Lou Izzi at Nichols is feeling optimistic. “All of our key guys are back. We’re pretty solid all the way around.” One of the key players Izzi will rely on is sophomore goalie Keith Fink. As a freshman, Fink recorded school records for wins (16) and saves (762) and posted a .902 save percentage, while logging heavy minutes. This year Fink probably won’t see as many minutes with the addition of freshmen Matt Gassman (Boulder, Colo./Helena Bighorns) and Donny Wynia (Minneapolis, Minn./Wisconsin Mustangs.) Both goalies also offer insurance in net, and assure that Fink can be fresh late in the season. Izzi feels that Gassman may even compete for the number one job.
Izzi says the strength of his team lies clearly in the defense. “As a group of six, they’ve got to be one of the best groups in the conference. They’re big, fast, physical, and they handle the puck well.” Big could be an understatement, with all of the blueliners at least 6’1″, and averaging 201 lbs. Leading the blueliners is the biggest defenseman, senior Mark Malone, who at 6’4″, 220 lbs. is also fast, and can be dangerous on the power play. Sophomore Jeff Beiber hopes to build on his rookie season, in which he led all ECAC defensemen in scoring, with 28 points in 27 games. Izzi feels that while his defense is improved over last year, his offense is deeper. “Our depth at forward is better, it’s like we have an extra line.”
The Bison offense will be led by sophomore Tony Monte, who Izzi says “had a phenomenal freshman year. He’s got good instincts.” Monte led the league with 23 goals and 42 points, and will have a lot of help up front. He’ll be joined by sophomores Kevin Cook and Ryan Gervais, both of whom netted 17 goals last year. Izzi says of this line “they’re all little guys who can fly and create a lot of offense.”
The Bison will also count on freshmen Colby Jones, a forward out of the NAHL, and defenseman Mark Baker, as well Ian O’Connell, a freshman forward who played defense last year when asked to do so for the New Jersey Rockets. Freshman forward Eric Cremer has plenty of destinations he could have chosen, and Izzi is delighted he chose Nichols. “It’s refreshing at this point that he’s a natural freshman. He’s got great speed, and unbelievable offensive instincts.”
One player to keep an eye on is freshman Kris Kranzsky, a 6’4″ from California who grew up playing roller hockey, and has only been playing ice hockey for four years. Last year Kranzky racked up 90 points in the NORPAC.