October 8, 2012

Hockey East 2012-13 season preview

By Andrew Merritt

New England Hockey Journal takes a look at who's gone, who's back and what lies ahead for each of the ten teams in Hockey East.

BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES

There isn’t much left to say that hasn’t been said about last season’s juggernaut BC team, which swept the Beanpot, Hockey East and NCAA titles — the first Hockey East team to complete that trifecta since BU in 2008-09. They also claimed their third national title in five years, becoming the first program to do that since Denver won three from 1958 to 1961.

Last season: 33-10-1 (19-7-1 Hockey East, first), league tournament and NCAA champion

Who’s gone: F Chris Kreider (Boxford, Mass.), F Barry Almeida (Springfield, Mass.), F Paul Carey (Weymouth, Mass.), D Brian Dumoulin (Biddeford, Maine), D Tommy Cross (Simsbury, Conn.), D Edwin Shea (Shrewsbury, Mass.)

Who’s back: F Johnny Gaudreau, F Steven Whitney (Reading, Mass.), F Pat Mullane (Wallingford, Conn.), F Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.), D Patch Alber, D Patrick Wey, G Parker Milner

Who’s new: D Colin Sullivan (Milford, Conn.), D Travis Jeke, F Peter McMullen, D Michael Matheson, D Ted Doherty (Hopkinton, Mass.), F Brendan Silk (Wakefield, Mass.)

Keep an eye on … Johnny Gaudreau. Last season’s phenomenal debut put Gaudreau in the spotlight, as he scored 21 goals and 23 assists. With Kreider and Almeida gone, it’s Gaudreau’s offense, and the Eagles will look for him to mature into a trusted veteran. The skill is there for Gaudreau; is the leadership piece there, too?

Outlook: We say it every year, because it’s true: The Eagles don’t rebuild, they reload. Though the losses are severe, BC brings in a solid crop of freshmen, including Florida’s first-round draft pick, Matheson. With Jerry York at the helm, a bona fide No. 1 goaltender in Milner and an offense that never fails to impress, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles slipping much, if at all.

BOSTON UNIVERSITY TERRIERS

Last season was one of the most tumultuous in BU history. On the ice, the Terriers were very good, sometimes great, ripping off several winning streaks and limiting their slides. Off the ice, they earned attention for all the wrong reasons as two players were arrested on charges of sexual assault. Even after Corey Trivino and Max Nicastro were dismissed, the disturbing details of a “culture of sexual entitlement” within the program continued to emerge. The world crashed down hard on BU in 2012, and the on-ice results became less and less important.

Last season: 23-15-1 (17-9-1 Hockey East, tied for second)

Who’s gone: F Alex Chiasson, D Adam Clendening, F Corey Trivino, D Max Nicastro, G Kieran Millan, F Chris Connolly, F Charlie Coyle (Weymouth, Mass.).

Who’s back: F Matt Nieto, F Sahir Gill, F Wade Megan, D Garrett Noonan (Norfolk, Mass.), D Alexx Privitera

Who’s new: G Sean Maguire, F Matt Lane, F Wesley Myron, F Sam Kurker (Reading, Mass.), F Mike Moran (Marshfield, Mass.), F Danny O’Regan (Needham, Mass.), G Matthew O’Connor, D Matt Grzelcyk (Charlestown, Mass.), D Ahti Oksanen.

Keep an eye on … Garrett Noonan. Clendening’s early departure makes Noonan the No. 1 defenseman on a team that desperately needs stability, production and leadership. A junior this season, Noonan will be looked to for a lot of things, not the least of which being some scoring touch.

Outlook: There have been some big changes at BU. Whether those changes lead to a better culture is yet to be seen, but on the ice, the Terriers have one of the strongest recruiting classes in the nation, including Bruins prospect Grzelczyk, St. Louis draftee Kurker and San Jose selection O’Regan. In goal, the Terriers have to replace four-year starter Millan, but Maguire is a fourth-round pick by Pittsburgh, and O’Connor brings size and good experience from the USHL.

MAINE BLACK BEARS

The Black Bears overcame some early inconsistency in 2011-12 and finished strong enough to land in the Hockey East final against BC. They also earned an NCAA tournament berth and enjoyed standout seasons from Hockey East MVP Spencer Abbott — the league’s leading scorer with 63 points — and Brian Flynn (48 points). Still, just four years removed from two of the program’s worst seasons in decades, the Black Bears made themselves known as a contender once again.

Last season: 23-14-3 (15-10-2 Hockey East, fourth)

Who’s gone: F Spencer Abbott, F Brian Flynn (Lynnfield, Mass.), F/D Matt Mangene, D Will O’Neill (Salem, Mass.), D Ryan Hegarty.

Who’s back: F Joey Diamond, F Kyle Beattie, F Adam Shemansky, F Mark Anthoine, D Nick Pryor, D Mike Cornell, G Dan Sullivan

Who’s new: D Ben Hutton, F Ryan Lomberg, F Will Merchant, G Matt Morris, F/D Conor Riley, F Devin Shore, F Steve Swavely, D Kyle Williams (Bowdoinham, Maine)

Keep an eye on … Joey Diamond. The Black Bears watched a combined 111 points walk out the door with Abbott and Flynn, leaving Diamond as the team’s top remaining offensive threat. He’s shown the ability to be a game changer at times before. Now, Maine needs him to fill the role full-time.

Outlook: Losing the league’s top two scorers isn’t something you see teams rebound from immediately, but the Black Bears have a solid core of talent coming back. Among the highlighted returners is Sullivan, who last season provided capable netminding as a sophomore, and only stands to be even better this year. Whether the Black Bears produce the league’s scoring king again is up for debate, but Maine still is trending upward, and is a legitimate threat to the league title at the start of the season.

UMASS MINUTEMEN

The Minutemen couldn’t piece more than a couple of wins together at a time last season, and while they had some big victories, it wasn’t enough to get above the final playoff spot, meaning a doomed meeting with BC. They made it interesting in two games at Conte Forum but bowed out to put a disappointing cap on coach Don “Toot” Cahoon’s 12-year tenure at UMass. Cahoon stepped down in June, leading to a frenzied coaching search that brought Vermont assistant John Micheletto behind the bench.

Last season: 13-18-5, 9-14-4 (Hockey East, tied for eighth)

Who’s gone: Coach Don “Toot” Cahoon (Lynn, Mass.), F T.J. Syner (Springfield, Mass.), F Danny Hobbs, D Michael Marcou, G Kevin Moore.

Who’s back: F Conor Sheary (Melrose, Mass.), F Michael Pereira (West Haven, Conn.), D Joel Hanley, F Branden Gracel, D Conor Allen, D Colin Shea (Shrewsbury, Mass.), D Adam Phillips, G Jeff Teglia, G Kevin Boyle, G Steve Mastalerz (North Andover, Mass.)

Who’s new: D Connor Doherty (Holden, Mass.), F Evan Stack, F K.J. Tiefenwerth, F Shane Walsh (West Roxbury, Mass.)

Keep an eye on … Michael Pereira. Pereira enters the year as the de facto go-to guy for UMass, but there’s a lot more building to do in Amherst, and with a new coach, some leadership will be required, too.

Outlook: The UMass program underwent its biggest shakeup in more than a decade over the offseason. The veterans appear to have bonded, which augurs well for a resurgence, and the new coach could have a positive impact on a program that had grown stagnant since its NCAA tournament run in 2007. There’s a good amount of offense returning with Sheary, Pereira, Hanley and Gracel. The biggest question is in net, where Teglia, Boyle and Mastalerz all got a chance last season, but none grabbed the starting job.

UMASS-LOWELL RIVER HAWKS

Despite BC’s success, the River Hawks had the most remarkable season of any Hockey East team when one considers that it was Year 1 of the Norm Bazin era. The former UML player returned to his alma mater, and the turnaround was nearly unprecedented in Hockey East — from a 5-25-4 record in 2010-11, the River Hawks soared to the program’s best record since 1995-96, and its first NCAA tournament victory. A balanced scoring attack fronted a strong defense that allowed the league’s third-fewest goals per game (2.47), due to the emergence of goaltender Doug Carr.

Last season: 24-13-1, 17-9-1 (Hockey East, tied for second)

Who’s gone: F Matt Ferreira, F David Vallorani, F Michael Budd, D Tim Corcoran

Who’s back: G Doug Carr (Hanover, Mass.), F Riley Wetmore (Swanton, Vt.), F Scott Wilson, F Derek Arnold (Foxboro, Mass.), F Joe Pendenza (Wilmington, Mass.), D Chad Ruhwedel, D Zack Kamrass.

Who’s new: D Gregory Amlong, F Adam Chapie, F Michael Colantone, F Michael Fallon, D Christian Folin, G Connor Hellebuyck, F Logan Johnston, F Ryan McGrath, F A.J. White

Keep an eye on … Doug Carr. Could he become the league’s best goalie this season? It seems possible, and he’ll have a little help in the form of Hellebuyck, who’ll be able to spell Carr enough to keep him fresh for the whole year. Carr was the league’s biggest surprise last season. This season, he could be the league’s biggest story.

Outlook: Bazin’s debut was one to remember, and following it up won’t be easy now that everyone knows UMass-Lowell isn’t anybody’s punching bag. That said, an enormous and talented recruiting class feeds the building momentum in Lowell, and with another stellar year from Carr, the bulk of the scoring depth returning, and a few surprises thrown in, the River Hawks should continue to rise.

MERRIMACK WARRIORS

A year after reaching the Hockey East final and making the program’s first trip to the NCAA tournament in more than two decades, the Warriors fell to earth a bit in 2011-12, hurt by the loss of French standout Stephane Da Costa, who went pro early, and the midseason loss of senior Carter Madsen to an injury. Nobody really picked up the scoring torch after Madsen went down, and Merrimack got by on its strong defense, which allowed the second fewest goals per game (2.24) in the league. Merrimack sputtered to the finish, falling to Maine in the quarterfinals.

Last season: 18-12-7, 13-9-5 (Hockey East, fifth)

Who’s gone: F Ryan Flanigan, F Jesse Todd, D Karl Stollery, F Jeff Velleca (Waterbury, Conn.), F Elliott Sheen, F Carter Madsen, G Joe Cannata (Wakefield, Mass.)

Who’s back: F Mike Collins (Boston, Mass.), D Jordan Heywood, F Shawn Bates, D Kyle Bigos, D Brendan Ellis, F Connor Toomey (Billerica, Mass.)

Who’s new: F Brian Christie, F Ben Bahe, F Justin Hussar, D Matt Cronin, F Vinny Scotti, F John Gustafsson, D Sean Robertson.

Keep an eye on … Kyle Bigos. The enormous blueliner has to be the keystone for Merrimack, and he has the ability to be just that, but can he stay out of the penalty box long enough to make the impact the Warriors need?

Outlook: That is a crushing list of departures the Warriors had to absorb in the offseason. In Flanigan, Todd, Stollery and Velleca alone, Merrimack loses almost 40 percent of its goal scoring from last season. Collins has a definite scoring knack, but he’ll need help. All of that pales in comparison to losing four-year starter Cannata in net. It’s hard to imagine the Warriors being able to post the same defensive numbers as last season if the goaltending situation isn’t figured out post haste.

UNH WILDCATS

Senior Stevie Moses took the reins in his final year in Durham, tying for third on the Hockey East goal scoring list with 22. But the Wildcats were a little thin after Moses and sophomores Nick Sorkin and Kevin Goumas. UNH also was plagued by an unexpected goaltending dilemma after senior Matt Di Girolamo faltered, giving way to freshman Casey DeSmith. The rookie brought some stability to the net for the Wildcats, and they went 9-10-1 after he took over as the starter. Still, UNH posted its first sub-.500 season in 16 years and just the second in coach Dick Umile’s tenure.

Last season: 15-19-3, 11-14-2 (Hockey East, sixth)

Who’s gone: F Stevie Moses (Leominster, Mass.), D Damon Kipp, F Mike Borisenok, F Kevin McCarey, G Matt Di Girolamo

Who’s back: G Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.), F Nick Sorkin, F Kevin Goumas, F Grayson Downing, D Trevor van Riemsdyk, F John Henrion (Holden, Mass.), D Connor Hardowa

Who’s new: F Dan Correale, F Maxim Gaudreault, F Jamie Hill, F Collin MacDonald, D Brett Pesce, D Harry Quast, G Jamie Regan, F Kyle Smith

Keep an eye on … Casey DeSmith. As a freshman, DeSmith took over in a rough situation last season and played well. Now that he’s got a year under his belt, and is the no-doubt No. 1, can he take the next step?

Outlook: The last time UNH had a losing season (1995-96), it went 28-11-0 the next season, earning the Hockey East regular-season title and an NCAA berth. Failure doesn’t usually last long in Durham, so expect the Wildcats to bounce back. The loss of Moses will sting, but Sorkin and Goumas both showed real spark last season, and Downing and van Riemsdyk were both standouts as freshmen. Most importantly, a school known for producing some of the league’s greatest netminders seems to have a better situation in goal than it did a year ago.

NORTHEASTERN HUSKIES

The Huskies needed time to gather steam under first-year coach Jim Madigan (Milton, Mass.), and after opening the season 1-7-2, fired off six consecutive wins as part of an eight-game midseason unbeaten streak. The hole they put themselves in at the start of the season proved too deep to climb out of, and the Huskies missed the league playoffs but seemed to be headed in a better direction.

Last season: 13-16-5, 9-14-4 (Hockey East, tied for eighth)

Who’s gone: F Steve Quailer, D Anthony Bitetto, F Mike McLaughlin, F Rob Dongara

Who’s back: G Chris Rawlings, F Ludwig Karlsson, F Garrett Vermeersch, F Vinny Saponari, F Braden Pimm, F Justin Daniels, F Cody Ferriero (Essex, Mass.), D Drew Ellement

Who’s new: D Mike Gunn, F Michael McMurtry, F Ryan Belonger, D Colton Saucerman, D Dustin Darou, D Jarrett Fennell, F Cam Darcy (South Boston, Mass.), D Dax Lauwers, F Torin Snyderman (Groton, Mass.), F Matt Marshall (Hingham, Mass.), G Derick Roy, F Kevin Roy

Keep an eye on … Ludwig Karlsson. As a freshman, Karlsson was one of the league’s bright young stars. Northeastern will need even more from him this season, and if he can click with his linemates the way he did with Saponari and Vermeersch last season, he could get into the scoring title race as a sophomore.

Outlook: Year 2 under Madigan should be revealing on Huntington Ave. The Huskies didn’t get their new coach until late in the offseason, and the learning curve was obvious for all parties involved. If they can find the chemistry that made them the league’s hottest team in December and January, 2011-12 should be the last playoff-free season for a while. Minimal losses suggest that it’s possible, and with the solid Rawlings in net for one more year, plus most of the scoring attack back, NU has the building blocks for improvement.

PROVIDENCE FRIARS

At one point last season, it looked like the Friars would host a first-round series as one of the league’s top four teams. Their 8-6-1 start gave way to an 8-14-3 finish, however, and despite a quarterfinal series victory, Nate Leaman’s first season as head coach didn’t end as well as it began. Still, the Friars looked like a much-improved team, and one that could handle playing in some big games.

Last season: 14-20-4, 10-14-3 (Hockey East, seventh)

Who’s gone: G Alex Beaudry, F Matt Bergland, F Andy Balysky, D Daniel New, D David Brown, F Robert Maloney

Who’s back: F Ross Mauermann, F Derek Army (East Providence, R.I.), F Tim Schaller (Merrimack, N.H.), F Drew Brown, D Myles Harvey, D Alex Velischek

Who’s new: G Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine), F Steve McParland, D Will Goss (Wellesley, Mass.), D John Gilmour, F Mark Jankowski, F Brooks Behling, G Dylan Wells, D Ori Abramson, F Nick Saracino, F Paul DeJersey, D Thomas Parisi, F Brandon Tanev, F Brent Norris, F Kevin Rooney (Canton, Mass.), F Noel Acciari (Johnston, R.I.)

Keep an eye on … Jon Gillies.
The highly touted freshman netminder has some big shoes to fill, replacing Beaudry. Gillies was a Northeastern commit who opted to be a Friar after Chris Rawlings’ return. With the Friars on an upswing, some continuity in net will be needed to keep it going.

Outlook: The big, talented recruiting class also includes first-round draft pick Jankowski (Calgary) at center, and Acciari, a redshirt freshman who dominated the prep circuit at Kent School, plus DeJersey, who won the BCHL’s MVP award last season after leading the league in scoring. The youth movement is on, and as Leaman brings in more of his own recruits, the Friars should find themselves on the upswing.

VERMONT CATAMOUNTS

It was a lean year in Burlington last season — the Catamounts’ worst in their nine seasons under Kevin Sneddon — with just one win over their final 13 games. The offense ranked last in Hockey East, with Sebastian Stalberg’s 12-19-31 totals the only real bright spot. After three solid years, goaltender Rob Madore never quite got untracked. Even if he had put a better year together, the Catamounts were pretty bad across the board.

Last season: 6-27-1, 3-23-1 (Hockey East, 10th)

Who’s gone: F Sebastian Stalberg, D Drew MacKenzie (New Canaan, Conn.), F Brett Leonard (South Burlington, Vt.), D Lance Herrington (Bow, N.H.), G Rob Madore, F Matt Marshall

Who’s back: F Kyle Reynolds, D Nick Bruneteau, F Colin Markison, F Connor Brickley (Everett, Mass.), F Mike Montagna, D Michael Paliotta (Westport, Conn.), F H.T. Lenz

Who’s new: F Robert Polesello, D Yvan Pattyn, D Caylen Walls, F Jonathan Turk, G Billy Faust, F Ryan Rosenthal, G Brody Hoffman

Keep an eye on … Brody Hoffman. Hoffman is the odds-on favorite to take over for a four-year starter, though Faust likely will see some playing time too. A few years ago, the Catamounts were able to build from the net out with Madore. If Hoffman and Faust can bring that sort of quality to the UVM net, the cellar shouldn’t be a comfortable place for too long.

Outlook: It’s been a rough couple of years for the Catamounts, and the loss of assistant coach John Micheletto to UMass won’t make things easy. There’s a big mountain to climb in Burlington this season, but the influx of young talent should help UVM take the first steps. With two strong goaltending prospects coming to town, a defense-first approach could be the way out of the valley the once-strong program finds itself in.

This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Andrew Merritt covers Hockey East for New England Hockey Journal and hockeyjournal.com.

Twitter: @A_Merritt
Email: feedback@hockeyjournal.com