Season Preview

College Hockey:
NESCAC Season Preview

The other half of the interlocking leagues, NESCAC also starts this week with their ECAC East partners with the level of competition in this league no different top to bottom which is going to make for some very interesting results. Last season saw the top five teams separated by just three points and virtually all of the playoff positions were up for grabs right down to the last whistle of the games on the last Saturday of the regular season. Can it get much more exciting than that?

Absolutely, states Amherst College Head Coach Jack Arena. Without a doubt it just seems to get tighter and tighter each year and after last season it looks like everyone will be in the mix this year.

Overall most teams did not lose much coming into this year and expect that new recruits will contribute to improving the level of play. As we saw last season teams are getting better across the board and certainly in the NESCAC where surprise teams like Wesleyan and Connecticut College began to assert themselves. Who will be this years team in the post-season chase for the conference title? Really too close to call but I will take a shot at it anyway as I get everyone ready for some great hockey in New England!

Middlebury Panthers

2006-2007 Overall Record: 20-8-3
2006-2007 League Record: 11-6-2
2006-2007 League Finish: Second
2007-2008 USCHO Prediction: First

Team Overview: I am really pleased with the way the guys came into the season both physically and mentally this year, said head coach Bill Beaney, whose Panthers fell an overtime goal short of winning their fourth consecutive national championship.

It all starts in the back for us with Ross (Cherry) and Doug (Raeder) in goal and our defense led by senior All-American Tom Maldonado and senior Samuel Driver. Mickey Gilchrist is back and we have some other guys that can put the puck in the net.

Special Teams: Not many teams are better on both sides of the specialty teams but the Panthers will be looking to replace seven power play goals contributed by the graduated John Sales this season. Look for more balance from a number of contributors.

Player to Watch: Freshman Trevor Dodds has impressed in early practices and along with sophomore John Sullivan figures to add to a potent panther attack.

Summary: Year in and year out, the reasons the Panthers keep winning are team defense, great goaltending, great special teams and an attitude about winning. Look for the Panthers to play with skill and passion right into March.

Bowdoin Polar Bears

2006-2007 Overall Record: 16-7-3
2006-2007 League Record: 11-6-2
2006-2007 League Finish: First
2007-2008 USCHO Prediction: Second

Team Overview: There is a lot of excitement on campus, noted Coach Terry Meagher. People arent just excited about he new Watson arena but also what we have going for this years team. We have nice balance among the classes and a lot of league experience on the roster and thats valuable in this league for sure.

Goaltending is an open competition with Chris Rossi hoping to build on last years 11-4-0 record. Up front sophomores Colin MacCormick (8-13-21) and Mike Corbelle (12-8-20) are the leading scorers back to lead the offense for the Polar Bears.

Special Teams: If nothing else Bowdoin is incredibly consistent on special teams and this year looks no different; expect some key seniors to step up and produce some numbers this season.

Player to Watch: Junior Captain Matt Smith has proven to be a solid contributor in a conventional team alignment but in the Bowdoin system has the ability to control the game from the back.

Summary: The Polar Bears fell one step short of the league title last year and would like to send Dayton Arena out in style.

Colby White Mules

2006-2007 Overall Record: 14-9-2
2006-2007 League Record: 11-7-1
2006-2007 League Finish: Third
2007-2008 USCHO Prediction: Third

Team Overview: We will rely heavily on the senior class this year, noted head coach Jim Tortorella. Its a very talented group that has produced for us from the time they arrived at Colby and I am sure their own expectations for the season are high.

Forwards TJ Kelley (15-16-31) and Josh Reber (9-25-34) along with defensive standouts Joe Rothwell (9-19-28) and Arthur Fritch (12-25-37) will be key perfumers on both ends of the ice for Colby.

The graduation of last years starting goalie Ben Grandjean brings open competition among five goalies to see playing time in Waterville this season. Freshman Cody McKinney is a leading contender to play significant minutes but there other goalies pushing for their share of ice-time as well.

Special Teams: The power play is consistently one of the best in all of D-III but the penalty killing (79 percent) will need to improve this year to help the White Mules succeed.

Players to Watch: The Big 4 (Kelley, Reber, Fritch, and Rothwell) as coach Tortorella defines his key seniors will be counted on heavily to continue the success they started as freshmen.

Summary: The seniors will carry the load but one of the goalies will need to step up for this team to reach its full potential.

Wesleyan Cardinals

2006-2007 Overall Record: 14-9-4
2006-2007 League Record: 9-6-4
2006-2007 League Finish: Fourth
2007-2008 USCHO Prediction Fourth

Team Overview: The team lost just a couple of players from last years team that had a shot at the regular season title heading into the final weekend. While perennial all-star Will Bennett will be difficult to replace there is a strong nucleus of young talent ready to challenge at the top again this year.

The strength of the team is in goal with junior Mike Palladino (10-6-4, 2.12 GAA) and defensive stalwarts Captain Brenton Stafford (2-7-9), Scott Burns (3-4-7) and Dallas Bossert (5-8-13). The Cardinals didnt score a lot of goals last season but neither did their opposition.

Special Teams: Last year saw the Cardinals improve to 20.5 percent on the power play and there is still upside among the talented forwards on the roster. Goaltending and strong defense will continue to support the successful penalty killing efforts for Wesleyan.

Player to Watch: Sophomore forward David Layne (13-12-25) was a potent scorer on the power play and will now look to add to his numbers during even strength play.

Summary: The Cardinals are not going to sneak up on anyone anymore and appear to have the talent to compete again for a home-ice berth or more this season.

Amherst Lord Jeffs

2006-2007 Overall Record: 14-10-1
2006-2007 League Record: 10-8-1
2006-2007 League Finish: Fifth
2007-2008 USCHO Prediction: Fifth

Team Overview: I like this team a lot, noted head coach Jack Arena. We have great depth and balance and some freshmen that are going to find it difficult to crack the line-up. No doubt there will be good hockey players sitting in the stands on game nights so it should foster some healthy competition for playing time.

The junior class is the defensive core for Amherst this year led by Rylan Burns (5-9-14). Up front senior Captain Kyle Schoppel (10-13-23) and last seasons leading scorer, junior Joel Covelli (11-24-35), will be expected to create some offensive spark among six returnees who score five or more goals last season.

Special Teams: Like everyone in the conference, the Lord Jeffs also have a deadly power play that can score in bunches. Improving on the less than 80 percent penalty kill stat will be a key to success this season.

Players to Watch: Freshman goalies Jonathan LaRos

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