with 12 points (five goals, seven assists). He was one of only four players to play in all 32 games. The Bloomington, MN native is a 6’2”, 220-pound power forward who plays exceedingly well in the dirty areas. This summer, Siiro attended the New York Islanders’ prospect camp.

Of the Tigers nine newcomers this season, five are forwards. One to keep an eye on is Max Becker. The Orange, CA native is a slick little winger who possesses tremendous scoring ability and could eventually fill the offensive role left by Calof. Becker is eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft.

Another area where Princeton will look to improve is in goal. Although Sean Bonar has graduated, the Tigers do return sophomore Colton Phinney. The Chatham, NJ native split time with Bonar last season, posting a 4-14-0 record in 18 appearances. Phinney is an athletic goaltender who is also an excellent puck handler.

The Tigers’ defense should be a much-improved one, but it will also be predominantly young with just three upperclassmen. Princeton’s defensive corps were hit hard with injuries last season, so staying healthy will be key to the team’s success this season.

Senior assistant captain Aaron Ave anchors the Tigers defense. The Chandler, AZ native is coming off of a strong junior campaign where he posted nine points (three goals, six assists) in 28 games. What Ave lacks in size (5’9”, 170 lbs.), he makes up for with his outstanding skating and puck-moving ability.

Yale University
NHL prospects: 3

The Bulldogs open their 2014-15 season on Oct. 31st versus Princeton in the Liberty Hockey Invitational in Newark, NJ.

Yale returns last season’s squad nearly intact, having graduated just four players. But three of the four graduates were also key components to the team’s success, including the two top scorers Kenny Agostino (CGY) and ECAC Defensive Forward of the Year Jesse Root, as well as top defenseman Gus Young.

Agostino and Root accounted for a quarter of the team’s points last season that will need to be replaced this season. Among those leading the Bulldogs’ offensive charge is their now-former linemate sophomore John Hayden (CHI). The Greenwich, CT native is coming off of a terrific freshman campaign, leading Yale in rookie scoring with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 33 games. He spent much of the second half playing alongside Agostino and Root on the Bulldogs top line, which greatly benefited his confidence level. Hayden uses his 6’3”, 210-pound frame remarkably well in the difficult areas, and as he gets stronger, that attribute will become more pronounced. As good as he was last season, Hayden could potentially be even better this season.

Another player that will be relied on for point production is junior Matthew Beattie (VAN). The Whitehouse Station, NJ native returns after a rock solid sophomore campaign where he posted six points (four goals, two assists) in 22 games. Although Beattie has spent much of his collegiate career on right wing, he also played left wing last season. He has blossomed into an outstanding depth player for Yale. While Beattie’s numbers aren’t all that impressive, what he has done away from the score sheet is. He’s using his 6’3”, 190-pound frame more effectively in battles for pucks and on the forecheck. Beattie has also added some grit to his game.

Although the loss of Young is significant, the Bulldogs’ defensive corps is shaping up to be one of their strengths this season. Among those anchoring Yale’s defense is junior Rob O’Gara (BOS). The Nesconset, NY native is coming off an excellent sophomore campaign where he posted 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 33 games. He was especially good on the Bulldogs power play where three of his four goals were scored. One notable area where O’Gara has greatly improved is in his ability to break the puck out of his own zone.

Another of Yale’s strengths this season is in goal. The Bulldogs return all of their goaltenders, including sophomore starter Alex Lyon. The Baudette, MN native is coming off a stellar freshman campaign where he posted a 14-11-5 record that included three shutouts in 30 games and was named the Ivy League’s Co-Rookie of the Year. Part of what made Lyon so good last season was his great ability to win or keep his team in games. This summer, Lyon attended the Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect camp.

In addition to the returning veterans, Yale also welcomes five newcomers. One well worth watching is forward Ryan Hitchcock. What the Manhasset, NY native lacks in size (5’10”, 170 lbs.), he makes up for with his high hockey IQ and superb passing ability. Hitchcock, who is eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, is also versatile in that he can play both center and wing equally well.

ECAC Preview, Part 1

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF