Most leagues have one or two clear-cut frontrunners and some well-defined strata before anyone even dons a sweater.
Not in ECAC Hockey.
Four teams seem to have legitimate claims to the title of Fall Favorite, but only one squad can be tagged as conspicuously having everything to prove.
As for everyone else, any order you could design would have its virtues and its flaws. So here’s merely one approach: Game on!
Below are individual previews for each team, listed in reverse order of predicted finish. Each individual preview can be accessed by clicking on a given school’s name.
Head Coach: Brendan Whittet (First season as head coach)
2008-2009 Record: 5-23-5 (3-15-4, 12th)
Departed: F Ryan Garbutt, F Eric Slais, F Matt Vokes
Back For More: Sr F Jordan Pietrus, Sr G Dan Rosen, Sr F Aaron Volpatti, So D Jeff Buvinow
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: 12
2009-2010 Media Poll: 12
Why: It’s a new dawn for Bruno, but the Bears haven’t earned anything yet.
Head Coach: Joe Marsh (436-361-60, 24 years at St. Lawrence)
2008-2009 Record: 21-12-5 (11-7-4, 4th)
Departed: F Kevin DeVergilio, D Shawn Fensel, D Matt Generous, F Brock McBride, D Zach Miskovic
Back For More: Sr F Mike McKenzie, Sr G Alex Petizian, Sr F Travis Vermeulen, Jr F Jared Keller
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: 10
2009-2010 Media Poll: 7
Why: When the Class of ’09 left Canton, the Saints lost the soul of their game: lethally potent scoring from the blue line.
Head Coach: Rand Pecknold (281-183-45, 15 years at Quinnipiac)
2008-2009 Record: 18-18-3 (9-10-3, 7th)
Departed: F Bryan Leitch, F David Marshall, D Dan Henningson, D Matt Sorteberg, G Bud Fisher
Back For More: Sr F Jean-Marc Beaudoin, Sr F Eric Lampe, Sr F Brandon Wong, Jr D Zach Hansen, So F Scott Zurevinski
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: t-8
2009-2010 Media Poll: 11
Why: Until the Q-Cats discover defensive discipline and a steady No. 1 netminder, they’ll be little more than a high-scoring, higher-surrendering curiosity.
Nickname: Golden Knights
Head Coach: George Roll (106-99-27, six years at Clarkson; 212-161-41, 12 years overall)
2008-2009 Record: 10-19-7 (8-10-4, t-8th)
Departed: F Chris D’Alvise, F Shea Guthrie, D Philippe Paquet, D Tyrell Mason
Back For More: Sr F Matt Beca, Jr F Brandon DeFazio, Jr F Scott Freeman, Jr D Bryan Rufenach, So G Paul Karpowich
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: 11
2009-2010 Media Poll: 8
Why: The departed have bequeathed some awfully big skates to this talented-but-unproven edition of the Golden Knights.
Head Coach: Seth Appert (31-68-14, three years at Rensselaer)
2008-2009 Record: 10-27-2 (6-15-1, 11th)
Departed: F Matt Angers-Goulet, F Seth Klerer, G Mathias Lange, F Andrei Uryadov
Back For More: Jr D Bryan Brutlag, Jr F Tyler Helfrich, Jr F Chase Polacek, So F Patrick Cullen, So F Alex Angers-Goulet, So G Allen York
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: t-8
2009-2010 Media Poll: 10
Why: Goaltending will be a question mark to start, but things seem to be on the upswing in Troy following a disastrous ’08-09 campaign.
Head Coach: Nate Leaman (91-105-25, six years at Union)
2008-2009 Record: 19-17-3 (9-11-2, t-8th)
Departed: D Lane Caffaro, F Matt Cook, D Mike Harr, D Brendan Milnamow,
Back For More: Sr D Mike Schreiber, Sr F Mario Valery-Trabucco, Sr F Jason Walters, Jr F StÃ©phane Boileau, Jr G Corey Milan, Jr F Adam Presizniuk
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: 6
2009-2010 Media Poll: 6
Why: Schenectady welcomes back a lot of key names, but the pressing concern is what will the nameplates on the blue line read?
Head Coach: Don Vaughan (269-253-59, 16 years at Colgate)
2008-2009 Record: 12-18-7 (6-11-5, 10th)
Departed: F Peter Bogdanich, D Jason Fredricks, D Nick St. Pierre
Back For More: Sr G Charles Long, Sr F David McIntyre, Jr F Francois Brisebois, Jr F Brian Day, So F Austin Smith
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: 7
2009-2010 Media Poll: 9
Why: The Raiders are poised to make a move, so long as some new names step forward to take some pressure off McIntyre.
Nickname: Big Green
Head Coach: Bob Gaudet (177-165-44, 12 years at Dartmouth; 270-307-75, 21 years overall)
2008-2009 Record: 14-14-3 (11-9-2, t-5th)
Departed: F Rob Pritchard, F Connor Shields
Back For More: Jr F Adam Estoclet, Jr F Scott Fleming, Jr D Evan Stephens, So F Doug Jones, So G Jody O’Neill
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: 5
2009-2010 Media Poll: 5
Why: Dartmouth has all the pieces, but will they click together as sweetly as they did last year?
Head Coach: Ted Donato (82-68-17, five years at Harvard)
2008-2009 Record: 9-16-6 (9-7-6, t-5th)
Departed: F Nick Coskren, F Jimmy Fraser, D Brian McCafferty
Back For More: Sr D Alex Biega, Sr F Doug Rogers, Jr F Michael Biega, Jr F Matt McCollem, Jr G Kyle Richter, So F Alex Killorn
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: 4
2009-2010 Media Poll: 4
Why: If the Harvard net is adequately tended, a first-round bye shouldn’t be considered an achievement for this squad … more like a requirement.
Head Coach: Guy Gadowsky (76-80-10, five years at Princeton; 144-169-32, 10 years overall)
2008-2009 Record: 22-12-1 (14-8-0, 3rd)
Departed: F Lee Jubinville, F Brandan Kushniruk, F Brett Wilson
Back For More: Sr F Dan Bartlett, Sr G Zane Kalemba, Sr F Mark Magnowski, Sr D Jody Pederson, Jr D Mark Godlewski
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: 3
2009-2010 Media Poll: 3
Why: Between Cornell and Princeton, it seems the Tigers graduated just a little bit more of their essence than their Big Red rivals.
Nickname: Big Red
Head Coach: Mike Schafer (276-149-49, 14 years at Cornell)
2008-2009 Record: 22-10-4 (13-6-3, 2nd)
Departed: F Evan Barlow, F Michael Kennedy, F Tyler Mugford, D Jared Seminoff
Back For More: Sr F Blake Gallagher, Sr F Colin Greening, Sr D Brendon Nash, Sr G Ben Scrivens, Jr F Joe Devin, Jr F Riley Nash
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: 2
2009-2010 Media Poll: 2
Why: Despite a merely mediocre offense last season, it’s still the only thing keeping Cornell from the top spot. The defense and Ben Scrivens are just that good.
Head Coach: Keith Allain (51-39-9, three years at Yale)
2008-2009 Record: 24-8-2 (15-5-2, 1st)
Departed: F Patrick Brosnihan, F Matt Nelson, G Alec Richards
Back For More: Sr F Mark Arcobello, Sr F Sean Backman, Sr D Thomas Dignard, Jr F Denny Kearney, Jr F Broc Little, So F Kevin Limbert, So F Brian O’Neill
2009-2010 Coaches’ Poll: 1
2009-2010 Media Poll: 1
Why: The only preseason concern in New Haven rests in the abbreviated blue arc in front of the net. Everything else looks golden for the Elis.