The Plymouth State Panthers pulled off one of their most exciting wins in program history last season with a double-overtime victory over the Salem State Vikings to not only capture the MASCAC title, but head to the NCAA D-III Tournament.
For the rest of the teams, the extra two periods of play should serve as a reminder of how tough this conference is to earn a win.
As the MASCAC gets set to embark on its fourth season of NCAA existence, the seven-member conference is out to prove again that this conference is shaping up to be one of the stronger ones in that nation.
“We don’t really pencil in any one [conference] game in particular;” said Framingham coach T.J. Brown. ”We know how important every league point is, so the league games are huge.”
A common theme that a handful of MASCAC coaches have been highlighting is that no game on the schedule should be overlooked, or taken lightly. This season should prove no different, as teams have been getting strong and building their programs.
“We treat every game on our schedule equally,” Plymouth State coach and last year’s MASCAC Coach of the Year Craig Russell added. “You’re only given 25 games a year to prove that you’re a good team, and if you don’t take them all seriously, and look forward to each one, then you’re doing your team a disservice,. We’re really itching to hit the ice for the first game and see how things go.”
Let’s take a look at the MASCAC team previews.
Plymouth State Panthers
2012-13 USCHO Projected finish: 1st
Previous season: MASCAC Champions; First, 12-3-3 (17-7-3)
Key players: Sr. F, Kyle Greco (Leading scorer last season); Sr. F, Alex Cottle (7-20-7); Sr. D, Richie Zobak (MASCAC First-Team); Jr. D, David Walters (4-6-10)
Key departures: Chris Zaremba
Coach: Craig Russell; 32-13-8, 3rd season (MASCAC Coach of the Year)
Circle the Date: 12/30/12 at Oswego: Plymouth State closes out the New Year with a tournament tilt against the Oswego Lakers, who lost last season in the national title game against St. Norbert. This one can turn a lot of heads in all of D-III if the Panthers can pull out the win.
Outlook/prognosis: With basically their entire team back, the defending MASCAC champions are ready to defend their crown and head back to the NCAA Tournament on the strength of goaltending and offense. Up front, the Panthers return their top-five leading scorers, which includes MASCAC First Team forward Kyle Greco. In net, MASCAC First Team goalie Jake Astedt looks to close out a stellar collegiate career with another championship run.
Coach Russell: “I expect us to contend for the league title again this year. We added a lot of skill with our freshman class, but we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that we end up in that spot. I don’t think anyone will know which team is the best in the league until we’re into the month of February.”
2012-13 USCHO Projected finish: 2nd
Previous season: Third, 10-6-2 (16-9-2)
Key players: So. D, Stephen Ginand (MASCAC Rookie of the Year); Sr. F, Dave McDonald (9-10-19); Sr. F, Nick Marquis (4-15-9); Jr. G, Ryan Williams (13-9-2, 2.42 goals-against average)
Key departures: Mike Owens, Rob Dudley
Coach: John Rolli; 545-167-27, 29th season
Circle the Date: 01/4/12 vs. Neumann: The Corsairs open up the 2013 year with the Northfield Bank Tournament and take on the Neumann Knights, who were ranked 15 overall last season. Mass.-Dartmouth may also have to face last year’s No. 3 Norwich Cadets in the same tournament.
Outlook/prognosis: It is never easy when you lose your top two forwards from last season in Mike Owens, last year’s MASCAC Player of the Year, and Rob Dudley, who both combined for 72 points. Last year’s MASCAC’s Rookie of the Year Stephen Gindad carries the workload defensively for the Corsairs, and is poised for another big year, along with teammate Zach Helper. In net, Ryan Williams proves to be one of the stronger goalies in the conference, and can steal games for the Cosairs. Losing two high-scoring forwards though, may slow down Mass.-Dartmouth a bit, but not by much.
Salem State Vikings
2012-13 USCHO Projected MASCAC finish: 3rd
Previous season: Second, 11-4-3 (15-9-3)
Key players: Jr. G, Ryan Sutliffe (MASCAC Second-Team); Sr. F Derek Crocker (10-9-19); Jr. F, Eric Defelice (13-14-27); Jr. F Mark Macdonald (6-13-19)
Key departures: Giancarlo Capodanno, Ian Flanagan, Nick Lampson, Tom Mahoney
Coach: Bill O’Neill; 502-311-54, 32nd season
Circle the Date: 11/29/12 at Plymouth Sate: First meeting of the 2012-13 season between these two clubs after Plymouth Sate defeated Salem State in double overtime last year to win the MASCAC title and advance to the NCAA D-III Tournament. The Vikings lost all three regular season contests to the Cougars as well. This game should have a great atmosphere at Hanaway Rink in New Hampshire.
Outlook/Prognosis: Bill O’Neill’s club is returning a handful of his players from last season’s roster, which includes MASCAC Second-Team goalie Ryan Sutliffe. Salem Sate was atop the league in goals with 74, put together a very solid defense and was strong on the penalty kill. Losing two of their top three players, however, in Nick Lampson and Tom Mahoney hurts offensive production.
Fitchburg State Falcons
2012-13 USCHO Projected finish: Fourth
Previous season: Fourth, 8-7-3 (9-13-4)
Key players: Sr. F, Trevor Lawler (MASCAC Second-Team); Sr. F, Joseph Caveney (9-12-21); Sr. D, Curtis Nikitas (3-4-7); Jr. G, Randy Wolcott (5-4-0, 3.05 GAA)
Key departures: Thomas McAleer, Bobby Leiser
Coach: Dean Fuller; 463-242-43, 29th season
Circle the Date: 11/2/12 vs. Wentworth: The Falcons kick off their 2012-13 campaign with the Fitchburg Shutout and take on Wentworth, last year’s No. 14 in D-III.
Outlook/prognosis: Coach Dean Fuller always has his team ready to play, and sets a lineup that comes to work every night. This offense can still find the back of the net, and has experience. Fitchburg, though, lost its second leading scorer from last year, as well as its top defenseman and senior goaltender.
Westfield State Owls
2012-13 USCHO Projected finish: Fifth
Previous season: Fifth, 4-10-4 (7-14-5)
Key players: Jr. D, Billy Miller (MASCAC First-Team); So. F, Steve Evans (12-7-19); Sr. F, Lucas Romero (4-10-4); Jr. F, Vince Perreault (3-10-13)
Key departures: Pat Nelson, A.J Shiverdicker
Coach: Bob Miele; 26-43-10, 4th season
Circle the Date: 11/20/12 at Amherst: Coach Bob Miele returns to his alma mater as his Owls take on last year’s No. 4, the Amherst Lord Jeffs.
Outlook/prognosis: Westfield State is a hard-working program that will surprise teams if taken lightly, and is continuing to build its program up. The Owls had the MASCAC’s top power play last season and third-best penalty kill. Look for them to steal one or two this season.
Coach Miele: “I feel that we are an older and more competitive team, which goes a long way in this tough conference. It takes time to develop and improve the younger guys, and I feel that we have taking a look at this year’s club. We need to put together a full season though, where the past two years we finished better than we started.”
Framingham State Rams
2012-13 USCHO Projected finish: 6th
Previous season: Seventh, 3-12-3 (6-15-4)
Key players: Jr. F, Dan Miressi (12-14-26); So. D, Dylan Cosford (2-4-6); Jr. D, Bo Driscoll (6-9-15); So. F, Brendan McCarron (4-10-14)
Key departures: Aran Ward
Coach: TJ Brown; 12-53-7, 4th season
Circle the Date: 11/27/12 at Southern New Hampshire. Framingham travels to the Ice Den in Hooksett, N.H., to take on the Penmen. SNHU plays in the NE-10, a D-II conference; however, it has struggled as of late. If the Rams can nab the victory, it would be a big morale boost for the program.
Outlook/prognosis: The Rams return almost their entire roster, including their top five scorers, who all who have two or more years left of eligibility. This is a young team, but seems to be ready to make that turn into contenders. Framingham has a mix of young and older players that can surprise teams. If they can get solid goaltending to keep them in games, the Rams can start to look forward to post-seasons.
Coach Brown: “There isn’t one new guy that stands out, but we have several new young defensemen that will get significant minutes, so it will be important for them to get used to the speed quickly. We are definitely expecting a better season than the last few. I would say that anything less than a playoff berth would be a disappointment.”
Worcester State Lancers
2012-13 USCHO Projected finish: 7th
Previous season: Sixth, 5-11-2 (9-15-3)
Key players: So. F, Nathan Stanley (7-11-18); Sr. F, Tim D’Orazio (9-6-15); So. F, Brenton Dyok ( 5-9-14); So. D, Andrew Pierson (1-10-11)
Key departures: John Cahalane, Nick Asterito, Bryan Kalczynski
Coach: John Guiney; 146-308-30, 21st season
Circle the Date: 11/2/12 vs. Becker, 11/3/12 vs. Wentworth: The Lancers open up the 2012-13 season with the Fitchburg Shootout, and take on both Becker and Wentworth. Wentworth was nationally ranked last season, and Becker is a solid program that is looking to get back to above .500. Watch for these two games to prove as strong tests for the Lancers.
Outlook/prognosis: Losing top netminder Bryan Kalczynksi early to the professional ranks, the Lancers have a huge whole to fill at the goaltender position. Only junior goalie Taylor Fant saw other action; however, he lost two of the three games he played. Additionally on offense, Worcester is without two of its top three forwards from last season in John Cahlane and Nick Asterito; both combined for 13 goals and 38 points. Defense and goaltending are the two biggest areas of concern for the Lancers heading into this season.