ECAC Northeast Season Preview

The ECAC Northeast will have a ‘new look’ to it this year, as there are new coaches, a new team, and a couple of different rinks. One constant you will find at this time of the year is that every coach knows you can’t take a night off, as that will undoubtedly equate to an ‘L’ in the loss column.

Framingham State College

Last year, Framingham State College only won two games, but coach Chris Heaney feels that this year may be different.

“We’re going to compete every night; otherwise we’ll end up on the wrong side of the win-loss column,” he said. “I like what I see. We’ll win more than two games, but we won’t go undefeated. We’ll end up somewhere in between, and that’s a compliment to the league.”

Heaney has a relatively young squad this year, but he does have some upperclassmen to provide leadership. Two of them include senior forwards Jason Akstin and Nick Glum.

Last year, Glum led the team in scoring, averaging a point per game with 14 goals, nine assists, and 23 points in 23 games. Both seniors logged a lot of minutes last year, and will most likely do the same this year.

Heaney is still trying to figure out who fits where: “It’s wide open, everybody’s going to get a chance.”

That includes in goal, where sophomore Andy Joyce returns and he’ll be joined by sophomore transfers Jamie Babineau, who played at Western New England College last year, and Peter Dundovich, who played attended UMass-Boston last year.

Whoever is in goal, they’ll have a young corps of blue-liners protecting them.

“I like the attitude of the guys back there,” said Heaney. “Last year we had some guys back there who just wanted to do their own thing, and that was very frustrating.”

One change Heaney instituted this year was paring the roster to 26 players from 30 and he feels that the entire contingent is buying into his system. This also started before they took the ice.

“This off-season, I was proud of the kids. They worked out hard, got better, and came back in great shape”

Western New England College

Chris Bernard returns to Western New England College for his second season, and he offered some thoughts as to his team.

“I think we’re going to have more depth this year. We’re a pretty good skating club, and we’ll need to be physical and tough to be against every night.”

The Golden Bears have a large contingent of juniors returning, led by center Hank Levin,
and forwards Phil Lamy and Mike Majesty, as well as defenseman Joe Balog.

In goal, junior Kyle Sagnella is back, and he’ll be joined by a pair of freshmen, John Collins and Justin Richards. On defense, Bernard spoke very highly of senior Nick Klaussen.

“He’s been an unsung hero for us for the past two years. He’s got a real quiet demeanor, and plays a sound game every night, always doing of lot of little things.”

WNEC will call the Snead Arena their home this year, and Bernard hopes they can gain an advantage.

“A shot from anywhere in there is a good shot, and I want to see more grit and more toughness from our squad.”

Worcester State College

At Worcester State College, coach John Guiney feels his team’s strong point is between the pipes.

“Our strength is in goal,” Guiney observed. “We’re very good there, we have some depth. Jason Richardson is one kid that’s exceptional, and Andrew Evans, his back-up, is pretty good.”

Richardson, a junior, carried the load last year, appearing in 20 out of 23 games. The sophomore Evans should be able to lessen some of Richardson’s workload this year.

Guiney, who has coached at Worcester St. for the last 15 years, feels that his team will also have some depth up front. With eight seniors on the pre-season roster, Guiney also has a younger group ready to play.

“We had a bunch of freshmen last year that are sophomores now who had a lot of playing experience,” noted Guiney. “They didn’t know how good the league was last year, now they do.”

Two newcomers expected to provide an instant spark are forwards Justin Brownstein and Billy O’Neill, both of who played for the Valley Forge Minutemen junior team last year.

According to their coach, both are “high speed forwards who create a lot of offense“ and “should step in on the top two lines.”

Also expected to produce this year are the two top forwards on the team, junior Tom Ford and sophomore Mark Rintel. Last year, Ford led the Lancers in scoring with 13-13-26 in just 23 games. In the same amount of games, Rintel impressed as well, compiling 9-13-22.

Despite some obvious firepower up front, Guiney is a bit tentative about his defense.

“Our weakness is on defense, and we need to make our forwards aware of the fact that they need to play defense. Last year, we had problems scoring, and we lost a lot of two-goal games. If you’re weak on defense, how much can you expect out of your offense?”

Salve Regina University

In Rhode Island, at Salve Regina University, first year coach Andrew LeColst can’t wait to drop the puck.

“I’m excited. We’ve got a fairly young team, with seven freshmen and three seniors. I think we’ll be good offensively.”

LeColst, a former Salem State forward, takes over from Chris McPherson, who led the Seahawks into the quarterfinals of last year’s playoffs before losing to UMass Dartmouth.

One player the rookie coach will expect big things out of is sophomore forward Tyler Trott, who may well be the team’s best offensive weapon. Fellow sophomore Patrick Bambery should be a key force this year as well. Another player to watch is senior forward Mike Mallette, a skillful passer who has seen his points totals increase in each of his first three years.

In goal, junior Chase Goodrich returns. He saw most of the action last year, but this year he’ll be competing for playing time with freshman Patrick Enloe, who’s coming off a stellar year at Avon Old Farms in CT.

“We have the ability to put the puck in the net,” said LeColst. “We need to be more disciplined than we have in the past, some of the penalties hurt. Defensively, we need to work on the little things and not try to do too much. I’m excited…..I think we’re going to surprise a few people this year.”

When asked about the league as a whole, Bernard realized it’s not going to be easy.

“You see UMass Dartmouth, Curry, and Wentworth all getting consideration votes for the top 15. You can’t take a night off; there are too many close games. Our main objective is to secure a playoff spot. Our goal is to be in the top eight.”

Nichols College

Nichols College coach Lou Izzi is about to embark on his fourth year behind the bench, and he feels good about his squad’s prospects.

“We’re going to have a young team,” Izzi noted. “We have no seniors, but we do have some upper-class presence that I haven’t seen before. We’ll build our depth with a good nucleus of good players that we’ve had the last couple of years.”

Two of the players who will provide not only depth, but scoring, are Anthony Monte, a junior forward who led the team in scoring last year, and junior Jeff Beiber, who led all defensemen in conference scoring last year. Both players earned First Team All-ECAC Northeast last season.

Another junior who will be relied upon is defensemen Cole Ruwe. He’ll also don the captain’s ‘C’ for the second straight year. The Illinois native can put some points on the board (5-14-29 in 26 games) and also proved durable last year, not missing a contest.

Expected to carry the bulk of the action in net is junior Keith Fink, who had an 11-7-1 record with 514 saves and a .874 save percentage.

Izzi also had high expectations for his sophomores, particularly forward Zeke Costello, who last year broke the school record for assists, by helping out on 29 goals. Izzi is also very high on sophomore forward Eric Cremer.

“He’s a true sophomore,” said the coach of the 6’2”, 175 lb. Michigan native. “He’s got all the makings of a star, he’s got good wheels, he’s one of the fastest players we have, and he’s explosive. He continues to blossom.”

Izzi plans on playing Costello with freshmen.

Last year, Nichols got off to their best start in the program’s history, going 8-1-1. Izzi knows that every game is going to be tough, and that the league continues to improve.

Assumption College

In Worcester, Kevin Zifcak is about to embark on his third year of coaching Assumption College, and he feels he heads into this campaign with solid depth.

“We got a good group of returners, as we only graduated one kid last year. Our starting goalie is back, our starting forwards, and out starting defensemen. We’ve added some good newcomers, as we had a good recruiting class.”

Back is leading goal scorer Atte Oula. The sophomore left winger, who hails from Finland, led the Greyhounds in scoring last year with 13 tallies. Also leading the way offensively will be senior left winger Jim Trahon, who was tied with Oula for team scoring last year with 24 points. Junior forward Luke McDonough and Mike Rust are amongst those Zifcak will rely upon this year, plus “a whole cast of seniors who have all contributed.”

Balance is the watchword for Zifcak.

“We should be able to skate four lines consistently throughout games,” he predicted. “We have team speed, and we’re not going to break down in the third period. We have a lot more speed and depth up front.”

Behind the blue-line, Zifcak will be counting on senior Phil Demers, who he refers to as “a mainstay,” and will also look to sophomore Chris Genovese. Mammoth (6’5”, 225 lbs.) sophomore Derek Whitney, along with fellow classmates Jon Retell and Pat Keenan, will shore up the defense, along with the leadership of senior Randy Morin.

Zifcak also expects freshmen Todd Davis and Mark Labb to contribute.

All three goalies are back. Juniors Casey McNally and David Pinkham each played in about a quarter of the Greyhounds games last year, with sophomore Jamie DiGiulio playing in the remainder.

“All have experience,” Zifcak noted. “We get a consistent effort from them every night.”

Franklin Pierce College

In New Hampshire, Franklin Pierce College has a rookie coach in Scott Loiseau, but he knows his players are trying to make things easier for him.

“We have a good group of older kids that are coming back that should make the transition of a new coaching staff easier,” observed Loiseau. “They’re working hard, and they have a great work ethic.”

In goal, senior Spencer Utman returns. He played in 18 of the Ravens 24 games last year. Also competing for time in the net are freshmen Matt McCarthy and Jeremy Rossignolo, and sophomore Jon Tuttle. At this point, look for Rossignolo to emerge as Utman’s back-up.

Defense should be a strength for Franklin Pierce this year. Peter Wilson, a senior tri-captain, should “lead the guys,” according to Loiseau, who referred to him as a “solid all around player.”

Newcomer Billy Dugan, who played at Catholic Memorial last year, is expected to step right in, as is Eric Spalt, who played for the New Hampton School last year. Also returning are sophomore Steve Della Calce and junior Kyle Kruse.

Up front, last year’s leading scorer, Joe Fields, is back. Loiseau called him “an important piece of the puzzle.”

He’ll be joined by some other integral pieces, such as Ryan Strayer, Coursen Schneider, and Jeff Kasper. “They all have to get the job done,” Loiseau stated, “These are the main guys we count on to do most of the damage.”

Also coming in with the expectation that he perform right away is Sean Woodring, out of Eugene, OR. Loiseau feels he can “step in and make an impact right away.”

Overall, the rookie coach — who is taking over from long-time coach Jay McCormack — feels he has a team with a solid defense, and some team speed.

“As a team, all of our guys have to do their jobs to be successful.”

Next up? The rest of the ECAC NE, including newcomer Becker College.