Bazin, Massachusetts-Lowell turn to experience at forward

Norm Bazin knows what it is like to face challenges. As a player at Massachusetts-Lowell in the mid-1990s, he transformed from a role player to one of the leading scorers on one of Lowell’s best teams ever.

As an assistant at Colorado College, Bazin successfully recruited some of the game’s top players — including Hobey Baker Award winners Peter Sejna and Marty Sertich. He also won a battle for his life after a head-on car collision with a drunk driver left Bazin in a coma with a torn aorta and less than a 10 percent chance of even making it to the hospital alive.

So as Bazin takes the reins at his alma mater, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he’s meeting the challenge of turning around a program that finished in last place a year ago, winning just five games total, with confidence and zeal that has become his trademark.

“I like our level of enthusiasm,” said Bazin. “Our work ethic is strong and I think the kids are excited to play.”

Bazin said that the most experience on the team lies at forward. Players like David Vallorani, who led the team in scoring a year ago, and Riley Wetmore, who doubled his point total of 15 in his freshman year to 30 a year ago, will be looked upon to pace the offense. On the blue line, the team returns four of six starters from a year ago.

But then there is goaltending. The Achilles’ heel of the team last season, goaltending must improve for the River Hawks if they have any hope of getting out of the Hockey East basement. The trio of Doug Carr, Marc Boulanger and T.J. Massie — all sophomores — returns. And at this point, the race for the starting position is, simply put, wide open.

“[Goaltending] is a work in progress,” said Bazin. “It’s too early to tell. It wasn’t very successful last year, but we’re not looking at last year. We’re looking at this year. They’ll each get a chance to prove themselves.”

About the River Hawks

2010-11 overall record: 5-25-4

2010-11 HEA record: 4-21-2 (10th)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Ninth

Key losses: Defensemen Maury Edwards and Ryan Blair; forwards Scott Campbell and Patrick Cey

Players to watch: Forwards David Vallorani, Riley Wetmore and Matt Ferreira; defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Chris Ickert

Impact rookie: Defenseman Jake Suter

Why the River Hawks will finish higher than the coaches poll: Last year’s very young team will have an extra year of development and experience under its belt.

Why the River Hawks will finish lower than the coaches poll: The transition to a new coaching staff with possible new philosophies.