ECACHL 2007-08 season preview

By DJ Powers

Thirty-two NHL prospects dot the ECACHL landscape this season. All member schools except Princeton have at least one NHL prospect on their roster.  For the second consecutive year, Clarkson leads all conference schools with seven prospects.

Clarkson University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 7)

The reigning ECACHL Champions enjoyed one of their most successful campaigns in the history of the program in 2006-07 that included the top seeding in last spring’s East Regional of the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Golden Knights look to successfully defend their ECACHL Championship crown and push themselves further into the NCAA Tournament when they open their 2007-08 season on Oct. 7 at archrival St. Lawrence.

Tremendous balance and depth throughout the lineup propelled Clarkson to the ECACHL Championship and an NCAA Tournament autobid last season. To find evidence of this one needs to only look at their stat sheet from last season. The Golden Knights had the distinction of being the only team in the nation that ranked in the top ten in both team offense and defense. Clarkson averaged nearly 3.50 goals per game while allowing just over 2.35 goals per game. All regulars except returning junior defenseman Adam Bellows posted at least one goal and that isn’t likely to change much this season.

Clarkson returns much of last year’s squad, losing just six players, five to graduation. The biggest change for the Golden Knights looks to be on their blueline. Stay-at-home defensemen Mike Grenzy and Matt Curley have both graduated. Senior Grant Clitsome (CBJ) leads a strong group of defensemen that should add stability and some more offense to the team as well.  In addition to the returning group, the Golden Knights also bring in three solid freshmen blueliners, led by 2007 Detroit Red Wings draft pick Bryan Rufenach.

“He’s a very good skater who moves the puck well. He can carry it. I think the area of concern early on in his career is learning the defensive end of the game,” Clarkson head coach George Roll said of Rufenach. “He’s one of those guys that can jump up into the rush, or carry it out of the zone and make smart plays with the puck.”

The Golden Knights will also return arguably the best goaltender to come out of the ECACHL last season in senior David Leggio. The Williamsville, NY native is coming off of a career year that culminated with taking home the Ken Dryden Award as the conference’s Goaltender of the Year. Leggio ranked 12th in goals against average (2.16) and fourth in winning percentage (.736) in 2006-07. His outstanding season also caught the eye of the Buffalo Sabres, who invited him to their prospects camp this summer.

The depth of the forward lines from last season returns nearly intact this season. Last year, Clarkson boasted seven players with 20 or more points. The only 20-plus point producer to not return this season is also the Golden Knights most significant loss – Shawn Weller, who opted to forego his final year to sign with the Ottawa Senators. While Weller decided to leave, assistant captain Steve Zalewski chose to return to complete his collegiate career, much to the delight of the Clarkson community. Zalewski had the opportunity to sign with the San Jose Sharks in the off-season, but declined.

With Zalewski’s return and team captain Nick Dodge (CAR) leading the charge, the Golden Knights look to once again have one of the most balanced and experienced offensive teams in the nation this season.

With most of the team’s core players returning and the success of last season, Clarkson’s biggest challenge this season will be to get to the Frozen Four and win the National Championship, but as Roll explains April is a long ways away and there is plenty of work to do before then.

“I think a lot of it is trying to get to that next level and not being complacent and content with what happened last year. We don’t want anyone be to satisfied with what we accomplished last year. It was certainly a big step for us as a program, but we really feel that now is the time to take that next step.”

Brown University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 1)

After a last place finish in the conference in 2005-06, Brown didn’t fare much better last season, finishing 11th in the conference, despite doubling their wins from the previous season. The Bears will try to get things moving in the right direction this season when they open their 2007-08 campaign on Oct. 27 taking on host Yale in the Ivy Showcase.
Not all of the news for the team is bad. In fact, several excellent performances came out of the team last season. Most notable was the emergence of Dan Rosen. Goaltending has been one of the Bears’ strongest positions in recent years, going back to the likes of Yann Danis and Adam D’Alba. Despite a 9-12-4 record, Rosen put up outstanding numbers. Perhaps the most telling was his .920 save percentage, made even more remarkable by the fact that he saw an average of 33 shots per game. Like his predecessor D’Alba, Rosen had to carry the team on shoulders most nights. So getting the sophomore netminder some support will be crucial to the Bears this season.

How far Brown can move up the ECACHL standings will depend partly on how well their defense plays. The good news for Brown coming into the season is the fact that all of their top defensemen return. In addition, the Bears blueline will get a boost from the return of towering junior Mike Stuart. The Rome, NY native saw his promising sophomore season come to a devastating end due to a torn ACL that he suffered last November.

While the defense remains intact, the Bears will be looking to the leadership of seniors Paul Baier (LA) and Sean Hurley to help right the ship and step things up. The defense showing up and giving a consistent effort every night will go a long way to not only taking a bit of the load of off the shoulders of Rosen but more importantly bring growing success to the team.

One of Brown’s strengths last season should also be one of their strengths this season – the forward lines. Despite losing Brian Ihnacak (PIT), Antonin Roux and Sean Dersch to graduation and the unexpected retirement of Seth Seidman, the Bears return an excellent group of forwards that includes their top scorers in seniors Jeff Prough and Brian McNary, and junior Matt Vokes. However, they could stand to see more offensive production from players other than the aforementioned ones. A rather interesting stat is while the Bears averaged three goals per game as a team last season, they only had three players that posted 10 or more goals.

Brown will also bring in a relatively small freshman class this season. One player that is sure to give the Bears some bite will be the lone incoming defenseman Sean Connauton. The Edmonton, AB native brings a combination of size, scoring ability and lots of grit. His whopping 222 penalty minutes were among the most in the Alberta Junior Hockey League last season.

Colgate University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 3)

After a successful 2005-06 season two years ago, Colgate didn’t have the follow up season that they had hoped for in 2006-07. This season, there is renewed optimism on the Hamilton, NY campus leading up to their 2007-08 regular season opener on Oct. 12 hosting non-conference foe Sacred Heart.

Colgate lost relatively few players to graduation this off-season, which bodes very well for them in their attempts to rebound from the disappointment of last season. For the Raiders, it all starts in goal. Senior Mark Dekanich (NSH) played remarkably well despite posting a 15-17-4 record last season. He finished his junior campaign with very strong numbers both in goals against average (2.33) and save percentage (.923). The North Vancouver, BC native is also coming off of a very good showing at the Nashville Predators prospects camp over the summer as well. Barring the unexpected, Colgate should once again be set in goal.

“Everybody thought that Mark had a real down year last year, but if you look at his numbers, you’d see that he had a very solid year. I think the biggest thing was the fact that we didn’t score many goals,“ said Colgate assistant coach Andy Dickson said of Dekanich. “We’re hoping to have a bounce back year and with Mark back, that’s a great place to start.”

One of the problems that the Raiders will need to address this season is their offensive woes. Colgate ranked 46th in the nation last season in team offense, averaging two and a half goals per game. The challenge will be a bit more daunting with the losses of Marc Fulton and Liam Huculak, who have graduated. The good news is the Raiders return four of their top five scorers, including seniors Tyler Burton, who led the team with 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists) last season and Jesse Winchester, who led the team with 16 goals.

One player that Colgate is expecting big things from this season is sophomore David McIntyre. The Dallas Stars prospect enjoyed a terrific start to his rookie campaign last season and finished the year leading the Raiders in rookie scoring with 17 points (nine goals, eight assists). He was also one of only five players on the team to appear in all 40 games.

Added to the group of returning forwards are three superb freshmen led by 2006 New York Islanders draft pick Brian Day.

“Brian is a kid that’s going to create energy for us. He’s a good, honest two-way player that knows his own end very well and is going to really chip in offensively too. He’s a north-south type of player that loves going to the net. I think his energy and enthusiasm for the game is going to be contagious,” Dickson said of Day.

Despite the loss of stalwarts Mike Campaner and Alex Greig to graduation, the Colgate defense returns intact. Senior Nick St. Pierre, who led the Raiders defensemen in scoring with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) last season, will anchor what is shaping up to be not only a very good defensive corps for Colgate this season but a better skating one as well.

Cornell University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 4)

After a gaining bid to the NCAA Tournament two years, the disappointment of missing the big dance last season is still very much on the minds of the Cornell Big Red and their fans. But with a new season comes the renewal of the always-high expectations in Ithaca. Cornell opens their 2007-08 season on Oct. 27 when they host RIT. One of the highlights on the Big Red’s schedule is the “Red Hot Hockey” match against Boston University at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 24.

Three sets of brothers will suit up for Cornell this season and one of them is the Nash brothers. Brendan, the elder sibling, was an ECACHL All-Rookie Team selection last season. He emerged as one of the ECACHL’s most promising young defensemen, earning regular playing time including on the power play. Unfortunately for Cornell, they’ll be without his services for the first three months of the season due to injury.

Riley, the younger brother and a 2007 draft selection of the Edmonton Oilers, is one of the most highly regarded and highly anticipated newcomers to hit a college campus this season. Nash was a player that was heavily recruited by teams on both sides of the borders before choosing to play at Cornell. His impeccable playmaking ability is really something to marvel at. However, his most underrated attribute may be his defensive awareness – something that will fit perfectly into Cornell’s style of play.

“Riley is strong in all areas and I think that’s what he’s going top bring to our team. He needs to get stronger, but we’re excited about what we’re going to be getting with him. His obvious skills are what he can do on the power play and his offensive skills are great to see, but the thing that is great about Riley is that he’s great defensively too. He’ll block shots and is just a well-rounded player. I think part of what makes him such as good player and why he is so highly valued is that he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses in his game,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer in speaking about Riley Nash.

Riley Nash’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time for the Big Red. With the graduation of Byron Bitz (BOS), Mark McCutcheon and Mitch Carefoot, along with Tony Romano (NJ) bolting for the OHL, Nash’s offensive contributions will vastly help Cornell fill the void left by the departed players. Along with Riley Nash, two returning forwards that look to also be key contributors this season are sophomore sensation Colin Greening (OTT) and senior Ray Sawada (DAL). Greening led Cornell in goal scoring last season with 11 and finished the season with 19 points. Sawada, who will serve as one of the team’s captains this season, had the opportunity to sign with the Stars this off-season but opted to return to Cornell to complete his collegiate career. Sawada finished third on the team last season with 21 points (ten goals, 11 assists).

After the loss of David McKee to the pro ranks in the summer of 2006, Cornell’s search for a new go-to guy between the pipes turned up junior Troy Davenport. The Inver Grove Heights, MN native appeared in 24 games last season posting an 11-7-2 record. With another year of experience now under his belt, Davenport should see his numbers rise. But the bigger test will come on special teams, specifically in penalty-killing situations. Cornell’s penalty kill was an abysmal 80.1 percent effective and ranked 49th in the nation last season.

Dartmouth College

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 3)

Despite winning a share of the Ivy League Championship and a strong third-place finish in the ECACHL, the ending to the 2006-07 season that Dartmouth had hoped for didn’t come to fruition. Nevertheless, Big Green fans should have plenty to be excited about this season when the team opens their 2007-08 campaign on Oct. 28 at Vermont.

Coming into the season, Dartmouth looks to have more questions than answers. To begin with, the new look Big Green will have some very significant holes to fill. The most pressing of which will be in re-establishing the chemistry on the blueline as quickly as possible. Dartmouth’s defense took major hits with the losses of Grant Lewis (ATL), Ben Lovejoy and Mike Hartwick to graduation. The losses also mean that the Big Green blueline will be noticeably younger and smaller this season.

The Dartmouth defense will get a significant boost with the addition of imposing freshman Joe Stejskal. The 2007 draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens is a smart yet rugged player that will bring size, skill and toughness to the Big Green defensive corps. Stejskal is also coming off of a strong performance at the Canadiens prospect camp over the summer and should be an immediate impact player for the Big Green.

“Joe is put together pretty well. He’s got a good frame on him right now, and he’s going to get even bigger. He’s a clean, physical player and shoots the puck real well. Joe is a guy with just a tremendous amount of potential and has a real good level of upside to him,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said of Stejskal.

The blueline wasn’t the only area where Dartmouth’s losses were huge. The forward lines also took significant hits as well, most notably a pair of top-flight Colorado Avalanche prospects in David Jones and T.J. Galiardi. Jones, the Ivy League Player of the Year, opted to forego his final year of eligibility to sign with Colorado. Galiardi, an ECACHL All-Rookie Team selection, left school in the spring due to academic reasons and is now with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen.

With two of their top forwards gone, Dartmouth will be looking to returning seniors Nick Johnson (PIT) and J.T. Wyman (MTL) to guide this year’s team. Johnson, who will serve as team captain, is poised to have an excellent final year at Dartmouth after posting 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) last season. Wyman was arguably Dartmouth’s most reliable player. The Wayzata, MN native is a natural forward but when the Big Green was hit with injuries on the blueline, he was shifted to defense and the move proved to be a bonanza for Dartmouth.

“I thought he was an outstanding defenseman for us. When he came back (to the forward position) after he had played defense, it was like everything clicked with him. His wide speed after he came back I thought was phenomenal. I thought that playing defense really helped J.T. understand a little bit better how to play forward for us, quite honestly. The temptation to play him on defense again is going to be there, but I don’t intend on doing that this year,” Gaudet said of Wyman.

With the uncertainty on the blueline to start the season, strong goaltending from senior Mike Devine will be crucial in helping to stabilize the defense. Devine brings experience and leadership to Dartmouth’s defense. He enjoyed a very good junior campaign last season, posting a 17-12-3 record that included two shutouts.

Harvard University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 4)

After capturing the ECACHL Championship and an NCAA Tournament bid two seasons ago, Harvard struggled to consistently get through the 2006-07 season. The Crimson will be the last team in D-I to open their 2007-08 season, which takes place on Nov. 2 at the reigning ECACHL Tournament champion Clarkson.

While the Crimson didn’t lose many players to graduation, the ones that they did lose were important ones. The two biggest came on the defensive side with the losses of defenseman Dylan Reese (PHX) and goaltender Justin Tobe. Harvard was a very solid defensive team thanks in part to the two graduated players. Sophomore Kyle Richter will likely inherit the starting job in goal after a strong rookie season that saw him post a 7-8-1 record with a .903 save percentage and a 2.84 goals against average.

Despite the loss of Reese, the Crimson should once again be very good on the blueline, led by senior team captain David MacDonald (SJ) and top scoring sophomore defenseman Alex Biega (BUF). The imposing MacDonald isn’t likely to score many goals this season but his leadership, presence and vastly improved positional play will be key to Harvard’s continuing success. Biega, an ECACHL All-Rookie Team selection, became a big-time impact player for the Crimson last season. His 18 points (six points, 12 assists) was second on the team in both rookie and defenseman scoring.

The biggest changes for Harvard will happen on their forward lines. Ryan Maki (NSH), Kevin Du, Steve Mandes and Brendan Byrne have all graduated. Seniors Alex Meintel and Mike Taylor along with top scoring sophomore Doug Rogers (NYI) will be leading the charge for the Crimson. While all three players were among the team’s top point producers, Harvard needs to get more balanced offensive contributions from their lineup this season. The team’s 88 totals goals were the second fewest in the conference. Furthermore, Harvard was the only team in the nation last season not to score a shorthanded goal.

With some pressing needs up front, help is on its way for Harvard thanks to two outstanding incoming freshmen in Matt McCollem and Michael Biega. McCollem, a 2006 draft selection of the St. Louis Blues, brings a nice combination of great skating ability and grit to the Crimson. Biega, the younger brother of defenseman Alex Biega, will bring some offensive punch to Harvard. An ’89 birthdate, Michael Biega will also be eligible for the 2008 NHL Draft.

Princeton University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 0)

Since the Guy Gadowsky era began at Princeton three years ago, the team has continually made steady progress. The result has been a rise in the ECACHL standings and a better brand of hockey to watch. The Tigers finished sixth in the conference last season and will look to improve that this season when they open their 2007-08 campaign on Oct. 26 taking on host Yale in the Ivy Showcase.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Princeton this season will be in replenishing the offense that left with graduates Darroll Powe (PHI), Grant Goeckner-Zoeller, and Kevin Westgarth (LA). The graduates made up three-quarters of the Tigers top scorers last season. Junior Lee Jubinville, who led Princeton in scoring with 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists), is the lone returning player of the group.

Returning sophomore Mark Magnowski was perhaps one of, if not the best story, coming out of Princeton last season. An excellent playmaker, Magnowski also became one of the Tigers top faceoff guys during his rookie campaign. The Winnipeg, MB native played in all 33 games posting 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists). Magnowski centered the Tigers superb second line that included fellow returning sophomore Cam MacIntyre and the now-departed Grant Goeckner-Zoeller.

One player who is poised to have a career year is junior Brett Wilson. The Calgary, AB native continues to get better and better. While his goal scoring slipped a bit last season, his overall point total continues to rise. He has firmly established himself as a hard-working, reliable forward that can play in virtually any situation. Wilson posted 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) that included three power-play goals playing in all 33 games last season.

Re-establishing the defensive corps this season is another issue facing Princeton to start the season. The losses of Max Cousins, Daryl Marcoux and B.J. Mackasey, all to graduation, means that the Tigers will be very young on the blueline. Senior Mike Moore, who is expected to anchor the Princeton defense, returns as the lone upperclassman. Among the players that will be relied upon to step things up are returning sophomores Jody Pedersen and Kevin Crane. Pederson played in all 32 games last season, while Crane will be looking to increase his ice time.

Another loss came at the goaltending position with B.J. Sklapsky graduating. Sklapsky split time with sophomore Zane Kalemba last season with junior Thomas Sychterz also having seen some playing time. The experience of Kalemba and Sychterz will be important to help solidify the youthful defensive corps, especially early in the season, that the team will have. And if the goaltenders ever needed any help, they’ll have someone turn to for advice this season. Former Philadelphia Flyers netminder Neil Little is the latest addition to the Princeton coaching staff.

Quinnipiac University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 2)

The 2006-07 season saw the definite arrival of the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Quinnipiac was in the thick of the ECACHL title hunt for much of the season and fell short of capturing the ECACHL Regular Season crown and a bid to the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Bobcats hope to remedy that when they open their 2007-08 season on Oct. 16 hosting non-conference foe Bentley.

One of the keys to Quinnipiac’s success last season was their excellent and balanced offensive attack. ECACHL Co-Rookie of the Year Brandon Wong led a Bobcats team that averaged 3.50 goals per game last season. The Victoria, BC native led the nation in rookie goal scoring with 27 and ranked third overall in rookie points with 44 (27 goals, 17 assists). Quinnipiac returns four of their top five 30-plus point producers this season – Wong, seniors Ben Nelson and team captain Jamie Bates, and junior Brian Leitch. The Bobcats forward lines will also get some help from returning senior Dan Travis (FLA), who was lost for the season last November due to injury. Travis was off to a very good start before a knee injury cut short his season.

An area where Quinnipiac did much of their damage to the opposition last season was on special teams. Both the Bobcats power play and penalty kill ranked in the top 15 in the nation. The team’s superb penalty killing wreaked havoc on the opposition resulting in 13 shorthanded tallies – tied for second most in the nation.

The most significant loss and biggest hole that Quinnipiac will need to fill this season is that of graduated All-American defenseman Reid Cashman (TOR). The Red Wing, MN native was one of the nation’s best offensive defensemen last year while anchoring a solid Bobcats defensive corps. Cashman led the nation in scoring among defensemen last season with 41 points (three goals, 38 assists). His 38 assists ranked third in the nation overall.

Replacing what Cashman brought to the Bobcats team will be a very daunting task indeed. Quinnipiac will be relying on two stalwart upperclassmen in Matt Sorteberg and Dan Henningson to help fill the void. Both players will serve as assistant captains for this season. Sorteberg and Henningson have blossomed into rock solid two-way defensemen for Quinnipiac. Sorteberg looks likely to succeed Cashman as the team’s quarterback on the power play.

One position that will be interesting to watch this season will be goal. Quinnipiac got another strong year from junior Bud Fisher after he posted a 20-14-5 record with a 2.52 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. This season, Fisher will be challenged by two newcomers vying for playing time in junior Peter Vetri, a transfer from UMass-Lowell and overaged freshman Pat McGann, who was a 2005 draft selection of the Dallas Stars.

Rensselaer Polytechnic University (RPI)

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 1)

The Seth Appert era at RPI made very good progress and showed a lot of promise in 2006-07. While there is still much work to be done, the Engineers fans will have a lot to look forward to when the team opens their 106th season on Oct. 9 hosting non-conference foe Bentley.

One challenge facing RPI will be the youth movement on defense. The Engineers lost their only defensive upperclassmen last season in Jake Luthi and Ryan Swanson to graduation. While the Engineers will not have an upperclassman on their blueline this season, it doesn’t mean that they’ll lack leadership, skill and experience back there. A trio of outstanding and sizeable sophomores in Peter Merth, Eric Burgdoerfer and Christian Jensen (SJ) will provide the Engineers with a good nucleus from which to continue building the defense from.

Boosting the RPI defensive mix this season will be three superb incoming freshmen. Bryan Brutlag and Jeff Foss will add not only some offensive prowess from the blueline but should also help to upgrade the Engineers power play as well. John Kennedy will provide added toughness and strong positional play to an already intimidating RPI defense.

The area that the Engineers will look to improve this season is in goal. While RPI returns their experienced tandem of senior Jordan Alford and junior Mathias Lange, they will need to find more consistency there this season. Nowhere were the team’s goaltending inconsistencies more evident last season than on the penalty kill. Clicking at a dismal 79.1 percent, the Engineers ranked at the bottom of the ECACHL in that category last season.

“Your best penalty killer has to be your goaltender without question. We need to be a little more disciplined and not take as many penalties, but we also need to get more consistent play and less soft goals from Mattias and Jordan,” said RPI head coach Seth Appert.

The Engineers forward lines will have a slightly different look this season. RPI lost three top-notch forwards in Kirk MacDonald, Oren Eizenman and Kevin Broad to graduation, so filling those holes will be key to the Engineers continued growth and success. Leading the way are a pair of very dependable upperclassmen in junior Seth Klerer and senior team captain Jake Morrisette. Klerer, who was one of RPI’s most consistent players last season, is the returning top scorer. He posted 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) playing in all 36 games. Six incoming freshmen led by snipers Chase Polacek and Tyler Helfrich will bolster not only the team offense but the team speed as well.

“We wanted to bring in players that were going to make us faster because that’s the way that we want to play. There was definitely a point of emphasis to not only improve the speed of our upperclassmen through offseason training, but also improve our speed and talent through the recruitment of our freshmen as well and I think we’ve done that,” said Appert.

St. Lawrence University

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

After finishing fifth in the ECACHL in 2005-06, St. Lawrence made significant strides in 2006-07 winning the conference’s regular season title and earning a berth into the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Saints look to not only capture the ECACHL Championship but also make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament when they open their 71st season on Oct. 7 hosting arch rival Clarkson.

Coming into the season, St. Lawrence will have two significant holes to fill – one up front and one on defense with the graduation of ECACHL Offensive Forward of the Year Kyle Rank and Hobey Baker finalist, defenseman Drew Bagnall.

While the presence of Bagnall will be missed, the Saints will return a very good and very experienced defensive corps led by the junior trio of Matt Generous (BUF), and captains Shawn Fensel and Jared Ross. Generous, the lone NHL prospect on the St. Lawrence roster, continues to make great strides in his development with his imposing presence and improved positional play. Fensel and Ross, who will anchor the St. Lawrence blueline this season, have become invaluable commodities on the Saints special teams.

One area where St. Lawrence vastly improved last season was in goal. Returning sophomore Alex Petizian, an ECACHL All-Rookie Team selection, emerged as the Saints main man between the pipes in the second half of the season providing stability and the backbone to St. Lawrence’s defense. The Kirkland, QB native’s posted a 19-8-1 record. His 2.30 goals against average ranked 18th in the nation and helped give the Saints one of the nation’s top penalty-killing units last season as well.

Despite loss of top scorer Kyle Rank, St. Lawrence will also be deep on their forward lines. The outstanding trio of juniors Kevin DeVergilio and Brock McBride and sophomore Mike McKenzie lead the Saints offensive charge. While St. Lawrence returns forward depth and experience, they’ll also need to find more offensive production throughout their lineup to make up the 28 goals that left with graduates Rank and Max Taylor. DeVergilio returns as the Saints top point producer with 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists), while McKenzie returns as the team’s top goal scorer with 12. He is also the lone returning scorer that notched 10 or more goals last season.

In addition to the returning group, St. Lawrence will also welcome four new additions to their forward lines. Two players to watch will be Nick Pitsikoulis and Aaron Bogozian. Pitsikoulis, the youngest member of the Saints incoming class, is a player with a great offensive upside that can get pucks to the net. Bogozian will help to address one of St. Lawrence’s needs this season – a strong penalty killer with good offensive skills.

Union College

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

The old saying goes, it’s not how you start that matters but how you finish. In Union College’s case the finish to the 2006-07 season was one that they’d rather put behind them. But with the dawning of a new season comes renewed hope for a team looking to get things back on track. The Dutchmen will begin to do just that when they open their 2007-08 season on Oct. 12 hosting non-conference foe Ferris State.

The Union forward lines will certainly have a new look this season. Olivier Bouchard, who blossomed into a formidable force for the Dutchmen in his collegiate career, has graduated. Sophomore Augie DiMarzo was dismissed from the team last November. But the most significant loss was the unexpected departure of top scorer T.J. Fox, who opted to forego his final two years to sign with the San Jose Sharks.

Despite the losses, Union returns some very good forwards, most notably senior Josh Coyle and sophomore Jason Walters. However, they’ll need to establish some offensive depth and get contributions from players other than their top returning four of Coyle, Walters, Matt Cook and Mario Valery-Trabucco. Coyle returns as the Dutchmen’s top scorer. He finished second on the team in scoring last season with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists). Walters enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign posting 27 goals (eight goals, 19 assists). The Renfrew, ON native was one of Union’s most consistent players last season and also established himself as the team’s main man on faceoffs as well.

The Dutchmen bring in several new forwards this season that will add a little bit of just about everything. Two to watch will be a pair of very good Canadian-born snipers in Stephane Boileau and Adam Presiznuik. The two newcomers possess both great playmaking and goal scoring capabilities.

One area where Union will be looking for increased consistency will be in goal. Senior Justin Mrazek (WSH) posted a 13-18-3 record that included three shutouts last season. While he played well throughout the season, it was the final month of the season that Mrazek (and the team) struggle the most. In his final 10 outings of the season, Mrazek went 1-8-1 and allowed an average of 3.60 goals per game in that stretch.

The blueline looks to be the Dutchmen’s strongest position coming into the season. The only significant loss to Union’s blueline is that of top defenseman Sean Streich, who has graduated. With the depth and experience returning among the defensive corps, the team’s defensive numbers should see an improvement this season. Senior Michael Beynon and top scoring junior Lane Caffaro lead the defensive group.

Yale University

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

The 2006-07 season prove to be quite a challenging one for the very young Yale Bulldogs. Despite their growing pains last season, the Elis played well enough to earn a share of the Ivy League Championship. Yale should fare better this season thanks to few key offseason losses and another year of experience under their belts. Yale will look to move up the ECACHL standings this season when they open their 2007-08 season on Oct. 26 hosting Princeton in the Ivy Showcase.

The greatest thing to happen to Yale last season was the debut of their dynamic duo of Sean Backman and Mark Arcobello. Both players led the Elis in scoring posting 31 and 24 points respectively. Backman, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, also led the team with 18 goals and six power play goals. Arcobello, who was invited to the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp over the summer, led Yale in assists (14) and game-winning goals (3).

The Elis most pressing issue coming into the 2007-08 will be to increase their overall offensive production. Yale ranked 45th in the nation in team offense last season, averaging just over 2.50 goals per game. Their 78 totals goals scored were the fewest in the conference. Furthermore, Backman and Arcobello were the only players on the roster last season that posted 10 or more goals. While Yale returns eight of their top nine scorers from the previous season, they will need to generate a more balanced attack throughout their lineup. Two players that the Elis will be looking to help pick up the scoring slack are junior Patrick Brosnihan (PHX) and sophomore Greg Beller (NYR). The two players combined to score a mere ten points last season. Yale will also be looking to the leadership of senior team captain Will Engasser (PHX) as well. While his numbers weren’t spectacular (seven goals and one assist for eight points) last season, Engasser has established himself as a valuable player in others areas, most notably away from the puck.

In addition to the returning players, Yale also brings in a quartet of very good forwards. The one player to watch is Broc Little. The Rindge, NH native is a small, offensive dynamo that should also inject some added excitement into the Elis as well.

One significant area where Yale struggled last season was in goal. After a superb rookie season two years ago, junior Alec Richards went through a bit of a sophomore slump last season that saw his numbers dip. He appeared in 26 games last season, posting a 9-15-2 record with a 3.12 goals against average and an uncharacteristic .891 save percentage. If the Elis expects to compete for the ECACHL crown this season, they’ll need Richards to return to form this season.

Two of Yale’s most significant losses came on defense. Stalwart defensemen Matt Cohen and Bill Leclerc have graduated. The returning group will be more experienced and should be better this season. Senior Robert Page (CBJ), who will anchor the blueline, has become one of the Elis most dependable players. Last season, his leadership proved to be invaluable in providing stability to the predominantly young Yale defensive corps.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.