November 5, 2004

ECAC Hockey League Preview

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Turmoil! Parity! Coaching changes! The ECAC certainly has changed in the off-season. Not only has Mark Mazzoleni departed for Greener Bays, but Matt Nickerson and his post-season black eyes have left the league as well. Yan Danis, Tyler Kolarik, and Rich Peverly have also left, allowing a new crop of talented players to dot their futures on the ECAC landscape. How will it all play out? After throwing darts, reading tea leaves, and lots of guessing, we’d like to think we have the answers:

Cornell Big Red
2003-04: 16-10-6, 13-6-3 ECAC

See pages 6-9 for an in depth analysis of this year’s Cornell team.

Dartmouth Big Green
2003-04: 14-11-9, 10-5-7 ECAC

Hugh Jessiman returns for his junior campaign with one goal in mind: win the ECAC championship. Leading scorer Lee Stempniak, as well as veterans Mike Ouellette, and Grant Lewis will look to anchor what appears to be a solid Green lineup, while Dan Yacey will return in net. Defense, offense, goaltending — all signs point to Dartmouth finishing near the top this year.

The Green, however, will also look to plug holes with its highly touted recruiting class. Paper statistics may be one thing, but until Dartmouth’s rookie crop adjusts to the college game, the Green still have some work to do.

Colgate Raiders
2003-04: 22-12-5, 14-6-2 ECAC

Two years ago, head coach Don Vaughan decided to accept the university’s interim athletic director position, leaving a vacancy behind the Raiders’ bench. That hole was filled by then-assistant Stan Moore, who took the team to a first-place league finish. Now Vaughan wants back in, has returned to his spot behind the bench, and is looking to push an even more up-tempo team onto the ice.

Steve Silverthorn carried this team before, and will look to do it again this season. Colgate also has several talented forwards in Kyle Wilson, Adam Mitchell, and Jon Smyth.

Harvard Crimson
2003-04: 18-15-3, 10-10-2 ECAC

Coaching change, coaching change, coaching change…


Harvard may still have one of the league’s best centers in Tom Cavanagh, defenseman Noah Welch, and reliable goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris, but they’ve also got to deal with the loss of their two most explosive forwards, Tim Pettit and Tyler Kolarik. On top of graduating five more key veterans from the team’s last championship run, Harvard also lost Brednan Bernakevitch, who racked up 30-plus points last season. Sophomores Kevin Du and Steve Mandes might have held the key to this Crimson season, if not for the following quote:

“I need to get used to coaching, in general.”

Straight from the mouth of new head coach Ted Donato. While he may evoke some empathy from his fellow Harvard graduates, Donato is going to have to learn quickly if he’s to be taken seriously as a coach this season.

Clarkson Golden Knights
2003-04: 18-18-5, 8-12-2 ECAC

While it looks like neither Clarkson nor the rest of ECACHL will be sad to see Matt Nickerson and his 179 penalty minutes leave for icier ponds, Knights fans will be sorry to see Rob McFeeters, Trevor Edwards and Tristan Lush go. The senior class lead the largest upset of the playoffs last season, knocking off No.2 Cornell at home in a best of three set.

Still, with his best guns returning in Mac Faulkner (43 points), Chris Blight (39), and Jay Latulippe (31), head coach George Roll might not miss last year’s senior class as much as people think. Chip in the fact that only one freshman will start on the defensive end for Clarkson, and the notion that all of his other starters are seasoned (especially on the penalty kill, thanks to Nickerson’s time in the box), and Clarkson has the makings of a solid defensive unit. Goaltender Dustin Traylen is streaky, but has played the role of spoiler in big games. Add to the mix Roll’s new rookie class, and the Knights might find themselves slaying giants again this post season.

St. Lawrence Saints
2003-04: 14-21-6, 7-12-3 ECAC

Before Cornell made its big run over the last two years, it was the Saints that ruled the ECAC. St. Lawrence was the conference’s representative to the NCAA tournament in both 2000 and 2001. However, the program has since floundered.

Forward Rich Peverley was one of the few bright spots for the Saints, scoring 41 points last season, and 38 the year before that. Blueline force Ryan Glenn was also a key part of the rebuilding effort. Unfortunately for the Saints, both graduated.

Left are forwards T.J. Trevelyan (39 points), and John Zeiler (36 points), which offer head coach Joe Marsh something to build on. Senior Mike McKenna returns in net for SLU, and should provide a solid backstop during any scoring dry spells.

Rensselaer Engineers
2003-04: 22-15-2, 13-8-1 ECAC

Kevin Croxton, Kirk MacDonald, and Nick Economakos return to anchor a dangerous and fast RPI offense this season. Last year, the trio finished 1-2-3 in team scoring, and with the loss of Benn Barr to graduation, they’ll most likely repeat.

But there are still question marks remaining on defense for RPI. Nathan Marsters and his .922 GAA are gone, as is defenseman Scott Basiuk. The men of Rensselaer might have been just one of two teams to notch 20 wins last season, but until they solve their own riddle between the pipes, don’t look for them to engineer anything spectacular on their impressive 2003-04 season.

Union Dutchmen
2003-04: 14-17-5, 8-11-3 ECAC

Nate Leamen oversaw a promising squad last season that jumped to the NCAA’s best start, and finished its last 11 games with a 7-4 record. Still, the key to this season is consistency and eliminating last year’s 10-game loosing streak.

Union returns one of its key veterans in senior Jordan Webb, who had 13 goals and 17 assists last season. Still, Leamen will need to jump start his other offensive options — Joel Beal, Scott Seny, and Jonathan Poirier — as well as make sure Olivier Bouchard doesn’t fall into a sophomore slump after his 18-point rookie season.

The Dutchmen were one of the more balanced teams in the conference last season, finishing fifth in goals and fifth in goals against average.

Yale Bulldogs
2003-04: 18-14-0, 13-9-0 ECAC

Scoring nearly three goals per game, Yale’s offense ranked third last season — without Chris Higgins. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, their defensive unit allowed an average of four goals per game.

Some nights, however, defense may not matter. Yale returns two 30-point forwards in juniors Joe Zappala and Christian Jensen, and the No. 3 scorer from 2003 in Jeff Hristovski. Senior defenseman Joe Callahan also returns to watch the blueline for the Bulldogs, and has proven himself dangerous on the offensive end with 20 points last season. At his side are three experienced sophomores, who (coach Tim Taylor hopes) have learned from the mistakes of their rookie campaigns.

In goal, the Bulldogs might have the brightest prospect in the conference, with junior Josh Gartner, son of former NHL player Mike Gartner, stopping the pucks.

Vermont Catamounts
2003-04: 9-22-4, 7-14-1 ECAC

Kevin Sneddon won’t be looking to leave the ECAC with a bang, he’s just looking to rebuild this season. He’ll have some talent to work with, as the team’s second-leading scorer, Brady Leisenring, returns. Leisenring cleaned up with 36 points in 2003, and along with junior defenseman Jaime Sifers should prove a dangerous combination on UVM’s power play unit. Junior Travis Russell should also provide a stable presence between the pipes as the team looks to hit double-digits in the win column.

Princeton Tigers
2003-04: 5-24-2, 5-15-2 ECAC

Somewhere Hobey Baker is crying tears of happiness…

There are three reasons Princeton will relieve itself of the position of “league doormat” this season: Guy Gadowsky, Ken Hitchcock, and Yann Danis (see Brown for more details). Guy Gadowsky enters the 2003-04 season having turned around the Alaska-Fairbanks program. While it took him three seasons to turn the Nanooks’ program into a successful
one, expect Gadowsky to do it in two with Princeton. Part of the reason is Ken Hitchcock, who is biding his time as a Princeton assistant during the lockout. Expect the brain bank to earn Princeton at least half a dozen league wins this season.

Brown Bears
2003-04: 16-14-5, 10-8-4 ECAC

Without Yan Danis standing behind them, expect the Bears to sink to the bottom of the ECAC. Factor in the losses of Scott Ford and Brent Robinson due to graduation, and Brown has all the makings of a rebuilding year.

Expect Brian Ihnacak and Les Haggert to make some noise on the offensive front, but not enough to keep Brown’s leaky defense afloat.

Archived article by Matt Janiga
Sun Staff Writer