ECACHL 2006-07 season preview

By DJ Powers

This year, the ECACHL features 36 current NHL prospects. All member schools except Princeton have at least one NHL prospect on their roster. Clarkson leads all teams with nine NHL prospects.

Harvard University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 5)

Last season, the Harvard Crimson clinched their third ECACHL Championship title in five years and with it the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. While their goal of reaching the Frozen Four fell short, Harvard has been able to take many positives from the experience. This year, the Crimson look to successfully defend their ECACHL Championship crown when they open their 2006-07 season on Oct. 27 at Dartmouth.

Harvard lost just five players to graduation. The most significant of which was goaltender John Daigneau. The Brookfield, WI native was instrumental in backstopping the Crimson to a 21-12-2 record last season. Daigneau, an All-Ivy League Team honorable mention, posted a 19-10-2 record that included three shutouts. His .645 winning percentage ranked 14th in the nation last year. Daigneau’s likely successor in goal this season is senior Justin Tobe. The Northville, MI native served as Daigneau’s backup, posting a 2-2-0 record that included one shutout in eight appearances.

Another position that lost some key players was the defense. Stalwart defensemen Peter Hafner and Tom Walsh (SJ) have both graduated. Filling their roles may not necessarily come quickly, but it will provide several of the returning players an opportunity to expand or even change their roles on the team. Outstanding senior and team captain Dylan Reese (NYR) leads the Crimson defense. The Pittsburgh native’s leadership will be help to solidify what is shaping up to be one of the best defensive corps in the ECACHL.

“Dylan Reese in my mind is nothing short of a serious Hobey Baker candidate,” said head coach Ted Donato. “He’s been the catalyst for our team for the last three years and has been one of the best players on the ice for us night in and night out. We expect that to continue this year too.”

Two newcomers to the Harvard blue line well worth watching are Alex Biega (BUF) and Chad Morin. Biega, a 2006 draft selection of the Buffalo Sabres (fifth round, 147th overall) is noted for his quickness and his clutch play. Morin, who is eligible for the 2007 NHL Draft, is primarily a defensive defenseman with some size (6’0/210) who is noted for his fluid skating and strong positional play.

Despite the loss of Dan Murphy and Charlie Johnson to graduation, Harvard will once again field a very talented group up front. Two of Harvard’s smallest players in senior Kevin Du and junior Jon Pelle led the team in scoring last season. The electrifying Du finished with 33 points (10 goals, 23 assists). The speedy Pelle finished second with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) and co-led the team with a +10.

One incoming forward to keep an eye on is centerman Doug Rogers (NYI). The Watertown, MA native is noted for his tremendous puck distribution capabilities.

“I see Dougie becoming one of our best playmakers and being a factor on our special teams,” said Donato. “What makes Dougie so great is that he has a penchant for making players around him better and that’s going to be a positive thing for us.”

Brown University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 2)

The 2005-06 season was a very tough one for the Brown Bears as they fought to a 5-20-7 record and a last place finish in the conference. This season, Brown hopes to get things back on track and make a move up the ECACHL standings when they open their 2006-07 season on Oct. 28 at Merrimack.

The Bears graduated eight players, but their most significant loss wasn’t to graduation. In the offseason, starting goaltender Adam D’Alba announced his retirement from hockey in order to concentrate on academics (he is still enrolled at Brown). With the loss of D’Alba and the graduation of Kevin Kliman, goaltending becomes the Bears most pressing issue. Sophomore Mark Sibbald returns as the likely starter after playing in just six games last season. Newcomers Dan Rosen and Tristan Favro will challenge Sibbald for playing time.

The inexperience in goal this season means the towering Brown defensive corps will have to be solid and provide stability. Like in goal, the Bears blue line will be predominantly young. Juniors Sean Hurley and Paul Baier (LA) will be relied on heavily for their leadership this season. Hurley led all Brown defensemen in scoring last season with 15 points (six goals, nine assists). Baier was arguably Brown’s most reliable defenseman. Though the North Kingstown, RI native only posted six points (all assists), his value to the team was measured more by his consistency, solid positional play and hard work throughout the season.

One of the biggest contributors to Brown’s struggles last season was a lack of offensive production. The Bears finished tied for 53rd in the nation last season, averaging just over two goals per game. Returning junior Jeff Prough led the team in scoring last season with 30 points (17 goals, 13 assists). He was the only player on the Brown roster to post ten or more goals and was one of just two players to post 20 or more points. The other forward that finished with 20 or more points was junior Brian McNary. The Edmonton, AB native finished with 23 points, but scored just five goals. If the Bears expect to make a move in the fiercely competitive ECACHL, they’ll need much more scoring from players other than Prough and McNary.

One forward that Brown will be looking towards to step up is senior Brian Ihnacak (PIT). After a fantastic rookie season, the Toronto, ON native has seen his numbers decline in each of his last two seasons. He finished his injury-plagued junior year with a mere nine points (three goals six assists) in 15 appearances. If Ihnacak can stay in the lineup and rediscover his offensive magic, it could go a long way to helping Brown avoid finishing in the ECACHL basement.

Clarkson University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 9)

It’s a brand new season at Clarkson University and the expectations are running high. After convincing opening weekend wins over Niagara and RIT, the Golden Knights look stronger, better and ready to make a serious run at the ECACHL Championship this season.

Clarkson returns nearly its entire team intact. Defensemen Chris Brekelsmans and Jamie McKinven along with forward Jeff Genovy were all lost to graduation. While filling their respective roles will be crucial, finding the players to do it shouldn’t be a problem.

One of the best stories to come out of Clarkson last season was junior Nick Dodge (CAR). The Oakville, ON native led the Golden Knights with 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) and four short-handed tallies. What makes Dodge such an invaluable asset to his team is not what he does on the scoresheet so much as just his mere presence on the ice. His tireless work ethic coupled with his infectious and calming influence enables him to make the team around him better. This season, Dodge will serve as the Golden Knights team captain and that comes as no real surprise to head coach George Roll.

“Nick is the kind of guy that leads by example and commands the respect of his teammates. When we talked with our players about who they wanted to elect as our team captain, it was clear that it was going to be Nick. He’s a very positive individual and will accept that role. We were very pleased with the way Chris (Brekelsmans) handled the captaincy role last year and we expect that to be the same this year with Nick,” said Roll.

The Golden Knights are looking to their excellent line combination of sophomore Shea Guthrie (NYI) and juniors Shawn Weller (OTT) and Steve Zalewski (SJ) to really step it up this season. Of the three, Weller will likely have the highest expectations for improvement. The rugged Weller posted 24 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 37 appearances last season but maintaining discipline was a persistent problem, as evidence by his 103 penalty minutes. Guthrie and Zalewski continue to make significant progress in their overall development, but will be counted on to better their respective nine-goal outputs from last season.

The biggest improvements for Clarkson however could potentially come from their defensive corps. The foursome of senior Michael Grenzy (CHI), junior Grant Clitsome (CBJ), and sophomores Philippe Paquet (MON) and Tyrell Mason (NYI) made up one of the ECACHL’s best and most promising defensive groups last season and this year are poised to be even better. The four combine size, great mobility and excellent puck skills that resulted in 54 combined points (17 percent) of the team’s total offense in 2005-06.

Goaltending is another area that should improve as well. The tandem of junior David Leggio and senior Kyle McNulty both return this season. Leggio posted an 11-9-3 record last season while McNulty posted a 7-8-0 record. Both netminders also finished with save percentages of .900 or better.

Colgate University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 2)

Despite finishing atop the ECACHL regular season standings last year tied with Dartmouth, Colgate failed to make a return a trip to the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Raiders have gotten off to a disappointing start to their 2006-07 campaign, losing to both Vermont and Denver in the Icebreaker Tournament last weekend. Nevertheless, there is much to look forward to and Colgate looks poised to be a formidable contender for the coveted ECACHL Championship.

One of the challenges facing Colgate this season will be replacing the numbers and leadership left by graduates Kyle Wilson, Jon Smyth and Ryan Smyth. While it may take some time, the Raiders have the returning personnel to accomplish the feat. Junior Tyler Burton and senior team captain Liam Huculak will be two of the players counted on to step into the roles left by the departed players. The high-flying Burton posted a career-best 40 points (22 goals, 18 assists) and was named to the ECACHL All-Conference First Team. The towering Huculak posted just five points (one goal, four assists) while battling through a shoulder injury last season. This season, the Lethbridge, AB native is healthy and is expected to have better numbers as well.

The Raiders bring in a small but superb group of newcomers. Among the forwards to watch is 2006 draftee centerman David McIntyre (DAL). The Pefferlaw, ON native brings a combination of explosive speed and tremendous offensive capabilities that will add to an already stellar core of forwards on the Raiders roster.

One area that helped propel Colgate to the top of the ECACHL standings at the end of the regular season last year was defense. The Raiders 2.38 goals allowed average ranked 13th in the nation and second in the conference. A big part of that can be attributed to the sensational goaltending of sophomore Mark Dekanich (NSH). The ECACHL’s Ken Dryden Award recipient posted an 18-11-6 record that included four shutouts. His .924 save percentage ranked tenth and his 2.29 goals against average ranked 16th.

“Mark is the real deal in my opinion. Much of our success fell on Mark’s shoulders last season because he played so well on a lot of nights and his numbers speak for themselves,” said head coach Don Vaughan in praising his young netminder. “Mark is very driven and very focused. He really wants to play at the next level and he’s got his sights set on that. I feel that he’s got a real good opportunity to do that in the future.”

Colgate looks to have a very strong defensive corps again this season. The diminutive, offensive-minded senior Mike Campaner leads a very solid group of returning blueliners that should be improved this year. Campaner led all Raiders defensemen in scoring last season with 20 points (two goals, 18 assists).

One defenseman poised to take a big step this season is sophomore Jason Fredericks. The Eagle River, WI native played in 36 games last season and in the process became one of the Raiders most consistent and reliable defensemen. This season, Fredericks returns bigger and stronger, which should make him a more effective force on the Raiders blue line.

Cornell University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 7)

The Cornell Big Red earned another bid to the NCAA Tournament only to see the run end in another heartbreaking loss. This time it was a 1-0 loss to the eventual National Champion Wisconsin Badgers in the nail-biting triple overtime thriller in the Midwest Regional Final. Cornell hopes to make yet another trip to the NCAA Tournament when they open their 2006-07 season on Oct. 26 hosting Robert Morris.

The Cornell Big Red has long had a reputation as being one of the best and toughest defensive teams in the nation. This offseason, the mighty Cornell defense took some devastating hits when starting netminder David McKee (ANA) and the Big Red’s defensive twin towers of Ryan O’Byrne (MON) and Sasha Pokulok (WSH) all left early to turn pro. In addition, top scorer Matt Moulson (PIT), backup goaltender Louis Chabot and stalwart defenseman Jon Gleed (MON) were among six players lost to graduation.

With McKee and Chabot no longer with the team, goaltending becomes the biggest concern for Cornell coming into the season. The goaltending duties will fall to sophomores Troy Davenport and Dan DiLeo, and freshman Ben Scrivens. Davenport returns to Cornell after a one-year absence, having played in Des Moines (USHL) last season. DiLeo missed nearly the entire 2005-06 season with injury.

In addition to the goaltending position, the Cornell defensive corps will also be quite young. Seniors Dan Glover (NJ) and Evan Salmela, along with junior Doug Krantz will be relied on to provide leadership, guidance and stability to what could potentially be a longer than expected adjustment period for this year’s edition of the Big Red. In addition to their returning players, Cornell welcomes two defensemen who bring size and tremendous mobility to the blue line in Justin Krueger (CAR) and Brandon Nash. Both players come to Cornell from the BCHL. Krueger played with Penticton last season, while Nash played with Salmon Arm.

Despite the loss Moulson, along with the Abbott twins (Cam and Chris) and Daniel Pegararo, the forward lines look to be the Big Red’s strength coming into the season. The Cornell forward lines will feature an abundance of high-powered talent.

The one returning forward to watch is bruising junior Raymond Sawada (DAL). His intense, hard-nosed style gave opposing players fits throughout last season. Sawada finished fourth on team in scoring with 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists). Of his seven goals, three came on the power play. This season, Sawada is once again poised to not only wreak havoc on the opposition by his physical play but also on the scoresheet as well.

Amongst the newcomers, two players that all eyes will be on are two 2006 NHL draftees in the rugged yet offensively gifted Colin Greening (OTT) and the very quick Tony Romano (NJ). Greening comes to Cornell from Nanaimo (BCHL), while Romano comes to Cornell from the Atlantic JHL’s New York Bobcats.

Dartmouth College

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 5)

The 100-year anniversary season for the Dartmouth Big Green was a memorable yet slightly disappointing one. After finishing tied atop the ECACHL regular season standings with Colgate, the Big Green just missed earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. This season, Dartmouth hopes to remedy that when they open their 2006-07 campaign on Oct. 27 hosting Ivy League rival Harvard.

One of the biggest concerns that the team had prior to last season was goaltending. This season, the Big Green look very much set with starting junior Mike Devine and sophomore Dan Goulding both returning. Devine gave Dartmouth some superb goaltending, particularly in the second half. He finished the season with an 18-8-2 record that included two shutouts.

While filling the roles of the three graduated forwards in Mike Ouellette, Eric Przepiorka and Jarrett Sampson will be a challenging one, Dartmouth should have little trouble doing so. The always-dangerous David Jones (COL) returns as Dartmouth’s top scorer from last season with 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists). Jones, who will serve as an assistant captain, is expected to match or surpass those numbers in addition to help provide some leadership this season.

One player to keep an eye on is junior Nick Johnson (PIT). After posting 35 points in his rookie campaign, The Calgary, AB native’s numbers dipped a bit last season, finishing with 25 points (15 goals, 10 assists).

“Nick is poised to have a great year. He’s in unbelievable shape and he had a good camp with Pittsburgh. I know that Nick was disappointed with his sophomore year but I was actually quite pleased that he wanted more. It shows a little bit about what he’s all about. He’s really committed to excellence,” said head coach Bob Gaudet. “Nick’s coming into his own and his best hockey is ahead of him.”

As good as the Big Green looks at the forward position, they may be equally as good on defense. Seniors Grant Lewis (ATL) and Ben Lovejoy lead a stellar defensive corps that will make the Dartmouth blue line not only well balanced but quite imposing as well. Lovejoy returns as the team’s top scoring defenseman from last season, posting 18 points (two goals, 16 assists).

The multi-talented Lewis finished with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists). While the prospect of possibly losing the Pittsburgh native early to the pros did concern Gaudet, he is thrilled that Lewis is back in Hanover.

“Grant is all about excellence and effort. He plays his hardest and tries his best all the time and is an unselfish player. He is really excited to be coming back here to school because he wants to lead Dartmouth to the NCAA Tournament and wants to do it for the team,” said Gaudet. “I was concerned about the possibility of losing him to Atlanta before he was to graduate, but after attending the (prospects) camp, [Atlanta] felt good about Grant coming back here because they see him making these (developmental) steps.”

Princeton University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 0)

The Princeton Tigers continue to make great strides under head coach Guy Gadowsky but this year could prove to be the biggest challenge yet for the program under his guidance. Princeton will begin to face that challenge on Oct. 27 versus Bentley College.

The most significant loss that the Tigers suffered was that of goaltender Eric Leroux. The 2006 recipient of the Hockey Humanitarian Award was the backbone of a defense that allowed just over three goals per game last season – a vast improvement from the previous season. Despite finishing with a 7-13-2 record, Leroux capped his final season with a 2.80 goals against average and an outstanding .914 save percentage, a new school single season record. With Leroux’s departure, the goaltending duties will likely fall to senior B.J. Sklapsky. The Martensville, SK native served as Leroux’s backup last season, posting a 3-3-1 record in seven appearances. Sophomore Thomas Sychterz and newcomer Zane Kalemba will also be battling for playing time.

Another position suffering some key losses in the Princeton lineup was the blue line. The Tigers lost their two of their top defensemen in Seamus Young and Brian Carthas to graduation. Both players co-led the team in scoring by defensemen with 18 points apiece. Replacing the leadership of Young and Carthas will be easier than replacing their offensive output. Seniors Brett Westgarth and Darryl Marcoux, who will serve as team captain, will both be relied on to help replenish the offensive contributions left by the departed players. Westgarth finished with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) while Marcoux finished with six points (all assists).

One defensive newcomer to watch is Kevin Crane. The Irvine, CA is noted for his excellent skating and superb puck-handling. Crane is a player who has the potential as well as the skill to help fill the offensive roles left by Young and Carthas.

While the loss of Patrick Neuendorfer is significant, Princeton’s strongest position looks to be at forward. Two seniors in the offensively gifted Grant Goeckner-Zoeller and the punishing Kevin Westgarth lead an impressive group up front who should be able to help improve on the 2.61 goals per game that they averaged last season. Goeckner-Zoeller led the Tigers in scoring last season with 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists). Westgarth finished second with 23 points (ten goals, 13 assists).

A Tigers forward who is certainly capable of helping to boost Princeton’s offensive numbers is dynamic sophomore Brett Wilson. Despite battling through an ankle injury and a bout with mononucleosis last season, Wilson still managed to lead all Princeton rookies in scoring with 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists). This season, he is poised to become one of the Tigers’ top snipers.

“When you talk about impact players you have to talk about Brett Wilson,” said head coach Guy Gadowsky. “He had a great freshman season but he was pretty much hurt all year. He’s a guy that is so talented that when he’s healthy, he can really take off. Brett’s healthy now and we’re expecting him to have a great year for us.”

Quinnipiac University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 2)

Quinnipiac’s inaugural season in the ECACHL turned out better than expected. They finished tied for ninth in the conference with an 8-13-1 record. Despite being swept at North Dakota to open the 2006-07 campaign, the Bobcats are looking to claw their way further up the ECACHL standings this season.

While Quinnipiac lost some outstanding leadership and character players in Joe Dumais, Ty Deinema and John Kelly all to graduation, the team looks to be in great shape and poised to be even better this year.

One cannot talk about the Bobcats leadership this season without mentioning senior defenseman and team captain Reid Cashman. A strong candidate for the 2007 Hobey Baker Award, Cashman has become the heart and soul of the Quinnipiac team. His great work ethic, top-flight skill level both offensively and defensively, and his strong leadership have benefited his team tremendously and that’s not likely to change this season. For the third year in a row, the Red Wing, MN native led all Bobcats defensemen in scoring with 41 points (five goals, 36 assists). His 41 points and 1.05 points per game both ranked him third in the nation among defensemen last season.

Among those joining Cashman on defense this season is one of two UNH transfers in junior John Doherty (TOR). The Lynnfield, MA native will add some considerable size and toughness along with some experience to the Bobcats blue line.

Goaltending looks pretty well set as sophomore starter Bud Fisher will try and pick up right from where he left off last season. Fisher, the younger sibling of Ottawa Senators forward Mike Fisher, was brilliant goal for Quinnipiac last season. He posted an 18-14-1 record that included three shutouts. With Josh Siembida having graduated and Wes Russell transferring to Robert Morris, two newcomers will be vying for playing time as Fisher’s backup in walk-on junior Dan Cullen and freshman Zach Kleiman.

The forward position may be Quinnipiac’s strength this season. The Bobcats return all of their top scoring forwards from last season, including the exciting sophomore duo of Bryan Leitch and David Marshall. Leitch, the ECACHL’s Rookie of the Year, led the Bobcats in scoring with 45 points (14 goals, 31 assists). Half of his 14 goals came on the power play. Leitch’s 45 points tied for second in the nation among rookies last year. Marshall led Quinnipiac in goal scoring with 22. He also led the team with 78 penalty minutes and two short-handed goals.

In addition to the superb group of returning veterans from last year’s squad, the Bobcats also welcome two transfers in junior right wing Dan Travis (FLA) and redshirted freshman Mike Atkinson. Travis comes to Quinnipiac from the University of New Hampshire and will be eligible to play immediately, while Atkinson comes to Quinnipiac from the University of Vermont and will be eligible to play in January 2007.

Rensselaer Polytechnic University (RPI)

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 1)

It’s the dawning of a new era at RPI and there’s plenty to get excited about. Former Denver assistant coach Seth Appert brings in a fresh system and a whole new attitude this season as RPI’s new head coach. It will all officially get underway on Oct. 14 when the Engineers open their 2006-07 season hosting Boston University.

“We’re looking to be an offensive-minded team. I believe that’s the way the game should be played. We’re going to give our players a lot of freedom and creativity,” said Appert. “We’re going to challenge them to try and make good offensive plays and become an offensive-minded team. All that we’re going to demand in return is that they compete extremely hard when we don’t have the puck and be disciplined both in their positioning and with their emotions so that we become a good defensive team. You can be a good defensive team and still give your team lots of freedom to be an outstanding offensive team as well.”

The best news that the Engineers got in the offseason was the return of redshirted senior and team captain Kirk MacDonald. MacDonald missed the entire 2005-06 season while getting treatment for the testicular cancer that he was diagnosed with back in April of 2005. Now healthy, a little leaner and having regained his strength, Appert feels that MacDonald will be better than ever this season.

“Kirk looks very good on the ice and is very excited to be back with the guys. We’re excited to have him back on our team. I feel that he’s going to be one of the best two-way power forwards in college hockey and certainly in our league,” said Appert. “Kirk’s strength is back at 100 percent. He’s a little bit leaner than he was before and that’s by design. Kirk feels that he’s quicker on the ice now because of it.”

In addition to providing some inspirational leadership, MacDonald’s return should also help boost the Engineers’ offensive production as well. RPI had the 34th-best offense in the nation last year that averaged just under three goals per game. Reliable senior Oren Eizenman and speedy junior Jonathan Ornelas return as last season’s top two scorers. Eizenman finished 2005-06 with 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists), while Ornelas finished with 22 (13 goals, nine assists).

Another area that looks strong for RPI coming into the season is in goal. Sophomore Mathias Lange was stellar between the pipes last season, despite a 13-15-6 record. The Klagenfurt, Austria native was also a workhorse in the Engineers’ net, appearing in 35 of the team’s 37 games and logging over 2,000 minutes in playing time. This season, he’s likely to log similar minutes as RPI’s starter.

The blue line looks to be the area where the Engineers will have the least amount of experience this season. Seniors Jake Luthi and Ryan Swanson return to lead a sizable, mainly youthful defensive corps. Luthi posted 11 points (three goals, eight assists) last season, while Swanson posted eight points (one goal, seven assists).

One defensive newcomer to watch is Christian Jensen (SJ). The Watchung, NJ Native brings good size (6’3/200) and is noted for his superb vision and skating ability.

St. Lawrence University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 2)

The St. Lawrence Saints enjoyed a stellar 2005-06 season, finishing fifth in the ECACHL with an overall record of 21-17-2. This season, the new look Saints are off to a 1-1 start after defeating RIT on Friday then falling to Niagara on Saturday. While St. Lawrence looks to try and better their fifth place finish this season, they’ll be doing it with a much younger team.

Four of the Saints’ top five scorers from last season are gone, including ECACHL Player of the Year T. J. Trevelyan (BOS) and All-ECACHL First Team selected defenseman Mike Madill (MIN). The four players lost accounted for 129 (38 percent) of St. Lawrence’s 338 total points last season. So the obvious question becomes who is going to pick up the slack. Senior and co-captain Kyle Rank returns as the team’s scorer. The Elmira, ON native finished tied for second on the team in scoring with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists).

Two players who’ll be relied on to help replenish the team’s offensive numbers are a pair of exciting up and coming sophomores in Kevin DeVergilio and Brock McBride. DeVergilio led all St. Lawrence rookies in scoring last season with 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists). McBride finished with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) and co-led the team with 54 penalty minutes.

Amongst the newcomers who could figure prominently on the scoresheet this season are freshman Mike McKenzie and sophomore Casey Parenteau. McKenzie posted 77 points with the OPJHL’s St. Michael’s Buzzers last season. Parenteau, a transfer from D-III St. John’s University in Minnesota, spent last season with Sioux Falls (USHL) and posted 51 points.

Defense looks to be the Saints’ strength this season. Senior and co-captain Drew Bagnall (FLA) is healthy again after a hand injury limited him to just 24 games last season. Aside from being looked to for leadership, Bagnall will also be able to help generate some offense from the blue line as well.

One returning defenseman to watch this season is sophomore Matt Generous (BUF). Despite being sidelined with an ankle injury that delayed his collegiate start, the ECACHL All-Rookie Team selection finished strong as Madill’s partner on the blue line last season. Generous posted 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 34 games and solidified one of the top spots on the St. Lawrence defense. This season, the Saints are looking for Generous to continue his development into an elite collegiate defenseman.

St. Lawrence should also see some stability in goal this season. Juniors Justin Pesony and John Hallas return as the Saints top two goaltenders. The starter Pesony appeared in 37 games last season, posting a 20-14-2 record that included two shutouts. Hallas, who served as Pesony’s backup, appeared in four games and posted one decision (a loss).

Union College

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 1)

The Union College Dutchmen finished their 2005-06 regular season tied for sixth in the ECACHL with an overall record of 16-16-6 but lost a heartbreaker to Yale in the fifth overtime in the ECACHL first round set. The game will go down as one for the ages. This season, the Dutchmen are off to a great start after sweeping Ferris State in their rink last weekend. The hope is that it is also the beginning of better things to come.

The biggest issue that Union will have to contend with this season is goaltending. ECACHL All-Conference Second Team selection Kris Mayotte has graduated. Mayotte was an absolute workhorse between the Union College pipes last season. He posted a 16-15-5 record that included four shutouts in 37 games. His 2264:46 minutes were the second most minutes played by a goaltender last season.

With Mayotte’s departure, the goaltending duties will likely fall to junior Justin Mrazek (WSH). The lone NHL prospect on the Dutchmen roster saw action in just five games last season and posted one decision (a loss). This season, Union is hoping that Mrazek can eventually become the player that Mayotte became.

Senior and team captain Sean Streich will lead the predominantly youthful Dutchmen defensive corps this season. Though Streich is not likely to score many points again this season, his experience and leadership will be an invaluable asset to Union’s pursuit of the ECACHL crown this season. Hard-nosed sophomore Lane Caffaro returns as the Dutchmen’s top scoring defenseman with 16 points (five goals, 11 assists). His 101 penalty minutes were among the most in the ECACHL last season.

One area that Union hopes to vastly improve this year is offensive production. The Dutchmen ranked a dismal 50th in the nation last season in team offense, averaging a mere 2.37 goals per game. Returning senior Olivier Bouchard led the Dutchmen in scoring last season with 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists). Bouchard was also the only player on the Union roster to score ten or more goals last season.

Amongst the returning players that the Dutchmen will be counting on to help boost the team’s offensive numbers are sophomore Augie DiMarzo and junior Josh Coyle. DiMarzo finished second on the team in scoring with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists). Coyle, who was limited to just 17 games last season due to failing to meet Union College’s academic standards after the first trimester, finished with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists). The Brooklyn, OH native looks to have gotten his academic situation straightened out and the Dutchmen are hoping that Coyle’s offensive production will be better as well.

One newcomer who could provide some much-needed offense and worth watching this season is Andrew Estey. The Fredericton, NB native is a power forward with great offensive potential and known for being able to step up in big games.

Yale University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2006-07 roster: 5)

After 28 years, the Tim Taylor era has come to an end at Yale University. Thus begins a new era of Bulldogs hockey as former Eli Keith Allain takes over the head coaching duties this season. With that, Yale will have lots to look forward to when the 2006-07 season gets underway on Oct. 27 hosting Holy Cross.

What the Elis weren’t prepared for however was the unexpected departure of forward David Meckler (LA) to the OHL’s London Knights.

“I was very surprised and very disappointed. We were expecting big things from David this season,” said Yale associate head coach C.J. Marottolo. “Keith (Allain) and I had several talks with David and his family about the pros and cons of staying at Yale, but David decided that leaving Yale was his best option.”

Then came the incident that happened last week when senior Brad Mills along with sophomore forward Matt Nelson and starting goaltender Alec Richards (also a sophomore) were all arrested following an early morning fight outside a downtown New Haven market. Depending upon the disciplinary actions that may be taken against the players, being without them could have a huge impact on the team, particularly where Richards is concerned.

Richards turned in an excellent year in goal for Yale last season in spite of an 8-15-3 record. Richards posted respectable numbers in save percentage (.912) and goals against average (3.02). What makes the numbers more impressive is the fact that he did it facing an average of nearly 31 shots per game. Should Richards be unable to go, the starting job will likely fall to senior Matt Modelski. Modelski saw action in just three games last season, posting a record of 1-1-0. Outstanding newcomer Billy Blasé will be giving Modelski quite a challenge for playing time this season as well.

Yale looks very strong up front, but will need to find a way to generate more offense this season. The team ranked 37th in the nation in offense last season, scoring an average of 2.70 goals per game. Among the stellar core of forwards returning are junior Jean Francois-Boucher and sophomores Michael Karwoski and Patrick Brosnihan (PHX). The hard-hitting Boucher returns as the team’s top scorer from last season with 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) and was one of two Yale players that posted ten or more goals. The energetic Karwoski led all Elis rookies with 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) and earned the Ivy League Rookie of the Year honor. Brosnihan played in just 19 games last season, posting one point (an assist). Marottolo feels that Brosnihan is poised for a breakout year this season.

“Pat has an unbelievable work ethic and lots of skill. He really worked hard this summer to increase his quickness and has worked a lot in the weight room as well,” said Marottolo. “Pat is someone that we project to be a big time player for us. We feel that he’s primed for that so hopefully he’ll get there this year.”

The predominantly young Yale defense should be much improved this season under the leadership of senior and team captain Matt Cohen and junior Rob Page (CBJ). Cohen finished last year with seven points (four goals, three assists). Despite missing time due to an upper body injury early last season, Page posted six points (all assists) and eventually became one of Yale’s most reliable defensemen. Now healthy and stronger, the Bulldogs are expecting Page to become one of their best two-way defensemen this season.

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