2008-09 ECAC Hockey Preview
Cheesy infomercial investment offers often
warn that past performance does not necessarily guarantee
future results. And let's be honest, preseason polls in almost
every instance, at every level of every sport are simply a
reflection of what happened the previous season. So it was
again this year in ECAC Hockey, and nobody should have been
surprised to see Princeton ranked atop the preseason coaches
and media polls, announced last week in Albany.
It's difficult to argue with the reasoning that
voters applied in naming the Tigers preseason favorites. Princeton
finished second in the regular season last year and went on
to win the ECAC Hockey playoff championship in Albany. It
earned the Tigers a trip to the NCAA Tournament for just the
second time in the program's 105-year history.
ECAC Hockey and Ivy League Player of the Year, senior
Lee Jubinville leads preseason favorites Princeton.
Defenseman and team captain Mike Moore graduated
after leading ECAC Hockey defensemen in scoring. Depth forwards
Landis Stankeivech, Kyle Hagel, Keith Shattenkirk and Erik
Pridham also graduated, but the Tigers are in great shape
to repeat or improve upon last season's accomplishments. Princeton
ranked first in overall offense among ECACH teams and returns
it top two forward lines. Defensemen Jody Pederson (16 points)
and Taylor Fedun (14 points) should help account for the loss
of Moore's blueline production.
Princeton won 12 of 14 games down the stretch
to get into ECACH contention before finishing second to Clarkson.
Goaltender Zane Kalemba came alive in the playoffs, shutting
out Yale twice in a quarterfinal series and Colgate in the
semifinals. He made 35 saves in the championship game during
a 4-1 win over Harvard and stopped 62 of 63 that weekend in
At this time last year, Princeton was pegged
for eighth in the preseason league polls. Union was picked
for last place and ended up finishing tied for fourth and
earning a first-round playoff bye. This year's preseason polls
look an awful lot like last year's standings, but this season's
future is anything but guaranteed.
Yale enters its third season
under head coach Keith Allain and has taken strides forward
during his first two campaigns. Improving the team's offensive
depth and attitude has seen an uptick in scoring by the Bulldogs,
especially from underclassmen. Four sophomores and two freshmen
comprised Yale's top six scorers last year and all of them
return, including Sean Backman who has 58 points in 61 career
The news is also good on the defensive side
of the puck. Only one of Yale's six regular defensemen last
year was a senior, and goaltenders Billy Blase and Alec Richards
have proven to be capable Division I goalies at times throughout
their careers. Yale has reduced its team goals-against average
by an entire goal under Allain's supervision, and by more
than a goal and a half in the last four years.
PRIMED FOR A FALL
Harvard used a second-half
surge to finish third in the regular-season standings and
advanced to the league's championship game in Albany during
the playoffs. If not for a brutal 0-7-2 run during nine games
in December and January the Crimson probably would've made
the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection.
The graduation of standout forwards Mike Taylor
and Jon Pelle and veteran defenseman Dave MacDonald would've
hurt enough. Then offseason news came down the pipe that all-league
goalie Kyle Richter wouldn't be with the team this year and
senior defenseman Jack Christian is out for the year due to
Harvard's first nine regular season games are
league games, with an exhibition game whittled in against
the US NTDP Under-18s. They'll have to find their skating
legs quickly with new personnel in important roles before
they sink too far in the ECAC Hockey standings.
PRESSURE TO PERFORM
Clarkson's highly-regarded class of 2008 rightfully
earned accolades and praise for what they achieved over a
four-year span. The likes of David Leggio, Grant Clitsome,
Nick Dodge, Steve Zalewski and David Cayer brought Clarkson
back into the national picture. Now it's up to the
Golden Knight seniors of 2008-09 to continue Clarkson's
Forward Shea Guthrie and defensemen Tyrell Mason
and Phil Paquet are NHL draft picks that have shown glimpses
of greatness as supporting actors during the last three years,
but never fully stood in the spotlight. Classmates Adam Bellows,
Chris D'Alvise, and Dan Tuttle all played at least 34 games
last year. This group has been a part of success, including
a regular-season title, a playoff title, and two NCAA Tournament
appearances in the last two years. How they perform in a starring
role will determine the Golden Knights' fate this season.
Cook led Union with 10 goals last season as a junior co-captain.
TOUGHEST ACT TO FOLLOW
Union improved throughout last
year and earned a first-round playoff bye and the fourth seed
with excellent play down the stretch. The Dutchmen faced eight
consecutive weekends of conference play to close the season
– 16 games when points were on the line and positions
were at stake. Union responded by going 9-4-3 over the course
of those games, grabbing 21 vital points in the standings.
Two wins against Cornell, a win against Princeton, and a three-point
weekend against St. Lawrence and Clarkson let the league know
that Union's program is on the rise.
It resulted in Union's highest-ever finish in
the standings, and just the third winning record in 17 seasons
of league play. But there are other goals within reach. Union
has hosted a home-ice playoff series in five of the last six
years, but hasn't won one. Two sixth-place and two eighth-place
finishes in a four-year span were followed by Union crashing
to 12th place in 2007. The challenge for Union is to build
on last year's momentum and advance in the playoffs.
Simply stated, Princeton's Lee Jubinville
is the best player in ECAC Hockey. He showed signs as a freshman,
improved steadily as a sophomore, and became one of the elite
forwards in the league and in the nation as a junior. He totaled
39 points in his first two years, and then doubled his career
total with 12-27–39 last year. He was the ECAC Hockey
and Ivy League Player of the Year, a Hobey Baker Memorial
Award finalist, and first team All-American.
Colgate's Austin Smith committed
to the Raiders after playing prep at Gunnery </Bob Norton>
and spent last year in the BCHL with the Penticton Valley
Vees, where the forward had 43 goals, 47 assists and 90 points
in 75 regular season and playoff games. Smith was a fifth-round
draft pick of his hometown Dallas Stars in the 2007 NHL Entry
Smith is a driven, exciting, competitive player
who will be thrust into an important role with the Raiders.
Tyler Burton and Jesse Winchester graduated, leaving a scoring
void up front for Colgate. Those highly-skilled players are
the types of student-athletes that Colgate has been able to
attract since beginning to offer a limited number of athletic
scholarships in recent seasons. Smith is the next in that
line of players and will be counted on to fill that role right
away with tons of ice time – expect him to get a spot
on the top two lines and on the power play.
Quinnipiac's Dan Henningson
hasn't received the same notoriety or recognition as former
Bobcat blueliner Reid Cashman but he's proven to be just as
important to Quinnipiac's success. He logs tons of minutes
and balances skilled offensive play with defensive zone tenacity.
He was an alternate captain for the Bobcats last year as a
junior, was the unanimous choice by his teammates to wear
the "C" this season, and also earned team most valuable
player honors. He wasn't unsung in Hamden, Conn. but few ECAC
pundits would mention his name when polled on the league's
1. What are the chances that
Brown players have posted the preseason coaches poll –
in which they were picked unanimously last with 11 points
– in their dressing room and weight room as motivation
for the upcoming season?
2. How far ahead of the rest
of the league are Princeton and Cornell, who enter the season
with proven, veteran starting goaltending in their lineups?
3. How long will it take for
other teams such as Harvard, Clarkson and Colgate to find
an answer between the pipes?
MARK IT DOWN
Five things you can take to the bank in ECAC Hockey this season
• Cornell forwards Colin Greening and
Riley Nash will once again finish among the top 10 in the
league's scoring race. Each was named to a preseason all-league
team, Greening by the coaches and Nash by the media.
• At least one other scoring tandem will
join the Cornell duo in the top 10, perhaps even sophomore
standouts Chase Polacek and Tyler Helfrich of Rensselaer.
• St. Lawrence's goaltending situation
is still working itself out. Juniors Kain Tisi and Alex Petizian
both have starting experience, and are joined on the roster
by freshmen Robby Moss and Joe Spadaccini. Four Saint goalies
started at least five games last year.
• Evan Stephens of Dartmouth will make
a strong bid to be the first ECAC Hockey defenseman to lead
his team in scoring since RPI's Jake Luthi two years ago (tied
with Kirk MacDonald).
• Tributes and rememberances of legendary
hockey coach Ned Harkness will be meaningful and appropriate
at Cornell and Rensselaer this year. Ddeservedly so.
||You know all about Lee Jubinville,
Brett Wilson and Cam MacIntyre. Keep an eye on Matt Arhontas,
Mike Kramer, and Mark Magnowski as well.
||Shea Guthrie showed his talent on
a national stage during last year's NCAA regional in Albany.
Consistently playing at that high level will make him
one of the league's elite players.
||Members of ECAC Hockey media named
Ben Scrivens as the preseason all-league goalie after
Scrivens started 35 games, posted four shutouts, stopped
93 percent of the shots he faced and allowed just 2.02
goals against last year.
||The Bobcats closed last year's regular
season with six straight losses, then scored seven goals
on back-to-back nights in playoff wins over Brown. That
was followed by an 11-0 loss to Harvard. Consistency will
help the Bobcats get back into the top four of the league
||Ingalls Rink is being renovated and
improved, matching the positive strides that Yale's team
has taken on the ice in recent seasons.
||The Crimson's non-league schedule
includes two games against North Dakota, one at Boston
College, a Beanpot opener against Boston University, and
a Badger Showdown opener against Lake Superior State.
Based on tournament results, another game against Boston
College and a game at Wisconsin could round it out.
||Defenseman Lane Caffaro was the first
Dutchman ever named to an All-ECAC Hockey preseason team.
Corey Milan will have an opportunity to win the starting
goaltending job after splitting time with Justin Mrazek
||Incoming freshman defenseman Mike
Bergin and goalie Allan York hope to have the same impact
on the Engineers that Polacek and Helfrich did last year.
||Think Mark Dekanich will be missed?
He played more than 90 percent of the minutes in goal
for Colgate over the last three years since taking over
for Steve Silverthorn.
||Seniors Brock McBride and Kevin DeVergilio
will very likely become the first Saint seniors to record
100 career points since T.J. Trevelyan and John Zeiler
||Seniors Nick Johnson (35) and J.T.
Wyman (30) accounted for 75 points. The next highest scorer
last season was rookie defenseman Evan Stephens with 22
||Brown junior captain Devin Timberlake
on the upcoming season: "We will work as a team to
be successful and make this an exciting program to be
a part of. We have 10 new players coming in and we want
to let them know right away what we stand for –
hard work, discipline, and a winning attitude."