As you look around Atlantic Hockey, a lot of teams are faced with the issue of not having a goaltender to turn to. That said, it almost seems unfair that Mercyhurst has four.
That’s right, the defending champs, who this year were picked along with Holy Cross to repeat as champions, have four different goaltenders competing for the job, though there’s no doubt in head coach Rick Gotkin’s mind that one stands out.
“Mike Ella is our goaltender heading into camp,” said Gotkin of his sophomore goaltender who stole the show down the stretch for the Lakers, winning eight of his final nine starts, his only loss coming in a 52-save effort again Boston College in the NCAA tournament. “Really, it’s going to be a wait-and-see thing from there. Mike Ella may never come out of the goal all year. We’re going to just keep evaluating and looking at things.
“Only one guy can play, though, and right now Mike Ella’s our guy.”
The trio that will challenge Ella includes last year’s top goaltender entering camp, Andy Franck, Jordan Wakefield, who returns after taking a year off as a medical redshirt, and rookie Tyler Small, a blue-chip recruit who has as much chance as the others of seeing time in net.
Moving out onto the open ice, Mercyhurst will be forced to replace a large chunk of offensive production that graduated in the form of David Wrigley, Rich Hansen and T.J. Kemp. Though they were the only three big losses, the losses indeed were quite significant as last year the trio accounted for 98 points.
To offset those departures, Mercyhurst will hope for continued success from a handful of forwards, none more important than sophomore Ben Cottreau. Last year’s Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year had what Gotkin called an “easy adjustment” to the college game.
“Ben’s very committed to continuing to get better,” said Gotkin. “We have no reason to believe that he won’t be even better this year, and I’d be disappointed if that wasn’t the case.”
On the blueline, Gotkin will have to replace Kemp, who though known for his offensive production, was still one of the best defensive players in the league.
Should all of this come together, Mercyhurst seems like a lock for the Atlantic Hockey title. Truly the only thing that should stand in Mercyhurst’s way in consistency. Last year it seemed that most things happened in streaks, most notably a nine-game winning streak down the stretch. Mercyhurst, though, can’t rely on long winning streaks and must play a consistent game night in and night out in order to head back to the NCAA tournament.