September 30, 2005
2005-06 ECACHL Preview

By Joe Gladziszewski


Close games over the course of a 22-game conference schedule make for close standings. Playoff seeding in the ECAC Hockey League has been decided by the slimmest margins in recent years. A power-play goal on one side or a giveaway on the other has proven to be the difference between a one-goal victory and a loss or tie. With no margin for error, it’s no surprise that the most detail-oriented teams, those that address all of the little things, have had the most success. Cornell, Colgate, and Harvard were the three teams the rest of the league chased.

Mike Ouellette and Dartmouth may have the best chance of challenging Cornell for the ECACHL championship.

This year, things might not be so close, at least at the top of the standings. Cornell enters the season as overwhelming favorites to defend the regular season and playoff titles it captured in the spring. The Big Red returns a Hobey Hat Trick finalist in record-setting goaltender Dave McKee and the bulk of the key forwards and defensemen that made the 2004-05 club so successful.

“Our players are looking forward to the challenges of the season, of again having a great journey in the regular season,” head coach Mike Schafer said. “We really want to be consistent in the regular season, giving ourselves a chance to win the ECAC Hockey League championship again and move on to compete in the NCAA Tournament. Our goals haven’t changed at all from previous seasons.”

The Big Red lost just two conference games in the regular season last year. Can they improve on that impressive record this year? With attention to detail and consistent efforts every night, it’s possible, and it’s bound to be close.


Strong recruiting classes in recent years have led to excellent freshman campaigns from the likes of Brian Ihnacak, Sean Hurley, Jeff Prough and Adam D’Alba. Last year, sophomore forwards Sean Dersch and Antonin Roux emerged as scoring options. Those players all have more experience and will be counted on to lead the way for Brown. The Bears have been poised for incredibly successful seasons in the ECAC Hockey League in each of the last two seasons, only to stumble down the stretch. More consistent efforts throughout the season will go a long way toward making sure the same thing doesn’t happen this year.


Losing a Hobey Baker finalist like goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris will certainly have a negative effect on a team’s chances for success in the following season. But that’s not the only key contributor that Harvard lost. All-American defenseman Noah Welch and fellow defensive stalwart Ryan Lannon are in the Pittsburgh Penguins system this fall instead of on the ice at the Bright Center. Forwards Tom Cavanagh and Brendan Bernakevitch are also trying their hand in professional hockey. The Crimson face an enormous challenge in extending their NCAA Tournament appearance streak to five.


When it comes to top-end talent, St. Lawrence can match up with anyone in the nation. Their group of four star players – forwards T.J. Trevelyan and John Zeiler, and defensemen Mike Madill and Drew Bagnall – is putting the pressure squarely on their shoulders to lead the Saints from the mid-to-lower level of the ECACHL standings toward the top. The three seniors know that it’s their last chance to win at the collegiate level, and Bagnall is serving as an alternate captain in his junior year. In the last four years, St. Lawrence has finished seventh (2005), tenth (2004), and ninth (2003 and 2002).


Cornell goaltender Dave McKee posted statistics last year that were among the best in college hockey history. He recorded 10 shutouts, stopped 94.7 percent of the shots he faced, and allowed just 1.24 goals per game. McKee was honored as a Hobey Hat Trick finalist following his sophomore campaign and was a First Team All-American. Matching or improving upon those numbers will be particularly difficult because he set such a high standard. Now, as a junior, McKee’s presence in goal is among the reasons that the Big Red are heavy favorites to successfully defend their regular season and playoff titles.


When Wayne Gretzky retired from the NHL, someone asked me who I thought was the best player in the league and I quickly responded, “Dominik Hasek.” He, in return, said, “He doesn’t count because he’s a goalie.” I do not agree with that criteria, but I will apply it in casting this vote for Cornell’s Matt Moulson. The Big Red value puck possession and aggressively cycle the puck in the offensive zone that lessens the burden on McKee (fewer shots faced) and oftentimes draws penalties. Moulson has excellent size and can play the game along the wall. When Cornell is on the power play, Moulson mans one of the points and shows an uncanny knack of getting shots through traffic and tucked underneath the crossbar. His 22 goals and 20 assists last year led the Big Red.


The nation's highest scoring defenseman last year, Quinnipiac's Reid Cashman will ply his trade in the ECACHL this season. The Bobcats are the league's newest member.

Normally, you would expect an incoming freshman to fill this spot, but we turn an admiring eye toward Quinnipiac defenseman Reid Cashman. The junior blueliner was a Hobey Baker Award finalist last season after recording 45 points to lead Atlantic Hockey in scoring and rank first in scoring among all defenseman in college hockey.“He is highly competitive, has great vision, and is excellent on the power play,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “There will be an adjustment for him and he will not be able to take as many risks, which he was able to get away with last year.”


Union’s coaches, players, and fans all know how much Scott Seney means to the Dutchmen. He has excellent size, has demonstrated a scoring touch throughout his career, and is responsible defensively. Seney finished with a plus-6 rating last year for an eighth-place team that was outscored by 14 goals at even strength and allowed 10 short-handed tallies. The senior forward will captain Union this season.


1. Can Mark Dekanich make Colgate fans forget Steve Silverthorn? Among the reasons for Colgate’s two-year run at or near the top of the ECACHL standings has been stalwart goaltender Steve Silverthorn. He graduated, leaving a vacancy in the Raider crease. Mark Dekanich has the inside track on winning the starting job and benefited last year when Robert Esche was helping the Colgate staff during the NHL lockout.

2. Will Dan Fridgen be the coach of the RPI Engineers at this time next year? The Engineers are coming off of an 11th-place finish and a season in which they won just six league games. Fridgen’s recruiting and travel budgets were increased for this season and with that allocation of resources comes increased expectations for success. University administrators or alumni may not tolerate another losing season.

3. Who will step up for Dartmouth to replace the offensive tandem of Lee Stempniak and Hugh Jessiman? The obvious individual answer here is Mike Ouellette, a player that played on a line with Stempniak and Jessiman in recent seasons. Other talented forwards such as Nick Johnson, Eric Przepiorka, and Tanner Glass will play in a bigger spotlight and should step into a more prominent role.

Five things you can take to the bank in the ECACHL this season

1. The Quinnipiac Bobcats will have three home rinks this year, playing six league contests at Yale’s Ingalls Rink and another against Harvard at the Hartford Civic Center. The remainder of the Bobcats’ league and non-league contests will be held at the Northford Ice Pavilion. Construction on the university’s new athletic facility is ahead of schedule and the Bobcats could possibly move in for the start of the 2006-07 season, about three months ahead of the projected January 2007 opening.

2. When he signed a contract with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks during the off-season, erstwhile Cornell forward Shane Hynes broke up the best line in the ECACHL. His physical presence and deft hands opened space for Matt Moulson and Byron Bitz and the trio had a wonderful chemistry to generate chances off of the cycle.

3. Television exposure for the ECACHL will be better than ever. As ESPNU joins CSTV in regularly carrying live college hockey broadcasts, league members will be able to be seen by a nationwide college hockey audience.

4. Clarkson will be a much more consistent team. It’s the third year in charge for the George Roll-Greg Drechsel-JF Houle coaching staff, and they’ve brought in players to change the attitudes around Golden Knights hockey. Leadership and attitude issues surrounded the Knights last season, and malcontent goaltender Dustin Traylen was dismissed from the team.

5. As always, a surprise team will emerge and be better than expected. Check the last four teams in the poll shown below. One of them will likely end up hosting a playoff series.

Predicted Finish
School Of Note
Cornell The sky is the limit for the Big Red. Will Topher Scott and Sasha Pokulok struggle through a sophomore slump?.
Dartmouth Losing Stempniak and Jessiman hurts, but Dartmouth returns a talented lineup and will try to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980.
Brown Roger Grillo has been building a talented team for three years; now it’s time for veteran players to use their experience and give the Bears some consistency.
Colgate Veteran leadership is lost, but talent still remains on the roster. The Raiders return their top two scorers in Tyler Burton and Jon Smyth.
St. Lawrence The Saints have hosted just one playoff series in the last four years and they hope to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.
Harvard The Crimson struggled to score goals last year, and will need the likes of Kevin Du, Dylan Reese, and Ryan Maki to carry the load.
Clarkson It’s the third year for George Roll as head coach and he’s had time to bring in “his guys” and change the attitudes surrounding Golden Knights hockey. Malcontent goaltender Dustin Traylen was dismissed from the team.
Union The Dutchmen have hosted home playoff series the last two years. The next step is winning one.
Princeton The Tigers will score goals, but last year they allowed too many. Finding a way to keep the offensive flair without sacrificing defensive responsibility is the mandate.
Yale This is another team that allowed way too many goals, but Josh Gartner stood on his head as the Bulldogs nearly pulled off a shocking playoff upset of Dartmouth last spring.
Rensselaer MacDonald and Kevin Croxton are two of the most talented offensive players in the ECAC Hockey League.
Quinnipiac Former North Dakota goalie Josh Siembida has the inside track on winning the starting job for the Bobcats.