Last season certainly ended with a bang for the ECAC West. After years of only being able to send one team to the NCAA playoffs, a rules change and expansion of the playoffs enabled the ECAC West to qualify three teams last spring, with two making it all the way to the semifinal round.
Elmira, Hobart, and Manhattanville represented the league well on the national stage in March but that is all in the past now. This fall there are roster changes on an unprecedented scale across the league. A large graduating class at Manhattanville, and to a lesser degree at Hobart, was expected to shake things up.
But wholesale changes on the new rosters of Utica and Lebanon Valley are a surprise. Even Elmira and Neumann are getting in on the act. The Soaring Eagles are trying to build on their storybook season from last year that launched them all the way into the NCAA semi-finals. The Neumann Knights, on the other hand, didn’t lose anyone to graduation but still looked to continue their climb up the league standings with the addition of two transfers and a handful of freshmen.
Personnel aren’t the only thing changing this season. The carrot at the end of the season is also of a different color as the league playoff format is changing for the first time in many years. This season, the league playoffs will be expanded to five teams and there will be three single game rounds with the higher seeds hosting each game. Gone is the “final four” style format that had become the norm over the past few seasons.
The first playoff round will kick off on Wednesday, February 21st and see the No. 4 team hosting the No. 5 seed. The second round, on Saturday, February 24th will have the No. 1 team host the No. 4/No. 5 winner and the No. 2 team hosting the No. 3 team. Then the top two remaining teams will face off on Saturday, March 3rd at the highest seeded school for the title.
Support for the new playoff format was unanimous amongst the coaches.
“I like it,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. “For our league, there is too much parity and it makes sense to have as many teams hosting playoff games as possible. The differences between the top four or five teams is so small. It was an easy thing for the league to do and it made a ton of sense. You are bringing the excitement to a number of different campuses instead of just one.”
Parity was certainly a key word used to describe last season in the ECAC West. With all of the player changes this year, the regular season title is again up for grabs, as seen in the ECAC West Preseason Coaches Poll, where four different teams garnered first place votes. Any of the top five teams could easily stretch the furthest and grab the brass ring. And who knows, even a re-tooled Lebanon Valley could stride forward into the mix.
Hang on tight as the season gets started, and be sure to keep your team’s roster in hand to learn all about the legion of new players around the ECAC West.
Stay tuned for the regular season ECAC West column to cover all the action beginning on Nov. 2.
Click on any team name at the top of a section below to view its individual season preview.
2006-07 ECAC West (In Order of Predicted Finish)
Elmira College Soaring Eagles
Coach: Tim Ceglarski, sixth season overall and at Elmira (76-50-9)
2006 ECAC West League Champions
2005-06 overall record: 18-9-2
2005-06 ECAC West record: 8-6-1
2005-06 ECAC West finish: Third
2006-07 Coaches Poll: First
2006-07 USCHO predicted finish: First
Hobart College Statesmen
Coach: Mark Taylor, seventh season overall and at Hobart (79-62-15)
2005-06 overall record: 20-8-0
2005-06 ECAC West record: 10-5-0
2005-06 ECAC West finish: Second
2006-07 Coaches Poll: Tied Second
2006-07 USCHO predicted finish: Second
Manhattanville College Valiants
Coach: Keith Levinthal, eighth season overall and at Manhattanville (112-55-13)
2005-06 overall record: 20-5-2
2005-06 ECAC West record: 11-2-2
2005-06 ECAC West finish: First
2006-07 Coaches Poll: Fourth
2006-07 USCHO predicted finish: Third
Utica College Pioneers
Coach: Gary Heenan, sixth season overall and at Utica (65-51-14)
2005-06 overall record: 13-11-3
2005-06 ECAC West record: 7-6-2
2005-06 ECAC West finish: Fourth
2006-07 Coaches Poll: Tied Second
2006-07 USCHO predicted finish: Fourth
Neumann College Knights
Coach: Dennis Williams, third season overall and at Neumann (18-27-2)
2004-05 overall record: 14-10-1
2004-05 ECAC West record: 6-8-1
2004-05 ECAC West finish: Fifth
2005-06 Coaches Poll: Fifth
2005-06 USCHO predicted finish: Fifth
Lebanon Valley College Flying Dutchmen
Coach: Al MacCormack, 31st season overall (292-329-17), ninth at Lebanon Valley (123-81-7)
2005-06 overall record: 4-21-0
2005-06 ECAC West record: 0-15-0
2005-06 ECAC West finish: Sixth
2006-07 Coaches Poll: Sixth
2006-07 USCHO predicted finish: Sixth