Crimson the Color of Choice
Harvard ranked No. 1, ahead of the Big Red and the Big Green. Ivy League (sans Princeton) will dominate the top half of the ECAC conference standings.
All statistics are current as of Thursday, Oct. 30.
1. Harvard (Current record: 0-0-0)
Ah, the burden of a prohibitive favorite. The Crimson was the overwhelming selection to win the league in preseason polls, and it will be a big disappointment if it doesn’t follow through. Luckily for coach Mark Mazzoleni, that shouldn’t be a concern. He has the league’s most talented and experienced team—so talented and experienced, in fact, that no team in the country has as many players on its roster as Harvard (16) who have been in NCAA tournaments. Not two-time defending champ Minnesota. Not Boston University. Not Cornell. Not anybody. And nobody’s gonna stop the Crimson from winning the ECAC title this year, and maybe even making a serious run in the NCAAs.
Coach: Mazzoleni (16th year overall, 284-192-40; 5th year at Harvard, 64-57-10).
Last year: 22-10-2, lost in ECAC title game to Cornell, lost in NCAA first round to BU.
Top forward: Senior Tim Pettit (17-30-47 last year, 47-57-104 career).
Top defenseman: Junior Noah Welch (6-22-28 last year; 11-28-39 career).
Top goaltender: Junior Dov Grumet-Morris (18-9-2, 2.38 GAA, .925 save pct. last year; 28-17-3, 2.57 GAA, .914 save pct. career).
2. Cornell (Current Record: 0-0-0)
Last year was special in Ithaca: a great senior class, great goaltender, great team chemistry and great big-game wins over Harvard and Boston College late in the season. All of it added up to a berth in the Frozen Four and a long, delicious moment of pride for a puck-crazy university. Now comes the hard part: The Year After. Without the likes of Doug Murray, Stephen Baby, good-guy Crimson-killer Sam Paolini and Dryden Deux (David LeNeveu), the Big Red will set to work with senior captain Ryan Vesce and a solid group of young forwards that includes two lunch-pail-and-hard-hat guys with talent—Mike Knoepfli and Shane Hynes—who any coach would take on their team. Those expecting a precipitous drop will be disappointed, especially given that Cornell has one of the best bench coaches in college hockey, Mike Schafer. Mark it down: This team will make the NCAAs.
Coach: Schafer (9th year overall and at Cornell, 156-88-25).
Last year: 30-5-1, won ECAC title over Harvard, lost in NCAA semifinals to New Hampshire.
Top forward: Senior Ryan Vesce (19-26-45 last year, 36-66-102 career).
Top defenseman: Junior Charlie Cook (3-13-16 last year, 5-23-28 career).
Top goaltender: Senior Todd Marr (2-2-0, 1.76 GAA, .932 save pct. last year and career).
3. Dartmouth (Current record: 0-0-0)
What a fun team to watch. The Big Green loves to skate and score, and if coach Bob Gaudet can find a top-line goaltender, Dartmouth could be a third ECAC team in the NCAA tournament. The bet here is whether junior Dan Yacey will get the nod in the net after a strong 2003 post-season, and if he’s able to put up a similar GAA to his 2.15 in limited action last year. If Yacey pays off, Dartmouth could have back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in school history. Offensively, the key will be star forward Hugh “Huge Specimen” Jessiman, whose oh-so-smooth hands and 6’5, 215-lb. frame inspire widespread scout-salivating. Last year’s undisputed ECAC Rookie of the Year, Jessiman was taken in the first round of June’s draft by the New York Rangers. Catch him while you can.
Coach: Gaudet (16th year overall, 173-229-52; 7th year at Dartmouth, 80-87-21).
Last year: 20-13-1, lost in ECAC semifinals to Harvard.
Top forward: Sophomore Hugh Jessiman (23-24-47 last year and career).
Top defenseman: Senior Brian Van Abel (0-5-5 last year, 4-9-13 career).
Top goaltender: Junior Dan Yacey (1-1-1, 2.15 GAA, .932 save pct. last year; 1-3-1, 2.53, .921 career).
4. Brown (Current record: 0-0-0)
Two words: Yann Danis. Yes, he’s back, and no, people haven’t stopped shaking their heads over his 66-save performance at Bright Hockey Center on a magical March eve two seasons ago. A spry puck-stopping machine, Danis turned down serious free agent cheese over the summer—including an offer from his favorite team, the Montreal Canadiens—to return to Brown for his senior year. To wit: Bank on him having a very focused, often spectacular season.
The Bears’ offense has improved, with Brent Robinson and Les Haggett viable scoring threats, but Danis will have to win a few games by himself for this team to earn a first-round bye. And you know what? He will. He’s that good.
Coach: Roger Grillo (7th year overall and at Brown, 62-101-22).
Last year: 16-14-5, lost in ECAC semifinals to Cornell.
Top forward: Senior Brent Robinson (15-23-38 last year, 25-43-68 career).
Top defenseman: Senior Scott Ford (6-11-17 last year, 9-23-32 career).
Top goaltender: Senior Yann Danis (15-14-5, 2.32 GAA, .929 save pct. last year, 28-32-8, 2.36 GAA, .925 save pct. career).
5. Vermont (Current record: 0-2-1)
With the retirement of longtime Vermont coach Mike Gilligan last May, one of the highest-profile positions in collegiate hockey was suddenly open. Everyone seemed to be interested in what was one of the most sought-after college jobs in years. New athletic director Bob Corran could’ve picked almost anyone he wanted.
Naturally, he chose a Harvard man, and Kevin Sneddon ’92 is off to a fine start. The Cats have been competitive against a season-opening Hockey East gauntlet (BC, BU, UNH), have a bona-fide scorer (Jeff Miles) and appear to have the answer in goal (Travis Russell). On top of that, these Cats play hard. And our man Sneddy coaches hard. This is a good fit. Expect improvement.
Coach: Sneddon (6th year overall, 50-101-19; 1st year at Vermont, 0-2-1).
Last year: 13-20-3, lost in ECAC quarterfinals to Harvard.
Top forward: Senior Jeff Miles (32-58-90 last year, 33-59-92 career).
Top defenseman: Sophomore Jaime Sifers (4-14-18 last year and career).
Top goaltender: Sophomore Travis Russell (2-4-0, 4.77 GAA, .863 save pct. Last year, 2-6-1, 4.10 GAA, .879 save pct. Career).
6. Yale (Current record: 0-0-0)
After one of his finest seasons behind the Eli bench (18 wins), coaching legend Tim Taylor ’63 must retool this year, in the wake of star center Chris Higgins’ early departure to the Montreal Canadiens. And while the absence of Higgins is a big blow—he would have been an early Hobey Baker front-runner—the cupboard is not empty in New Haven.
The Elis can still skate, as always, and they have three forwards (Ryan Steeves, Vin Hellemeyer and Christian Jensen) capable of 40-point seasons. The key, then, will be whether or not Taylor can find a second line that can score.
Look for Joe Zappala and Jeff Hristovski to have increased roles. And perhaps the best news out of this year’s camp: Sophomore Mike Gartner stabilized Yale’s goaltending down the stretch last season and should have another steady year.
Coach: Taylor (26th year overall and at Yale, 310-369-50).
Last year: 18-14-0, lost in ECAC quarterfinals to Brown.
Top forward: Senior Ryan Steeves (15-23-38 last year; 27-38-65 career).
Top defenseman: Senior Jeff Dwyer (1-17-18 last year; 10-43-53 career).
Top goaltender: Sophomore Josh Gartner (11-7-0, 2.54 GAA, .917 save pct. Last year and career).
7. St. Lawrence (Current record: 1-4-2)
In a year or two, the Saints will be back in the top half of the ECAC. This year, though, will be more like the last two years (combined 22-42-7) than the two before that (47-21-6, two ECAC titles).
The Saints are talented, but they’re also young. After seven games, there is only one senior (Rich Peverley) among the team’s top six scorers.
SLU gained momentum with a .500 performance in the second half last year, and extended that with a season-opening win over a respectable Miami team, but it has gone winless over its last six, including a 3-2 loss to then-No. 5 Maine last Friday in a game the Saints led going into the third period.
Next season—when the likes of John Zeiler, T.J. Trevelyan and Drew Bagnall are a year older and a year wiser—that’s a game they’ll win.
Coach: Joe Marsh (19th year overall and at St. Lawrence, 328-262-41).
Last year: 11-21-5, lost in ECAC first round to Colgate.
Top forward: Senior Rich Peverley (15-23-38 last year, 30-53-83 career).
Top defenseman: Freshman Drew Bagnall (0-0-0 last year, 1-5-6 career).
Top goaltender: Kevin Ackley (9-12-3, 3.12 GAA, .905 save pct. last year; 14-27-6, 3.07, .909 save pct. career)
8. Clarkson (Current record: 1-1-2)
It’s safe to say that the George Roll era in Potsdam is off to a respectable start. The Knights picked up three points in their opening games at Bemidji State, then went 0-1-1 against perennial power Colorado College last weekend. Clarkson, like St. Lawrence, is a very young team and has the additional freshness of a new coach working hard to erase the bad memories of last year’s Mark Morris fiasco. It’s never been a question of talent with this team, especially with a typically deep group of forwards, so if Roll can get the maximum out of this team, it could surprise. The key will be on defense, as six freshmen or sophomores have skated on the back line already this season, placing a big burden on goalie Dustin Traylen. So far, he’s handled it well: 10 goals allowed in four games.
Coach: Roll (7th year overall, 107-63-16, 1st year at Clarkson, 1-1-2).
Last year: 12-20-3, lost in ECAC first round to Vermont.
Top forward: Senior Rob McFeeters (7-18-25 last year, 28-40-68 career).
Top defenseman: Freshman Matt Nickerson (0-0-0 last year, 2-0-2 career).
Top goaltender: Sophomore Dustin Traylen (6-6-1, 3.07 GAA, .887 save pct.; 7-7-3, 2.90 GAA, .902 save pct.).
9. Colgate (Current record: 1-1-1)
My, what a couple months it’s been in Hamilton. First, coach Don Vaughan takes leave of his post for the year to become interim athletic director, leaving head bench duties to trusted assistant Stan Moore. Then, prized recruit Justin Anderson left school in late September because of homesickness. On top of that, the university announced last week that it will begin offering athletic scholarships. Amid the hubbub, it’s amazing Moore has kept his guys coming to the rink everyday. But not only has he done that, he’s led them to a solid start. The Raiders are 1-1-1, with a big home-opener win over Ferris State, an NCAA tournament team last season. With an even record and even tally sheet (nine goals for, nine against), Colgate seems headed for a season around the .500 mark. (Little-known fact: the last opposing player to score a hat trick against Harvard was Colgate’s Kyle Doyle in 2002.)
Coach: Moore (3rd year overall, 25-36-8; 1st year at Colgate, 1-1-1).
Last year: 17-19-4, lost in ECAC quarterfinals to Dartmouth.
Top forward: Senior Kyle Doyle (8-19-27 last year, 24-42-66 career).
Top defenseman: Senior Rob Brown (5-11-16 last year, 15-33-48 career).
Top goaltender: Junior Steve Silverthorn (13-10-2, 2.90 GAA, .900 save pct. last year; 14-12-2, 3.10 GAA, .891).
10. Union (Current record: 4-0-1)
By far the surprise of the league so far this season. (Should’ve known better than to pick them this low.) Nate Leaman, the former Harvard assistant, began his tenure at Union by leading the Dutchmen, now 4-0-1, on their longest season-opening win streak in the program’s Division I history. And the leading scorer in the league? Sophomore forward Scott Seney. Who? No, really. Scott Seney. He has 10 points after five games. Cynics will say that Union got off to this great start while playing against the weakest part of its schedule. Those cynics would be correct. But hey, a great start is a great start, and this team has a chance to finish in the top half of the division for the second year in a row. A good chunk of last year’s scoring is back, as are a pair of very good sophomore goaltenders—one of whom, Kris Mayotte, currently has a 0.97 GAA. And for those of you who are already feeling nostalgic about Leaman, don’t fret: He’ll be at the Bright Hockey Center on Valentine’s Day this year.
Coach: Leaman (1st year overall and at Union, 4-0-1).
Last year: 14-18-4, lost in the ECAC first round to Rensselaer.
Top forward: Junior Joel Beal (8-29-37 last year, 17-42-59 career).
Top defenseman: Junior Matt Vagvolgyi (4-8-12 last year, 8-18-26 career).
Top goaltender: Sophomore Kris Mayotte (11-11-2, 2.73 GAA, .905 save pct. last year; 13-11-3, 2.53 GAA, .912 save pct. career).
11. Princeton (Current record: 0-0-0)
Last year, the Tigers were a punchline. This year, the joke could be on everyone else. Princeton has all the earmarks of a team that could surprise. Its top eight scorers are back. It has a competitive, six-man freshman class. And, most importantly, it is coming off a season in which it was too often a hard-luck loser. The Tigers were tied 14 times after two periods last year, and went 0-13-1 in those games. Throw on a few more logs—nine one-goal losses, and a disappointing three wins overall—and consider the Princeton fire stoked. Expect a better team this year, with senior Chris Owen and junior Mike Patton coming off 20-point seasons. The big question is in net, where Trevor Clay and Eric Leroux return. Last season, neither had a save percentage over .900 or GAA below 4.30, and Clay began last weekend’s exhibition game against Guelph—the same team Harvard beat 8-0—by allowing three goals on five shots. Not a good start to the season.
Coach: Len Quesnelle (5th year overall and at Princeton, 25-60-9).
Last year: 3-26-2, lost in the ECAC first round to Brown.
Top forward: Senior Chris Owen (17-6-23 last year, 21-15-36 career).
Top defenseman: Senior Matt Maglione (5-9-14 last year, 4-18-22 career).
Top goaltender: Sophomore Eric Leroux (0-9-0, 4.30 GAA, .884 save pct. last year and career).
12. Rensselaer (Current record: 1-2-1)
The Engineers, like Clarkson and St. Lawrence, are battling two things as the season begins: legislation before the Division III Presidents Council that could take away their ability to offer Division-I hockey scholarships while remaining a Division III institution, and a recent on-ice decline in what has been an Ivy-dominated ECAC. The first is largely out of the team’s control. The second isn’t, and could change, if this veteran varsity (20 returning letterwinners) finds a way to improve on last year’s punchless scoring average of 2.35 goals per game, second-worst in the league. If there is a resurgence, the flag-bearer will almost certainly be Kevin Croxton, who led the team with 30 points as a freshman last season and is tied this year’s lead with four points in four games. Goaltender Nathan Marsters is a four-year starter, but he’s still trying to regain the form he had as a freshman, when he had a sparkling 2.35 GAA.
Coach: Dan Fridgen (10th year overall and at Rensselaer, 162-141-29).
Last year: 12-25-3, lost in the ECAC quarterfinals to Cornell.
Top forward: Sophomore Kevin Croxton (15-15-30 last year, 15-19-34 career).
Top defenseman: Senior Scott Basiuk (6-8-14 last year, 13-23-36 career).
Top goaltender: Senior Nathan Marsters (7-15-1, 3.41 GAA, .891 save pct. last year; 37-39-5, 2.74 GAA, .914 save pct. career).