For most teams in the ECAC West this season, player turnover has been rampant. With the exception of Hobart, every team is adding a double-digit sized class of freshmen to their rosters.
The league hasnâ€™t seen fresh talent of this magnitude in a single season in a long time. Whichever team can get their freshmen acclimated first could go a long way in determining the league standings.
Leading the way in number of recruits is Lebanon Valley with 18.
Manhattanville adds 14, while Utica and Neumann each add 11 to their rosters. Hobart is the lone team returning their roster mostly intact, only adding six players.
After a great run to the NCAA semi-finals last season, Elmira is picked to again win the ECAC West regular season title this year. The Soaring Eagles lost a lot of their scoring punch to graduation but return a solid corps of skaters and Casey Tuttle in net.
The coaches think Manhattanville will finish second in the regular season, coming off two straight ECAC West playoff titles. However, with the loss of their best forward and defenseman, Iâ€™m choosing Hobart to finish second and Manhattanville to end up in third.
Utica, with a very favorable home schedule, is picked for fourth place, but if the Pioneers can figure out how to score goals they could move up the standings very quickly.
For the second straight summer, Neumann has a new coach entering the season. Dominick Dawes joins a Knights team known for scoring goals. But the graduation of several keys players and the unknown of a new coach lands Neumann in the fifth spot in the preseason prognostications.
There is little doubt that Lebanon Valleyâ€™s play improved last season but the Flying Dutchmen didnâ€™t see any improvement in the win-loss column. With a team made up mostly of underclassmen, their biggest challenge this year is to finally turn around the attitude and outlook of the program. They should have more success this season compared to last, but it will be another year or two before they truly become competitive.
Stay tuned for the regular season ECAC West column to cover all the action beginning next week.
Click on any team name at the top of a section below to view its individual season preview. Teams are listed in order of predicted finish by USCHO.com.
2007-08 overall record: 20-4-5
2007-08 ECAC West record: 10-2-3
2007-08 ECAC West finish: First
2008-09 Coachâ€™s Poll: First
2008-09 USCHO predicted finish: First
Outlook: A quick start last season help Elmira get all the way to the NCAA semi-finals. But the Soaring Eagles lost three of their top four scorers to graduation.
2007-08 overall record: 18-8-2
2007-08 ECAC West record: 7-6-2
2007-08 ECAC West finish: Tied Fourth
2008-09 Coachâ€™s Poll: Third
2008-09 USCHO predicted finish: Second
Outlook: Hobart returns its defense completely intact, and still has senior Keith Longo in net. But can the Statesmen use the most veteran team in the league to move up in the standings?
2008 ECAC West League Champions
2007-08 overall record: 18-7-3
2007-08 ECAC West record: 8-5-2
2007-08 ECAC West finish: Second
2008-09 Coachâ€™s Poll: Second
2008-09 USCHO predicted finish: Third
Outlook: Manhattanville hopes to use diversity to its advantage this season as the Valiants have an interesting mix of American, Canadian, and European players.
2007-08 overall record: 15-10-1
2007-08 ECAC West record: 8-6-1
2007-08 ECAC West finish: Third
2008-09 Coachâ€™s Poll: Fourth
2008-09 USCHO predicted finish: Fourth
Outlook: Defense and penalty killing have never been a problem for Utica. Scoring goals and power plays have. The Pioneers brought in some snipers this season to try and turn that trend around.
2007-08 overall record: 17-9
2007-08 ECAC West record: 8-7
2007-08 ECAC West finish: Tied Fourth
2008-09 Coachâ€™s Poll: Fifth
2008-09 USCHO predicted finish: Fifth
Outlook: The players that transformed Neumann from a doormat to a perennial contender have graduated. Now it is up to a new coach and the next generation to continue to move the program further up the league standings.
2007-08 overall record: 1-23-1
2007-08 ECAC West record: 0-15
2007-08 ECAC West finish: Sixth
2008-09 Coachâ€™s Poll: Sixth
2008-09 USCHO predicted finish: Sixth
Outlook: There may be a light at the end of the dark tunnel that has been Lebanon Valley hockey the last few years. An enormous recruiting class has injected new blood — and hope — into the Flying Dutchmen.