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Albany, N.Y.—In an event of limited fanfare and sparse attendance, ECAC Hockey announced its preseason polls and all-conference teams at the Pepsi Arena in Albany yesterday. At an event where all coaches were sanguine about their team’s chances, the Harvard men’s and women’s hockey teams have multiple reasons for optimism thanks to high preseason rankings and a pair of players from each squad being named to the all-conference team.
Pair of Picks
The men’s team had its front line and blue line lynch pins, senior Tim Pettit and junior Noah Welch, named to the all-conference team. The Crimson was the only team to have two players named and both indicated that it was an unexepected honor.
“We have a lot of great players on our team and in this league, it could have easily been a number of my own teammates,” Pettit said. “I just want to get our season started so we can start playing together.”
Both Pettit and Welch have previously earned individual accolades in Albany. Pettit is the only member of last year’s all-conference team—announced at the start of the ECAC Finals—returning for the 2003-04 season. And Welch, one of two Harvard All-Americans last season, was selected for the second team last March.
Quite a View from Up Top
While Welch and Pettit may have been a bit surprised by their recognition, neither they nor head coach Mark Mazzoleni were surprised that the men’s team was picked to finish first in both the Coaches’ and the Media polls.
“Based on what we return, and what we’ve done the last few years, and due to the loss of certain players by other teams in the league, this doesn’t surprise me,” Mazzoleni said.
Amongst the dozen ECAC coaches, the Crimson collected 10 first place votes and finished ahead of last year’s regular and post-season champion, Cornell. Behind the two shades of carmine came Dartmouth and Brown, slotted in the same order that they finished the 2002-03 season.
In the Media poll, Harvard was picked first by a record margin; the Crimson received 20 first-place votes to Cornell’s two, an indication of the prominence that Harvard has attained in the ECAC.
“This is something you’ve definitely built for, and strive for,” Mazzoleni said. “You want to get your program in the position where you can be spoken of in these terms.”
While quick to dismiss questions about whether the high expectations would leave his team vulnerable to a fall, Mazzoleni stressed that preseason polls tell very little about a team’s success once the season starts.
“[Winning the ECAC title] is definitely a goal of ours, like anyone else, and the polls confirm that we definitely have the ability and experience to do that,” he said. “Now we just have to get on the ice and do that. You really have to take [the season’s games] one by one. You start looking ahead, you’re going to get ambushed.”
Back on the Top Again
Harvard women’s head coach Katey Stone sounded a similar note about No. 1 rankings just after it was announced that her Crimson squad was picked to finish behind Dartmouth in the preseason poll.
“I like being picked second,” she said. “There can often be a curse to being picked at the top. And it’s important how we climb to the top, not if we start there.”
Stone’s squad was runner-up in the NCAA Tournament, losing 4-3 in double overtime to Minnesota-Duluth in what ECAC Commissioner Phil Buttafuoco hailed as “the best women’s hockey game, maybe the best hockey game ever.”
Despite losing leading scorer and Patty Kazmaier award winner Jennifer Botterill, Harvard returns many talented players, including sophomore forward Julie Chu and senior defenseman Angela Ruggiero, both of whom were selected for the preseason all-conference team.
Chu and Ruggiero were second and third on the Crimson in points a year ago, and both will be essential in the team’s success if it hopes, as Stone maintains, to climb to the top of the ECAC.
“Angela Ruggiero and Julie Chu are exceptional players,” Stone said. “We’re doing to need them to really establish themselves; they both have a lot of ability.”
—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at email@example.com.
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