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Conference Season Preview

College Hockey:
Curry the early favorite in competitive ECAC Northeast

In and of itself, it’s not surprising that Curry took home the 2009-10 ECAC Northeast Championship and the automatic bid to the NCAA.

The Colonels have been a force in the conference, and last season was no exception, as they took Wentworth Institute of Technology down the wire for the regular season championship before a 4-2 loss to the Leopards on the last Sunday of the season gave Wentworth the regular season crown.

However, it’s fair to say their opponent, sixth-seeded Johnson & Wales, could be qualified as a surprise. Or maybe not, as the Wildcats run to the championship game was microcosm of a incredibly competitive conference that figures to be even tighter this year, as the playoff format switches from eight to six teams.

“I think this is going to be a very interesting year for a lot of teams in the league,” Johnson & Wales coach Erik Noack said. “It is going to be much tighter than last year, and every game could be the game that gets you home ice or eliminates you from the playoffs altogether. I think it will probably come down to the last week of the regular season to see how things will shake out.”

The Wildcats run to the conference championship was fitting, giving what transpired in the season’s final month of play. Seventh and eighth place finishers Western New England College and Salve Regina gave several of the league’s top teams a run for their money, and Johnson & Wales offered a preview of their playoff prowess with a 5-3 win over Curry in the teams’ final regular season meeting.

“I think our league only continues to get stronger,” Western New England coach Greg Heffernan said. “I also think that anyone is capable of beating anyone on any given night. As last year’s playoff proved…its going to be exciting.”

Added Curry coach Rob Davies, “The importance of each game can’t be affirmed enough. Home ice is going to be more important. Most teams aren’t going to be 100 percent healthy throughout the season, so there’s more emphasis on having depth.”

With that in mind, here is a more detailed breakdown of the conference, team by team. The teams are listed in order of predicted finish, although as last season proved, standings can mean little.

Click each team name for a detailed preview.

Curry
2009-2010 Record: 19-9-1
2009-2010 ECAC Northeast Record: 10-3-1
2009-2010 Finish: Second
2010-2011 Season: First

After winning the championship last year, look for Curry to continue at the top.

Suffolk
2009-2010 Record: 12-11-3
2009-2010 ECAC Northeast Record: 8-4-2
2009-2010 Finish: Third
2010-2011 Season: Second

Youth should propel Suffolk to another strong finish.

Wentworth
2009-2010 Record: 20-5-1
2009-2010 ECAC Northeast Record: 11-4
2009-2010 Finish: First
2010-2011 Season: Third

Loss of goalie could hurt defending regular season champs.

Nichols
2009-2010 Record: 13-10-3
2009-2010 ECAC Northeast Record: 7-6-1
2009-2010 Finish: Sixth
2010-2011 Season: Fourth

Becker
2009-2010 Record: 13-12-1
2009-2010 ECAC Northeast Record: 8-6
2009-2010 Finish: Fourth
2010-2011 Season: Fifth

Becker improves each year, and in its fifth season, the program continues to gain on the upper echelon.

Johnson and Wales
2009-2010 Record: 12-15
2009-2010 ECAC Northeast Record: 7-6-1
2009-2010 Finish: Fifth
2010-2011 Season: Sixth

Johnson and Wales looks to start strong out of the gate, as poor start hurt team last year.

Western New England College
2009-2010 Record: 3-21-1
2009-2010 ECAC Northeast Record: 2-12
2009-2010 Finish: Seventh
2010-2011 Season: Seventh

With many new players, Western New England hopes to get over 10 wins.

Salve Regina
2009-2010 Record: 1-24-1
2009-2010 ECAC Northeast Record: 0-13-1
2009-2010 Finish: Eighth
2010-2011 Season: Eighth

Large senior class could help Salve Regina.


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