2006-07 ECACHL Preview
Three programs have clearly dominated the ECAC
Hockey League over the last three years. Their consistency
is as noteworthy as what they have achieved.
Looking at three significant goals for an ECACHL
team — a top-four finish in the regular-season standings,
advancing to the league's championship weekend in Albany,
and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament — Harvard, Colgate,
and Cornell have done those things most often. Over the last
three seasons, a team could achieve those goals nine times.
Harvard is 8-for-9 while Cornell and Colgate earned those
distinctions seven times each.
While Ted Donato has only been the head coach
at Harvard for the last two seasons, he's continued the program's
impressive streak of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament and
ECACHL championship weekend for five straight years.
"We feel that it is important to improve
during the season. Whether you start out with the best team,
or highly picked in the league, it's really not a factor and
no help once the games start," Donato said. "For
us, it's not how we start, it's how we finish and that's the
mentality, that we want to improve during the year, and our
guys have bought into it."
Colgate's consistency has been helped by the
introduction of athletic scholarships that can help them get
impact players, and the Raider coaches have been successful
in rewarding them to the right types of recruits.
captain Nick Dodge hopes to help lead Clarkson back to
a permanent spot among the ECACHL's elite teams.
"It starts with the character and quality
of the people that we're bringing in. We've got two great
assistant coaches in Andrew (Dickson) and Brad (Dexter) that
do a great job in that area," Vaughan said. "We've
had great leadership and that's the other component of this.
When you look back at guys like Adam Mitchell and Darryl McKinnon
and Joey Mormina and Jon Smyth last year, they've all learned
from a good group of seniors dating back three or four years.
The legacy is that they leave that attitude and work ethic
that's required and that's to be consistent over time."
In that same time frame, several other programs
have risen up to challenge those three but none has been able
to sustain that success. Clarkson, Dartmouth, and Brown have
been to the ECACHL championship weekend in the last four years.
The challenge for Harvard, Colgate, and Cornell
in the 2006-07 season is to maintain their status while other
One year ago the Quinnipiac Bobcats entered
the ECAC Hockey League as a bit of an unknown. A team that
was most commonly known as those guys from Connecticut with
the high-scoring defenseman is now a known quantity, and it’s
not a one-name team anymore.
Sophomore Bryan Leitch was the ECACHL Rookie
of the Year as a freshman last year, and three other players
had 38 points or more. Freshman goalie Bud Fisher emerged
for the team and the Bobcats have a talented freshman class
ready to continue the recent tradition of young players leading
the Quinnipac scoring chart. Reid Cashman continued his stellar
did his part to propel the Bobcats, and earned All-American
recognition for the second year in a row.
There’s a lot to be excited about in Hamden,
Conn. Maybe too much. One challenge that the Bobcats face
is managing their emotions in the midst of increased expectations
and a brand-new rink.
"There's always distractions of every level
and it's something the players have to manage and the coaches
have to manage. Whether it's a player like Reid Cashman getting
a lot of press, or the freshmen getting a lot of press, it's
normal business for us," Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold
said. "Certainly it's an exciting time at Quinnipiac
University with the new facility coming but we've got to ground
our kids and we open at North Dakota, so that will help to
ground us pretty quickly."
PRIMED FOR A FALL
All-American goalie Dave McKee, top-notch goal-scorer
Matt Moulson, and versatile defenseman Ryan O’Byrne
won’t be playing in the newly-remodeled Lynah Rink this
season. Nor will defense prospect Sasha Pokulok who was a
first-round NHL draft pick and signed with the Washington
Capitals after two years of college hockey. Another defenseman,
Jon Gleed, graduated which leaves Cornell particularly thin
on the blue line.
What Cornell does have going for it is the consistent
excellence of the program over the last three years. The upperclassmen
have only known winning and won’t want to let the Big
Red’s standing as a top team diminish on their watch.
Also, goaltender Troy Davenport returns to Cornell after spending
some time there in the 2004-05 season as McKee’s backup.
Davenport is more confident and experienced and will step
into the crease.
PRESSURE TO PERFORM
The overall talent level has increased and some
bad apples have been weeded out over the last couple of seasons.
Continuity in the Clarkson program under head coach George
Roll and assistants Greg Drechsel and Jean-Francois Houle
has been established. Now the Golden Knights need to turn
those developments into results.
Clarkson made a run to the league’s championship
game in 2004 and it seemed to indicate that the traditional
league power was ready to reclaim its spot among the ECACHL’s
elite, but the Golden Knights followed that with a ninth-place
finish in 2005 and an eighth-place finish in 2006.
There are high expectations for Clarkson this
season. Five of 12 league coaches picked the Golden Knights
first in the pre-season poll, and league media members projected
Clarkson to finish fifth.
"There is pressure," Roll said. "We've
been mediocre for three years but we felt that we made a lot
of positive strides last year. Obviously there's some areas
we've got to clean up but we really thought we turned the
corner last year. This is the year for us to make that big
jump and we feel pretty confident that we can do it."
TOUGHEST ACT TO FOLLOW
This story seems to be written every year. A
seemingly irreplaceable piece of Dartmouth’s team moves
on and younger players are asked to step into more prominent
roles. Senior forward Mike Ouellette emerged from the shadows
cast by prior linemates Lee Stempniak and Hugh Jessiman to
earn All-American honors last year. Ouellette is now graduated
and star junior forwards David Jones and Nick Johnson will
be asked to carry a bigger load. Senior forward and captain
Tanner Glass is also primed for a big year.
More importantly, Dartmouth will need to find
some players to step into the vacated spots at the center
position. Jones, Johnson, nor Glass is a natural centerman
and Ouellette and classmate Eric Przepiorka admirably filled
the top two center positions for the last two years. Connor
Shields centered an all-freshman line with Ryan Bellows and
Kevin Swallow last year and is a likely candidate to step
into one of those vacated center positions.
Clarkson’s Nick Dodge is not the best
scorer in the league, nor the best defender, nor does he have
the hardest shot, the best quickness, or most strength. While
he may not be the best at any of those things, he is above
average in most aspects of the game of hockey and the total
package makes him the best player in the ECAC Hockey League.
What Dodge is the best at is controlling face-offs,
as very few centerman in college hockey can outmaneuver him
when the puck is dropped. Dodge is versatile and plays in
all situations. But his greatest attributes are his demeanor
and leadership qualities.
"His importance is not just measured in
the points. He was a key to our playoffs last year, but he
brings more than to the table," Roll said. "He's
a phenomenal student and he works hard in every area. He's
not a real vocal guy but he's a leader on our team."
He was named captain of Clarkson as a junior
and was the most-closely defended player on the Golden Knights
in a playoff series against Cornell last spring. Dodge has
the respect of everyone in the league and was deservedly a
preseason All-ECACHL selection by both the coaches and media.
Two new coaches bring unique backgrounds to
the ECAC Hockey League and look to bring new ideas to programs
with strong traditions. Seth Appert was a six-year assistant
coach at Denver and is now the head coach at Rensselaer, replacing
Dan Fridgen. Appert was a part of back-to-back national championships
for the Pioneers in 2004 and 2005. Keith Allain follows in
Tim Taylor’s footsteps at Yale, where Allain was a goaltender
from 1976-80. Allain was also a Yale assistant coach from
1982-85 before being involved in professional hockey as a
scout and assistant coach for the Washington Capitals, Nashville
Predators, and St. Louis Blues.
Lawrence defenseman Drew Bagnall had a great start to
his collegiate career but was hampered by injuries one
He’s not as much an unsung player as an
unheralded player, but St. Lawrence senior defenseman Drew
Bagnall will be called upon to anchor the Saint defense. He
missed 16 games last year and will emerge as the leader of
the blue line corps in Canton. Mike Madill graduated and will
be missed, but Bagnall can step into that role quite comfortably
and is one of the top defensemen in the league.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS
1. Will Brown and Princeton improve?
There’s reason to believe that both teams could make
a move up the standings. For Brown, it will take learning
from last year’s close losses. The Bears played in 13
overtime games and didn’t win any of them. Turning those
close losses and ties into points will move Brown out of last
Princeton has continued to build depth, but
the loss of goaltender Eric Leroux is particularly noteworthy.
There’s a broader range of talent on the Princeton roster
which should help them make it through the rigorous regular
season in better health and make them stronger when the playoffs
2. Will any ECACHL teams emerge as top-10
teams nationally and legitimate Frozen Four contenders?
Heading into the season it doesn’t seem likely that
an ECACHL team will be skating in St. Louis in April. Co-regular-season
champions Dartmouth and Colgate both missed the NCAA Tournament
last year, but seem to be poised to take the next step and
could make a run in a regional bracket if they were to make
3. How will the leagues officials perform
under new direction from supervisor Luke Galvin?
An official’s job is thankless and most frequently criticized,
but a new supervisor of officials will work to improve the
overall quality and consistency of league officials. Galvin
has experience officiating at the National Hockey League and
American Hockey League levels.
MARK IT DOWN
Five things you can take to the bank in the ECACHL this season
1. Two teams that finish in the bottom
four of the league standings will win first-round playoff
series on the road. It happened last year as Quinnipiac
and Yale pulled off the feat, and Brown took St. Lawrence
to overtime in a deciding Game 3.
2. A freshman goalie will come out of
nowhere to make an impact. Quinnipiac’s Bud
Fisher and Yale’s Alec Richards were the surprise stories
last year, and there’s plenty of opportunity for newcomers
to step in and play well in net, especially at Union, Brown,
Clarkson, and Harvard.
3. ECACHL teams will make some noise
against traditional national powers during holiday tournaments.
League members will have the opportunity to knock off some
big names in college hockey as Harvard competes at the Great
Lakes Invitational, Clarkson goes to the Badger Showdown,
Cornell matches up with Maine and possibly New Hampshire in
the Florida College Classic, and Dartmouth and St. Lawrence
will take on North Dakota and Boston University in the Ledyard
4. Peter Bogdanich will be the next
breakout player at Colgate, following in the footsteps
of low-scoring players that blossomed into huge contributors
such as Jon Smyth, Marc Fulton, and Jesse Winchester.
5. The ECAC Hockey League title
won’t be decided until the last few games of the regular
season, which will be different from last season
when Dartmouth and Colgate shared the league title after the
final night of regular-season play.
||The Big Green took big strides but still missed the
NCAA Tournament. It won't happen this year.
||Returning two first team All-ECACHL players in goalie
Mark Dekanich and center Tyler Burton can only be a positive.
||The pressure's on and Clarkson's deep group of forwards
will carry the load. Freshman goalie Matt Smith will push
David Leggio for playing time, and one needs to win the
||Captain Dylan Reese is a bit of a combination of the
previous two captains — outspoken Noah Welch and
the more reserved Peter Hafner.
||Tons of offensive firepower makes the Bobcats very dangerous,
especially on the power play.
||The Big Red lost its three best players and has question
marks on the blue line, yet somehow they'll find a way
to finish higher than this prediction.
||The Saints' Class of '06 took with them 208 career goals
and 287 career assists.
||Over the summer, coach Nate Leaman was rewarded with
a contract extension through 2010.
||New coach Seth Appert looks to build consistency through
attention to detail, which has worked well for Cornell.
||Ten freshmen will compete for playing time at Princeton.
||Remember how good Alec Richards was
last year? Now he's got Mike Richter and Keith
Allain coaching him.
||The Bears return their top-12 scorers from last year.
The problem is that only two of them had more than 15