NCAA season preview – Hockey East

By DJ Powers





ATLANTIC HOCKEY


 

University of Maine

 

(Number of drafted NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 6)

 

The defending Hockey East champion Black Bears will open
their 2004-05 regular on October 3rd when they travel to Gutterson
Fieldhouse to face off against non-conference host Vermont.

 

For the Maine Black Bears and their followers, the 2003-04
season wasn’t suppose to end the way it did. After having been near or atop the
national rankings for the duration of the regular season as well as having
gotten all the way to the National Championship game, Maine fell short of its
expectation to win it all in a hard-fought 1-0 loss to the resilient Denver
Pioneers. The Black Bears are hoping to change that this season. To do so, they
will have to do it without some key personnel. Last season’s top scorer Colin Shields (PHI), top defensive
forward Todd Jackson (DET) as well
as hard hitting defenseman Prestin Ryan
(CBJ) and outstanding goaltender Frank
Doyle
have all graduated. In addition, the Black Bears also lost three
non-seniors. Imposing forward Dustin
Penner
(ANA) opted to forego his final two years of eligibility to sign
with the Mighty Ducks. Forward Luciano
Aquino
left to play in Canadian Major Juniors, while third string
goaltender Ray Jean transferred to
Bentley College.

 

Maine will however, return two of the best underclassmen in
the nation in goaltending sensation, junior Jimmy Howard (DET) and exceptionally gifted forward, junior Michel Léveillé.
Howard, the Hockey East Goaltender of the Year last season, was arguably the
best goaltender in the nation from start to finish last season. He led the
nation in goals against average (1.19) and save percentage (.956) and finished
tied for second in the nation with six shutouts. What makes Howard such a
wonderful player is his consistency, calmness under pressure and his almost
impeccable positioning. Léveillé, the Hockey
East Rookie of the Year last season, finished tied for second in the nation
(and first in Hockey East) in assists with 34. He is expected to help lead the
Black Bears offense this season. Léveillé is a
player that is well worth watching. He combines excellent puck skills, hockey
sense and great skating ability. Léveillé has drawn
comparisons to the likes of Adam Oates in his style of play.

 

The area of most concern for Maine coming into this season
is the team’s inept power play of last season. Nowhere was it more glaringly
obvious than in the National Championship game, where the Black Bears went 0-7,
including having a six-on-three man advantage (with Howard pulled for an extra
attacker) in the final approximately minute and a half of regulation time.
Maine ended up finishing last season ranked a disappointing 35th in
the nation on the power play (16.4 percent). This
season, the Black Bears are hoping to remedy that with the arrival of some
talented newcomers with a knack for scoring on special teams in 2004 NHL draft
selection Rob Bellamy (PHI) and Keenan Hopson. Bellamy was a 2004 NHL
Draft selection of the Philadelphia Flyers (92nd overall, third
round). He comes to Maine from the New England Junior Coyotes (EJHL), where he
amassed 60 points (27 goals, 33 assists) last season. Hopson comes to Maine
from the Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL), where he amassed 100 points (34
goals, 66 assists). Of the 34 goals, Hopson scored last season 15 came on
special teams. In late December, the Black Bears will also have the services of
outstanding forward Billy Ryan
(NYR). Ryan, a 2004 NHL draft selection (80th overall, third round),
came to Maine from Cushing Academy where he amassed 90 points (35 goals, 55
assists) last season. He is also the younger brother of former Northeastern
standout and current Buffalo Sabres prospect Mike Ryan.

 

The Black Bears ranked as the top defensive team
in the nation, thanks in large part to their stellar goaltending. Defense is
expected to Maine’s strength again this season. Howard will return as the
full-time starter, but will have a new goaltending partner. Incoming freshman Matt Lundin comes to Maine from Apple
Valley High School in Minnesota. He was the 2003-04 recipient of the Frank
Brimsek Award, which is given annually to the top Minnesota High School
Goaltender. Sophomore Mike Lundin
(TB), Matt’s older brother, leads a solid group of returning defensemen that
includes senior Matthew Deschamps
and junior Jeff Mushaluk. Lundin, a
2004 NHL Draft selection of the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay
Lightning (102nd overall, fourth round) is a defenseman well worth watching
this season. He finished second among Black Bears defensemen in scoring last
season with 19 points (three goals, 16 assists). He possesses good athleticism
and skating ability. Perhaps Lundin’s greatest asset is his patience with the
puck. One area where Maine was able to utilize him quite well was on the power
play.

 

While the loss of Jackson and Shields are
significant, offensive depth shouldn’t be a problem for Maine. Aside from
Leveille, the Black Bears will return a very good group of forwards led by
senior Derek Damon, junior Greg Moore (NYR) and speedy sophomore Mike Hamilton (ATL). Hamilton is
another Black Bear to keep an eye on. He possesses excellent speed, great hands
and can really step up his game when called upon.

 

Boston College

 

(Number of drafted NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 9)

 

The Eagles will open their 2004-05 regular season on October
15th when they host the visiting reigning National Champions Denver
at Conte Forum.

 

The dominant Eagles team of last season suffered some key
losses in the offseason. Talented rookie forward Adam Pineault (CBJ) left to play in Canadian Major Juniors. Top
scorer Tony Voce (PHI) and top
offensive defenseman J. D. Forrest
(CAR) have both graduated. Arguably the biggest loss of all for Boston College
(also to graduation) is that of Ben
Eaves
(PIT), who became the heart and soul of the Eagles team last season.

 

Despite the losses, the Eagles will once again be amongst
the nation’s best teams and arguably the most balanced. Up front, BC returns a
group of immensely talented players led by a pair of forwards that are definitely
worth watching this season in senior Ryan
Shannon
, who will serve as team captain and junior Patrick Eaves (OTT). Both Shannon and Eaves were East Second Team
All-American selections as well as selections to the Hockey East All-Conference
teams. Shannon finished second on the team in scoring last season with 42
points (15 goals, 27 assists). His outstanding offensive skills coupled with
his great instincts and ability to really step up his game when it’s all on the
line will make him one player that will be difficult to ignore. Eaves finished
third on the team last season with 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists), and led
the Eagles in penalty minutes with 66. The Ottawa Senators prospect really
blossomed as a player last season and the expectations bar has been set higher
for him this season. One of Eaves’ best attributes is his doing whatever it
takes to win attitude. The superb talent that he’s been blessed with is
accentuated by how hard he battles every night. Shannon and Eaves will have a
superb supporting cast around them that includes an outstanding pair of Los
Angeles Kings prospects in senior Ryan
Murphy
and towering sophomore Brian
Boyle
. Murphy, one of the Eagles assistant captains this season (Patrick
Eaves being the other), has become one of Boston College’s best clutch players.
Last season, it didn’t come much more clutch than scoring the game-winner in
overtime over Boston University to win the coveted Beanpot Tournament. Boyle,
who saw primarily fourth line duty last season, has played very well for the
Eagles. His immense 6’7 frame was used to great advantage, particularly on the
power play. Boyle amassed eight points (five goals, three assists) in 35 games
last season. Of his five goals, three came on the power play.

 

The Boston College defense will be an excellent but slightly
younger group this season. Senior Andrew
Alberts
(BOS), who has become one of the nation’s best defensemen, will
lead the Eagles defensive corps this season. He amassed 16 points (four goals,
twelve assists) playing in all 42 games last season. Alberts combines size and
grit and also possesses a heavy shot. One area that Alberts showed marked
improvement in last season is his passing skills, particularly with making
outlet passes. Joining Alberts on the Eagles’ blueline this season are a trio
of solid upperclassmen in seniors John
Adams
(BUF), Greg Lauze and
junior Peter Harrold.

 

As if the team talent level isn’t deep enough already,
Boston College will welcome what some are viewing as the best incoming freshman
class in the nation led by goaltending phenom Cory Schneider (VAN). Schneider was a first round selection (26th
overall) of the Vancouver Canucks in this past summer’s NHL Entry Draft. He was
named USA Hockey’s Goaltender of the Year after leading Team USA’s U-18 teams
to a gold and silver medal in international play this past season. Coming into
this year’s NHL Draft, scouts were raving about Schneider’s athleticism,
determination and ability to elevate his game. This fall, the college hockey
world will get to see what the scouts already know about this very special
young man. Schneider is expected to challenge senior Matti Kaltianen (BOS) for the starting job between the Eagles’
pipes this season. Defenseman Brian
O’Hanley
(SJ) is a 2003 Draft selection of the San Jose Sharks (267th
overall, ninth round). He comes to BC from the Salisbury School in Connecticut.
He amassed 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists), while serving as assistant captain
last season.

 

Those following the 2005 NHL Draft eligible players will be
keeping tabs on three other Eagles incoming freshmen. The most notable is the
speedy and offensively gifted Dan
Bertram
. Bertram comes to BC from the Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL), where he
amassed 55 points (22 goals, 33 assists) in 44 games last season. His outstanding
season earned him the Alberta Junior “A” League’s Rookie of the Year honor.
Bertram is also one of the highest rated players for the 2005 Entry Draft. A
pair of 1986-born defensemen in Mike
Brennan
and Todd Perry, round
out the trio of 2005 NHL Draft candidates. Brennan comes to BC from the U.S.
National Team Development Program, where he amassed 12 points (four goals,
eight assists) in 54 games last season. Perry comes to BC from the Brockville
Braves (CJHL), where he amassed 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in 38 games
last season.

 

 

Boston University

 

(Number of drafted NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 12)

 

The Terriers will open their 2004-05 regular season on
October 8th when they travel to the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio to
take on host school Miami in the annual Lefty McFadden Tournament. The
following night on October 9th, the Terriers will face off against
CCHA powerhouse Michigan in one of the season’s early marquee matchups. This
will be the final season played at Walter Brown Arena. The Terriers will begin
play in their new home, Agganis Arena, on Monday, January 3rd when
they host WCHA powerhouse Minnesota in the second game of the weekend series.

 

One area of great concern coming into this season for BU is
overall team scoring, particularly from the forwards. The Terriers struggled
mightily last season in that department. Only two players: junior David Van der Gulik (CGY) and senior Brian McConnell (CGY), scored more than
ten goals last season. In all, the Terriers scored a total of 103 goals
(averaging about 2.71 goals per game) last season. Only UMass, Northeastern and
Merrimack scored fewer goals in Hockey East. While Van der Gulik and McConnell
will return, the Terriers’ top two scorers from last season in defenseman Ryan Whitney (PIT) and forward Frantisek Skladany (COL) will not. The
Terriers lost Whitney this offseason when he decided to forego his final year
of eligibility to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Skladany, along with
forwards Kenny Magowan (NJ), Gregg Johnson (OTT), Mark Mullen and Steve Greeley, as well as starting goaltender Sean Fields were all lost to graduation.

 

Van der Gulik returns as the Terriers’ highest scorer from
last season. He amassed 20 points (13 goals, seven assists) in 35 games played
in 2003-04. He and McConnell will be among the forwards to lead the Terriers
offense this season. Two returning forwards to watch are sophomore Kenny Roche (NYR) and John Laliberte (VAN). Both played quite
well for BU last season despite some low numbers. Roche led all Terriers
rookies in scoring with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists). One of the things
that make Roche such a good player to watch is his competitiveness and his
ability to drive to the net with a good burst of speed. Laliberte is a grinder
type, who is outstanding along the boards and in the corners. He amassed 16
points (five goals, 11 assists) in 35 games played last season. Both Roche and
Laliberte will be integral parts of the Terriers’ offense as well as their
fight for Hockey East supremacy.

 

Despite the loss of Ryan Whitney (PIT), BU will return an
excellent group of defensemen, all of whom are current NHL prospects led by
juniors Dan Spang (SJ) and Jekabs Redlihs (CBJ). Sophomore Kevin Schaeffer (NSH) is one defenseman
that is well worth watching this season. He was a 2004 NHL Draft selection of
the Nashville Predators (193rd overall, sixth round). Schaeffer, a
Hockey East All-Rookie Team selection, became one of the best rookie defensemen
from Hockey East last season. He also provided BU with scoring depth from a
pleasantly surprising source. He amassed very good numbers last season with 17
points (five goals, 12 assists) playing in all 38 games. Schaeffer was part of
the Terriers top power play unit as Ryan Whitney’s blueline partner. The highlight
game for Schaeffer last season took place back on November 30th
versus Yale. In that game, he bagged his first career hat trick. As if one hat
trick in the game wasn’t enough, Whitney bagged one also in leading BU to a
decisive 7-2 victory. The most noticeable asset that Schaeffer possesses is his
extremely powerful shot. He is not one to shy away from shooting the puck and
will do so whenever the opportunity presents itself.

 

While the BU defense corps will be very solid, the same
might not be said about the goaltending situation. Sean Fields, who was the
backbone of the Terriers last season, has graduated. Junior Stephan Siwiec, who was Fields’ backup
last season, is likely to inherit the starting job this season.

 

Boston University will welcome a very good 11-member
incoming freshman class this fall. None of the incoming players have garnered
as much attention as forward Chris
Bourque
(WSH). The son of the legendary former Boston Bruins defenseman was
a 2004 NHL Draft selection of the Washington Capitals (33rd overall,
second round). Bourque comes to BU from Cushing Academy, where he amassed 91
points last season. Joining Bourque as the only other NHL prospects among the
incoming freshmen is forward Brian
McGuirk
(CBJ). McGuirk was an eighth round draft selection (231st
overall) of the Columbus Blue Jackets in this past summer’s Entry Draft. And
comes to BU from Governor Dummer Academy, where he was an All-Star forward and
named team MVP last season. 2005 NHL Draft eligible players include forwards Brian “Boomer” Ewing and Ryan Monaghan and defenseman Dan McGoff. Ewing was a linemate of
Bourque’s at Cushing Academy last season. There he amassed 58 points (27 goals,
31 assists). Monaghan comes to BU from Northfield-Mt. Hermon Prep School, where
he amassed 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) last season. Although Monaghan is listed as a forward, he
also played defense at NMH. McGoff comes to BU from Noble & Greenough Prep
School where he amassed 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) in 28 games played
last season.

 

 

University of Massachusetts-Amherst

 

(Number of drafted NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 4)

 

The Minutemen will open their 2004-05 season on October 9th
when they host non-conference rival Clarkson at the Mullins Center.

 

UMass came very close to not only winning the Hockey East
title but also getting a bid to the Frozen Four Tournament this past season
only to be stopped by top-seeded Maine in one of the best Hockey East
postseason games in recent memory. It took nearly five hours to come to a heartbreaking
end for UMass with Maine getting the hard fought 2-1 win at the 9:27 mark of
the third overtime. The game, which lasted 109:27 minutes, set a new Hockey
East record for the longest conference game. With the disappointment of losing
such a tremendously hard fought game, the Minutemen now have to start all over
again this season in hopes of winning the Hockey East crown or at the very
least earning an at-large bid to the Frozen Four Tournament.

 

The good news coming into this season for UMass is they’ve
lost only four players. The bad news is all four players were major
contributors last season. Leading scorer and All-American East First Team
selection Thomas Pöck (NYR) along with fellow
defenseman Nick Kuiper (CHI) and
forward Mike Warner have all
graduated. Top scoring forward Greg
Mauldin
(CBJ) opted to forego his final year of eligibility to sign with
the Columbus Blue Jackets.

 

With the loss of their top two scorers from last
season, offense will be a big concern for UMass this season. No returning
player scored more than seven goals last season. The top returning scorer is
junior Stephen Werner (WSH). After a
stellar freshman campaign in 2002-03, Werner’s offensive production dropped
dramatically last season, particularly in the area of goal scoring. He finished
the season with 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists). After a stellar
performance at the WJC playing alongside Zach Parise (NJ), Werner couldn’t
quite bring that magic back to UMass for the second half. Werner is a player
who comes combines speed with good playmaking ability. UMass will be relying
heavily on him to bounce back and provide some needed scoring. The Minutemen
will get some needed offensive help as they see the return of one of their top
scoring forwards from two seasons ago in sophomore Matt Anderson. Anderson, who was Werner’s linemate in 2002-03, was
medically redshirted for the entire 2003-04 season following shoulder surgery.
In his last outing two years ago Anderson amassed 31 points as part of the
Minutemen’s exciting, high-scoring “WAM” line with Werner and Mauldin. This
season, it could be the “JAW” line with sophomore Kevin Jarman (CBJ) replacing Mauldin. Jarman spent a portion of the
latter stages of the 2003-04 Season playing along side Werner and the
now-departed Mike Warner. He played in 34 games last season, amassing 10 points
(four goals, six assists). Jarman could benefit greatly playing regularly with
Werner and Anderson, two players more than capable of getting him the puck.

 

Among the incoming freshmen who could help boost
the offense for UMass this season are a pair of 2005 NHL Draft eligible players
in P.J. Fenton and Dan Gordon. Fenton, the son of former
NHLer Paul Fenton, comes to UMass from the New England Junior Coyotes (EJHL).
He only played in nine games for New England last season. In those nine games,
he amassed 14 points (five goals, nine assists). Fenton, who has established
himself as a very good special teams player prior to coming into college,
scored four of his five goals last season either on the power play or while
shorthanded. Gordon comes to UMass from the Pingree School, where he served as
team captain. He amassed 92 points (33 goals, 59 assists) last season.

 

UMass’ strength this season will be in goal. The goaltending
tandem of Junior Gabe Winer and
senior Tim Warner had a stellar year
last season and will return to backstop the Minutemen. Winer,
who played the majority of games, set new school goaltending records in goals
against average (2.60) and minutes played (2050:09) last season.
He put
together a 14-13-6 record that included two shutouts. His counterpart Warner
also put up some very good numbers. He went 3-1-0 in his four decisions, along
with posting a .932 save percentage and a 1.93 goals against average.

 

The Minutemen look very solid, despite suffering the
significant loss of Pöck and Kuiper. With the loss of
Pöck, UMass will be looking for another defenseman to supply the offense from
the blueline. The likely candidate could be Marvin Degon. Degon enjoyed an outstanding season in 2003-04,
finishing fourth on the team in scoring with 20 points (five goals, 15
assists). Degon played much of the season alongside Pöck as the Minutemen’s top
defensive pairing. While Degon is gifted offensively, he is also a very sound
defensive player. Degon, along with seniors Dusty Demianiuk and Jeff
Lang
will be leading the UMass defensive corps. The Minutemen will also get
some veteran help from junior Paul Lynch.
The rugged defenseman sat out all last season after transferrring from Maine.
Lynch will bring size and grit to the UMass blueline. For the 2005 NHL Draft
eligibles followers, two blueline candidates for the 2005 NHL Draft to watch
are incoming freshmen Michael Kostka
and David Leaderer. Kostka comes to
UMass from the Aurora Tigers (OPJHL), where he scored 18 points (four goals, 14
assists) last season. Leaderer is a 1986-born player who comes to UMass from
the Boston Junior Bruins (EJHL). He amassed 36 points (four goals, 32 assists)
and a whopping +44 last season.

 

University of Massachusetts-Lowell

 

(Number of drafted NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 1)

 

The RiverHawks will open their 2004-05 regular season on
October 9th when they travel to Dwyer Arena to take on
non-conference host Niagara.

 

UMass-Lowell had a promising start to their 2003-04 season
that later saw the team reeling somewhat in the second half. Back in January,
the team was forced to forfeit nine games due to having allowed an ineligible
player to play. As a result, the RiverHawks took a tumble in the Hockey East standings
and eventually had their season ended by their UMass counterparts in Amherst in
the Hockey East Quarterfinals. With a new season upon them, the RiverHawks will
be looking to get right back into the always heated Hockey East race this
season. One area that will definitely be addressed this season is the team’s
penalty killing, which ranked a disappointing 43rd in the nation
last season at 80.3 percent. UML, one of the youngest teams in the nation last
season, will return all but five of their players. Defenseman Jerramie Domish is the lone graduate of
the non-returning players.

 

Offense is likely to be the RiverHawks’ strength this
season. UML return their trio of top scorers in juniors Elias Godoy, Ben Walter (BOS), and Andrew Martin. Godoy led the RiverHawks in scoring last season with
41 points (18 goals, 23 assists). He is a versatile two-way forward with speed
and possesses good hockey sense. He has also become one of the RiverHawks’ top
players on faceoffs. Walter, the son of former NHLer Ryan Walter, was a 2004
NHL Draft selection of the Boston Bruins (160th overall, fifth
round). He finished tied for second on the team in scoring with 34 points (18
goals, 16 assists). Eight of his 18 goals came on the power play, leading the
team in that category. Martin also finished with 34. He led the team in assists
with 24. One forward to watch is sophomore Jason
Tejchma
, who finished fourth on the team in scoring with 23 points (nine
goals, 14 assists) playing in all 40 games last season. He was also a Hockey
East All-Rookie Team selection. Tejchma is a player on the small size who is
quick and a real battler. He was utilized on the point on the RiverHawks power
play last season in part because of his outstanding passing skills and his
ability to get quick shots on net. Jeremy
Hall
, a transfer from Niagara who’ll be eligible to play in January, is an
offensively gifted sophomore who will provide some scoring depth for the
RiverHawks as well. UML will also welcome a small but solid group of incoming
freshmen that includes forward Paul
D’Agostino
, who comes to UML from the Capital District Selects (EJHL),
where he amassed 56 points (17 goals, 39 assists) and served as team captain.

 

Another area where UML looks set is in goal. The tandem of
senior starter Chris Davidson and
junior backup John Yaros will return
to backstop the RiverHawks. Davidson started the bulk of the games last season
and saw playing time in nearly all of the games during the first half of the
season. He posted a 9-10-5 record that included two shutouts. His counterpart,
Yaros didn’t make his RiverHawks debut until the second half due to
transferring from Army after the first semester of the 2002-03 season. In the
short time that Yaros was with the team, he played remarkably well. He posted a
4-6-2 record to along with a very respectable .907 save percentage.

 

UML’s defense will be relatively young again this season.
Five of their nine defensemen playing this season are underclassmen. Peter Tormey, one of the team’s
tri-captains, is the lone senior defenseman on the roster. One blueliner to
watch is sophomore Clive Kinley.
Kinley, the talented offensive defenseman who was named to the Hockey East
All-Rookie Team, led all RiverHawks defensemen in scoring and was second on the
team among rookies in scoring as well with 15 points (four goals, eleven
assists). Kinley was one of only five RiverHawks to have played in all 40 games
for the team last season.

 

 

Merrimack College

 

(Number of drafted NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 0)

 

The Warriors will open their 2004-05 regular season on
October 9th when they travel to the Qwest Center Omaha to face off
again non-conference rival RPI in the Maverick Stampede Tournament.

 

Merrimack comes into this season as a team that has shown it
can deal with adversity. While it didn’t end the way they had hoped, the
Warriors will be looking to return to the postseason with better results. The
Warriors lost some key players due to graduation in the offseason in top goal
scorer Marco Rosa (DAL), assistant
captain Tim Reidy as well as their
top blueline duo of Tony Johnson and
Eric Pederson.

 

Despite the loss of Johnson and Pederson, the Warriors look
solid on their blueline coming into this season. They will also be quite young.
The Warriors will start the season with only four upperclassmen on their
blueline in senior Peter Hams along
with juniors Rob Lalonde and Bryan Schmidt, who will serve as team
captain this season. Later in the season, the Warriors will add some more
experience to their blueline corps when junior Scott Drewicki joins the team. Drewicki, a transfer from the
University of Denver, will be eligible to play with his new team in January.
One defenseman to watch this season is Jeff
Caron
. The Moncton, New Brunswick native was the youngest player on the Merrimack
roster last season. He is a player that is smart, transitions very well and
blessed with great puck-handling skills. He played regularly last season and
became an integral part of the team’s power play unit. Caron, who didn’t opt
into the NHL Draft this summer, could be picked up in the 2005 NHL Draft.

 

Goaltending will be perhaps the Warriors’
strength this season. They return a top-notch duo in goal in senior Casey Guenther and talented sophomore Jim Healey. The duo split time last
season in goal and will likely do so again. Guenther, who saw slightly more ice
time, posted a 5-11-3 record. Healey, a Hockey East All-Rookie Team selection,
played remarkably well last season despite a 5-9-3 record. He posted a very
respectable .907 save percentage numbers as well. One area where both
goaltenders can improve is in their respective goals against averages. Guenther
posted a GAA of 3.15 while Healey posted a 2.84 GAA last season. Merrimack gave
up an average of 3.06 goals per game last season, which ranked near the bottom
nationally in that category.

 

The biggest concern for the Warriors will be the offense,
specifically from their forwards. Merrimack scored only 86 goals last season,
which ranked dead last in the conference. The Warriors had no trouble getting
scoring from their blueline, as the Merrimack defensemen racked up a total of
18 goals, with senior Peter Hams being the lone defenseman last season who
failed to register a goal. Junior Brent
Gough
led the team in scoring last season with 29 points (12 goals, 17
assists) and will return to lead the offensive charge for Merrimack. Junior Matt Johnson is one player who should
be able to help pick up the scoring this season. Johnson missed 20 games last
season due to a broken jaw and as a result only put up 11 points (two goals,
nine assists). The Warriors will welcome six incoming freshman forwards who
will provide some much needed scoring depth. The two most notable are Hank Carisio and Jeff Royston. Carisio comes to Merrimack from the Springfield Junior
Blues (NAHL), where he amassed 53 points (28 goals, 25 assists) in 53 games
played last season. At 6’2/205, Carisio will also bring some size to his new
team. The speedy Royston comes to Merrimack from the Olds Grizzlys (AJHL),
where amassed 75 points (24 goals, 51 assists) in 63 games played last season.

 

 

University of New Hampshire

 

(Number of drafted NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 10)

 

The Wildcats will open their 2004-05 regular season on
October 9th when they host visiting Ohio State at the Whittemore
Center in the annual Icebreaker Tournament in another early season marquee
matchup.

 

The Wildcats enjoyed another 20-win season last season and
hope to make it nine in a row this season. UNH comes into 2004-05 with holes to
fill at every position. The Wildcats lost nine excellent players (one
goaltender, three defensemen and five forwards) in the offseason. Imposing
forward Eddie Caron (EDM), the lone
non-graduate of the group, opted to forego his final two years of eligibility
to sign with the Edmonton Oilers.

 

The one area of some concern coming into this season is in
goal. With the departure of Mike Ayers, the goaltenders will be an excellent
but somewhat inexperienced ensemble. Junior Jeff Pietrasiak (PHX), who was superb as Ayers’ backup last season,
is likely to inherit the starting job. Pietrasiak played in 11 games for UNH in
2003-04, compiling a 3-1-1 record. He also put up outstanding numbers in goal
against average (1.86) and save percentage (.923). The player who could give
Pietrasiak some serious competition for the starting job is outstanding
incoming freshman Kevin Regan (BOS) a 2003 NHL Draft selection of the Bruins. He was named the
Clark Cup Playoffs MVP after leading the Waterloo Blackhawks to a USHL
Championship Title last season, finishing
with a 37-22-2 record that
included six shutouts. Also battling for ice time will be sophomore A. J. Bucchino, who saw playing time in
only two games last season.

 

The UNH defense looks very solid. The
Wildcats will return seven defensemen, the most notable are
junior Brian Yandle and senior Tyler Teplitsky. Yandle led all UNH
defensemen in scoring last season with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists). His 11
goals also tied him for third in the nation among defensemen in that category.
Yandle is an offensive-minded defenseman who possesses very good vision, stick
handling and doesn’t have a problem getting shots on net. Where Yandle did most
of his damage to the opposition last season was on the point of UNH’s potent
power play. Nine of his eleven goals came on the power play, tying Steve
Saviano for first on the team in that category. Teplitsky will serve as one of
the Wildcats’ tri-captains this season. Teplitsky brings leadership, very sound
defensive abilities and some tenacity to his game. Two underclassmen that
should see significantly more ice time this season is John Doherty (TOR) and Michael
Hutchins
(SJ). Doherty played in 16 games last season, registering three
points (one goal, two assists). Hutchins saw playing time in 22 games, notching
only one goal. In addition to a solid core of returning defensemen, the
Wildcats will welcome two newcomers in Brad Flaishans and Craig Switzer (NSH). Switzer is a 2004 NHL Draft selection of the
Predators (275th overall, ninth round) and comes to UNH from the
outstanding Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL) organization. He
amassed 54
points (14 goals, 40 assists) in 56 games last season. Flaishans comes to UNH
from the Texas Tornadoes (NAHL). He amassed 57 points (14 goals, 43 assists) in
leading all NAHL defensemen in scoring last season.

 

The Wildcats took their hardest hits of the offseason on
their forward ranks. The most significant loss was that of the team’s leading
scorer and captain Steve Saviano.
Saviano, the Hockey East Player of the Year and All-American East First Team
selection, led UNH and Hockey East in scoring last season with 49 points (27
goals, 22 assists). His 49 points also ranked him tied for eighth in the nation
in scoring. Scoring depth in the recent past has been the Wildcats’ greatest strength
and it looks to be again this season. Of the top six scorers from last season,
five will return. The top returning scorer is senior Sean Collins (COL) who had 42 points (16 goals, 26 assists) last
season and led UNH in short-handed goals with five. What makes Collins such a
great player is his consistency, versatility and playmaking ability. While he
is very strong offensively, he is almost equally responsible defensively.
Collins will help lead what should be another highly potent offensive unit this
season. Two talented underclassmen to watch are Jacob Micflikier and Daniel
Winnik
(PHX). Micflikier is a small, quick and shifty player that has no
trouble being the perennial thorn in the opposition’s side. He amassed 26
points (11 goals, 15 assists) playing in 39 games last season. Winnik enjoyed a
stellar rookie campaign last season that saw him amass 14 points (four goals,
ten assists) in 38 games played. Winnik makes very good use of 6’2/210 frame,
particularly in the area of puck protection. He is outstanding on faceoffs and
possesses very good puck skills.

 

A trio of talented incoming freshmen will add
scoring depth as the newest members of the Wildcats forward lines. Most notable
of the group is Matt Fornataro.
Fornataro is one of three players who come to UNH from the Waterloo BlackHawks
(USHL) this season. He amassed 52 points (19 goals, 33 assists) in 72 games
played last season. Of his 19 goals, ten were scored on the power play.

 

 

Northeastern University

 

(Number of drafted NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 2)

 

The Huskies will open their 2004-05 regular season on
October 8th when they travel to Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio to
face off against CCHA powerhouse Michigan in the annual Lefty McFadden
Tournament.

 

This year, Northeastern will be looking to make it back to
the conference’s big dance since the 2001-02 season. The Huskies did not
qualify for the Hockey East post-season tournament for the last two years.
Aside from postseason play, the Huskies will need to have a better start to their
season as well. Northeastern struggled mightily out of the gate last season. So
much so that they didn’t post their first non-exhibition win of the season
until December 6th, when they defeated visiting Vermont 1-0. Another
problem to remedy this season is winning on the road. The Huskies were a dismal
3-10-1 away from Matthews Arena last season.

 

Northeastern lost only four players, all forwards, this
offseason due to graduation. The most significant loss was that of assistant
captain Eric Ortlip, who finished
third on the team in scoring with 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists). Despite the
loss of Ortlip, the Huskies return a very good group of forwards led by team
captain, senior Jason Guerrero and
junior Mike Morris (SJ). Guerrero
led the Huskies last season in scoring with 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists).
Morris has become one of the Huskies’ go-to guys. His growth and maturation as
a player was evident particularly in the latter half of the season. Morris’
speed and acceleration combined with his excellent playmaking ability and
relentless drive make him a player that is well worth following, just note that
he has changed his jersey number from #16 to #19. The line combination of Yale
Lewis
, Ray Ortiz and Aaron Moore was one of Hockey East’s
most exciting “kid lines” to watch last season. While the trio only accounted
for 14 goals last season, their energy and fight made them a tougher than
expected combination to play against. The sophomore trio returns this season
hoping to also inject some more offensive. The Huskies will welcome a small but
talented incoming freshman class led by Josh
Robertson
(WSH) and Jimmy Russo
who will provide some scoring depth this season. Robertson, a Proctor Academy
standout last season, was a 2003 NHL Draft selection of the Capitals. Russo
comes to Northeastern from Thayer Academy, where he amassed 62 points (33
goals, 29 assists) in 34 games played. He appeared in the CSB’s final rankings
for the 2004 Entry Draft but was not selected.

 

The Huskies will be in excellent shape on defense and in
goal as they return all of their defensive players. In goal, starting senior Keni Gibson and backups in junior Tim Henneroty and sophomore Adam Geragosian all return to backstop
the Huskies. Gibson, who was brilliant between the
Northeastern pipes despite an under .500 record, was in goal for one of last
season’s biggest upsets.
He made 34 saves in a stunning 3-0 shutout win
over Boston College on January 3rd. Gibson finished the season with
an 11-13-7 record that included five shutouts, tying him for fifth in the
nation in that category. In addition to the goaltenders, all of the Huskies’
defensemen also return. Senior Jon Awe
led all Huskies defensemen in scoring with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists)
and co-led the team in plus/minus with a +10 last season. The one defenseman to
watch this season is the immensely talented sophomore Steve Birnstill who played much of the
season as Awe’s blueline partner on the Huskies’ top defensive pairing. He had
seven points last season (one goal, six assists) playing in 32 games. Birnstill
is an outstanding skater with good speed and acceleration. His great passing
ability and quick release made him a prized commodity on the Huskies power play
unit. Birnstill, who chose to opt out of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, could be
taken in the 2005 Draft.

 

 

Providence College

 

(Number of drafted NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 4)

 

The Friars will open their 2004-05 regular season on October
8th when they host visiting non-conference opponent Clarkson at
Schneider Arena.

 

Providence College will be looking to move up
the Hockey East standings this season after a sixth place finish last season.

The Friars come into the season without some significant personnel from last
season. Seven players were lost in the offseason. All players except goaltender
Bobby Goepfert (PIT) graduated.
After being dismissed from the team back in May, Goepfert officially
transferred to St. Cloud State in August. He will be eligible to play with the
team in the fall of 2005.

 

Nowhere were the Friars’ losses greater than amongst their
top scorers. Three of the four top scorers from last season will not return.
The lone returning player of the four is senior Chris Chaput, who led the Friars in scoring last season with 34
points (12 goals, 22 assists). Chaput, who became one of Providence’s best
special teams players last season, will be leading the Friars offense. The
Friars will also be looking to their returning players to pick up the offensive
slack left by the graduates. The one player to keep
an eye on is talented sophomore Colin
McDonald
(EDM).
McDonald, a Hockey East All-Rookie Team selection,
was stellar in his rookie campaign. He led all Friars rookies in scoring with
16 points (ten goals, six assists). One area where he really made an impact on
his team was on the power play as seven of his ten goals last season came with
the man-advantage. He is an excellent player around the net, often making life
miserable for the opposing defenders. He plays with a great deal of intensity
and toughness as well. With so many key departures, particularly up front, the
area that the Friars will be tested is on their power play. Providence was one
of the nation’s best teams on the power play last season. The Friars were a
superb 33 of 156 (21.1 percent) with the man-advantage, ranking them fourth in
the nation.

 

Providence lost only two defensemen to graduation, but they
were two key players. The offensively gifted Stephen Wood (PHI) led all defensemen on the team in scoring with
29 points (11 goals, 18 assists). He also finished fourth in the nation among
defensemen in scoring as well. Wood’s outstanding season earned him numerous
awards, including a selection to the All-America East Second Team. The solid
defensive defenseman Jason Platt
(EDM) was also lost. He amassed seven points (two goals, five assists) and
finished tied for third on the team in plus/minus with a +9. With the departure
of Wood and Platt, the Friars defense will be relatively young this season. The
defensive corps will be led by two superb defensive defensemen in senior Eric Lundberg (COL) and junior James Pemberton (FLA). While both are very solid defensive players,
neither is likely to put up many points this season. Pemberton will be looking
to score his first goal since the 2002-03 season, while Lundberg will be
looking to score the first goal of his collegiate career. While the blueline
will be relatively young, the returning goaltenders will not be. Both returning
goaltenders are seniors. David Cacciola,
who backed up Bobby Goepfert (PIT) last season, will likely be the fulltime
starter. Cacciola saw playing time in 11 games last season, posting a 1-5-4
record that included one shutout tie versus Merrimack back on October 25th,
2003. Battling for backup duties will be returning senior Mike Wolfe and incoming freshman Tyler Sims. Sims, who is the son of
former San Jose Sharks head coach Al Sims, comes to Providence after a stellar
season with the Youngstown Phantoms (NAHL) last season. He posted a 20-14-1
record that included four shutouts. His four shutouts ranked him second in the
NAHL in that category.

 

In addition to Sims, the Friars will welcome a
seven-member incoming freshman class as well as two returning collegiate
players. Sophomore forwards Jamie
Carroll
and Bryan Horan both
played in the NCAA in 2002-03 before taking a year off to play for Cedar Rapids
(USHL) last season. Horan returns to Providence while Carroll’s previous NCAA
stint was with the now-defunct Iona program. Among the very good group of
incoming freshmen are two former Texas Tornadoes (NAHL) standouts. Defenseman Trevor Ludwig (DAL) is a 2004 NHL Draft
selection of the Dallas Stars (183rd overall, sixth round). He is
the son of former Dallas Stars defenseman Craig Ludwig. The younger Ludwig
amassed 32 points (five goals, 27 assists) last season. Forward Vince Goulet is the son of NHL Hall of
Famer Michel Goulet. The younger Goulet amassed 61 points (28 goals, 33
assists). 10 of the 28 goals he scored last season were game-winners, which
ranked him first on the Tornadoes team in that category.

 

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s
Future. Do not duplicate without
permission of the editorial staff.