ECAC West Preview – “Respect all, fear none!”

 (Dan Hickling)
Elmira counts on Sal Magliocco in net. (Dan Hickling)

For Hobart coach Mark Taylor, the philosophy is pretty simple: “Go out and win as many hockey games as you can and respect all but fear none.”

With new conference configurations and new teams entering next season, this final year of play in the current ECAC West brings a new entrant from Stevenson College in Maryland, along with the pedigree of a national championship coach in Dominick Dawes to add to the highly competitive landscape that exists across New York state and Pennsylvania.

The favorite
Hobart is again the favorite this season, returning a solid nucleus of players and according to the coach a tradition of leadership and expectation for results from his players that helps in setting the tone for a successful season.

“We have had a tradition of not just good hockey players here,” noted Taylor. “We have had great leaders that see first-hand the environment of their predecessors and bring it to the next level when they have a letter on the jersey. I could fill our roster with letters on shirts, but the guys that wear the ‘Cs’ really set the tone and keep the focus on the important stuff — winning hockey games and playing the right way.”

Hobart has proven to be very tough to beat and especially at home, where their only loss last season was in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.

“We love the environment at home and making it a difficult place for our opponents to play from the first drop of the puck. We try to take that attitude everywhere we play, but the fans make it really easy to give that little extra in our own building.”

The dark horses
Last year’s conference tournament finalists from Utica return a young and hungry team led by 13 juniors who are the heart of the team and are looking to make that final step to the top of the conference standings. The Pioneers also have built a reputation around a home rink atmosphere that makes it difficult for opponents and have the added motivation that they can be standing on home ice come the NCAA tournament next March.

The Knights from Neumann also harbor bright hopes for stealing the top spot in the conference, and despite the loss of some key players in Mike Davis and Jordan Watt, who transferred to Stevenson, the team has 14 seniors to help bring along ten freshmen on the roster.

Players to watch
Elmira: Sal Magliocco – goalie
Hobart: Frank Oplinger – goalie; Bo Webster – forward
Lebanon Valley: Jake Thomas – forward
Manhattanville: Stephen Gaul – forward
Nazareth: Justin LaCorte – forward
Neumann: Shane Topf – forward; Matt Gibney – goalie
Stevenson: Mike Davis – forward; Jordan Watt- forward
Utica: Anthony McVeigh – forward; Brett Szajner – defense

USCHO predicted finish
1. Hobart
2. Utica
3. Neumann
4. Elmira
5. Stevenson
6. Manhattanville
7. Nazareth
8. Lebanon Valley

The ECAC West, or so named and aligned for this last season, still finds itself without an auto-bid to the NCAA tournament, so expect the competition to be fierce for those looking to advance to playing on the national stage come the spring. While Hobart is the defending champion and coaches’ pick to repeat, no team, including the Statesmen, take any opponent lightly in this conference starting, with the first league contests this Friday night.

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