In the ECAC Northeast, there are four teams considered “Division II” teams, which play in the Northeast-10 Conference. These four teams, and St. Anselm and St. Michael’s of the ECAC East participate in the Northeast-10 postseason tournament. (This is the only NCAA Division II hockey championship in the nation.) The teams play a full ECAC Northeast schedule, but standings are kept separately from the Division III schools. However, statistics from these games are included, and Division II players are eligible for the league statistical awards. Now that we have that established, let’s take a look at the four teams, in order of a pre-season poll.
In New Hampshire, Rene LeClerc is preparing for his final season behind the Southern New Hampshire University bench. The likeable coach, who also played for SNHU, will hand the reins over to assistant Ken Hutchins next year.
When asked how his team looks this year, LeClerc didn’t ponder long for the answer. “Our strength is going to be up front this year. We’ve got Brandon Hammermeister, Dominic DiMarzo, Chet Riley, Joshua Douglas, and Evan Williams back. That gives us two lines, including Jon Frey, who will be stepping in. It gives us good balance.”
Frey is the only freshman of the group, and he comes to SNHU from Cushing Academy. The others made up four of the top five point producers last year, with Hammermeister leading the way overall with 14-27–41 in 25 games, and DiMarzo leading the way with 16 goals in 27 games.
On defense, seniors Kyle Bousquet and Ken Burlage are back. “They give us two solid seniors, they’re good bangers, play solid defense, and occasionally rush the puck.” LeClerc said. Senior Dominic Cavallaro and sophomore David Carroll will be asked to provide some veteran leadership to a group of younger players, such as freshmen Matt Sayer and Kent Honeyman.
In goal, look for sophomore Matt Courchesne to lead the way. The sophomore played a lot of minutes late last year. He’ll be competing for more minutes with sophomore Jeff Steer, and freshmen Carmine Vetrano.
In North Easton, Massachusetts, coach Scott Harlow has his Stonehill Skyhawks ready to pick up where they left off last year, tying the school record with 14 victories in a season, and once again going deep into the Northeast 10 playoffs.
Leading the charge up front for Stonehill will be sophomore Dennis O’Brien, coming off a tremendous rookie campaign. O’Brien led the team in scoring last year with 10-32–42 in 24 games. He’ll be complemented up front by junior Matt Curran, who is coming off a good year himself, ranking second last year in scoring with 16-15–31 in 24 games. There are also a handful of juniors returning, with Anthony Zanetti and John Durkin bringing solid offensive skills, and Brian Davis, Chase Feole, and Brian Carpenter bringing offense and experience.
On defense, lone senior Evan Spencer is back, and he’ll oversee a young corps of rearguards. A pair of sophomores, James Florentino and James Killeen, are back. Florentino proved last year that he has an offensive flair, posting 4 goals and 8 assists in 19 games. Look for sophomore newcomers Billy Ninteau, and Frank Cavaliere to log plenty of ice time, and freshman Corey Glynn should also see action.
Between the pipes, Harlow has senior Josh Green back. Green posted impressive numbers last year, with 10 wins (second highest total in the program’s history) and a stingy 2.98 goals against average, with a .911 save percentage. Senior Matt Gorman provides insurance in goal, and look for freshman David Tanner to see time between the pipes this year.
At Assumption College, coach Kevin Zifcak is getting set for his second year behind the bench, and was quick to give an answer when questioned about his team’s strength: “I think up front we have a lot of depth. We’ve got players who can skate, shoot, and have good skill sets. These guys attack the net very well, and they forecheck very well. We have a good balance of scorers, but probably no one who can score forty to fifty points.”
Leading the way on offense will be junior captain Jim Trahon, who put up a line of 17-10–27 in 25 games last year. His biggest stat was his nine power-play goals, which was nearly a third of the teams’ total. Several other juniors will be counted on as well, including Matt Paget, Mike Rust, John Routhier, and Luke McDonough.
On defense, Zifcak said, “We’re very much improved. We have some defensemen who have good vision and move the puck quite well.” One defensemen who moves quite well is the senior on the blue line, Dan Surette, a former forward. “He’s got good puck control,” said Zifcak, “and he’s the whole package as a defenseman. He’ll be one of the keys to the power play.”
Juniors Phil Demers and Randy Morin help give the defense some experience, and sophomore Chris Genovese will switch to the blueline from his former spot as a left wing.
In the net, sophomore David Pinkham is back, after a solid rookie season. Zifcak pointed out that his goalie “is much improved, bigger and stronger, and I’d like to see him step up and be leader.” Competing for the number two slot will be Casey McNally and Jamie DiGiullio.
Jay McCormack has been the head coach of Franklin Pierce College for 17 years, with the team now kicking off its fifth as a varsity program. “We’ll be fast this year, we’ve got good team speed. Although we’ve got a lot of freshmen on the roster, we’re actually a pretty experienced team, with good depth on offense, and good depth on defense.”
One position still sorting itself out is goaltending. Junior Steve Moore returns, and he played in six games last year. Junior transfer Spencer Utman (SUNY Canton) appeared in twelve games last year for the Northstars, and he’ll be vying for the starting role. Also in the mix is freshman Jie Blauner.
Up front, McCormack will be leaning on Brian DelSavio, who led the team last year with 11 goals and 12 assists in 24 games. The senior captain will be flanked by juniors Joe Fields, and Ben Reynolds. Fields led the team in goals last year with 12, and the trio accounted for over half of the teams’ power play production. Coursen Schneider and Chuck Matthews are expected to contribute on offense as well.
On the blueline, McCormack has a core group of players returning. Sophomore Ed Kus, seniors Mike Anderson and Brett Bilodeau,, and junior Peter Wilson all bring experience to the defense. They’ll be joined be freshmen Rob Peretta and Steve Murphy, and Kyle Kruse.
The Northeast-10 conference has coaches striving each year to promote their product, and programs. Almost to a man, the coaches agreed there are no easy nights, and that parity is prevalent.