By: Marisa Ingemi
#1: Loyola Greyhounds
2016 Record: 14-4
Player to Watch: Pat Spencer
Graduated: Zach Herreweyers
Toughest Game: at Duke (3/21)
It’s Pat Spencer’s world, and we’re all living in it. After being denied a Tewaaraton Award bid last season, the incoming sophomore is entering the 2017 season as a potential favorite.
Last season, the tough schedule was considered a weakness for Loyola, but it challenged them to be ready for an intense national tournament. With wins over Virginia, Hopkins, Duke, and Towson, eventually the Greyhounds were knocked off by the eventual national champion North Carolina Tar Heels.
Their only loss in the conference came to Navy, who was difficult all season. The Greyhounds will enter this year sans Zach Herreweyers, and replacing his 43 points is no easy task, along with Tyler Albrecht, but Spencer and his 88 points from his freshman campaign are back.
Around Spencer, Brian Sherlock and Zack Sirico are now seniors and should make a push for an elite offense. Most of the goals all season came from the attack position, with 5.78 goals per game coming from down low, and as Spencer improves, it should stay that way.
The Greyhounds last season were a +42 and scored nearly an average of 11 goals per game. Herreweyers being gone hurts, but it’s still a top five team playing out of Loyola. New offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale, coming from Virginia, will help lead one of one of the strongest offenses in the nation. Wiley Bonham is a freshman name to watch competing for some early minutes in Herreweyers’ spot.
The biggest question mark might be between the pipes. Grant Limone was impressive, and he was who the Greyhounds relied on down the stretch last season. However, they were committed to now-sophomore Jacob Stover for a while, and he should get every chance to be the offensive leader.
#2: Navy Midshipmen
2016 Record: 11-5
Player to Watch: Greyson Torain
Graduated: Patrick Keena
Toughest Game: vs Maryland (2/11)
Casey Rees missing potentially the entire season is a huge blow. Patrick Keena is graduated as well, so suddenly the Midshipmen find themselves without their two top scorers from last season.
Greyson Torain is going to be relied upon heavily to replace a lot of that production. Jack Ray will as well look to make a big leap going into his junior season from his 37 total from last year.
With TJ Hanzsche and Kevin Wendel also graduated, that is four of the top six scorers unavailable for this year. It’s an offense that was +40 last season, so losing their goalie and much of the offensive presence will be a challenge for the Midshipmen. Midfielder DJ Plumber might be the player who is going to have to step up the most to make up the difference.
Chris Fennell is in his senior season and is projected to be at least the pre season conference defender of the year. Brady Dove will be in his senior year as well as one of the most dangerous weapons at the face-off X in the nation.
John Connors graduating is another blow, and this is where freshman Ryan Kern has the opportunity to step up after seeing he majority of fall ball reps. Navy is a program still getting back to the top, and if everything goes right, they will be a contender in the conference.
#3: Army Black Knights
2016 Record: 10-7
Player to Watch: Nate Jones
Graduated: Connor Cook
Toughest Game: vs Notre Dame (5/6)
AJ Barretto made the loss of Sam Somers barely a blow for the Black Knights. Giving up just eight goals per game, and saving 52% of shots, the freshman goalie was a tremendous asset for Army down the stretch.
A win over Navy in the PL tournament last season showed the world that the Black Knights were for real, and this season seems like it might be the one where they put it all together.
Cole Johnson had 71 points last season, and now a senior, is one of the leaders of an impressive group. Nate Jones emerged last year with 36 goals in his freshman season. An 11.35 goals per game average was impressive for a group that had graduated John Glesener just the season before.
#4: Bucknell Bison
2016 Record: 10-5
Player to Watch: Jarrett Witzal
Graduated: Sean Doyle
Toughest Game: vs Loyola (3/25)
Bucknell seems to always be overlooked. The Bison went 10-5 and won the games they had to win, finishing with a 5-3 Patriot League record.
It was two freshman, FOGO Jarrett Witzal and goaltender Christian Klipstein, who made noise for Bucknell last season. Klipstein led a defense averaging just over nine goals allowed per game. Matt Gilray is going to be a huge defender for the team as well after the LSM had a notable pre season.
Sean Doyle, Kyle Shanahan, and Thomas Filbote are all out, but the team’s top two scorers, Will Sands and Tommy O’Connor, return to lead an offense that averaged more than 11 goals per game.
The Bison are a darkhorse in the Patriot League, but a lot has to do with if Sands can take it to the next level and if Witzal can compete in one of the toughest FOGO conferences in the nation.
#5: Boston University Terriers
2016 Record: 8-7
Player to Watch: Cal Dearth
Graduated: Elliott Burr
Toughest Game: vs Air Force (3/4)
Is this finally the Terriers’ year? After two years of missing out on the conference tournament by a single game, BU brings in its first full team of recruiting classes. A freshman group that includes John MacLean and Joe McSorely looks like it can contribute alongside a group of seniors looking for one last push.
Cal Dearth, after being banged up for parts of last year, is healthy and looking to raise his stock for potentially being drafted to the pro level. Sam Talkow is also back in his final year and is projected as potentially a third round MLL draft pick for a team that needs a FOGO.
Most of this season hinges on the two of them being healthy. and relying on players like James Burr and Brendan Homire making a big step in their sophomore seasons. Burr was overshadowed by top freshmen such as Spencer and Tristian Rai, but became the go-to attackman for the Terriers quickly.
Jack Wilson is now an upper classman as well and should continue to keep getting better. A defensive unit led by an always improving Dominick Calisto and veteran Greg Wozniak, along with sophomore Drew Lukacs, should be a formidable group.
This is the toughest schedule the Terriers have ever faced, but the program is in a position to be able to handle it with its strongest group of talent yet.
#6: Lehigh Mountain Hawks
2016 Record: 6-9
Player to Watch: Tristan Rai
Graduated: Reid Weber
Toughest Game: at North Carolina (2/18)
Tristan Rai looked to be the rookie of the league before Pat Spencer happened. He’s the dynamic talent that they need, still recovering from losing two of their best players in program history.
Last year should have been the year the Mountain Hawks took a step back, and they did, and this year might be stagnant. Never underestimate the likes of coach Kevin Cassese, but at some point, Lehigh needs to further restock.
Weber being gone is the final blow for a group that won a PL title not that long ago.
The crease battle between Chris Kiernan and Adam Sawicki is interesting. Craig Chick in front of either in net is looking to improve off of what was an impressive freshman season. Allowing more goals per game than they scored, and being a -9, was a step back, but the tandem and Chick being another year older should lead to closing that gap.
#7: Holy Cross Crusaders
2016 Record: 4-11
Player to Watch: Jon Vogel
Graduated: Sean Wilkinson
Toughest Game: at Brown (3/24)
Just four wins all year was good enough to play in the conference tournament, thanks to three of those wins in PL play.
Jon Vogel improved as a junior, and with his 42 points last season, 39 of which were goals, the Crusaders have him to thank for a lot of their success. His goals were nearly 30% of Holy Cross’ goal total all season.
With Michael Ortlieb out in the crease, it appears junior Nate Chung will take the reigns after facing three shots last season overall, unless freshman Matt Lanigan steps in.
Speaking of freshmen, there really aren’t a ton for this Crusaders group that are expected to be of impact right away.
That late season three game win streak against conference opponents is what gave Holy Cross a prayer at the Patriot League tournament, and they actually played tough against Bucknell in those playoffs as well. The Crusaders could improve from a 4-11 record last season.
#8: Colgate Red Raiders
2016 Record: 4-10
Player to Watch: Sam Cleveland
Graduated: Tyler Rigo
Toughest Game: at Loyola (4/1)
Colgate could take a major step back this season. At 4-10 last season, the Raiders lose Tyler Rigo, and that comes after incoming junior Anthony Abbadessa not stepping up like they imagined in 2016.
Peter Donato and Chase Wittich taking a step forward would help Colgate quite a bit, but with the rest of the PL on the rise, it could be a rough year in Hamilton.
With just two conference wins last season, one of which being a surprise early season 11-10 victory over Bucknell, the only other opponents the Raiders took down were Binghamton and Hobart.
Brandon Burke will be back in the crease after posting a save percentage a little over 48% last season. The senior was a part of a team that was a -41 overall, however.
One bright spot for Colgate? Sam Cleveland should eclipse his 28 point freshman total.
#9: Lafayette Leopards
2016 Record: 3-11
Player to Watch: Jonathan Anastos
Graduated: Ben Falcone
Toughest Game: vs Loyola (3/25)
In good news for the Leopards, they are a young team. But Lafeyette remains the whipping boy of the conference, and that’s not changing anytime soon.
To make matters worse, their best player in goaltender Ben Falcone is graduated, leaving the Leopards without much hope of bettering their 3-11 record from last season. Jonathan Anastos is the sophomore goalie likely to replace Falcone and he got his feet wet last season with a 46.59 save percentage.
Lafayette has by far the easiest schedule of any PL team, with nonconference dates with Michigan, Wagner, Sacred Heart, Binghamton and Monmouth. Michigan is the toughest of those games and it’s their first attempt of the season.
Last season two of their wins were against Wagner and Monmouth and the other was against NJIT, one of the country’s youngest programs. For now, it looks like another rebuilding year for Lafayette with the remainder of the conference looking strong.