In coach Ted Donato’s first season in Cambridge, he inherited a talented senior class that included an All-American defenseman in captain Noah Welch, a Hobey Baker finalist in goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris, defenseman Ryan Lannon — USCHO.com’s Unsung Hero for 2004-2005 — and Tom Cavanagh, the best defensive forward in the ECAC.
“We’ll miss those guys,” Donato agreed. “They are great players, they’re great character guys in the locker room, and great leaders for us. We’ll miss them on and off the ice.”
“I do feel,” he continued, “that we have guys in place that can do more, and are going to need to do more, for us to win.”
Beginning his sophomore season behind the bench, Donato must overcome those losses to graduation, and the first challenge will be identifying which of the guys on his bench can fill the void in net. Grumet-Morris was the Crimson’s netminder for almost four full seasons, and it is unclear whether senior John Daigneau, junior Justin Tobe, or freshman Mike Coskren will provide similar play in net.
“In the net, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s a major issue for us,” Donato said. “We need either one or both [Daigneau and Tobe] to step up and play great goaltending for us. And I think they are both capable, but until you do it there’s the unknown factor.”
In front of the yet-to-be-named netminder will be an experienced defense led by captain Peter Hafner. One of the challenges for Hafner and his fellow defensemen will be finding a way to replace the skills that departed with Welch and Lannon’s graduation.
Look for junior defenseman Dylan Reese to partially fill both sets of skates. Reese is expected to assume the offensive production of departed captain Welch, especially on the power play. And given the contrasting style of Hafner, Reese may also have to assume some of the physical presence that Lannon brought along the defensive boards.
“Dylan Reese had a tremendous season for us,” said Donato. “I thought he was a very well-kept secret last year; I expect him to be among the top three defensemen in our league.”
Reese, who was touted as an offensive defenseman entering Harvard, tallied seven goals (three on the power play) alongside a dozen assists last year. That represented a significant improvement over his five-point freshman season.
More impressive, though, was the way in which Reese carried himself on the ice. He was aggressive — both in starting the rush and checking — and was a solid contributor on special teams.
Offensively, Donato expects his young forwards to assume the goal-scoring and playmaking abilities that departed with Cavanagh and forwards Brendan Bernakevitch and Andrew Lederman.
“What we lack in some returning senior leadership and goal-scoring, we’ll make up more in depth up front,” he said. “Charlie Johnson, Kevin Du, Ryan Maki and Jon Pelle had very good years for us, but I expect them to take it to the next level this year and lead our team up front offensively.”