MASCAC race looks to be wide open for 2013-14 as ‘anybody can beat anybody’

Fitchburg State returns Ryan Connolly to the Falcons’ lineup this season (photo: Richard Orr).

The MASCAC could be a multiple horse race for the 2013-14 season.

In the league coaches’ poll, last season’s regular-season champion Plymouth State and Westfield State each received three first-place votes. Massachusetts-Dartmouth – last year’s MASCAC tournament champion – is right behind in third place while Salem State is in fourth picking up the other first place vote.

“If you look at the points totals [in the coaches’ poll] you will see there are seven points that separate the top four teams,” said Plymouth State coach Craig Russell. “I don’t think anyone at this point [is the favorite]. I think Westfield State will be the top team in our league because they return the most and they have a very good goaltender[Ian Perrier].”

“If you look at our league since it has started, the last four years, four different winners,” added Westfield State coach Bob Miele. “You had Salem State, Fitchburg, then Plymouth, and last year UMass-Dartmouth. It’s how it’s going to be this year and with our league, you don’t know who’s coming and going on your team.”

Westfield State is returning 11 of their 12 scorers from last year’s team that fell in the MASCAC quarterfinals to Fitchburg State.

“We played a good team in Fitchburg State,” said Miele. “When you play a team three times in the regular season and you play a team a fourth time, every game is so difficult. Playoffs, anybody can beat anybody and obviously, we had higher aspirations than the first round.”

Miele likes the depth of his squad.

“We have a good amount of seniors and juniors that had some pretty good point totals last year,” Miele said. “Most of them are coming back. We have a goaltender coming back, some good solid defensemen. We are excited about the year.”

Russell says his squad will rely on his veterans to start the season.

“We don’t know a whole lot at this point,” Russell said. “We are going to try to take it a game at a time early and see how things go. We have a good core coming back. We will obviously rely on those guys.”

The Panthers also are bringing in junior Chad Barthelmess, who spent the last two seasons at the Division I level with Sacred Heart.

“He played on their top two lines last year,” Russell said of Barthelmess. “He brings in a lot of college hockey experience, which will help early on.”

Plymouth State will have to replace Jack Astedt in net and Tyler Ingerson, who has been the backup the last three years, will get his chance this season to be the No. 1 goaltender.

Russell stated he has never been afraid to put Ingerson into the net in a big game.

Massachusetts-Dartmouth has a couple key guys coming back, including Dmitry Antipin, who was able to show off his skills at the New Jersey Devils prospect camp this past summer, and Shaun Walters, the team’s leading returning scorer. The Corsairs were the lone team in the conference to receive any consideration in the preseason Division III Men’s Poll.

“That’s one team every year you have to respect,” said Miele. “Coach [John] Rolli may be one of the best college coaches in any sport in the nation.”

Salem State and Fitchburg are two teams that didn’t lose too many seniors off their respective squads from last season. They also have plenty of coaching experience as Bill O’Neil (Salem State) and Dean Fuller (Fitchburg State) have 1,002 wins between them.

Worcester State and Framingham State will also provide stiff competition to the rest of the conference.

“I think Worcester will be better,” Russell said. “They brought in a couple of guys that are pretty good and I don’t believe they graduated a whole ton.”

Fitchburg State

Nickname: Falcons
2012-13 Record: (11-14-2, 9-8-1)
2012-13 Postseason: Lost to UMass-Dartmouth 7-1 in the MASCAC semifinals
Head Coach and Record with School: Dean Fuller (474-256-45, 30th season)
Key Returning Players (with ’12-13 stats): John Celli (11-16-27); Ryan Connolly (17-9-26); Max Lorenzen (11-13-24); Sean Loebs (6-10-16).
Key Departures: Joseph Caveney (17-30-47); Trevor Lawler (7-18-25); Justin Quinn (4-12-16); Randy Wolcott (11-11-2, .918 save-percentage, 2.99 goals-against-average).
Key Newcomers: Alex Duplessie (Boston Jr. Bruins (CHA) 6-14-20); Jon Johannesson (Yarmouth Mariners (MHL) 18-15-33); Connor Bowman (Wichita Falls Jr. Thunder (WSHL) 8-11-19); Aaron Dusek (Atlanta Jr. Knights (EJHL-South) 6-16-22).
Prediction: 5th — The Falcons will continue their youth movement this season. There’s only two seniors on their roster and and five juniors. The young guys know how to put the puck in the net as their top returning scorers are John Celli and Ryan Connolly. With the departure of Randy Wolcott in goal, three juniors Corey McMahon, Ryan Wysocki, and Dan Finn will look to fill his shoes.

Framingham State

Nickname: Rams
2012-13 Record: (2-19-3, 0-15-3)
2012-13 Postseason: Didn’t make the playoffs
Head Coach and Record with School: T.J. Brown (14-72-10, fifth season)
Key Returning Players (with ’12-13 stats): Ryan McDonald (18-13-31); Daniel Miressi (15-16-31); Brendan McCarron (4-15-19); Jay Nicholls (7-7-14); Eric Ward (5-7-12); Thomas Tracy (2-8-10).
Key Departures: Benjamin Pacific (3-4-7); Eric Walsh (2-3-5).
Key Newcomers: Mark Essery (Hartford Jr. Wolfpack (AJHL) 5-10-15); Andrew Mathieu (Mass. Jr. Mariners (NSHL) 23-27-50);
Prediction: 7th— It was a tough year in 2012-13 season for the Rams. The good news a lot of their core guys are coming back. The biggest question for Framingham State will be who will take the reins in net. They used three goaltenders last year and each had a goals-against-average over four.


Nickname: Corsairs
2012-13 Record: (12-8-7, 9-3-6)
2012-13 Postseason: Lost to Bowdoin 5-2 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Head Coach and Record with School: John Rolli (557-175-34, 30th season)
Key Returning Players (with ’12-13 stats): Shaun Walters (9-11-20); Dmitry Antipin (7-9-16); Greg Girtatos (4-10-14); Ben Vandervies (1-2-1, .896 save percentage, 3.63 goals-against average.
Key Departures: Dave McDonald (12-13-25); Phil Bronner (15-7-22); Nick Marquis (9-8-17); Swann Boisvert (5-9-14); Dan Dempsey (6-8-14); Zach Helper (2-11-13); Ryan Williams (11-6-6, .922 save percentage, 2.58 goals-against average.
Key Newcomers: Nic Wackerly (Billings Bulls (AWHL) 15-22, .901 save percentage, 3.38 goals-against average); Jonathan Houk (Northern Cyclones (AJHL) 3-15-18); Devin Welch (Northern Cyclones (AJHL) 2-10-12); Chris Andre (Yellowstone Quake/Helena Bighorns (AWHL) 26-34-60).
Prediction: 2nd — The Corsairs look to repeat as MASCAC champions and bring some key veterans back. Dmitry Antipin will need to have a big year coming off his New Jersey Devils prospect camp success. Defensively, they have only Nate Duprere coming back. Again, they are another MASCAC team replacing their goalie from last season.

Plymouth State

Nickname: Panthers
2012-13 Record: (19-7-1, 14-3-1)
2012-13 Postseason: Lost to UMass-Dartmouth 2-1 in the MASCAC Championship game
Head Coach and Record with School: Craig Russell (51-20-8, fourth season)
Key Returning Players (with ’12-13 stats): Mike Freitag (9-16-25); Zach Sarig (9-11-20); Andrew Wigg (8-12-20); Dave Walters (3-15-18); Tyler Ingerson (3-1-0, .951 save percentage, 1.51 goals-against average).
Key Departures: Alex Cottle (8-24-32); Kyle Greco (14-14-28); Travis Stevens (8-11-19); Richie Zobak (4-13-17); Jack Astedt (15-5-1, ,931 save percentage, 2.12 goals-against average)
Key Newcomers: Baxter Strachan (Bay State Breakers (EJHL) 6-7-13); Erik Strom (Växjö Lakers J20 (Swedish U-20 SuperElite League) 1-7-8); Tom Dowell (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (AJHL) 6-31-37) Michael Economos (Corpus Christi IceRays (NAHL) 15-20-35)
Prediction: 2nd — The Panthers, who fell in the MASCAC finals, will have to replace a couple of key pieces. They will be replacing their top two scorers in Alex Cottle and Kyle Greco. They will have to rely on Tyler Ingerson in net, who put up very good numbers in limited action. Plymouth State is bringing in 15 freshmen. Tom Dowell and Erik Strom could be possible replacements for Richie Zobak as offensive defensemen.

Salem State

Nickname: Vikings
2012-13 Record: (14-12- 1, 10-7-1)
2012-13 Postseason: Lost to UMass-Dartmouth 5-4 in the MASCAC semifinals
Head Coach and Record with School: Will O’Neil (516-323-55, 33rd season)
Key Returning Players (with ’12-13 stats): Kyle Phelan (9-18-27); Eric Defelice (9-16-25); Kristofer Faric (9-15-24); Chad Goodwin (13-8-21); Andrew Bettencourt (8-11-19); Ryan Sutliffe (10-11-1, .896 save-percentage, 3.04 goals-against average)
Key Departures: Derek Crooker (5-10-15); Matt Kenline (6-6-12).
Key Newcomers: Tanner Fahlstedt (Alaska Avalanche (NAHL) 20-20-40 in ’11-12); Brad Jones (Walpole Express (AJHL) 2-14-16); Chad Goodwin (Salve Regina (ECAC-Northeast) 13-8-21); Ryan Doherty (Boston Jr. Ranagers (AJHL) 11-4-15);
Prediction: 4th — The Vikings will be a contender once again this season. They return their top five scorers and didn’t lose anyone on the back end. Ryan Sutliffe put up respectable numbers in goal. With a couple transfers coming in and an older freshman class, the newcomers should have an impact from the start of the season.

Westfield State

Nickname: Owls
2012-13 Record: (14-9-3, 9-6-3)
2012-13 Postseason: Lost to Fitchburg State 4-3 in the MASCAC quarterfinals
Head Coach and Record with School: Bob Miele (40-52-13, 5th season)
Key Returning Players (with ’12-13 stats): TJ Powers (15-18-33); P.J. McCadden (10-12-22); Vince Perreault (11-10-21); Dalton Jay (9-11-20); Ian Perrier (12-7-2, .921 save percentage, 2.93 goals-against average)
Key Departures: Steve Evans (8-21-29); Lucas Romero (3-15-18)
Key Newcomers: Jake Suvak (Elliot Lake Bobcats (NOJHL)2-11-13); Jackson Leef (Texas Tornado (NAHL) 17-41-58); Justin DeVincentis (Milton Icehawks (OJHL) 4-29-33)
Prediction: 1st — Westfield State is bringing 10 of its 12 leading scorers back from last season, including their top five scorers from last season that all had 20-plus points. Juniors T.J. Powers and Steve Evans will lead the charge. The Owls will have four freshman on defense and it will be key for them to make a quick transition from juniors to the college game.

Worcester State

Nickname: Lancers
2012-13 Record: (6-17-3, 3-12-3)
2012-13 Postseason: Lost to Salem State 5-0 in the MASCAC quarterfinals
Head Coach and Record with School: John Guiney (152-325-33, 22nd season)
Key Returning Players (with ’12-13 stats): Nathan Stanley (7-10-17); Derek Serbon (5-9-14); Cody Osburn (2-11-13); Cody Brier (6-6-12); Salvatore Tecci (4-3-1) .911 save-percentage, 2.88 goals-against average.)
Key Departures: Michael Leskun (5-8-13); Mark Evans (0-1-0, .829 save-percentage, 5.16 goals-against average)
Key Newcomers: Jim LeNoir (Philadelphia Jr. Flyers (AJHL) 2-12-14); Alex Dewitz (Helena Bighorns (AWHL) 22-30-52); Clayton Kanemitsu (Hampton Road Whalers (EJHL-South) 8-22-30); Crissostomos Villarreal (Space Coast Hurricanes (EJHL-South) 15-22-37); Richard Bohan (Dallas Ice Jets (WSHL) 40-52-92)
Prediction: 6th — The Lancers return most of their roster from last season. Salvatore Tecci showed some promise last season in goal. Nathan Stanley and Derek Serbon should lead the team offensively and should get some secondary scoring from some freshmen that bring offensive upside.