Previewing Hockey East

Last season Hockey East had its closest finish ever. Boston University rallied from 5-6-1 start to win the regular season title. Boston College fell to third after holding the top spot most of the season. Providence was only six points out of first with the tie breaker, yet finished in fifth place. This year promises to be every bit as tight and hotly contested.

Letting the cat out of the bag early I will say this year the Friars will have some expectations. Possibly more on the part of the team's fans then followers of the league, but nobody will predict them fighting just to make the playoffs. With that in mind I feel Providence stands an excellent chance of jumping up to third place. Certainly if all things break PC's way you could see them win the title. In fact best case scenario is far more likely then a worst case scenario which has them struggling to make the playoffs.

In my conversation with PC coach Tim Army for a companion article, he said he, "expected to go to the Boston Garden, win the Hockey East title, and the NCAA title".

With that said I'll make my predictions listing the teams in the order I think they will finish. One note: predictions really mean nothing - it comes down to the many variables that will win or lose the close game. Again as Coach Army said in that conversation, "it's the process and how you get there".

Boston College

Departures
Peter Harrold - Defense 7-23-30
Chris Collins – Forward 34-29-63
Stephen Gionta – Forward 11-21-32

Key Returnees
Brian Boyle Sr – Forward 22-30-52
Joe Rooney Sr – Forward 5-13-18
Dan Bertram Jr – Forward 10-16-26
Benn Ferriero So – Forward 16-9-25
Nate Gerbe So – Forward 11-7-18
Brock Bradford So – Forward 6-12-18
Matt Greene Jr – Forward 3-3-6
Pat Gannon Jr – Forward 5-4-9
Brian O'Hnaley Jr For/Def 2-4-6
Andrew Orpik So Forward 3-5-8
Mike Brennan Jr – Defense 2-10-12
Brett Motherwell So Defense 4-19-23
Anthony Aiello So – Defense 1-8-9
Tim Kunes So – Defense 1-3-4
Tim Filangieri So – Defense 2-2-4
Corey Schneider Jr – Goalie 24-13-2 2.11 gaa .929 save pct

Key Arrivals
Matt Lombardi – Forward – Gov. Dummer (Prep) 5'11" 175 19 y.o 16-12-28
Ben Smith – Forward – Westminster (Prep) 5'11" 193 18 y.o 23-35-58
Matt Price – Forward – Milton (OPJHL – Ontario) 5'10" 182 18 y.o 14-37-51
Carl Sneep – Defense – Brainerd (Minn H.S.) 6'2" 205 18 y.o. 13-24-37

With the loss of only 3 seniors and the fact their top two flight risks returned for another season, BC seems to be in position to again sit at the top of the Hockey East standings come season end.

The first reason to pick them is just by looking at both the quantity and quality of the players returning. BC starts out with one of the most solid goalies in college hockey. Corey Schneider. He was one of the two flight risks, but had said all along that he was returning for at least his junior year. Having a rock like him in goal allows BC to take chances other teams might be more reluctant to take.

Also returning is one of the best down low players in Hockey East, Brian Boyle. As a junior he put up a solid 22 goal season and as a senior there is no reason to expect less from him. The Eagles also have a pretty solid core of forwards returning beside Boyle. In general this group plays the game well in the more open style that seems to be taking over the college.

BC has also gained from playing up to 4 freshmen defensemen regularly last season. The most dominant of the group is Brett Motherwell.

A second reason to see BC as a strong contender is the new additions. Ben Smith, the youngest player in Hockey East this coming season, will be put into a situation where he can develop as the season progresses. Giant defensemen Carl Sneep, will ease into Peter Harrold's skates due to having 5 experienced defensemen to play with.

Lastly this team can take a lot from their past success. They rebounded nicely from their season lows, dropping out of first place in Hockey East into third place and losing the Hockey East finals to BU, to their season ending successes of knocking BU out of the NCAA's and making it into the national championship game.

The biggest question I have about them is who will step up to do what Chris Collins did last year. Collins increased his goals from 9 goals to 34. At this point no single player has shown the ability to make such a pick up in play. Boyle already is being heavily counted on. Fellow senior Joe Rooney has never exhibited a real goal scorer's touch. The most likely scenario to make up the offense will be for several players to have career years. The likely candidates are Dan Bertram, Nate Gerbe, Benn Ferriero and Brock Bradford.

The second reason is a little more obvious. BC finished in the middle of the top pack of Hockey East that saw the difference between first place BU and fifth place PC be only 6 points. That means a lot of teams remain close to the Eagles talent wise. They have a small senior class to take on the leadership of last year's highly successful senior class and they have one of the smaller incoming classes, so a boost from newcomers might be minimal.


Boston University

Departures
John Laliberte – Forward 11-21-32
David Van der Guilik – Forward 11-11-22
Brad Zancanaro – Forward 14-22-36
Dan Spang – Defense 9-22-31
Jekabs Redlihs – Defense 1-5-6
Stephen Siwiec – Goalie

Key Returnees
Peter MacArthur Jr – Forward 14-25-39
Kenny Roche Sr – Forward 17-14-31
Brandon Yip So – Forward 9-22-31
Bryan Ewing Jr – Forward 16-10-26
Jason Lawrence So – Forward 8-14-22
Chris Higgins So – Forward 8-13-21
Brian McGuirk Jr – Forward 5-4-9
Sean Sullivan Sr Defense 3-14-17
Kevin Schaeffer Sr – Defense 4-9-13
Matt Gilroy So – Defense 2-6-8
Kevin Kielt Jr – Defense 0-4-4
John Curry Sr – Goalie 24-8-4 2.24 gaa .918 save pct

Arrivals
Zach Cohen – Forward – Tri-City (USHL) 6-3 190 19 y.o 18-15-33
Luke Popko – Forward – USNDPT 5-10 200 18 y.o.
Brian Strait – Defense – USNDPT 6-2 195 18 y.o
Eric Gryba – Defense – Green Bay (USHL) 6-4 205 3-12-15 18 y.o.
Brian Bennett – Goalie – USNDPT 6-2 184 18 y.o.

Part of picking them so high is based on them being the defending regular and playoff champions. They actually have a large offensive gap to make up.

Their strength lies in the consistent play of John Curry who has held the top goaltending job for the past two seasons after emerging from the pack as the underdog to grab the job. In his final year at BU he is expected to help develop his understudy freshman Brian Bennett, who is considered a top prospect from the national team.

The Terriers strength on defense will come from seniors Sean Sullivan and Kevin Schaeffer. What they must do though is to take up the slack from the graduation of Dan Spang and to mentor two rookies on the blue line.

Offensively BU has not been a prolific scoring team over the past few seasons. Last year they relied heavily on the senior trio of Brad Zancanaro, John Laliberte, and David Van der Gulik. They do return their top 3 goal scorers however, Peter MacArthur, Kenny Roche and Bryan (Boomer) Ewing, in addition they have Hockey East rookie of the year Brandon Yip. The loss of offense might come from the fact they are bringing in only two forwards, neither appears to be as talented goal scorers and Laliberte and Van der Guilk were. Zancanaro's loss is one that includes a lot of intangibles that are often difficult to replace.

Boston University certainly can point to the fact they rallied from back of the pack to capture the regular season crown and to their playoff victory as well as an NCAA appearance to provide this team with the direction to again have a successful season. They also have seniors leading the team at all the key positions.

However I see two problems. First this team is built more along the traditional lines. They are big and they seem to want to get physical. Freshman recruits continue this tradition . Eric Gryba had over 200 minutes in penalties and Luke Popko can be a physical player. If they truly continue to place an emphasis on calling the game tighter BU might be spending a considerable amount of time in the penalty box putting quite a bit of stress on their special teams. This is one area the loss of Brad Zancanaro will be difficult to make up. They are also not as deep as last year's team was as they did not land their last recruiting target


Providence College

Departures
Torry Gajda – Forward 14-20-34
Nate Meyers – Forward 6-9-15
James Pemberton – Defense 6-9-15
Matt Mannina – Defense 0-0-0
Dylan Cox- Forward 0-1-1
Vince Goulet- Forward 0-0-0
Stephen Ritter – Goalie

Key Returnees
Chase Watson Sr – Forward 6-27-33
Colin McDonald Sr – Forward 9-19-28
Jamie Carroll Sr- Forward 9-11-20
Tony Zancanaro Sr- Forward 11-8-19
Jon Rheault Jr – Forward 16-14-30
Kyle Laughlin So – Forward 9-5-14
Nick Mazzolini So – Forward 6-8-14
Jon Mori So – Forward – Injured
Dinos Stamoulis Sr – Defense 3-9-12
Trevor Ludwig Jr – Defense 0-2-2
Mark Bastarche Jr – Defense 0-4-4
Cody Wild So – Defense 6-15-21
Matt Taormina So – Defense 1-10-11
Tyler Sims Jr – Goalie

Arrivals
Greg Collins – Forward – Salisbury (Prep) 5'10" 180 20 y.o 10-19-29
John Cavanaugh – Forward – Salisbury (Prep) 5'9" 170 19 y.o. 15-29-44
Chris Eppich – Forward – Chilliwack (BCHL) 32-48-80 5'10" 175 20 y.o.
Matt Tommasiello – Forward Bridgewater (EJHL) 14-26-40 5'7" 160 21 y.o.
David Cavanaugh – Defense – Salisbury (Prep) 6'2 "190 20 y.o. 2-13-15
Mark Fayne – Defense – Nobles (Prep) 6'3" 205 19 y.o. 9-23-32
Ryan Simpson – Goalie N. H. Monarchs (EJHL) 6'1" 190 18 y.o.

Few teams lose as little as PC lost due to graduation. Further PC actually played without two of the departed seniors for the last 20% of the season so adjustments have already been made. The Friars are also very fortunate to have a very solid class of seniors leading this team.. It is also the first time they have had a full off-season to benefit from the change in philosophy in the program.

In the end PC finished 6 points behind BU, but they lost three games where they held the lead in the final minutes of the game only to come away with no points. In turn they built a five point gap between themselves and 6th place Vermont. In the playoffs PC again pushed the home team (UNH) to double overtime in the elimination game before succumbing.

If there is a problem it is to make sure the Friars score more goals. PC's leading scorer, Torry Gajda had only 34 points. Clearly that is the goal, the coach said he ‘expected to raise the bar and continue the progress from last season". When talking about offense the coach pointed out several general areas where he sees us scoring more goals. First he was pleased with the end of season play of his big guns, Jon Rheault and Colin McDonald. In fact I asked him if Rheault was the quality player who could win a scoring title and the coach answered unequivocally, "yes". He named other veterans who should be able to step up their contributions, most notably he named Chase Wastson, Tony Zancanaro, and his sophomores Kyle Laughlin and Nick Mazzolini. He was also quick to point out the he will also have Jon Mori back from injury and he was very pleased with his top two forward recruits John Cavanaugh and Chris Eppich.

On the defensive end PC pretty much plays a pat hand. Providence has 6 returning veterans including all rookie team member Cody Wild. However with so many players have gained so much experience it can be expected that many of them will have better years this year then last. While many PC forwards had career years last year the same can not be said for the defense. Three were freshmen, one then sophomore suffered through an injury plagued season and the other sophomore saw his first real consistent ice time.

The coach also got to speak about the goaltending since our last conversation predated the official signing of freshman net minder Ryan Simpson. Overall the coach called the goaltending situation stronger and said, "The situation we have makes Tyler Sims a better goalie". Basically the plan is to rely on Sim's experience and at the same time give Simpson significant playing time so that when he reaches his junior year he will be in position to lead this team. In evaluating Simpson for me Coach Army called him a "hybrid goalie". In short his definition of that meant Simpson has both the style and the athleticism to be a top flight goalie. Simpson is a big goalie going about 6'1 and about 190 pounds and at the same time is reputed to be a smart goalie who knows his position, for example how to front shooters.

In the end we should be more solid in this critical position. Sims should get the needed relief to be strong and sharp down the stretch and Simpson should prove to be an extremely capable backup ready to assume more responsibility if the situation arises.


University of Maine

Departures
Steve Mullin – Defense 0-4-4
Travis Wight – Defense 2-9-11
Greg Moore – Forward 28-17-45
John Hopson – Forward 10-14-24
Jon Jankus – Forward 7-11-18
Derek Damon – Forward 15-20-35
Matt Lundin – Goalie

Key Returnees
Josh Soares Sr – Forward 15-26-41
Michel Leveille Sr- Forward 16-24-40
Keith Johnson Sr – Forward 6-7-13
Mike Hamilton Sr – Forward 1-10-11
Brent Shepheard Sr – Forward 5-3-8
Billy Ryan Jr – Forward 10-18-28
Keenan Hopson Jr – Forward 4-19-23
Rob Bellamy Jr – Forward 6-9-15
Mike Lundin Sr – Defense 3-13-16
Brett Tyler Jr – Defense 7-16-23
Travis Ramsey Jr – Defense 1-5-6
Matt Duffy So – Defense 3-5-8
Simon Danis-Pepin So – Defense 0-5-5
Brian Plaszcz So – Defense 1-0-1
Ben Bishop So – Goalie 21-8-2 2.28 gaa .907 save pct

Arrivals
Ted Purcell – Forward – Cedar Rapids (USHL) 6' 2" 180 21 y.o. 19-52-71
Tony Morrone – Forward – South Kent (Prep) 5'10" 200 19 y.o. 17.38-55
Zach Sill – Forward – Truro (MJHL – Maritime) 6'0" 180 18 y.o 12-8-20.
Tyler Czuba – Forward – Swan Valley (MJHL) 5'11" 200 21 y.o. 60-41-101
David de Kastrozza – Forward – Culver Academy (Prep) 6'4" 205 19 y.o.
Brett Carriere – Defense – NE Jr Cyclones (AtlJHL) 6'0 210 21 y.o. 9-49-58
David Wilson – Goalie – Streetsville (OPJHL) 6'1" 195 21 y.o.

Even with the untimely death several year ago of Shawn Walsh, the architect of the Maine's hockey success, the Black Bears have found ways to continue to be successful. You do not see many big names on their roster, they generally seem to come from obscure places and are slightly older players. What does happen is they get blended into the system and become key components. This is a team that epitomizes the saying about the sum of the parts being greater then the whole.

Maine in a lot of ways is like BU. They are still built the old fashioned way with size and a desire to grind it out. They don't have the offensive flair of a BC and they rely heavily on their goaltender to bail them out.

The goalie might be the most recognizable name on the roster. He is sophomore Ben Bishop, a 6'7 giant who had a stellar freshman campaign where he picked up where Maine's All-American goalie Jimmy Howard left off.

Maine's second strong area is the rock solid defensive games that players like Mike Lundin, Brett Tyler and Travis Ramsey bring to rink. To replace the departing seniors though the Black Bears will look more to Matt Duffy and Simon Danis-Pepin now they are sophomores. The defensive corps is augmented by the arrival of freshmen Brett Carriere from the Atlantic Junior Hockey League.

While Maine is considered a defense first team they still possess several potent weapons. Most notably Hockey East's oldest player, Michel Leveille, and fellow senior Josh Soares. They hope for better years from Billy Ryan and Rob Bellamy. They are also pinning some of their hopes on several recruits including Ted Purcell out of the USHL and Tyler Czuba, a goal scoring phenom, from the Maritime Junior Hockey League.

The most obvious reason Maine might dip in the standings is that there is an uncertainty where the offense is going to come from. The Black Bears are going to miss their two native sons, Greg Moore who notched 28 goals and Derek Damon who light the lamp 15 times. As is also evidenced by the large class coming in Maine had a lot of experience graduate


University of New Hampshire

Departures
Andrew Leach – Forward 4-3-7
Mark Kolanos – Forward 0-0-0
Brian Foley – Forward /Defense 0-0-0
Brian Yandle – Defense 6-24-30
Jeff Pietrasiak – Goalie 12=5=2 2.21 gaa .929 save pct
Daniel Winnik – Forward 15-26-41
Michael Huchins – Defense 2-2-4

Key Returnees
Jacob Micflikier Sr – Forward 16-26-42
Brett Hemmingway Sr – Forward 19-22-41
Josh Ciocco Sr – Forward 7-11-18
Mike Radja Jr – Forward 8-9-17
Matt Fornataro Jr – Forward 5-7-12
Brian Pouliot Jr – Forward 2-6-8
Trevor Smith So – Forward 10-10-20
Jerry Pollastrone So – Forward 4-12-16
Thomas Fortney So – Forward 5-8-13
Greg Collins So – Forward 5-1-6
Chris Murray Sr – Defense 2-6-8
Craig Switzer Jr – Defense 2-14-16
Brad Flaishans – Jr Defense 2-8-10
Jamie Fritsch So – Defense 4-6-10
Joe Charlebois So – Defense 2-3-5
Kevin Regan Jr – Goalie 8-8-5 2.63 gaa .914 save pct

Arrivals
Bobby Butler – Forward – Jr Bruins (EJHL) 6'0" 185 19 y.o. 22-22-44
Peter LeBlanc – Forward – Hamilton (OPJHL- Ontario) 5'11" 195 18 y.o. 10-12-22 NHL Draft Pick
Nick Krates – Defense – Omaha (USHL) 6'2" 195 19 y.o. 1-10-11
Brian Foster – Goalie – Des Moines (USHL) 6'2" 180 19 y.o. 2.81 gaa
Dan Rossman – Forward – Jr. Warriors (EJHL) 6'0" 190 19 y.o. 13-23-36

Just how close the Hockey East race is expected to be is exemplified by the departure of Dan Winnik who early passing up his senior year with the Wildcats. It is possible this would be the team that would be the choice for the top spot if he had stayed. However his loss combined with the loss of All-American Brian Yandle on the blue line leaves UNH with several large holes to fill.

UNH has a team that is built to take advantage of the tighter called game, and they benefit from having a home ice with a super sized Olympic ice surface. UNH's biggest strength does seem to be its offense. They have continued to bring in solid goal scorers adding players such as Jr Bruin Bobby Butler and NHL draft pick Peter LeBlanc to an already potent arsenal. The returning weapons are led by Brett Hemmingway and Jacob Micflikier. This pair of Cats though are aided by the return of able goal scorers such as Josh Ciocco, Mike Radja and Trevor Smith.

In fact one of the areas UNH might improve the most is offense. Winnik scored 41 of the 48 points the 4 departing senior forwards scored. If the underclassmen step up and if the three incoming freshmen make up a significant portion of the 48 graduated points UNH will still be a formidable force.

UNH's biggest need is to replace Yandle, while somewhat suspect on the defensive end he was a dynamic offensive force, especially on the power play. Neither the returning defensemen, while capable of being solid, nor freshman recruit Nick Krates have shown the same skills Yandle brought to the table. Further UNH is the only perceived playoff contender who has lost a goalie who played the larger share of minutes. That means either the other end of that tandem, Kevin Regan must step up, or freshman Brian Foster must hold up his end.


Northeastern University

Departures
Steve Sanders – Forward 0-2-2
Brian Swiniarski – Forward 2-4-6
Chuck Tomes – Defense 2-6-8
Tim Heneroty – Goalie
Carter Lee- Forward 0-1-1
Matti Uusivirta – Forward 4-5-9
Pat Noonan - Forward 0-0-0
Steve McClellan - Defense 0-0-0

Key Returnees
Mike Morris Sr – Forward Injured
Jimmy Russo Jr – Forward 5-13-18
Ryan Ginand So – Forward 10-6-16
Joe Vitale So – Forward 8-8-16
Dennis McCauley So – Forward 7-7-14
Bryan Esner Sr – Forward 6-7-13
Yale Lewis Sr- Forward 5-6-11
Rob Rossey So – Forward 2-8-10
Josh Robertson Jr – Forward 1-9-10
Joe Santilli Sr – Forward 5-4-9
Steve Birnstill Sr – Defense 2-14-16
Brian Deeth Sr – Defense 3-2-5
Louis Liotti So – Defense 1-5-6
Adam Geragosian Sr – Goalie 3-14-6 3.24 gaa .902 save pct

Arrivals
Greg Costa – Forward – Boston Bulldogs (AtlJHL) 5'8" 183 21y.o. 29-71-100
Joe Cucci – Forward – Jr Warriors – (EJHL) 5'11" 160 20 y.o. 29-24-53
Chad Costello – Forward – Cedar Rapids (USHL) 5'9" 173 20 y.o. 31-45-76
Randy Guzior – Forward – Chicago (USHL) 6'1" 193 20 y.o. 17-22-39
Chris Donovan – Forward – Jr Bruins (EJHL) 5'8" 176 21 y.o. 27-25-52
Kyle Kraemer – Forward – Witchita Falls (NAHL) 5'10" 192 21 y.o. 29-33-62
Jim Driscoll – Defense – Jr Bruins (EJHL) 5'9" 186 21 y.o. 7-36-43
Dave Strathman – Defense – Cedar Rapids (USHL) 6'1" 176 21 y.o. 12-19-31
Brad Thiessen – Goalie – Merritt (BCHL) 6'0" 171 20 y.o. 22-21-4 2.88 gaa.922 save pct
Dylan Wiwchar – Forward – Bonnyville (AJHL) 6'1" 205

At this point there still are a lot of questions concerning this team. They have a recent track record of struggling and despite the size of their incoming class they do not really have a star on the horizon. Still things are looking up and it seems NU has done the most to make forward progress of the remaining teams.

Second year coach Greg Cronin is still shuffling his players as evidenced by the fact that several of the underclassmen were not invited back. The large class represents a shot gun method to trying to get better. Beyond that you rely on his ability as a coach to change the culture. Like at PC with Coach Army, Cronin has a pro background and appears to be making the changes needed to step up.

Clearly though he still does have problems. The Huskies are looking for freshman goalie Brad Thiessen to step up and assert himself as the number one goalie. Last year with the departure the previous year of Keni Gibson NU lost that strength in their last line of defense. If he does not take the job it may fall back to the incumbent Adam Geragosian

On defense only senior Steve Birnstill has consistently shown an ability to play at a top level. However again with an incoming pair of defensemen from juniors the Huskies hope they will plug up the defensive end. What that really might do is to allow the new breed of Huskie forward to play a more offensive game and score more goals.

If all goes well NU will be buoyed by the return of injured red shirt senior Mike Morris who played a key role on their last playoff team before missing last year with a severe concussion. It also might open things up to see large improvements in the game of players such as Jimmy Russo, Ryan Ginand and Joe Vitale. Additionally several of the incoming freshmen have proved to be solid offensive players in the past, players such as Joe Cussi, Chad Costello, Chris Donovan and Kyle Kraemer .


University of Vermont

Departures
Jeff Corey – Forward 16-15-31
Ben Driver – Forward 1-2-3
Joey Gasparini – Forward 0-2-2
Brady Leisenring – Forward 11-24-35
Baron Becker – Forward 0-0-0
Matt Syroczynski – Forward 3-6-9
Jamie Sifers – Defense 3-15-18
Phil Youngclaus – Defense 0-0-0
Travis Russell – Goalie

Key Returnees
Torrey Mitchell Sr – Forward 12-28-40
Dean Strong So – Forward 9-15-24
Peter Lenes So – Forward 13-7-20
Corey Carlson So – Forward 6-9-15
Chris Meyers Sr – Forward 7-6-13
Kenny Macauley Sr – Defense 4-12-16
Ryan Gunderson Sr – Defense 2-13-15
Slavomir Tomko Sr – Defense 1-6-7
Mark Lutz Jr - Defense 5-4-9
Kyle Kuk So – Defense 0-5-5
Joe Fallon Jr – Goalie 14-14-5 2.20 gaa .907 save pct

Arrivals
Colin Vock – Forward – Des Moines (USHL) 5'11" 175 20 y.o.
Brian Roloff – Forward – Green Bay (USHL) 5'10" 180 20 y.o.
Chris Atkinson – Forward - USNDPT 5'10" 170 18 y.o.
Braydon Irwin – Forward – St Mikes (OPJHL – Ontario) 6'5" 205 19 y.o.
Viktor Stalberg – Forward – Frolunda Sweden 6'2" 196 20 y.o
Jonathan Higgins – Forward – Green Mountain (EJHL) 6'1" 180 20 y.o.
Jay Anctil – Forward – Boston Buldogs (Ind) 5'10" 185 21 y.o.
Patrick Cullity – Defense – Berkshire (Prep) 6'2" 200 19 y.o.
Mike Spillane – Goalie – Omaha (USHL) 5'10" 185 19 y.o

Vermont enters its second Hockey East season on a bit of a rebuilding season. Vermont has lost three key contributors in Jamie Sifers, Brady Leisenring and Jeff Corey. Sifers was the heart of the Catamount defense and Leisenring and Corey were the second and third leading scorers on a team that were could have used more offense last season.

In goal Vermont hopes junior Joe Fallon plays closer to the form he showed in his freshman year. Having lost 6 other seniors, beside the 3 mentioned, who played more minor roles they still will have a lack of experience except in net. Fallon is supported by a defense anchored by three seniors, Ryan Gunderson, Kenny Macauley and Slavomir Tomko. However the recruit coming in to replace Sifers was originally slated to go to BU before he and BU mutually agreed to go their own ways.

Up front the Cats return their top scorer Torrey Mitchell. He is backed up by a trio of sophomores who had strong freshmen seasons, Dean Strong, Peter Lenes and Corey Carlson. To make up for the departed offense Vermont must get some solid contributions from some of the 7 first year forwards.


University of Massachusetts-Lowell

Departures
Elias Godoy – Forward 5-22-27
Danny O'Brien – Forward 14-13-27
Brad King – Forward 5-7-12
Mark Pandolfo – Forward 13-13-26
Andrew Martin – Forward 7-5-12
Matt Walsh – Forward 3-6-9
Bobby Robins – Forward 13-18-31
Peter Hanlon – Forward 0-0-0
Kim Brandvold – Defense 1-2-3
Matt Collar – Defense 1-2-3
Peter Vetri – Goalie 13-20-2 3.58 gaa .892 save pct
Grant Farrell – Defense 2-3-5
Adam Stanieich – Defense 0-1-1
Bobby McCabe – Defense 0-0-0
Paul D'Agastino – Defense 0-2-2

Key Returnees
Jason Tejchma Sr - Forward 10-16-26
Jeremy Hall Sr – Forward 12-13-25
Mark Roebothan So – Forward 5-3-8
J. R. Bria Sr – Defense 5-8-13
Cleve Kinley Sr – Defense 0-12-12
Jake Pence Sr – Defense 0-4-4

Arrivals
Jason Bergeron – Forward – Milton (OPJHL) 5'8 165 18 y.o. 15-34-49
Chris Auger – Forward – Wellington (OPJHL)5'11 165 18 y.o. 41-51-92 NHL Draft Pick
Paul Worthington – Forward – Green Mountain (EJHL) 5' 8" 165 20 y.o 21-38-59
Frankie Stegnar – Forward – Brampton (OPJHL) 6'4" 215 18 y.o. 39-21-60
Ian Schaser – Forward – Bridgewater (EJHL) 5'10" 180 21 y.o. 33-27-60
Jonathan Maniff – Forward – Walpole (EJHL) 5'9" 175 19 y.o. 22-18-40
Ben Holmstrom – Forward - Sioux Falls (USHL) 5'11" 165 19 y.o. 10-9-19
Kory Falite – Forward – Jr Bruins (EJHL) 5'9" 175 20 y.o. 21-34-55
Nick Schaus – Defense – Omaha (USHL) 5'11" 182 20 y.o. 9-44-53
Barry Goers – Defense – Green Mountain (EJHL) 5'8 165" 20 y.o. 5-34-39
Jeremy Dehner – Defense – Green Bay (USHL) 5'9" 177 19 y.o. 8-31-39
Steve Capraro – Defense - Avon Old Farm (Prep) 5'9" 165 20 y.o. 6-18-24
Tommy Powers – Defense – Cornwall (COJHL) 6'3" 200 21 y.o.
Carter Hutton – Goalie – Fort Williams (SIJHL) 6'1" 190 20 y.o.
Nevin Hamilton – Goalie – Boston Jr Bruins (EJHL) 6'1" 205 21 y.o.

Lowell really looks like an obvious choice to pick out of the playoffs. They had their starting goalie transfer out, their coach is on the hot seat, they had 15 players graduate or leave the program and 15 new faces are arriving.

Despite that I think Lowell has enough talent to eek their way into the playoffs. First Blaise McDonald is the only league coach currently on the hot seat so he will be working hard to get some results. Fortunately for him a team like his has no expectations and making the playoffs would be a great step to build on going forward.

Lowell's biggest problem is replacing Peter Vetri, who gave them two solid years in goal. To replace him they will rely on one of two newcomers, Carter Hutton or Nevin Hamilton. Defensively the team is bringing in 5 freshmen to reinforce seniors J. R. Bria and Cleve Kinley. Of the recruits Barry Goers garnered high honors in the EJHL and Nick Schaus took top honors in the USHL.

Up front Lowell lost a bevy of good players such as Elias Godoy, Danny O'Brien, Bobby Robins, and Andrew Martin. McDonald's task will be to get the few veterans he has such as Jason Tejchma and Jeremy Hall to lead the way for the younger players. One key player is sophomore Mark Roebothan, who actually came in a year early when the Bruins signed River Hawk star Ben Walters, last year he scored only 5 goals as he adjusted to college hockey. The Hawk's hope is that he breaks out in a big way this season. Of the eight forwards arriving for Lowell immediate contributions are expected from Chris Auger.


University of Massachusetts

Departures
Jamie Solon – Forward 10-19-29
Stephen Werner – Forward 13-14-27
Marvin Degon – Defense 10-19-29
Gabe Winer – Goalie 9-11-1 2.48 gaa .920 save pct
Garrett Summerfield - Forward 0-0-0
Jesse Downey - Defense 0-0-0

Key Returnees
Matt Anderson Sr – Forward 7-13-20
Chris Capraro Sr – Forward 8-11-19
P J Fenton Jr – Forward 5-12-17
Chris Davis So – Forward 9-9-18
Cory Quirk So – Forward 8-5-13
Mark Matheson Sr – Defense 3-11-14
Mike Kostka Jr Defense 2-6-8
Topher Bevis So – Defense 1-5-6
Jon Quick So – Goalie 4-10-1 2.98 gaa .920 save pct

Arrivals
Brett Watson – Forward – Tri-City (USHL) 5'11" 170 21 y.o 9-14-23
Will Ortiz – Forward – Salisbury (Prep)5'9" 170 20 y.o 24-14-38
Dan Meyers – Goalie – Green Mountain (EJHL) 6'2" 215 21 y.o
Justin Braun – Defense – Green Bay (USHL) 6'1 180 19 y.o 2-11-13
Kevin Kessler – Defense – N. H. Monarchs (EJHL) 6'3" 215 20 y.o 6-9-15
Martin Nolet – Defense – College Champlain (LHJAQ) 6'3" 205 20 y.o. 5-7-12 NHL Draft Pick

In the 2003-04 season this team rode banner seasons from Thomas Pock and Greg Mauldin to the Hockey East finals. Following that season Pock graduated and Mauldin left school early for the pros. In the past two seasons UMass has fallen to a pair of 13 wins years.

This season Jon Quick will be expected to take over full time goaltending duties and to build on his solid freshman season. UMass will scrap for all the goals they can get. They are led offensively by senior Matt Anderson who suffered through an injury plagued season two years ago and produced only 20 points as a junior. The Minutemen also lack the explosive two way defensemen many teams have, their top returnee is Mark Matheson. The top offensive hope coming in is Will Ortiz from the Salisbury School. The defense's big addition is Martin Nolet who was taken in the NHL draft.


Merrimack

Departures
Brent Gough – Forward 1-12-13
Nick Pomponio – Forward 0-1-1
Matt Johnson – Forward 14-5-19
Rob Lalonde – Defense 0-3-3
Bryan Schmidt – Defense 6-10-16
Scott Drewicki – Defense 1-8-9
Frank McLaughlin – Goalie
Jordan Black – Forward 1-3-4
Jordan Fox Forward 3-1-4
Mike Fournier – Forward 2-2-4
Rob Ricci So – Forward 10-16-26 (Suspended for season)

Key Returnees
Mike Alexiou Sr – Forward 2-11-13
Hank Carisio Sr – Forward 6-3-9
Justin Mills Sr – Forward 3-4-7
Matt Byrnes Sr – Forward 3-4-7
Jeff Royston Jr Forward 3-4-7
Derek Pallardy Jr – Forward 2-4-6
Ryan Sullivan – Sr Defense 0-4-4
Brian Bouley – Sr Defense 0-3-3
Brock Wilson – So Defense 1-1-2
Jim Healey Sr – Goalie 4-15-2 3.48 gaa .892 save pct
Pat Watson So – Goalie 2.-7-2 2.72 gaa .920 save pct

Arrivals
Matt   Jones – Forward – Sioux Falls (USHL) 6'4" 205 20 y.o. 11-8-19
Mike Vaskivou – Forward – South Kent (Prep 6'1" 198 20 y.o. 29-26-55
Patrick Kimball – Forward – Jr. Bruins (EJHL) 5'8" 170 20 y.o 19-24-43
Justin Bonatatibus – Forward – Walpole (EJHL) 6'0" 190 20 y. o 21-28-49
Brandon Sadlowski – Defense – Fort McMurray (AJHL – Alberta) 6'0" 185 20 y.o 5-27-32
Joe Loprieno – Defense – Chicago (USHL) 6'3" 205 20 y.o 3-10-13.
Pat Bowen – Defense – N. H. Monarchs (EJHL) 6'0 190 21 y.o 9-32-41
Dave Burkholder – Defense – Welland (GHJHL) 5'11" 180 19 y.o 7-20-27
J. Christopher Robitaille – Forward – St Jerome (LHJAQ) 6'1" 195 19 y.o
Andrew Brathwaite – Goalie – Chilliwack (BCHL) 6'2" 180 21 y.o

Generally Merrimack is chosen near the bottom of the league every season and have generally followed true to that form. This year they are looking to rise up the ranks at the same time they are rebuilding. They are in the second year of the Mark Dennehy era so that process is only beginning. It is complicated by the fact they lost 10 players including stalwarts Bryan Schmidt on defense and Matt Johnson on defense. In turn they are trying to blend in 10 newcomers from various backgrounds.

The Warrior's strongest point might be their goaltending with reliable senior Jim Healey backed up by Pat Watson. With the announced suspension for the season of leading scorer Rob Ricci Merrimack has no one on the roster who scored more then six goals last season.

Realistically Merrimack will play the role of spoiler this season. This will be a team that is hungry and trying to make a name for themselves. Last season they proved to PC they were very capable to play this role as they defeated Providence in a come from behind victory on PC's senior night.

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