Elmira looks to balance offensive firepower with goaltending questions

Coach: Aaron Saul, second season at Elmira, fourth season overall (38-34-10)
2009-10 record: 19-9-1 overall, 11-4 ECAC West (first)
2009-10 team offense: 3.72 goals/game (third)
2009-10 team defense : 2.31 goals/game (first)
2009-10 power play: 22.5 percent (fourth)
2009-10 penalty kill: 88.1 percent (first)
Key losses: Rusty Masters (16g, 21a), Casey Tuttle (.916 savepercent, 2.40 gaa)
Key returners: Darcy Vaillancourt (20g, 20a), Kevin Willer (15g, 19a)
2010-11 predicted finish: Third


The Elmira Soaring Eagles experienced an eye opener at the very end of last season. After losing the championship game to Manhattanville in the league playoffs, Elmira received a bit of a surprise bid to the NCAA tournament. The Soaring Eagles rolled past Curry in the first round, but ran into a very quick Norwich team in the quarterfinals, losing 2-1 in overtime.

Elmira took to heart some of the lessons learned during that game when evaluating recruits for this season.

“After playing Norwich, it was pretty evident that they had four {forward} lines that could go,” said Elmira coach Aaron Saul. “For us, we had about two and a half, so we definitely needed to change that.”

The Soaring Eagles look to add some depth and speed with this season’s freshman class, bringing in seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie.

“We brought in some impact guys,” said Saul. “Etienne Archambault was the leading scorer in his league.  Manuel Kourtoglou who was the fourth leading scorer in that league. We think those two will be impact players right off the bat.”

Behind the blue line, Elmira brought in both size and offensive punch.

“At the back end, we were looking for some bigger defensemen,” said Saul. “Joe Gagne is 6’5″ and Matthew Herskovitz at 6’2”. Both are physical defensemen. Matthew will be an offensive-type defenseman for us.  Casey Fratkin is a great puck moving defenseman.

Perhaps the largest question mark, though, is in net. Casey Tuttle, who averaged playing 84 percent of the time during his four year college career, graduated last spring. Now Elmira must search amongst three goaltenders to see who will step into the starting role.

“We have two guys who just didn’t get to play very much because of Casey Tuttle,” said Saul. “Kevin Bolin played behind Casey for three years and is looking to prove himself. Sophomore Darren McDonald will battle with Kevin for the number one spot.”

Joining Bolin and McDonald in net is freshman Matt Milne. In addition to the freshmen, transfers Christian Morissette (RPT) and Wes Consorti (Niagara) will also need to learn the Soaring Eagles systems.

With so many new faces on the team, Elmira certainly has its work cut out to form a cohesive team right out of the gate.

“Everbody is questioning our goaltending,” said Saul, “but for us, personally, it is going to be the new guys adapting quickly. We have twelve freshmen and two transfers from Division I, so it is going to take a while for those guys to get used to our system without a whole lot of practice time.”