The Foresters are anchored by a pair of second year goalies in Brandon Kohuch and Scott Campbell. Much like last season, it is expected time will be split between the two — a luxury that head coach Tony Fritz is happy to have:
“In net is our greatest strength,” said Fritz. “We have two guys who can play any night and I’d expect them to split time just like last season, one on Friday and one on Saturday.”
While the Foresters are confident with their goaltending situation, the losses of Andrew Ferrier and Bryan Lafevor on defense, as well as the pending graduation of defenseman Matt Forsyth at Christmas are three that could be difficult to account for.
“We lost our top offensive defenseman (Lafevor) from last season, so that’s an area we are really going to need to work on. We may really be scratching on the powerplay as he was our quarterback out there”, said Fritz. “And Ferrier was just a great kid. He was never a guy that was going to score a lot of points, but as far as being a leader and lockerroom kind of guy, he was extremely valuable.”
Defensive play is another area in which the Foresters will look to improve. After allowing a shade over 40 shots per game last season — most in the NCHA, defensive zone play is something Fritz is adamant about improving.
Fritz elaborated, “It’s a big concern. Maybe even moreso than the offensive production of our defense is our defensive zone coverage. We allowed way too many shots last season and we have to try to shut that down. Even though we know we have two good goalies back there we have to keep people from shooting the puck on our net.”
With the questions on defense, one spot the Foresters can look to with confidence is the offense. The Mike Kneeland-Tyler Canal-Brian Lee line is one of the most dangerous in the NCHA, though with Kneeland unavailable until sometime after Christmas, other lines will be forced into a role in which they must produce. With that trio having carried the team last season, Fritz believes other lines must, and will, step up to help balance out the attack.
“Balance is definitely a concern. But right now I think we’ve got it. I think we are five lines deep on offense.”
Bottom line for the Foresters is that everything starts with their goaltending. With a defensive unit that may take a little time to come together, look for their goaltending to keep them in games early. The return of Kneeland for the heart of the NCHA season will only add to what should be an improved and more diverse team offensively. If the defense is able to get on track early and improve on last season’s performance, the Foresters appear to be quietly putting enough pieces together to make another run at the top half of the conference.
Most intriguing storyline: After being knocked out of the NCHA playoffs in the semifinals the past three seasons, will Lake Forest be able to get over the hump and really make some noise?