Hockey East Preview- Merrimack College Warriors

September 22nd, 2014


Head Coach- Mark Dennehy (10th Season)

Last Season-8-22-3 (HE: 3-15-2)

Losses: F Rhett Bly, F Connor Toomey, F Mike Collins, D Brendan Ellis, D Jordan Heywood, D Thomas McCarthy, G Sam Marotta

Newcomers: F Jace Henning, F Teddy McCarran, F Brett Seney, F Mathieu Tibbet, F Alfred Larsson D Jared Kolquist, D Aaron Titcomb, D Marc Biega, D Braxton Bilous, G Collin Delia

The Warriors took a major step back last season finishing under .500 in the conference for the first time since the 2008-2009 season.

Last place Merrimack did not do anything well last year finishing at or near the bottom of the conference in every major category. They were last in scoring offense and defense and had the worst special teams in the conference.

Dennehy’s last place scoring offense (1.6 g/gm) is going to take another hit this season with the loss of leading point scorer Mike Collins, who had a hand in 40% of the Warriors goals last season. Junior Brian Christie and senior Quinn Gould who were responsible for 14 points apiece will both need to step up in a big way to dig this offense out of the cellar.

The blue line is not looking much more promising for the Warriors. The losses of key facilitators Brendan Ellis and Jordan Heywood leave gaping holes in the back where they were already weak, allowing 3.3 g/gm. The one bright spot for Dennehy’s club among defenseman is the return of Justin Mansfield who, in his junior season last year, played in all 33 games and was one of only two Warriors to post in the positive for plus/minus. If Mansfield can stay out the penalty box, a place he knew well last year, racking up 36 penalty minutes.  Besides Mansfield, senior Dan Kolomotis and sophomore Jonathan Lashyn will need to step up after being two of the best defenseman for Merrimack last season but average compared to the rest of the conference.

Senior Rasmus Tirronen will handle the goaltending duties for the Warriors again after an unspectacular 2013- 2014 campaign. Tirronen’s .895 save percentage and .267 win percentage were good for last in conference among qualifying goalies. With no real competition for the job, it looks like Dennehy does not have much choice but to start his senior and hope he plays better than last season.

Bottom line: Don’t expect too much improvement from Merrimack this season. While they are unlikely to be as bad road as they were last year posting only one win, they did not gain much and they lost the bulk of their offense. Don’t be surprised when the Warrior’s are bottom feeders yet again this season in Hockey East.

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Hockey East Preview- Boston University Terriers

September 21st, 2014


Head Coach – David Quinn (2nd season)

Last Season – 10-21-4 (HE: 5-12-3) 9th place

Losses – D Patrick MacGregor, D Garret Noonan, F Jake Moscatel, F/D Matt Ronan, D J.D Carrabino, F Brendan Collier, G Anthony Moccia

Newcomers- F Brandon Fortunato, F Jake Eichel, F Chase Phelps, F Nikolas Olsson, F A.J. Greer,F J.J. Piccinich D John MacLeod, D Brien Diffley, D Brandon Hickey, G Connor LaCouvee

With a new face behind the bench for the first time in 40 years, the Terriers took a major step backwards.

Coach David Quinn inherited a young team from his mentor and long time BU fixture  Jack Parker and they didn’t have the kind of season you would expect from a storied program like BU. They finished 9th in the conference and couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net, finishing tied for last in the conference in scoring defense. Their offense was a little better but not by much, finishing tied for 8th in the conference in scoring offense. Worst of all for the Boston based school; they didn’t even get out of the semifinals of the Beanpot, losing to Boston College 3-1.

The offense looks primed for a bounce back season, however, returning their top three point scorers from a year ago, including Robbie Baillargeon, the team’s breakout freshman superstar last season who lead the Terriers in points and finished tied for 19th in the conference in that category. In addition to Baillargeon and the other top point getters, seniors D Ahti Ohksanan and F Danny O’Reagan, BU returns five forwards who were freshmen last season. The young forwards now have college hockey experience and year of playing together. Despite their lackluster performance last year, the Terriers look ready to put the puck in the back of the net at a much higher clip than their paltry 2.15 g/gm last season.

Along the blue line, the Terriers best two way player Ohksanan returns for his senior season, looking to lead a defense that put up little resistance last season. Loosing D Garret Noonan and Patrick MaCgregor won’t help the cause seeing as both played in every game last season and lead the team in blocks with 71 and 61. The three rising sophomores, Doyle Somerby, Dalton MacAffe, and T.J Ryan, will need to step up this season will need to step up after subpar freshman campaigns where each logged over 24 games but none made a major impact.

Two juniors will duke it out over who gets most of the goaltending duties with Matt O’Connor playing in more games last year but Sean Maguire playing better. Neither were spectacular but the slight edge goes to Maguire whose save percentage was 22 percentage points better at .938 than O’Connor’s.

Bottom Line- Don’t expect BU to be as bad as they were last year. They is too much history in the program to keep them down for long. The offense will be much this season will the development of young players including Baillargeon and the return of veterans Ohksanan and O’Reagan. If the defense and goalie tandem of O’Connor and Maguire can keep anything out of the net, look for BU to get back to the middle of the conference this season with eyes on the top tier in the next few years.

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Hockey East Preview- Providence College Friars

September 20th, 2014


Head Coach – Nate Leaman (4th Season)

Last Season – 22-11-6 (HE: 11-7-2) Lost in NCAA East Regional Semifinals

Losses – D Kevin Hart, D Mark Adams, D Steven Shamanski, D Will Goss, F Derek Army, G Brendan Leahy

Newcomers- F Robbie Hennessey, F Brian Phino, F Alex Cromwell, D Logan Day, D Jake Walman, D Truman Reed,

When the Providence College Friars only earned one point in the span of five games from the end of January through mid-February, many questioned goalie Jon Gillies, and his ability to win down the stretch. The Friars from their on out, won six in a row before bowing out of the Hockey East Tournament to New Hampshire. The Friars season would end two games later after loosing to the eventual NCAA Champions, Union, in the East Regional Final.

Gilles, who stepped up to the challenge down the stretch last season, will return as a junior a season after posting a .931 save percentage, allowing a stingy 2.16 goals per game. The Hobey Baker hopeful will be expected to once again be one of the best goaltenders in the country, if his Friars want to stay contenders in Hockey East.

He will be joined by the Friars top five goal scorers in Ross Mauermann, Nick Saracino, Mark Jankowski, Noel Acciari and Shane Luke, each of who scored at least 10 goals last season. With another year of experience under their belt, Providence will look to improve their 2.95 goals per game average which landed them fifth among Hockey East competitors. The Friars scored 51 less goals than rival Boston College who only played one more game than Providence.

One area Providence will look to improve this season is the power play. The Friars were tied with Merrimack for last in Hockey East going 24/171 (14%), a stat that if improved will only make the already potent offense even more dangerous. On the flip side they will hope to replicate the success they had last year on the penalty kill. Providence was second in the conference with a 87.2% kill rate.

Bottom Line- Providence will likely be a top three team in Hockey East, and should be considered serious contenders for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. As dangerous as the Friars were last season, with the core of their team returning they are only going to be that much better and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they win a trophy or two at the TD Garden this season.

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Hockey East Preview- University of Massachusetts Minutemen

September 18th, 2014


Losses: F Peter DeAngelo, F Branden Gracel, G Mac Haight, D Joel Hanley, F Patrick Kiley, F Michael Pereira, F Adam Phillips, D Anthony Raiola, D Colin Shea, F Conor Sheary, F Brandon Wahlin
Newcomers: F Kevin Burchett, G Henry Dill, D Jake Horton, F Dennis Kravchenko, F Patrick Lee, F Riley McDougall, D Maddison Smiley, F Dominic Trento, F Anthony Petrell
Rough would probably be an understatement when it comes to describing last season for the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. A year after earning 12 wins in his first year as head coach, John Micheletto and the Minutemen regressed to 8-22-4 (4-13-3 in Hockey East) and finished tenth in the 11-team conference. He will now be tasked with keeping the team competitive and out of the Hockey East cellar.
Complicating this task is the departure of the three top scorers from last years’ team. Over 33 percent of the Minutemen’s offensive firepower was provided by Conor Sheary, Michael Pereira and Branden Gracel, who have now graduated. Redshirt senior Troy Power now steps up as a returning captain and the veteran scorer up front, and will look to improve on his balanced junior season that included 10 goals and seven assists. Joining him up top will be sophomores Steven Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi, who will try and show that their strong freshmen seasons were no fluke. The two combined for 39 points last season, with Iacobellis tying for second on the team in goals with 11 and earning team Rookie of the Year honors.
Micheletto will also look for his incoming freshmen to make an impact on the attack this season. Kevin Burchett, Dennis Kravchenko, Patrick Lee, Dominic Trento and Anthony Petrella will look to have the same type of seasons as Iacobellis and Pigozzi enjoyed during their freshmen years. More of interest, however, is newcomer Riley McDougall, who finished off last season as the leading scorer on the Calgary Mustangs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League with 30 goals and 31 assists. His pace and hockey sense will help the Minutemen keep opposing defenders on the edge.
On defense, Massachusetts will try to replace graduated seniors Colin Shea and Joel Hanley, both of whom played in all 34 games last season. Beyond their leadership and defensive prowess, the two also finished second and third respectively on the team in assists last season. The team will return junior Ben Gallacher, who instantly becomes the de facto leader in the back. Seniors Mike Busillo and Oleg Yevenko will look to step in and take a larger role than they had last year. Micheletto will also need to get some disciplined play from his youngsters, as sophomore Mark Hetnik, sophomore Brennan Baxandall, freshman Jake Horton and freshman Maddison Smiley will all get opportunities to contribute.
Incumbent starter in net Steve Mastalerz returns for his senior season and will try to best the career high goals against average of 2.77 and save percentage of .907 that he set during his first season as the full-time starter last year. Behind him, the Minutemen have planned for their future, with sophomore Alex Wakaluk and freshman Henry Dill waiting in the wings should help be needed.
Bottom Line: Micheletto is confident that the Minutemen are heading in the right direction. While they may manage to best their four conference wins of last year, it is hard to envision Massachusetts finishing anywhere better than ninth in a competitive Hockey East this season.

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Hockey East Preview- University of Vermont Catamounts

September 15th, 2014


Vermont Catamounts

Head Coach – Kevin Sneddon (12th Season)

Last Season – 20-15-3 (HE: 10-10-0) 7th place, lost in first round of NCAA tournament

Losses: F Chris McCarthy, F H.T. Lenz, F Anthony DeCenzo, F Pete Massar, F Matt White, F Connor Brickley, F Kyle Mountain, D Nick Bruneteau.

Newcomers: F Travis Blanleil , F Rob Darrar, D Mitch Ferguson, F Kevin Irwin, F Anthony Petruzzelli, D Trey Phillips, D Alexx Privitera,F Jarrid Privitera.

Last year, Vermont continued their rebuild, cementing themselves as a middle of the pack team at 10-10-0 in the Hockey East, a far cry from the 3-23-1 mark they posted in the conference just two seasons prior.

Coach Sneddon’s squad will look to continue their improvement this year despite the loss of seven senior forwards including their leading point scorer from a year ago (7th in Hockey East), Chris McCarthy, who graduated out of the program and signed with the Rangers organization.

With a below average offense last year, ranking 8th in the conference with 2.76 g/gm, those losses could be critical if the young guys don’t step up.

The Catamounts incoming class includes five new forwards but the player Vermont will need to rely on the most offensively will be sophomore forward Mario Puskarich. Puskarich enjoyed a breakout freshman campaign ranking 5th in the Hockey East in goals scored with 19 and racking up 36 points, good for 13th in the conference.

Defensively the Catamounts solid last year, ranking 4th in scoring defense. Despite the loss of Nick Bruneteau, Vermont’s blue liners should be solid yet again with another year of experience under the belt of what was a young squad last year.

In net the Catamounts don’t have a standout performer but they do have two solid young goalies that split time evenly last season. Both junior Brady Hoffman and sophomore Mike Santaguida return in net for Vermont and neither outplayed the other last season to solidify themselves as the frontrunner for this year. It will be interesting to watch who gets the majority of time in goal this season or if Coach Sneddon will elect to give them each equal ice time as he did last year.

For Sneddon’s squad to have success this upcoming season Puskarich is likely going to have to improve on his already impressive freshman season and hope that the void left by McCarthy’s offensively can be filled from either a breakout performer or a solid team effort. Defensively, look for the Catamounts to be even better this year, with their youth in the back finally coming of age.

Bottom line: Expect Vermont to be a little better than last year, and contend for another NCAA tournament berth.  The offense is likely to take a tiny step back while they will continue to play above average defense.  The Catamounts are likely two seasons away from cracking the top tier of teams in the tough Hockey East.

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Hockey East Preview- University of Massachusetts Lowell Riverhawks

September 13th, 2014


Head Coach – Norm Bazin (4th Season)

Last Season – 26-11-4 (HE: 11-6-3) Won Hockey East Championship, Lost NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinals

Losses – F Shayne Thompson, F Josh Holmstrom, F Joseph Pendenza, F Derek Arnold, D Joe Houk, D Daniel Furlong, G Doug Carr, G Connor Hellebuyck

Newcomers- F Dylan Hollman,F Gage Hough, F Michael Louria F C.J. Smith, F Jake Kamrass, F Ryan Collins, F John Edwardh D Tommy Panico, D Chris Forney, D Tyler Mueller D Lucas Kohls, G Jeff Smith

For the second straight year the Umass- Lowell Riverhawks name will be hanging in the rafters of the TD Garden. After winning their second consecutive Hockey East Championship, and winning a game in the NCAA Tournament, all was well in Lowell until coach Norm Bazin got the message his star goalie Connor Hellebuyck would be leaving to pursue his professional career.

Along with the losses of Derek Arnold and Joseph Pendenza, this Lowell team is going to need a lot of players to step up if they want to even come close to replicating the success the program has had over the past two seasons.

After also loosing backup goalie Doug Carr to graudation, Lowell will turn to Umass-Amherst transfer Kevin Boyle between the pipes in 2014-2015. Boyle spent 2011-2013 in Amherst posting a 16-17-6 record, with .896 save percentage and a 2.86 goals against average.

Adam Chapie and Evan Campbell will be asked to step up in lieu of the departures of Pendenza and Arnold, for a Lowell team who finished 7th in Hockey East last year, scoring 2.83 goals per game.  Despite the mediocrity on the offensive end, Lowell was able to be so successful the past few seasons because of their defense and Hellebuyck, who as a unit allowed a league low 1.88 goals per game last season.

Bottom Line- It was a good run for the Riverhawks who took the conference by surprise the past two seasons. Expect Lowell to finish in the bottom half of the league this season as they try to recover from a couple huge losses in the off season. The Riverhawks have as good a coach as anyone to lead them through this rebuild in Norm Bazin, who in his three seasons so far at Lowell has shown he’s one of the best in the country.

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Hockey East Preview- Notre Dame Fighting Irish

September 11th, 2014


Losses: D Jared Beers, F Jeff Costello, F David Gerths, D Stephen Johns, D Kevin Lind, G Joe Rogers, F Bryan Rust, G Steven Summerhays, D Shayne Taker, F T.J. Tynan, F Mike Voran

Newcomers: D Nathan Billitier, F Anders Bjork, F Bo Brauer, D Tony Bretzman, F Dawson Cook, F Jake Evans, D Jordan Gross, F Connor Hurley, G Cal Petersen, D Luke Ripley

One year after shocking the experts and eliminating powerhouse Boston College in the Hockey East Tournament Quarterfinals, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish find themselves in the middle of a changing of the guard. Gone are some of the staples of last year’s team, and it will be up to head coach Jeff Jackson to find the right lineups that can replace the production of the previous senior class.

Perhaps most crucial will be how the team can replace the scoring of T.J. Tynan, Bryan Rust, Jeff Costello, Stephen Johns and Shayne Taker. The seniors finished last season as five of the top eight scorers on the team, leaving a potential void this year. Jackson will rely heavily on sophomore center Vince Hinostroza, who was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team last season after amassing 32 points, including 24 assists. Hinostroza’s extremely promising freshman campaign has left Jackson confident that he can be a playmaker and facilitator in the clutch.

Hinostroza will share the scoring load with junior captain Steven Fogarty and alternate captains senior Peter Schneider and junior Sam Herr. Fogarty and Schneider combined for just 27 points total last year, but should have more opportunities as they embrace leadership positions for the club. Herr will look to continue his success after a breakout sophomore year that saw him finish third on the team in goals with 14. Junor Mario Lucia will also try to recapture his goal scoring of the previous year, which saw him score 16 goals to go along with 15 assists.

Additionally, Notre Dame’s strong incoming freshman class has the potential to make an immediate impact on the score sheet, as well. Boston Bruins draft pick Anders Bjork can make a splash in South Bend, and his father, Kirk, was an All-American at Notre Dame in 1982. Look for forward Connor Hurley to also have a big impact as a freshman.

The Fighting Irish will also suffer the loss of standout goalie Steven Summerhays, who led Hockey East last year in wins (21), minutes played (2234) and shutouts (7), and also was second in goals against average with 2.04. The Irish may look to sophomore Chad Katunar to provide the saves, but they will most likely use freshman standout Cal Petersen in goal. Petersen, who waited to come to South Bend until incumbent Summerhays graduated, was awarded the Dave Peterson Goalie of the Year Award presented to the top U.S. goaltender each year.

With so much riding on how well young pieces can replace the impact of graduated seniors, the Fighting Irish may get off to a bit of a slow start in the competitive Hockey East. However, if Hinostroza, Herr and Lucia can click up front and Petersen is as good as advertised, Notre Dame may compete for a postseason spot.

Bottom Line: While the changes in personnel mean that Notre Dame may not be a huge threat to win the entire conference, they could prove a dangerous opponent once their pieces click. They will likely finish middle of the pack.

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Hockey East Preview- University of Connecticut Huskies

September 7th, 2014


Head Coach- Mike Cavanaugh (2nd year)

Last Season- 18-14- 4 overall (15-9-3 Atlantic Hockey Conference)

Losses- F Billy Latta, F Jordan Sims, F Brant Harris,F Jo Birmingham, F Sean Gaffney, D Kevin Tuohy, D Chris Bond, D Christian Neumann, G Matt Grogran

Additions- F Will Golonka, F Kasperi Ojantakanen, F Spencer Naas, F Jeff Wright, F Jesse Schwartz, F Corey Ronan, F Evan Richardson, D Johnny Austin, D David Drake, D Derek Pratt, G Steve Thulin

The Huskies are the newcomer to Hockey East this year, coming over after years of solid play in the Atlantic Hockey Conference.

In addition to a new conference, Coach Cavanaugh’s squad is going to have a much different look than last year with massive change among the forwards and in net.

UConn’s top three forwards are all gone in Billy Latta, Brant Harris, and Jordan Sims. While it will be tough to replace their 74 combined points, the biggest loss while be the leadership of last year’s captain Harris. Harris netted 11 goals and assisted on 15 others last season, 2nd and t-1st on the team respectively, and led the team in plus/minus at plus 11. With seven new forwards including Boston College transfer, Evan Richardson, the Huskies offense is hoping to retool despite the fact that the other six besides Richardson are all freshman. Unless junior Shawn Pauly and senior Trevor Gerling (21 and 20 points respectively) step up in a major way it is more likely that the offense will be rebuilding this year instead of retooling.

Along the blue line, there is a little more continuity with no major contributors from last year leaving the program. The defense was solid, but not spectacular last year allowing 2.38 g/gm but they should get even better this year with their top three defenseman, Jacob Poe, Ryan Segalla, and Joona Kunnnas, all returning with another year of experience. Poe, had the most points for the Huskies among defenseman last season with 15 and also posted a plus/ minus of plus 10, good for 2nd on the team. As a senior this season Poe should be just as solid. The more interesting UConn defensmen, however, are sophomores Segalla and Kunnas, who both had excellent freshman campaigns last season playing in 34 and 32 games respectively and combining for 27 points. For both there were some freshman mistakes and it showed, especially for Segalla who ended up with a plus/minus of minus 3 compared to Kunnas’ plus 1. With a year of college hockey under their belt, expect both to improve dramaticaly, in turn improving UConn’s defense.

In goal, last year’s starter Matt Grogan is gone and despite a solid season with a .923 save percentage in 25 starts, the Huskies are likely to get even better next year with sophomore Robby Nichols taking over in net full time. Nichols only played in 13 games as a freshman (11 starts) but he was spectacular when he played, posting two shutouts and a save percentage of .939, averaging less than 2 g/gm (1.91),  and going 8-2-2. Grogan was solid for UConn last year but there is little doubt that Nichols is a step up this year.

UConn had a good year last year in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. The Hockey East is not the Atlantic Hockey Conference. While the change in conference has already seemed to help with recruiting with two very good recruiting classes the past two years, it will take a while before the Huskies will be able to contend in their new conference.

Bottom line: Cavanaugh’s squad has players that were very successful in a lesser talented conference last year. If that success can carry over against stiffer competition and if the incoming freshman play out of their mind, the Huskies are looking at a middle of the pack finish. That is the best case scenario, however. More likely there will be typical growing pains for the freshman and a steep learning curve for the upperclassmen who have to adjust to the tougher league, resulting in UConn toiling near the bottom of the conference for the next few years until they become more of a hockey school like the other members of Hockey East.

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Hockey East Preview- University of New Hampshire Wildcats

September 6th, 2014


Head Coach- Dick Umile (25th Season)

Last Season-22-18-1 (HE: 11-9-0) Lost in Hockey East Championship Game

Losses: F Dalton Speelman, F Jeff Silengo, F Nick Sorkin, F Kevin Goumas, D Eric Knodel, D Trevor van Riemsdyk, D Justin Agosta, G Jeff Wyer

Newcomers: F Warren Foegele, F Jason Salvaggio, F Michael McNicholas, F Shane Eiserman, D Dylan Chanter, D Cameron Marks, D Richard Boyd, F Andrew Poturalski, D John Furgele, G Adam Clark

Going into the Hockey East playoffs last season, the fourth seeded University of New Hampshire Wildcats knew they would need to win the whole thing to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. After narrowly sneaking by Northeastern in an epic 3-game series they shocked the conference dominating Providence College in a 3-1 victory at the TD Garden. Unfortunately for the Wildcats they fell one game short, falling to Umass-Lowell 4-0 in the championship game.

That wasn’t the only loss for New Hampshire on that cold March night. The team quickly came to the realization that they would be without star players Nick Sorkin, Kevin Goumas and Eric Knodel next season due to graduation. To make matters worse they would shortly thereafter lose defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Wildcats offense will take a step back with the loss of both Sorkin and Goumas, the two leading goal scorers on the 2013-2014 team. Seniors Matt Willows and Grayson Downing, who were also solid contributors last season, will be expected to step up and provide the offense and leadership that was lost in the off season.

Defensively New Hampshire took another big step back with the losses of Knodel, van Riemsdyk and Agosta. Brett Pesce will be the anchor of a very inexperienced Wildcats defense this season in what could be a frustrating year up in Durham

In what is devastating news for the Wildcats faithful, starting goalie Casey DeSmith was arrested on August 31st following an alleged domestic incident. DeSmith has been indefinitely suspended from the team and his status for the upcoming season is currently unknown DeSmith, who posted a .920 save percentage, only allowing 2.40 goals per game was very good for New Hampshire down the stretch run last season.

Bottom line: It will likely be a rebuilding year for New Hampshire this season. After loosing the core of their team from last season, Dick Umile will have the challenge of developing a young team, in the always tough Hockey East.

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