The Saints lost a combined 84 points offensively with the graduation of Jordan Chong (17 goals, 20 assists), Jordan Baird (8 goals, 16 assists) and Aaron Spotts (10 goals, 13 assists). Others are ready to fill the void, coach Mark Wick said.
Forward Riley Riddell, one of the team’s two seniors, fits the profile of someone who could put up Chong-like numbers.
“If you look at Jordan Chong before, he didn’t have the numbers he had last year,” Wick said of last season’s All-NCHA forward, who registered 11 goals and 10 assists as a sophomore. “But (Chong) was put in more of those situations and I think Riley Riddell now will be in more of those situations.”
In four games this season, Riddell posted three goals and two assists as the Saints evened their record at 2-2 with a pair of nonconference victories over Concordia-Moorhead, 4-1, Nov. 5 and St. John’s, 4-3, Nov. 6.
Wick sees other bright spots upfront. Junior Jeremy Dawes is expected back soon from injury while sophomore forwards Paul Marcoux (2 goals, 1 assist) and Garet Chumley (1 goal, 2 assists) have stood out early.
“We still do have some guys upfront who I think can put some numbers up for us and now they will get their opportunity,” said Wick, who was named 2008-09 NCHA Coach of the Year after the Saints went 20-7-2 and reached the NCAA D-III quarterfinals. “We’re kind of in a waiting game to see who will step up and take that role in this year.”
Another unknown in the equation is the impact of nine new players, which includes eight freshmen and sophomore transfer Eric Kraft, who played nine games with D-I Lake Superior State as a freshman last season.
“I think he’s going to be someone we’re going to look to offensively, but he is a guy who still has to make a transition into our systems and learn our style a little bit, too,” Wick says. “We’re excited about him, but basically he’s a freshmen to us.”
Defenseman Austin Brown (4 goals and 5 assists in 27 games last season) will be counted on to provide venom from the point while junior netminder Brennan Poderzay is expected to regain the starting role he relinquished last season due to a concussion. So far, Poderzay has split time with sophomore Patrick Sullivan this season, with both goalies going 1-1.