ECACHL season preview (Colgate, RPI and Union College)

By DJ Powers

Colgate University

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

The Raiders opened their 76th regular season on Oct. 7 when they hosted non-conference rival UMass-Lowell at Starr Rink.

Colgate enjoyed an outstanding 2004-05 campaign with a third place finish in the ECACHL and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Raiders will have the challenge of trying to return to the Tournament without some of its top players and with some talented newcomers.

One of the biggest losses that Colgate suffered in the offseason was the graduation of workhorse goaltender Steve Silverthorn. The Owen Sound, Ontario native finished his collegiate career with a 24-10-3 mark. His five shutouts were tied for fourth in the nation, while his 1.88 goals against average and minutes played (2229:43) both ranked fifth. His outstanding performance earned him an honorable mention to the ECACHL All-Conference team.

Sophomore Mark Dekanich, who served as Silverthorn’s backup last season is likely to inherit the starting job this season. Dekanich played remarkably well, posting a 1-1-0 record in five appearances with a 1.85 goals against average and a .904 save percentage. The Raiders are expecting some great things from the North Vancouver native.

In addition to the loss of Silverthorn, the Raiders defensive corps also took some significant hits as three top defensemen, most notably Joey Mormina (LA), have graduated. The towering Mormina enjoyed perhaps his greatest season in the maroon, white and gray last year. He became one of Colgate’s most reliable defensemen, contributing offensively as well as defensively. Mormina finished his final season with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) playing in all 39 games last season and earning honorable mention to the ECACHL All-Conference team.

With the losses, the Colgate defense will be considerably younger this season. Six of the Raiders nine defensemen are underclassmen, which includes five newcomers. Leading the defensive corps is diminutive junior Mike Campaner. The excellent offensive defenseman enjoyed a stellar season where he led all Colgate blueliners in scoring with 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) in 38 games. He was a crucial part of the Raiders power play, which accounted for three of his four goals.

Among the notable newcomers are two players who bring size and toughness in Joe DeBello and David Sloane and one who brings some scoring ability in Nicholas St. Pierre. DeBello comes to Colgate from New England D-I Prep Champion Avon Old Farms, where he had 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 27 games. Sloane comes to Colgate from Brockville (COJHL), where he posted six points (three goals, three assists) in 19 games.

The offensively gifted St. Pierre comes to Colgate from Hawkesbury (COJHL). He was selected to his league’s All-Star first team after finishing the season with 51 points (7 goals, 44 assists) in 48 appearances.

Despite the losses of top players such as Adam Mitchell, Dave Thomas, and Darryl McKinnon all to graduation, the Raiders return an excellent group of forwards that will be relied upon to help stabilize the team. The trio of seniors Jon Smyth and Kyle Wilson (MIN) along with sophomore Tyler Burton leads the Colgate offense.

Smyth, who will serve as team captain this season, finished tied for first in scoring last season with 34 points (17 goals, 17 assists) playing in all 39 games. Smyth has become a strong and versatile presence on the Raiders team, utilized in virtually all situations.

Wilson, who will serve as an assistant captain, is the team’s lone NHL prospect. Wilson finished third on the team in scoring with 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 30 appearances. Despite missing games in midseason due to a foot injury, Wilson enjoyed a stellar year and became a more dominant force up front as well as showing some strong leadership qualities.

Burton became arguably Colgate’s best story last season. The Langley, BC native was Colgate’s first ever scholarship athlete. He co-led the Raiders in scoring with 34 points (19 goals, 15 assists) in 37 games. The small, shifty forward was a very strong presence on the Raiders power play. Of his 19 goals, eight came on the power play. His 34 points ranked eighth in the nation among rookies. His excellent season performance earned him numerous accolades, including a selection to the ECACHL All-Rookie Team.

Joining the returning forwards are two with superb offensive skills who’ll be battling for regular ice time in Peter Bogdanich and Tom Riley. Bogdanich comes to Colgate from Chiliwack (BCHL), where he amassed 67 points (31 goals, 36 assists) in 57 games. Riley comes to Colgate from Brockville (COJHL), where he had 48 points (13 goals, 35 assists) in 56 games.

The Raiders were one of the best teams in the nation on special teams last season. The Colgate power play ranked 20th, while the penalty kill ranked 13th. Despite the significant offseason losses the Raiders are hopefully that their domination on special teams will continue this season, perhaps improving on last season’s numbers.

Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

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

The Engineers opened their 104th regular season on Oct. 9 at Tsongas Arena against host UMass-Lowell.

The biggest concern at RPI coming into the season is the progress of senior Kirk MacDonald. Back in April, MacDonald was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The timetable for his return to the lineup remains uncertain and there is the possibility that he will take a medical redshirt for the season. Last season, MacDonald led the Engineers with 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 37 games. This season, he provides some inspiration to an RPI team that is looking to better its 11th place conference finish of a year ago.

The reality of playing without the services of MacDonald for an extended period of time will mean that several other players will need to step up their offensive production. One such player is junior Oren Eizenman. Eizenman is coming off a sensational performance with Team Israel in the IIHF Tier III National Tournament that was held in Belgrade this past spring. He led all tournament scorers with 14 points (ten goals, four assists). Eizenman finished fifth on the RPI roster in scoring with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 27 games. Four of his six goals came on the power play.

Senior Kevin Croxton returns as RPI’s top scorer from last season. He finished second on the team with 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) playing in all 38 games. His 25 assists led the Engineers. Croxton and MacDonald made up one of the best offensive duos in the conference last season.

Along with the many returning forwards, RPI welcomes four newcomers to the lineup that should help boost the Engineers offensive production. The most notable are Andrei Uryadov and Matt Angers-Goulet. Uryadov comes to RPI from South Kent Prep (NEPSIHA), where enjoyed a stellar season posting 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists) in 26 games. The St. Petersburg, Russia native generated much scouting interest despite not being drafted. He is noted for his size (6’1/205 lbs), great puck skills and a strong shot.

Anger-Goulet comes to RPI from the Notre Dame Hounds (SJHL), where he had 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists). He brings some speed and strong scoring ability to RPI.

Another issue that is of concern to RPI coming into the season is goaltending. Workhorse Andrew Martin has graduated. The player likely to inherit the starting job is sophomore Jordan Alford, who served as Martin’s backup last season. Alford played quite well last season, going 5-5-1 that included one shutout. He earned his lone ECACHL Rookie of the Week honor back on Oct. 18 after posting a tie and a win versus UConn.

The player likely to challenge Alford in goal this season is newcomer Mathias Lange. He comes to RPI from the New York Apple Core (EJHL), where he posted a 19-16-6 record last season. The Klagenfurt, Austria native is a goaltender who is noted for his superb mobility. Lange was also a member of Team Austria at the 2004 IIHF U20 WJC in Finland.

With the uncertainty of the Engineers goaltending situation, a solid defense will be paramount to the team’s success. RPI returns a very good compliment of defensemen led by senior Brad Farynuk and junior Jake Luthi. Farynuk has been a leader on the Engineers blue line. He led all RPI blueliners in scoring with 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) playing in all 38 games.

Luthi returns from a breakout sophomore season where he finished with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 27 games. All six of his goals came on the power play.

Union College

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

The Dutchmen opened their 15th D-I regular season on Oct. 7 when they traveled to World Arena to face off against host Colorado College in the Icebreaker Tournament.

Union battled to a disappointing end last season. The Dutchmen finished eighth in the conference and are hoping to better that this season.

One problem that the Dutchmen will need to address this season is offensive consistency. For the second season in a row, Union finished last in conference scoring. With the departure of leading scorer Jordan Webb, the issue becomes even more pressing.

The Dutchmen return three of their four top scoring players in seniors Jonathan Poirier and Scott Seney and junior Olivier Bouchard. Poirier finished with 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 34 games. Poirier was at his best on the Dutchmen power play, where eight of his 11 came from. Seney finished third on the team with 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 36 games. Seney has become one of the cornerstones of the Union College team and this season will serve as one of its co-captains. Bouchard finished fourth on the team with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) playing in all 37 games. He was also one of only two players to finish on the plus side in plus/minus (+9).

One player whose services the Dutchmen will have to do without to start the season is sophomore Casey Ftorek. The son of Albany River Rats (AHL) head coach Robby Ftorek, is also a member of Union College’s men’s soccer team and will suit up for the hockey Dutchmen at the conclusion of the soccer team’s season. He played in 23 games last season, posting seven points (two goals, five assists) and has the offensive capability to contribute even more to the Union offense this season.

The Dutchmen will welcome four newcomers to the forward lines this season. The two most notable are Augie DiMarzo and T. J. Fox. DiMarzo comes to Union from Avon Old Farms (USHSE). He finished his 2004-05 campaign with 66 points (28 goals, 38 assists) to help lead the Winged Beavers to their second consecutive New England D-I championship title. DiMarzo is a small (5’8/150 lbs.), shifty winger who brings some excellent puck skills to Union College.

Fox comes to Union College from the Chicago Steel (USHL), where he led the team in scoring with 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists) in 60 appearances. Fox will bring speed and some intensity to the Dutchmen team. Fox can play both the center and wing positions.

Goaltending should be one of, if not Union’s strongest position. The tandem of sophomore Justin Mrazek (WSH) and senior Kris Mayotte should provide some stability to the Dutchmen defense. Mrazek was outstanding in goal for Union in the latter half of the season. He backstopped the Dutchmen through a hard-fought postseason series versus Clarkson, where all three games were decided in overtime. Mrazek finished his rookie campaign with 5-12-1 record that included one shutout. Despite a losing record, he still managed to post a sparkling .912 save percentage and a 2.17 goals against average.

Mayotte will be looking to bounce back from an inconsistent season last year. He posted an 8-10-1 record that included one shutout in 19 appearances.

The Union defense looks poised to be more of threat this season. The Dutchmen lost Matt Vagvolgyi and Chris DiStefano to graduation while Phil McDavitt has opted to transfer out of Union College. Senior co-captain Sean Streich and sophomore Michael Beynon return as the two players leading the Union defensive corps. Streich finished his junior season with five points (one goal, four assists) playing in all 37 games. He continues to provide leadership and a solid foundation to the Union blue line.

Beynon enjoyed a stellar rookie season, leading all Dutchmen defensemen in scoring with 12 points (one goal, 11 assists). His lone goal of the season came back on Dec. 10 in Union’s win over Wayne State.

The most noticeable change to Union College’s defense with the addition of four new players and the return of senior Bryan Campbell is their sheer size. Three newcomers of note are the 6’3/195 lbs. Brendan Milanomow, 6’3/210 lbs. Rory Farrell and the 6’1/190 lbs. Lane Caffaro.

Milnamow comes to Union College from the Taft School (NEPSIHA). He had 17 points (one goals, 16 assists) in 23 games last season. Milnamow has been on scouting radars for quite some time due to his size and fluid skating.

Farrell comes to Union College from Des Moines (USHL), where he had 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 60 games. He also led the Buccaneers with 138 penalty minutes. Farrell brings some toughness in addition to size to the Union defense.

Caffaro comes to Union from Ft. McMurray (AJHL), where he had 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 59 regular season games. His five power play goals was also second the team. The offensive-minded defenseman led the Oil Barons in postseason scoring with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists).

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