Season Preview

College Hockey:
2006-07 Hockey East Season Preview

Six and Four

This year, Hockey East looks like a two- or perhaps three-tier league. It will, of course, continue to feature great top-to-bottom strength and those teams on the bottom trying to move up will strike down the Goliaths on plenty of occasions. That said, there should be a significant gap between the top six teams and the bottom four.

BC's Brian Boyle has scored his share of big goals for the Hockey East preseason favorites (photo: Melissa Wade).

BC’s Brian Boyle has scored his share of big goals for the Hockey East preseason favorites (photo: Melissa Wade).

There are, once again, the four perennial powers: Boston College, Boston University, Maine and New Hampshire. The coaches’ preseason poll pegs these schools for the home ice slots, with Vermont and Providence providing the toughest challenges. National pollsters agree, putting all of the four “usual suspects” within the top 11 teams in the USCHO.com/CSTV Preseason Poll with Providence and Vermont almost breaking into the top 20.

The writers of this preview agree for the most part, but differ on the exact ordering. Dave is impressed by the threat posed by Vermont and Providence, but is unable to see the necessary chinks in the four powers’ armors for the two challengers to get home ice. On the other hand, Scott, shaking his head at Dave’s “safe” (almost to the point of cowardice) picks, sees Providence bypassing both UNH and Maine.

Either way, the coaches, Dave, and Scott all see the same six teams in that upper tier. The other four schools have some catching up to do. Merrimack and Northeastern finished well out of the playoffs last year and thus have the furthest to go. Massachusetts and Massachusetts-Lowell finished last season within striking range, but have big holes to fill, particularly the River Hawks.

There is, however, a reason why they play the games. Few thought Lowell would struggle so much last season and no one, other than perhaps PC coach Tim Army’s relatives, expected the Friars to spend so much time atop the league standings.

Here, then, are thumbnail views of each team’s outlook. Click on the links for more details.

1. Boston College

Head Coach: Jerry York (749-502-75, 34 years overall; 282-157-41, 12 years at BC)
2005-2006 Record: 26-13-3 (17-8-2, T-2nd HEA)
2005-2006 Team Offense: 3.48 goals per game, 2nd
2005-2006 Team Defense: 2.26 goals against per game, T-2nd
2005-2006 Power Play: 15.1 percent, 8th
2005-2006 Penalty Kill: 85.9 percent, 4th
Key Losses: Chris Collins, Peter Harrold and Stephen Gionta
Key returnees: Cory Schneider (2.11 GAA, .929 Sv%), Brian Boyle (22-30–52) and Brett Motherwell (4-19–23)
2006-2007 Coaches’ Poll: 1st
In brief: Glass-half-empty BC fans might bemoan the losses of Chris Collins and Peter Harrold, but Cory Schneider and Brian Boyle return as major weapons. Add a year of experience to all those youngsters who last season got to the national title game and you’ve got the makings of a potential juggernaut.
Coaches’ pick: 1st
Dave’s pick: 1st
Scott’s pick: 1st

Terrier head coach Jack Parker will again depend on John Curry in net (photo: Melissa Wade).

Terrier head coach Jack Parker will again depend on John Curry in net (photo: Melissa Wade).

2. Boston University

Head Coach: Jack Parker (742-379-84, 33 years)
2005-2006 Record: 26-10-4 (17-7-3, 1st HEA)
2005-2006 Team Offense: 3.40 goals per game, 2nd
2005-2006 Team Defense: 2.48 goals against per game, t-5th
2005-2006 Power Play: 15.6 percent, 6th
2005-2006 Penalty Kill: 81.9 percent, t-6th
Key Losses: David Van der Gulik, Dan Spang, Brad Zancanaro, John Laliberte
Key returnees: John Curry (2.24 GAA, .918 Sv%), Pete MacArthur (14-25-39), Kenny Roche (17-14-31), Brandon Yip (9-22-31), Sean Sullivan (3-14-17, +12), and Matt Gilroy (+21)
In brief: Despite losing their top forward line and an All-American defenseman in Dan Spang, BU figures to be solid in every area and won’t need to rely on many freshmen in key roles. If a few returning players can step up their production, they can contend for the top spot in the league and the nation.
Coaches’ pick: 2nd
Dave’s pick: 2nd
Scott’s pick: 2nd

T-3. New Hampshire

Head Coach: Richard Umile (373-186-61, 16 years)
2005-2006 Record: 20-13-7 (14-7-6, 4th HEA)
2005-2006 Team Offense: 3.15 goals per game, 4th
2005-2006 Team Defense: 2.33 goals against per game, 4th
2005-2006 Power Play: 20.7 percent, 2nd
2005-2006 Penalty Kill: 85.0 percent, 4th
Key Losses: Daniel Winnik, Brian Yandle, Jeff Pietrasiak
Key returnees: Jacob Micflikier (16-26-42), Kevin Regan (2.63 GAA, .914 Sv%), Brett Hemingway (19-22-41), Trevor Smith (10-10-20), Craig Switzer (2-14-16), Josh Ciocco (7-11-18)
In brief: The Wildcats have a talented nucleus, but the early departure of power forward Daniel Winnik on top of outstanding offensive defenseman Brian Yandle means that others will need to come through on the score sheet. Another key factor is whether goaltender Kevin Regan puts up numbers more like his freshman year (15-4-2, 2.35, .928) or last year (8-8-5, 2.63, .914).
Coaches’ pick: 4th
Dave’s pick: 3rd
Scott’s pick: 5th

T-3. Maine

Head Coach: Tim Whitehead (207-149-35, 10 years overall; 131-54-24, five years Maine)
2005-2006 Record: 28-12-2 (17-8-2, T-2nd HEA)
2005-2006 Team Offense: 3.40 goals per game, 3rd
2005-2006 Team Defense: 2.26 goals against per game, T-2nd
2005-2006 Power Play: 21.9 percent, 1st
2005-2006 Penalty Kill: 88.9 percent, 1st
Key Losses: Greg Moore, Derek Damon, John Hopson, Steve Mullin and Travis Wight
Key returnees: Michel Lveill (16-24–40), Josh Soares (15-26–41), Billy Ryan (10-18–28), Bret Tyler (7-16–23) and Ben Bishop (2.28 GAA, .907 Sv%)
In brief: All-American Greg Moore leads the group of four forwards who must be replaced along with defensive stalwarts Steve Mullin and Travis Wight. That said, don’t be surprised if sophomore goaltender Ben Bishop takes his game to the next level and leads the Black Bears to another Frozen Four.
Coaches’ pick: 3rd
Dave’s pick: 4th
Scott’s pick: 4th

5. Providence

Head Coach: Tim Army (17-16-3, 1 year)
2005-2006 Record: 17-16-3 (14-10-3, 5th HEA)
2005-2006 Team Offense: 2.89 goals per game, 5th
2005-2006 Team Defense: 2.48 goals against per game, t-5th
2005-2006 Power Play: 17.2 percent, 4th
2005-2006 Penalty Kill: 85.8 percent, 3rd
Key Losses: Torry Gajda, James Pemberton, Nate Meyers
Key returnees: Tyler Sims (2.32 GAA, .916 Sv%), Chase Watson (6-27-33), Jon Rheault (16-14-30), Colin McDonald (9-19-28), Cody Wild (6-15-21)
In brief: After a stellar run in late fall, the Friars faded in the stretch. With more depth this year and few departures, PC should be better equipped to keep the foot on the gas with Tim Army’s aggressive emphasis on attacking the other team’s net in all situations.
Coaches’ pick: 6th
Dave’s pick: 6th
Scott’s pi

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