No replacing Jaden Schwartz, so Colorado College seeks offensive improvements

Colorado College will look for some of its offensive players to step up while relying on a solid defensive base in its pursuit of home playoff ice in its final season in the WCHA.

Standout Jaden Schwartz, now making AHL goalies’ lives difficult, will not be replaced but there is hope that his older brother Rylan Schwartz (23 goals, 17 assists for 40 points) can continue his scoring pace of years past. Also, there’s hope that others, such as seniors William Rapuzzi (3-12–15) and Scott Winkler (7-17–24) and junior Alexander Krushelnyski (10-10–20), can make up for losing 40 percent of last year’s points.

“We have a chance to be decent if we get guys like Winkler and Rapuzzi to emerge,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens, who has a chance at recording college win No. 300 this weekend at home against Clarkson. “We look strong in the middle with Rylan, Winkler and [freshman] Cody Bradley at center. Cody looked good. Other freshmen who will contribute are Hunter Fejes and Jared Hanson.”

Five of the six regular defensemen return, including senior Michael Boivin (8-17–25), who was fifth last year in points, junior Eamonn McDermott and senior Joe Marciano, both of whom are assistant captains.

“Boivin quietly goes about collecting points,” Owens said. “We have McDermott and Marciano. We will be solid along the blue line.”

Sophomores Aaron Harstad and Peter Stoykewych have a full season in the WCHA under their belts while sophomore Ian Young looks ready for an expanded role. The addition of freshmen Russell Finch and Michael King adds depth.

The return of junior goalie Josh Thorimbert (13-8-1, 2.35 goals against average, .924 save percentage) and senior netminder Joe Howe (5-8-1, 3.48, .882) gives CC a base to build on defensively.

“They give us a good one-two punch in there,” Owens said.

The first test is a challenging non-conference schedule in the opening month. After Clarkson, CC travels crosstown to Atlantic Hockey favorite Air Force and then hosts No. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell, which is coached by former Tigers assistants Norm Bazin and Jason Lammers. The next weekend, CC travels to No. 5 Cornell.

“It will tell us a lot about our team right away,” Owens said. “If we win, it can really help us at the end of the year [with PairWise Rankings]. That can be very helpful for a team picked to finish in the middle of the league.”

About the Tigers

2011-12 overall record: 18-16-2

2011-12 WCHA record: 15-12-1 (fifth)

2012-13 predicted finish (coaches poll): Seventh

Key losses: F Jaden Schwartz, C Nick Dineen, D Gabe Guentzel, F David Civitarese

Players to watch: C Rylan Schwartz, F William Rapuzzi, F Alexander Krushelnyski, D Joe Marciano, D Eamonn McDermott, F Scott Winkler, F Andrew Hamburg, D Mike Boivin, G Josh Thorimbert, G Joe Howe

Impact rookie: C Hunter Fejes

Why the Tigers will finish higher than the coaches poll: Rylan Schwartz is the real deal and if others step up, notably Rapuzzi, Krushelnyski and a healthy Hamburg, the offense can fill the holes left by graduation and early departures. The sophomore class (scoreless as freshmen) and the incoming rookies, notably Cody Bradley, Fejes and Jared Hanson, will contribute on the score sheets while a healthy Thorimbert and a resurgent Howe will anchor an improved defense.

Why the Tigers will finish lower than the coaches poll: Injuries, freshman mistakes and inadequate production from the returning players could make for a challenging season.