UMass Lowell Riverhawks 2000/2001 Season Preview

By Monty Rodrigues
After a disappointing 1999/2000 season, the Riverhawks begin another
season in the lower tier of Hockey East. The Hawks hope to end a two
year streak in which they haven’t made the Hockey East semifinals, after
having done it 7 years in a row. The young team is slowly starting to
age, as the large recruiting classes of the last three years head
further away from their rookie years. This is the first year in a while
that UML has a majority of players that are upperclassmen. Lowell
finished a Hockey East worst 5-16-3 in league play (9-22-3 overall) last
year, returns 20 lettermen after losing just 4 seniors last year. Gone
from a team that averaged less than 3 goals per game last year are
forwards Chris Bell (9 goals, 21 assists, 30 points), John Campbell
(4-13-17) and Craig Brown (4-5-9) along with defenseman Kevin Bertram
(10-8-18). Five other players left with eligibility still left,
including forwards Jeremy Kyte, Mark Fontas and Mike Sgroi (both of whom
left during the season last year), defenseman Andy Wozniewski and
goaltender Dan Weinreib. The Riverhawks bring in what for them is a small
class this year, including three forwards, a defenseman and one
goaltender. For a change, Lowell brings back a lot of experience, with
only 4 seniors, but 10 juniors and 6 sophomores as well. The best news
for the team was that sophomore blue liner Ron Hainsey would return to
the team this year, even though he was the first ever Lowell player
picked in the first round, at #13 by Montreal. Hainsey’s return will
help the defense be the strength of the team, and will arguably be one
of the top blue-line corps in the league. The goaltending will be
mediocre at worst, it does have talent, but both keepers need to play
better than they did last year, where Lowell gave up 3.29 goals per
game. The question this year will once again be with the forwards. Once
again, there is talent up front, but it needs to show up on a more
consistent basis this year. The Hawks scored more than 5 goals just 6
times during the season. Of course, the optimist in me says that with the
team having finished dead last and out of the playoffs, they cant’ fall
any lower. The Hawks lost 15 games last year by 1 or 2 goals. The lack
of offense showed itself in their 1-8 record in 1 goal games. A couple
of timely goals here and there could have changed the season for the
Hawks. The feeling here is once again, the Hawks will play a lot of
close games, and with a much weaker non conference schedule than last
year, there’s a good chance for Lowell to move back into the playoffs
this year.

GOALTENDERS

With both junior goaltenders returning, the Riverhawks look to be solid
in goal for the next two years. Cam McCormick (Kamloops, B.C.) played
the majority of the games for Lowell last year even though he didn’t
start at the beginning of the year, and stayed the starter, until
hitting the wall towards the end of the year. Jimi St. John (Windsor,
Ontario) started 11 games for the Hawks, finishing with a 2-7-1 record
(1-5-1 in Hockey East), with a 3.08 GAA and an 87.6% save rate (2.83 GAA
and 88.0% in league). St. John started slowly, got injured for a good
chunk of the season and came back at the end and won back his starting
job. McCormick slumped towards the end of the year, after playing well
through the middle of the season. Even though his won-loss record
(7-13-2) didn’t look good, his 3.20 GAA and 88.6% save rate was
respectable. His numbers in league play were pretty much the same, at
4-10-2, 3.21 GAA and 89.0%. The third member of the group is incoming
freshman Chris Davidson (Hudson, Quebec). Davidson led the Cambridge
Winter Hawks to the Sunderland Cup (Championship of Ontario) with a 2.29
GAA and an 18-6-1 record. Davidson most likely won’t see much playing
time this year, unless one of the upperclassmen gets hurt.

DEFENSE

The strength of the Riverhawks lies in this group, which surprisingly
consists of no seniors. The leader of the pack will be sophomore Ron
Hainsey (Bolton, CT). A member of the Hockey East All-Rookie Team,
Hainsey came from the US National Development Program last year,
finished with a 3-8-11 line in 20 games. He missed a few games due to a
U-20 National Team obligation, as well as a couple more due to a
concussion he received during that same tournament. Fellow sophomore
Josh Reed (Vernon, B.C.) made a good impression last year, and will most
likely be Hainsey’s partner on the blue line. Reed (2-11-13), like
Hainsey, has a very good shot from the point, and is a fast skater. He’s
also a lot more of a stay-at-home defenseman than is Hainsey. Juniors
Josh Allison (Blairsville, PA), Kevin Kotyluk (Golden, B.C.), Chris
Gustafson (Elrose, Sask) and R.J. Tolan (Waltham, MA) along with
incoming freshmen Jerremie Domish (Pottstown, PA) and Darryl Green
(Chatham, Ontario) will help comprise the second and third defense
lines. For this corps to live up to expectations, Kotyluk (3-5-8) has to
return to the level of his freshman year, it seemed at times that his
play was a level off what it had been the previous year. Allison (3-2-5)
and Gustafson (4-1-5) play conservative and are both reliable at the
line. Tolan only played in 7 games last year, and might wind up in the
same situation this year. Domish and Green both sat out last year, and
are both expected to contribute immediately this year. Expect to see
Hainsey, Reed, Kotyluk and one of the above as the main men during
special team situations.

FORWARDS

Missing empty nets, hitting the post, finding a way to miss … this
pretty much described Lowell’s offense last year. There was no lack of
hustle, as the Hawks outshot their opponents for the year, but just
couldn’t put the puck in the net. The Hawks lost 27% of their goal
scoring from last year due to graduation, and over 30% of the points.
Leading the offense this year will be junior Yorick Treille (Grenobles,
France) and sophomore Ed McGrane (Hamilton, Ontario), both of whom were
tied for second leading scorers on the team with identical 10-12-22
lines. Treille has the most talent of any of the forwards on the team,
and started taking on a leadership roll towards the end of the season.
He’s a hustler and has no problem getting in the corners and getting
himself dirty. McGrane had a very good freshman year, but needs to
continue to show improvement, as this team needs someone who can put the
puck in the net. The questions up front belong to the four senior
forwards; Jeff Boulanger (North Bay, Ontario), Nicholas Carso (Easton,
MD), Kyle Kidney (Ithaca, NY) and Brad Rooney (St. Catherine’s,
Ontario). Between the four, their production has fallen from their
freshmen years where they combined for 64 points (28 goals) to 51 points
the last two years (20 and 15 goals respectively). Boulanger (3-12-15)
and Rooney (7-11-18) had 22 goals between the two their freshmen years
and haven’t come close to that number since. Rooney had a respectable
year last year, but much more is expected of Boulanger over the last two
years than what was received. Kidney (4-7-11) seems to wind up in the
box every time he’s on the ice, while Carso (1-6-7) is a scrappy player.
If at least two of these four can finish off their careers with style,
it would be a huge boost for the team. Juniors Ken Farrell (Fort
McMurray, Alberta), Dan Fontas (Acton, MA) and Tom Rouleau (Milwaukee,
WI) round off the upperclass forwards. Rouleau (8-8-16) has shown signs
during his career, but never been able to put up numbers consistently,
while Fontas (2-13-
15) was a bit of a surprise last year with his
scrappy play. Farrell was a transfer from Iona the previous year, and
only got one assist in four games last year for the Hawks. Other than
McGrane, no other freshman forward last year had a really big season, as
Mark Concannon (Hull, MA), Geoff Schomogyi (Kitchener, Ontario) and
Stephen Slonina (Abington, MA) combined for just 9 goals and 16 assists.
Slonina has proven himself to be a pest to the opponents and is a very
fast skater. Concannon, up until this last NHL draft, had been the
highest ever UML draft pick, a third round pick of the San Jose Sharks.
Schomogyi played in just 11 games last year, and should get a good
chance to show more this year. The Hawks have three new forwards coming
in, including yet another from France. Laurent Meunier (Echirolles,
France) last played for the Leon Lions, and also represented France
(along with Treille) at the World Hockey Championships in St.
Petersburg, Russia last year. Peter Hay (Abbotsford, B.C.) and Anders
Strome (Winnipeg, Manitoba) round out the team. Hay is the tallest
player on the team, coming in at 6’5″, 200, and having played for the
Weyburn Red Wings last year. He finished last year with 78 points (36
goals) in just 50 games. Strome played for the Winnipeg South Blues last
year, and scored 71 points (24 goals) in 63 games.

OUTLOOK

Considering the talent that some of the competition lost, it’s tough to
predict how Hockey East will wind up this year. BC should finish first,
and the top four will be (in some order), BC, BU, UNH and Maine. Lowell
falls into the second tier, and while they might not finish fifth or
sixth, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do wind up between 6th and 8th.
I’d be shocked if they miss the playoffs for the second straight year.
If the forwards can put the puck in the net, the defense and goaltending
will keep the Hawks in almost every game, but they need to see the light
being turned on by the offense.