This year, there’s a bigger incentive to play for in the MASCAC.
An automatic bid to the NCAA tournament is up for grabs for the first time in the league’s three years as an organized Division III hockey conference, and the winner of the MASCAC postseason tournament has a chance to make history as the three-year-old league’s first entry to the NCAA Division III tournament.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs and try to advance to the tournament,” Salem State coach Bill O’Neill said. “The league is very competitive, though. Last year, even the last two years, it’s been very strong, right to the end and right to the last game of the season to determine the winning teams.”
However, each season, Worcester State coach John Guiney explained, it seems like whoever scores last in each MASCAC contest is going to win. Don’t expect that to be any different this season, and expect Worcester State to adjust accordingly.
Of the league’s top 10 scorers in 2010-2011, all but one scored at least 11 goals, and Salem State’s Giancarlo Capodanno, a senior forward, returns as the league’s leading scorer, with 15 goals and 22 assists last season. Capodanno will lead a Vikings offense that finished fifth in the nation by scoring an average of 4.30 goals a game (116 goals in 27 games). Three MASCAC teams were among the top 20 in the nation in Division III scoring (Salem State, Fitchburg State 8th and Plymouth State 17th).
“We have to increase our scoring,” Guiney said. “It seems that in our conference, it’s a race to five. Whoever gets five goals wins. And for us, we have to make sure to take more shots.”
Projected finish: First
Previous season: Second, 18-7-2 (11-5-2)
Key departures: Sam Cannata, Mike Genovese, James LaCour.
Arrivals: Ace Edwards, Ian Canty, Cam Banwell.
Key players: Giancarlo Capodanno (15-22-37), Nick Lampson (12-20-32), Casey Terreri (8-21-29).
Outlook/prognosis: The Vikings’ strength will be their offense, as they return five of their top seven scorers from last season – including three players with at least 12 goals. With the graduation of Cannata, the Vikings need to establish a strong leader on defense. In goal, sophomore Ryan Sutliffe and junior Sam Avoine will play in order to fill the void left by LaCour, who had a 2.68 goals-against average in 20 games.
Projected finish: Second
Previous season: First, 18-7-1 (13-4-1)
Key departures: Jason Stahl, Collin Tracy, Mickey Dudley.
Arrivals: Ryan Williams, Zach Hepler.
Key players: Rob Dudley (10-5-15), Mike Owens (10-5-15), Justin Pye (0-3-3), Mike Grzelcyk (1-4-5).
Outlook/prognosis:The Corsairs graduated three All-Conference selections in Stahl, Tracy, and Dudley, and lost their top two leading scorers in Stahl (15-13-28) and Joe Hill (10-15-25). However, depth probably won’t be an issue for the Corsairs; instead, Massachusetts-Dartmouth’s biggest concern will be in goal after the departure of Tracy (18-7-1, 2.24 goals-against average, .921 saves percentage).
Projected finish: Third
Previous season: Fourth, 18-9-1 (9-8-1)
Key departures: Billy Pescosolido, Chris Riggs, Bobby Vorse, Kevin McCready.
Arrivals: None to report, via Falcons coach Dean Fuller.
Key players: Kris Threlkeld (12-22-34), Bobby Leiser (10-3, 2.50 GAA, .931 save percentage), Thomas McAleer (11-16-27), Spencer Syvertson (1-2-3), Bryan Canter (5-6-11), Travis Bertolotti (5-12-17).
Outlook/prognosis: The Falcons return three of their five leading scorers from last season, including All-Conference selection Threlkeld. Leiser is the front-runner to take over as the starting goalie after splitting time in the nets with Vorse, and the Falcons will return a experienced defense that graduated only two seniors from last year, and will be anchored by Syvertson and Bertolotti this season.
Projected finish: Fourth
Previous season: Third, 15-6-5 (10-5-3)
Key departures: Andrew Stewart, David Rose, Jake Curtin.
Arrivals: Michael Freitag, Phil Arnone.
Key players: Richie Zobak (4-12-16), Kyle Greco (16-13-29), Alex Cottle (3-23-26), Jack Astedt (13-5-5, 2.18 GAA, .920 save percentage).
Outlook/prognosis: Manufacturing offense will be key for the Panthers, who had the MASCAC’s top power play last season (34 for 127, 26.8 percent in 26 games). Behind Greco and Bryan Kriner (15-9-24), no returning player scored more than five goals last season, but the Panthers look to build upon their depth, experience, and fitness level. Zobak will anchor a defense that allowed 61 goals in 26 games, which also led the league last season, but graduated four players.
Projected finish: Fifth
Previous season: Fifth, 11-12-3 (7-10-1)
Key departures: Chris Wallin.
Arrivals: Nathan Stanley, Steven Rock, Luke Nietenbach, Andrew Pearson.
Key players: Nick Asterito (11-18-29), John Cahalane (15-8-23), Derek Serbon (8-9-17), Bryan Kalcynski (7-11-2, 3.14 GAA, .918 save percentage), Tim D’Orazio (6-6-12), Paul Conceison (1-4-5), Tim Bowman (2-6-8).
Outlook/prognosis: Remarkably, Wallin is one of only two players the Lancers graduated from last season; Worcester State returns the bulk of its team, which looks to improve on its fifth-place finish. Behind Asterito and Calahane, the Lancers must generate more offense; no returning player scored more than eight goals last season.
Projected finish: Sixth
Previous season: Seventh, 6-19-2 (4-13-1)
Key departures: Dennis Zak, Drew LaCombe, Ray Monroe.
Arrivals: Did not name new arrivals, but the Owls have nine on the roster.
Key players: Vince Perreault (15-11-26), Pat Nelson (6-15-21), A.J. Shiverdecker (6-11-17), Jeff Callahan (4-10-14), Lucas Romero (5-6-11).
Outlook/prognosis: The Owls graduated their top scorer in Dennis Zak (18 goals, 24 assists), but sophomore forward Vince Perreault should step into the role Zak vacated as a result of graduation. While the Owls were thin as far as offense last year, they graduated only five players, meaning that the experience they gained should help this season.
Projected finish: Seventh
Previous season: Sixth, 4-18-1 (4-13-1)
Key departures: Terence Sullivan,
Arrivals: Matt Schafer, Cam Hoffman, Jordan Lehr, Ryan Lehr, Cody Blom, Billy McMullen.
Key players: Daniel Miressi (18-12-30), Eric Ward (9-9-18), Benjamin Pacific (5-9-14).
Outlook/prognosis: The Rams were hurt by a lack of offensive production last season, and were outscored 113-55, including 92-44 in conference play (more than a 2-1 margin). The lack of offense didn’t help goalies Sullivan and Nicholas Cafrelli, each of whom had a goals-against average of more than 4.60.