NCAA Atlantic Hockey preview

By DJ Powers

Key departures, coaching changes galore, an abundance of excellent freshmen and a new Division I team highlights the start of the 2005-06 NCAA season.

The NHL’s new CBA and the rules stipulating the length of prospects rights retained resulted in the exodus of some of the top collegiate prospects to the professional ranks. In all, 19 prospects opted to forego the remainder of their collegiate eligibility to sign a pro contract this offseason.

For those keeping score at home, the 2005-06 NCAA features 212 NHL drafted prospects representing 39 schools in five conferences. The University of Minnesota boasts the most NHL prospects with 14, followed by the University of Wisconsin with 12, and the University of North Dakota and Northern Michigan University with 11 apiece.

The WCHA leads all conferences with 69 NHL prospects. The WCHA is also the only conference in which there is at least one NHL prospect on every member team. Hockey East features 52 NHL prospects, followed by the CCHA with 51, the ECACHL with 39 and the Atlantic Hockey Conference (AHA) with one. College Hockey America (CHA) is the lone conference without an NHL prospect.

All 30 NHL teams have at least one prospect playing in the NCAA this season. The Colorado Avalanche has the most NCAA representation with 14, followed by the San Jose Sharks with 13 and the Chicago Blackhawks with 12. Among the Canadian-based teams, the Edmonton Oilers and the Ottawa Senators have the most NCAA representation with eight apiece. The Detroit Red Wings, who almost never draft players from or coming into the collegiate ranks, have just one NCAA prospect.

In addition to the many player and coaching changes, some teams have changed conferences. The University of Vermont makes its Hockey East debut while Quinnipiac University will do the same in the ECACHL. The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) will make its D-I debut as an independent this season. RIT is a “transitional” D-I team, meaning they will play part of their schedule versus D-I opponents and the rest versus D-III and non-collegiate opponents. RIT will play a full Atlantic Hockey schedule next fall before becoming a full AHA member (with post-season eligibility) in 2007.

This season will also mark the first time since 2001-02 that college hockey will be played outdoors. The U. S. Hockey Hall of Fame game (aka the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic), featuring the Ohio State University Buckeyes and host University of Wisconsin Badgers, will be played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on February 11th.

In this six-part season preview beginning with the Atlantic Hockey Conference, Hockey’s Future takes a closer look at all 59 D-I teams.


Mercyhurst College
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The reigning Atlantic Hockey Champions will open their 18th regular season on October 7th when they travel to the MacInnes Student Ice Arena to face off against host Michigan Tech. This will be the first ever meeting between the two schools.

The Lakers’ potent offense took some significant hits in the offseason when forwards David Wrigley and Rich Hanson and offensive defenseman T. J. Kemp all graduated.

“We didn’t lose a lot of players but the players we lost were key players”, said head coach Rick Gotkin in a recent interview with Hockey’s Future. “We lost a lot of offense. David led our team in scoring last year. Rich scored a lot of points for us and T. J. was our top offensive defenseman.”

Despite the losses, the Mercyhurst offense looks to be quite strong again this season. Two excellent forwards in junior Scott Champagne and Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year, sophomore Ben Cottreau, will be leading an impressive group upfront for Mercyhurst this season.

“We’re going to need to have guys like Ben, Scott and Dave Borrelli to really, really step up for us and assume some of that offensive responsibility. I’m confident that they will. Scott finished as one of the top forwards in our conference. I think he’s poised to have an unbelievable year. Ben clearly stepped right in last year and took on some of the offensive responsibility. We need him to continue to produce for us this season even more than he did last season. Dave has been a warrior for us the last three seasons and going into his senior year. Much like Scott, I think Dave is also poised to have a great year,” said Gotkin.

In addition to the returning players, the Lakers also bring in four high scoring Eastern Canadian Junior “A” league players in Mike Floyd, Chris Trafford, Brett Robinson and Matt Pierce. Pierce is the son of former NHLer Randy Pierce.

Junior Mike Ella, who was sensational versus Boston College in the East Regional Semi-Finals last spring, has been tapped as the starter this season. “Right now, the starting job is Mike Ella’s to lose. He’s earned it,“ said Gotkin. The Lakers will have four goaltenders on their roster this season. In addition to Ella, senior Andy Franck will be battling junior Jordan Wakefield for time in the Lakers net. Wakefield did not play last season due to being medically redshirted. Also in the goaltending picture is freshman Tyler Small, who comes to Mercyhurst from Owen Sound (MWJHL).

Solid goaltending will be an absolute must for Mercyhurst to have early season success, as they will start their 2005-06 season with a depleted blueline. Two of the team’s top returning defensemen in senior Conrad Martin and sophomore Jamie Coghlan will be sidelined until January. Martin sustained a knee injury in the Lakers season finale versus Boston College that required surgery. Coghlan is recuperating from off-season wrist surgery. With the loss of Martin and Coghlan, the Lakers will be looking to returning defensemen such as juniors Jamie Hunt and Pat Henk as well as their newcomers Kirk Medernach and Bobby Phillips to help fill the temporary void left by Martin and Coghlan as well as the offensive hole left by the departure of Kemp.

Head coach Rick Gotkin would like to see his team continue to get better in their overall play but he would also like to see some more consistency particularly in goal throughout the season. “There really is no one thing that we need to improve but we just have to make sure that our goaltending is solid like it was down the stretch last season and for us to play our system. I would really like to see more consistency in our goaltending this season. We want to improve our overall game. We want our new recruits to come in and contribute right away and have our returning guys continuing to get better. We know that if we want to get back to where we want to be, win the Atlantic Hockey Championship and get back to the NCAA Tournament, we are going to have to be strong defensively. We want to be a team who goes out every single night and plays well defensively, is strong on special teams and making four lines go for 60 minutes.”

American International College
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

AIC will open their 2005-06 regular season on October 21st at the Olympia Ice Center when they host former conference rival Quinnipiac.

The predominantly young Yellowjackets return all but three of their players from 2004-05. The most significant loss is that of workhorse goaltender Frank Novello, who started nearly every game in the AIC goal last season. Despite a 4-23-4 record, Novello posted a stellar .913 save percentage for the Yellowjackets. AIC will be very inexperienced in goal this fall. Junior Matt Tourville, who backed up Novello last season saw little ice time. He will battle freshmen Tom Fenton and Cody Robinson for the starting job. The good news coming into this season for the Yellowjackets netminding situation is the addition of former Merrimack goaltending standout Joe Exter to the AIC coaching staff.

With such an inexperienced goaltending tandem being utilized this season, AIC will be relying heavily on their defensemen for support. Seniors Preston Cicchine and Chris Pisano along with junior Ben Ellsworth lead a defensive corps that will bring experience and some stability. The AIC defense will also see an infusion of some quality newcomers that include a trio of former Helena (NAHL) defensemen in Matt Woodard, Eric Griffin and Keith Rodger. The offensive-minded Woodard led all Bighorns defensemen in scoring with 28 points (7 goals, 21 assists) last season. Griffin and Rodger will bring some size and toughness to the Yellowjackets blueline.

One area that AIC will need to address this season is offense. The Yellowjackets finished 55th in the nation with an offense that averaged a mere 2.03 goals per game. Compounding matters is the fact that Rob Miller, the team’s top points producer last season has graduated. Senior Jeff Valdes and outstanding sophomore Jereme Tendler will be looking to make significant contributions this season after injuries abruptly ended their 2004-05 campaigns early. The Yellowjackets will also be looking to senior Andy Walbert and junior Jeremy Leroux to step up their offensive production as well. AIC will get some much needed offensive help from their incoming freshmen that include Chad Richardson and David Turco. Richardson comes to AIC from Melfort (SJHL) where he led the Mustangs with 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists). Turco comes to AIC from Cambridge (MWJHL) where he earned MVP honors after posting 89 points (41 goals, 48 assists) last season.

U. S. Military Academy at West Point (Army)
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The Army Black Knights will open their 103rd regular season on October 14th at the Qwest Center Omaha versus host University of Nebraska-Omaha in the Maverick Stampede Tournament. There are two matches on the Army schedule that are must-sees. The first is the annual military grudge match versus Air Force, which shifts to West Point this year and takes place on November 11th and 12th. The second is the game dubbed the “oldest, continuous international rivalry in sports” versus the Canadian Royal Military College. The 75th consecutive annual meeting takes place on February 11th in Kingston, Ontario.

Army will also look to reach a milestone in its storied history this season. The Black Knights will be seeking their 1,000th non-exhibition season win. The win will make Army just the 11th school to reach such a mark.

The Black Knights most pressing issues coming into this season are offense and the power play. Army finished last in the Atlantic Hockey Conference and 56th in the nation with a dismal 1.94 goals per game. The Black Knights finished with the nation’s worst power play with a lowly 8.8 percent efficiency rating. Making matters worse for the Black Knights is the loss of four of their top players from last season. David Andros, Chris Fifield and Chris Garceau, recipient of Atlantic Hockey’s Individual Sportsmanship award, have all graduated. Garceau will return to West Point in December to serve as the team’s athletic intern. Ryan Caruthers, who finished second on the team in scoring with 16 points, has transferred to Robert Morris University. Outstanding senior Seth Beamer and sophomore Rob Ross are the lone returning top scorers. Neither returning scorer amassed more than 17 points last season. In addition to Beamer and Ross, the Black Knights will need better offensive production out of players such as sophomores Luke Flicek and Bryce Hollweg.

One area where Army looks particularly solid is in their returning goaltending tandem of senior Brad Roberts and junior Treye Kettwick. Both players enjoyed a stellar performance back on January 7th and 8th versus UConn that earned the duo the Atlantic Hockey co-Goaltenders of the Week honor. Roberts, who split time with Kettwick last season, will look to finish his stellar collegiate campaign with another career year this season. Roberts will serve as one of Army’s assistant captains. Kettwick was in goal for two of the Black Knights best outings last season. The first came back on October 30th when Army handed host Colgate a stunning defeat at Starr Rink for their first win of the year. The second came back on November 19th versus Holy Cross, when Kettwick stopped all 38 Crusaders shots to post Army’s first shutout of the season.

The Black Knights return all but two defensemen this season. Justin Fagan and Nick Cahill have both graduated. The lack of offensive contributions from the defensive corps contributed to the team’s offensive woes last season. Talented sophomore Chase Podsiad, the recipient of the school’s Heinmiller award, is the top returning scoring defenseman. Podsiad finished the season with seven points (two goals, five assists). He is also the only returning defenseman to have scored a goal last season. If Army is to have more success in the Atlantic Hockey conference this season, the team will need to find a way to get more offensive production from their defensemen. Among those that will be called upon are senior Corey Rudd and junior Casey Bickley.

Bentley College
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The Bentley College Falcons will open their 2005-06 regular season on October 14th versus Air Force in the Q-Cup Tournament at the Northford Ice Pavilion.

Injuries took a devastating toll on the Falcons last season. So bad was the situation that Bentley was forced to play every available player for much of the month of February. As a result, the Falcons finished the season with just eight wins.

While Bentley graduated just five players, two of their most significant losses were to their defense as top goaltender Simon St. Pierre and outstanding defenseman Seth Vinocur have both graduated. Bentley will get a boost in goal when Maine transfer Ray Jean makes his debut this fall. Jean will be battling returning senior Geordan Murphy for the starting job. Also fighting for ice time in the Falcons net is outstanding incoming freshman Jason Kearney. Kearney comes to Bentley College from the Soo Indians (NAHL), where he led the league in both goals against average (1.82) and shutouts (6). His .922 save percentage was second in the league. His excellent season performance also earned him the NAHL’s MVP honor.

Despite the loss of Vinocur along with Ryan Kelly to graduation, the Falcons return most of their defense from last season. Senior Josh Chase and junior Kyle Larman return as the top Falcons defensemen this season. Chase and Larman were the lone Bentley players to have played in all 34 games last season. The two will lead a group of solid, young defensemen who look to be improved and more experienced this season.

The Falcons were particularly successful last year was on their penalty kill. Bentley finished last season ranked second in the Atlantic Hockey conference and 16th in the nation with an 84.5 percent efficiency rating.

One area that Bentley College should be stronger this season is upfront. The team averaged 2.38 goals per game last season, which ranked them 46th in the nation. The Falcons return nearly all of their top forwards from last season led by seniors Brendan McCartin and Ryan Mayhew. The most significant loss Bentley suffered as far as forwards are concerned was that of Carmen Posteraro, who has transferred to Merrimack College. The Falcons will also get some much-needed offensive help when they welcome five former NAHL players including two from Fargo-Moorhead in Dain Prewitt and Tom Dickhudt as well as former Youngstown Phantom standout Andrew Canzoneri. Prewitt finished last season with 68 points (33 goals, 34 assists) in 67 games. Dickhudt amassed 66 points (23 goals, 43 assists) in 65 games. Canzoneri finished third on the Youngstown roster with 61 points (15 goals, 46 assists) in 56 appearances.

Canisius College
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

Canisius will open their 26th regular season on October 9th when they travel to the Island Sports Complex to take on host Robert Morris University.

The 2004-05 season was a tumultuous one for the Golden Griffins. The team had numerous off-ice issues. The firing of longtime head coach Brian Cavanaugh was one that sparked great controversy for both the team and the school.

Canisius will look to emerge under new head coach Dave Smith. Smith, who comes over from Merychurst, takes over a team that finished tied for second in the Atlantic Hockey Conference last season despite its off-ice turmoil. Another new addition to the Canisius coaching staff is former NHLer Grant Ledyard, who will serve as a volunteer assistant coach.

The Griffs lost seven players to graduation. Nowhere was the loss more significant than in goal. Starter Bryan Worosz, whose excellent season earned him an All-Conference First Team selection, along with third-stringer Jeremy Redquest have both graduated. Towering junior Max Buetow is the lone returning goaltender this season. Buetow will start the season as the Griffs starting netminder. Two freshmen who’ll be battling for the backup job are Dan Giffin and Ryan Hatch. Giffin comes to Canisius from Oakville (OPJRA) where he appeared in 13 games posting a 9-5-3 record. Hatch comes to Canisius from Santa Fe (NAHL) where he posted a 24-13-4 record that included one shutout in 44 appearances.

With a relatively inexperienced goaltending trio, Canisius will be relying on their defensemen to help out this season. The Griffs will return their defensive corps nearly intact, led by seniors Tim Songin and Brandon Irish-Baker. Canisius lost two blueliners to graduation in Mark Persick and Josh Zavitz. Senior David Ovcjak is the top returning defensemen who led all Griffs blueliners in scoring with 18 points (2 goals, 16 assists). His 16 assists also led the team. The lone newcomer on defense is John Patera, who comes to Canisius from the Blake School in Minnesota, where he posted 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists) in 26 appearances.

The Griffs will also return all of their top scorers from last season with the exception of Ryan Corcoran, who has graduated. Senior Andrew Dawe, junior Michael Cohen and sophomores Joel Kitchen and Mike Roberto lead a solid group upfront. Cohen and Roberto finished last season tied for first in scoring with 22 points each. Kitchen led the team in goals (14) and plus/minus (+10). Kitchen and Dawe are the lone returning goal scorers to have notched ten or more goals last season. Juniors Billy Irish-Baker and Joey Coccimiglio will look to rebound from sophomore slumps after stellar rookie campaigns two seasons ago. Towering junior Jaymie Harrington will make his return to the Griffs lineup after having missed the entire 2004-05 season with an abdominal injury. In addition to the returning players, Canisius will welcome a trio of freshmen who’ll be looking to battle for ice time in Spencer Churchill, Tommy Flikeid and Ryan Klusendorf.

The area of greatest concern is the power play. Canisius finished 40th in the nation with an efficiency rating of 15.2 percent (32 of 211). Cohen and Dawe led the team and accounted for nearly one-third of the team’s total number of power play goals.

University of Connecticut
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The Huskies open their 2005-06 regular season on October 15th when they travel to Achilles Center to take on host Union College.

The Huskies lost just four players to graduation. The greatest was that of top scorer Tim Olson. Olson led UConn with 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists) playing in all 37 games last season and earned an All-Conference First Team selection. With the departures of Olson as well as last season’s top scoring rookie Mike Neilon, the Huskies will be relying on senior Chris Uber and juniors Cole Koidahl and Matt Scherer to the lead the UConn offense. Uber and Koidahl both finished second on the team in scoring with 24 points (9 goals, 15 assists). Scherer finished with 20 points (13 goals, 7 assists). His 13 goals led the team.

Along with the returning players, UConn welcomes four incoming freshmen forwards. The two most notable are Ryan Hawkins and Chris Myhro. Hawkins comes to UConn from Minnesota (NAHL), where he led the team in virtually all statistical categories including points (53), power play goals (8) and game-winning goals (5). Myhro comes to UConn from Fargo-Moorhead (NAHL), where he finished second on the team in scoring with 70 points (35 goals, 35 assists). Myhro also led the Jets with eight power play goals.

The Huskies return much of their defensive corps intact. Mark Murphy and Adam Rhein have both graduated. Junior B. J. Crum returns as the team’s top scoring defenseman from last season. Crum amassed 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 36 games. The Huskies defense will be on the younger side, as six of the ten defensemen this season are underclassmen. Aaron Kakepetum is UConn’s lone senior blueliner and along with Crum and juniors Nick Marean and James Martin should provide some stability for the Huskies blueline. In addition to their returning players, UConn will also welcome four new additions to the defensive corps. The one newcomer that’s well worth checking out is Dillon Rioux. The West Palm Beach, FL native appeared on Central Scouting’s rankings for the 2005 NHL draft. Despite not being drafted, he could become one of the best defensemen to emerge from the Atlantic Hockey conference this season. Rioux, a defenseman who possesses very good size and outstanding puck skills, comes to UConn from Avon Old Farms (USHSE). He helped lead AOF to their second consecutive NEPSIHA D-I title last season.

Solid goaltending will be crucial in UConn’s push up the Atlantic Hockey standings this season. Junior Scott Tomes and sophomore Brad Smith return as the Huskies top two netminders this season. Tomes posted a record of 8-11-2 in 22 appearances that also included UConn’s lone shutout of the season last year. The shutout came back on January 7th in a 1-0 win over Army. Smith made 18 appearances for UConn last season, going 3-12-1. While his statistical numbers weren’t exceptional, Smith’s overall season performance earned him a spot on the Atlantic Hockey All-Rookie team.

College of the Holy Cross
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The Crusaders will open their 2005-06 regular season on October 21st when they travel to the Mulllins Center to face-off against host UMass. Holy Cross will also host the Atlantic Hockey Conference post-season Tournament at the Hart Rec Center in March.

Holy Cross will return much of last year’s team intact as they lost only five players to graduation. The two most significant losses were team captain Andrew McKay and top scoring defenseman Tony Coskren. The Crusaders look to make a strong run for the Atlantic Hockey Conference title this season and will be attempting to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

The Crusaders return their top two netminders in outstanding seniors Tony Quesada and Ben Conway. While Quesada saw more time in goal, both netminders posted similar goals against averages (2.70) and save percentages (.905 and .906 respectively). However, Conway posted Atlantic Hockey’s best goals against average in league play last season with a sparkling 2.31. Both goaltenders are likely to split time in the Crusaders net again this season. Newcomer Charlie Lockwood will also be looking to get some ice time as well.

Goaltending will be crucial for Holy Cross due to the young defense that the team will have this season. Six of the Crusaders ten defensemen are underclassmen, including two newcomers in Shane McAdam and Marty Dams. Dams is the younger brother of former Holy Cross standout Jeff Dams. The younger Dams is a defensive defenseman who comes to Holy Cross from Gloucester (CJHL). Mc Adam is an offensive-minded defenseman who comes to Holy Cross from Hamilton (OPJHL), where he finished second among the team’s defensemen with 30 points (t3 goals, 27 assists). Among the veterans leading the Holy Cross defense are senior Matt Bianchi, juniors Frank O’Grady and Jon Landry and sophomore Matt Burke. Landry co-led all Crusaders defensemen in scoring last season with 15 points (three goals, 12 assists).

The defense will also be key in improving the team’s weakest area: penalty killing. The Crusaders penalty killing finished 51st in the nation last season with a 79.2 percent efficiency rating.

Despite the loss of McKay, Holy Cross’ strength lies in their superb group of returning forwards. Atlantic Hockey All-Conference First Team selection senior Tyler McGregor and All-Second Team selection senior Pierre Napert-Frenette lead an impressive offensive unit that could give opposing defenders some trouble this season. McGregor and Napert-Frenette will serve as the Crusaders co-captains this season. Napert-Frenette led team in scoring with 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists). McGregor led the team in goals with 21. Junior James Sixsmith and sophomore Dale Rheinhardt round out the top-returning scorers for Holy Cross. A trio of talented freshmen in Kai Magnussen, Rob Rassey and Dewey Thomson will be looking to make immediate impacts on the team as well. Magnussen comes to Holy Cross from Weyburn (SJHL), where he amassed 54 points (19 goals, 35 assists) to lead the team. Rassey comes to Holy Cross from Youngstown (NAHL), where he led the team in scoring with 72 points (29 goals, 43 assists). Thomson comes to Holy Cross from St. Paul’s School, where he notched 21 points (13 goals, 8 assists) in 22 appearances.

Sacred Heart University
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 1)

The Pioneers will open their 2005-06 regular season on October 14th when they travel to Achilles Rink to take on host Union College.

Sacred Heart returns all but six players from last season’s squad. The two biggest losses were that of team assists leader Garrett Larson and starting goaltender Kevin Lapointe. With the departure of Lapointe, junior Jason Smith (NJ) will inherit the Pioneers’ starting job. Smith has steadily improved in the Pioneers goal, but this will be the year that Smith will be tested. His performance will be vital to the Pioneers’ continued success. It will also be crucial in improving a defense that struggled at times last season as well. Last year, Sacred Heart’s defense finished 51st in the nation, giving up an average of over three and a half goals per game. Smith will get competition from newcomer Stefan Drew. Drew comes to Sacred Heart from Portage (MJHL) after a stellar season that saw him post a 28-14-4 record that included four shutouts. The Pioneers will once again go with just two goaltenders this season.

One area where the Pioneers should see some improvement in is the performance of their defense. Sacred Heart returns its defensive corps nearly intact. Fifth year senior and team captain Noel Henck, along with senior Bernie Chmiel and junior Kalen Wright lead a defensive unit that has a very good balance of upper and underclassmen. Chmiel led all Pioneers defensemen in scoring last season with 18 points (4 goals, 14 assists). Wright led all Sacred Heart defensemen in goal scoring with six. In addition to their returning players, the Pioneers will also welcome in two new blueliners in Dave Grimson and Paul Ferraro. Grimson, an offensive-minded defenseman comes to Sacred Heart from Swan Valley (SJHL), where he amassed 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 32 appearances. Paul Ferraro is the younger brother of Pioneers junior forward Peter Ferraro. The younger Ferraro comes to Sacred Heart from the NY Apple Core (EJHL), where he amassed 11 points (one goal, ten assists) in 33 games.

Despite the loss of Larson, Sacred Heart looks to be very strong up upfront. Junior sensation Pierre-Luc O’Brien, who was one of two players unanimously selected to the Atlantic Hockey All-Conference First Team, will be leading an outstanding offensive group that also includes senior Rocco Molinaro and Atlantic Hockey All-Rookie Team selection sophomore Alexandre Parent. O’Brien finished second in the conference in scoring with 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) as well as points per game (1.38). Molinaro finished fourth on the team with 22 points (6 goals, 16 assists). Parent led all Sacred Heart rookies in scoring with 25 points (9 goals, 16 assists). In addition to their returning players, the Pioneers will also welcome a quartet of new forwards in Eric Giosa, David Smith, Kyle Tyll and Bear Trapp who’ll be looking to contribute to the team’s offensive production as well.


Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

RIT will open their first regular season as a transitional D-I member on October 14th at the Northford Ice Pavilion when they face off against host Quinnipiac in the Q-Cup Tournament. While most of RIT’s inaugural schedule is against D-I opponents, the Tigers will also play non-D-I opponents on their 2005-06 schedule, which include matches against SUNYAC (D-III) opponents Fredonia, Geneseo and Oswego as well as four meetings versus the USNTDP both in Rochester and Ann Arbor.

The RIT hockey program has enjoyed great D-III success since their inception back in the early 1960’s having won two National Championship titles in 1983 and 1985. The Tigers made their most recent appearance at the D-III Frozen Four back in 2001 when they lost to SUNY-Plattsburgh in the national title game.

The Tigers open the season with four goaltenders. The two seniors George Eliopoulos and David Wrisley played last season, while the two newcomers are Louis Menard and Jocelyn Guimond. Eliopoulos saw much of the duty in the RIT net, posting a 12-8-1 record in 22 appearances. Wrisley, the backup netminder, saw action in four games where he went 1-2-0. The talented Menard and Guimond could give the veterans quite a battle for ice time. Menard comes to RIT from Ottawa (CJHL), where he helped led the Junior Senators to a CJHL post-season appearance last season. Guimond comes to RIT from Williams Lake (BCHL). Guimond, who will be a sophomore this season, had to sit out last season after briefly appearing in a game with Sherbrooke (QMJHL) during the 1999-2000 season.

RIT lost its two top scoring players in ECAC West All-Conference Second team selection Jason Chafe and Michael Tucciarone to graduation. Chafe led the Tigers in scoring with 31 points (6 goals, 25 assists). Tucciarone led the team in goals with 12. Among the top scoring returning players are top scoring senior defenseman Marc Hyman and ECAC West All-Rookie team selection sophomore Simon Lambert. Hyman, an ECAC West All-Conference First team selection led all Tigers defensemen in scoring last season with 22 points (6 goals, 16 assists). Lambert led all Tigers rookies in scoring with 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists). In addition to the team’s many returning players, RIT will also welcome in five new forwards in Jesse Newman, Darren Olson, Steve Pinizzotto, Brennan Sarazin and Brent Sarcone. The newcomers will bring both offensive abilities as well as some grit to the team.

The one area that could be of some concern for RIT coming into D-I play this season is the predominantly inexperienced defensive corps. Aside from Hyman, the Tigers have only one other upperclassman on this season’s roster in senior Tony Bifulco. How well the Tigers fare against their opponents this season, particularly those at the D-I level, could depend a lot upon how well the underclassmen perform. Among the younger players that RIT will look to step up include sophomores Steven Burns and Matt Harris. The Tigers will also be looking to their trio of newcomers in the offensive-minded Justin Hofstetter, the versatile Dan Malloy and the skillful Bobby Raymond.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.