The Saints went into last season as the two-time defending ECAC champions, but with heavy graduation losses few expected the Saints to repeat. Indeed, St. Lawrence went through a tough year and finished in a tie for ninth.
Key differences from the previous year: a scoring dropoff of just about a goal per game, a decline in power-play production — and 12 one-goal losses.
“I’ve said often that every game is going to be a battle in our league, and last year certainly proved it from our standpoint,” said head coach Joe Marsh. “We’ve played in a lot of one-goal games before … and won more than we have lost, but last year was something else. With 20 games decided by one goal and two ties, a bounce here or there could have made a big difference.
“We finished ninth, but we were only three points out of a tie for third. That just shows how competitive the entire league was.
“We had a tough time scoring goals last year, but the guys fought through the frustration and worked hard.”
Not for nothing, but experience and youth are on the Saints’ side this season. In goal, the they return Kevin Ackley and Mike McKenna, who both saw considerable time last year.
“I don’t think you can ask for anything more from two rookie goaltenders than what we got from Kevin Ackley and Mike McKenna last year,” said Marsh. “They split things up right down the middle and ended up with nearly identical numbers. We will probably start the season this year with a rotation, but could ride the hot hand if someone hits a streak. Kevin and Mike work well together and support each other, and with their talent, I think we can consider our goaltending pretty solid.”
On defense, the Saints lose only one defenseman in Ray DiLauro and return solid starters such as Ryan Glenn, Allie Skelley, Jimmy Ball, Jim Hakewill, Jeremy Cormier, Tony Maci and Matt MacDonald. Add in Mike Madill and John Wires and the Saints should continue their strong defensive corps tradition.
“We rotated eight guys on defense quite a bit last year and seven of the eight are back, so we do have some experience defensively,” said Marsh. “Ryan Glenn is an assistant captain as a junior and a real leader back there, so we are looking for a strong season from him. Allie Skelley is another assistant captain and is in his third year after redshirting as a freshman. Tony Maci and Jeremy Cormier both have two seasons under their belts.
“Jimmy Ball, Jim Hakewill and Matt Macdonald all progressed well last season as freshmen and we expect them to keep improving. We’ve got a couple of good freshman candidates on defense, too, so again, competition for spots should be pretty intense.”
Up front the Saints return Rich Peverley and Blair Clarance, their two leading scorers. Stace Page emerged last year to provide some scoring and it will be up to some youngsters to pitch in and contribute offensively.
“Rich Peverley had a great year as a sophomore and is just going to keep on getting better; he has excellent speed and hands and is working hard on the defensive aspect of his game,” said Marsh. “Blair Clarance is coming off a solid year as well and will be our captain, so we are looking for a lot from him in terms of both production and leadership. Jimmy Lorentz is another senior we are looking for a big year from up front.
“We have some younger guys who adapted well to the pace of the Division I game a year ago. Stace Page is going to be a good one for us and made big contributions on the power play as a freshman. Josh Anderson has plenty of speed and good potential and Colin FitzRandolph came on strong at the end of the year. Ziga Petac came on strong in what was really his first full season of college competition, and we have three guys with pretty good wheels who redshirted last year and a couple of freshmen with good credentials who are going to compete for regular spots. I am looking forward to some pretty good competition for regular roles among a lot of guys.”
Things are looking up for the Saints, and if the experience gained last year proves valuable, then Appleton Arena could be looking at high times.