Familiar Faces Poised to Contend for Hockey East

BU hockey goal

By: Jarett Leonard and Dave Souza

Over the course of the season, Jarett Leonard and Dave Souza will be providing coverage of the Boston University men’s ice hockey team. The following is their conference preview for Hockey East. Check out their podcast, This Week in Hockey East, on SoundCloud. 

#2 Boston University

Last Year: 24-12-3, Share of Hockey East regular season title, Lost in Hockey East semifinal to BC 3-2, Lost In NCAA West Regional final to Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 (OT)

Key Losses: F Clayton Keller, D Charlie McAvoy, F Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, F Kieffer Bellows

Key Additions: F Shane Bowers, F Brady Tkachuk, D David Farrance

As is usually the case with BU, the Terriers will have to break in a number of new faces to the lineup early on in the season. Forwards Clayton Keller and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and defenseman Charlie McAvoy all left early after last season to sign with NHL teams while forward Kieffer Bellows departed for the Western Hockey League. However, reinforcements are always on the way in the form of young talent, as forwards Shane Bowers and Brady Tkachuk and defenseman David Farrance will fill the voids left by those departures. Add them to the solid core of returners, including forwards Jordan Greenway and Bobo Carpenter and defensemen Brandon Hickey and Dante Fabbro, combined with the stellar goaltending of sophomore Jake Oettinger, and the Terriers should be near the top of the nation once again this year.

#5/9 UMass-Lowell

Last Year: 27-11-3, Share of Hockey East regular season title, won Hockey East Championship, Lost in NCAA Northeast Regional final to Notre Dame 3-2 (OT)

Key Losses: F Joe Gambardella, F C.J. Smith, D Dylan Zink

Key Additions: D Croix Evingson, F Charlie Levesque, D Anthony Baxter, F Cole Paskus, D Connor Sodergren

Norm Bazin’s Riverhawks will have a different look this year, as top two scorers Joe Gambardella and C.J. Smith both graduated as well as shutdown defenseman Dylan Zink. Like BC, Lowell will rely on its “Wall,” sophomore goaltender Tyler Wall, to maintain the level he was at during his freshman season, and they will also turn to sophomore defenseman Mattias Goransson to fill the void that Zink left on the back end. Offensively, senior forward John Edwardh and sophomore forward Ryan Lohin should provide much of the scoring while freshman Croix Evingson will bring his offensive mindset to the blue line for the Riverhawks.

#11/5 Providence

Last Year: 22-12-5, Finished 5th in Hockey East, Swept by Notre Dame in Hockey East quarterfinal, Lost to Harvard 3-0 in NCAA East Regional semifinal

Key Losses: D Jake Walman, D Kyle Mackenzie, D Anthony Florentino,

Key Additions: D Ben Mirageas, D Jake Ryczek, F Bailey Conger

Providence will be a strong team once again this year, returning goaltender Hayden Hawkey and leading scorers Brian Pinho and Erik Foley. While the early loss of captain Jake Walman (St. Louis Blues) will hurt the defensive unit, the Friars will add two NHL draft picks to the blue line in Ben Mirageas and Jake Ryczek, and under coach Nate Leaman, should be among the nation’s defensive leaders once again.

Boston College

Last Year: 21-15-4, Share of Hockey East regular season title, Lost to UMass-Lowell 4-3 in Hockey East championship

Key Losses: F Colin White, F Ryan Fitzgerald, F Austin Cangelosi, F Chris Calnan, D Scott Savage

Key Additions: F Eeli Tolvanen, F Jacob Tortora, D Michael Karow

BC may struggle to put the puck in the net after losing Colin White and Ryan Fitzgerald to the NHL, but they will be backstopped yet again by Joseph Woll, who, like Oettinger, is coming off an impressive freshman year. Still, if players like David Cotton and Julius Mattila make a jump in their sophomore seasons, BC could once again be a contender in the conference.

#20/14 Northeastern

Last Year: 18-15-5, Finished 8th in Hockey East, Swept by Boston University in Hockey East quarterfinal

Key Losses: F Zach Aston-Reese, F John Stevens, F Sam Kurker

Key Additions: F Austin Goldstein, F Zach Solow, F Brandon Schultz, G Cayden Primeau

The Huskies will have to replace Hobey Baker finalist Zach Aston-Reese, who led the nation with 31 goals last season. Luckily, junior forward Adam Gaudette is ready to make that leap and add to his 26 goals from a season ago. Northeastern will score, but the question with this team is goaltending. Ryan Ruck had a disappointing sophomore season after leading the Huskies to a Hockey East championship two years ago, but if he can return to that level, Northeastern could be a tough out.

Vermont

Last Year: 20-13-5, Finished 6th in Hockey East, Swept by Boston College in Hockey East quarterfinal

Key Losses: F Mario Puskarich, D Rob Hamilton, F Brendan Bradley

Key Additions: D Owen Grant, F Bryce Misley, F Marty Frechette

Having to replace your leading scorer is never an easy prospect for any team, and it especially won’t be for the Catamounts this season. Gone is Mario Puskarich, who led the team in goals, assists and points despite missing the first five games of the season. Fortunately for Vermont, they have a pair of scorers in junior Brian Bowen and sophomore Ross Colton that can shoulder the load. Both players had the same production at 12 goals and 15 assists, and with Puskarich – who led UVM with 116 shots last year – gone, expect the duo to have even more opportunities than a year ago. Returning netminder Stefan Lekkas brings stability in the cage for Vermont, though both back-ups from a year ago have departed, putting even more pressure on the sophomore.

Connecticut

Last Year: 12-16-8, Finished 9th in Hockey East, Swept by Northeastern in Hockey East first round

Key Losses: F Evan Richardson, G Rob Nichols

Key Additions: F Brian Rigali, F Zac Robbins, D Adam Karashik

Losing just four players from a year ago, the Huskies return almost all of their blue line and all but two of their forwards. While goalie Rob Nichols has departed via graduation, UConn will have sophomore Adam Huska back in net this season. Huska played in the majority of contests in 2017-2018, compiling a 2.87 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. However, Connecticut was third from the bottom at the end of last season, and maintaining most of that core may keep the Huskies from climbing further up in the standings – even if they all have another year of experience.  

New Hampshire

Last Year: 15-20-5, Finished 10th in Hockey East, Lost to UMass-Lowell in 3 games in Hockey East quarterfinal

Key Losses: F Tyler Kelleher, D Matias Cleland

Key Additions: F Charlie Kelleher, D Max Gildon, D Benton Maass

Tyler Kelleher has been the face of UNH hockey for the last few seasons, especially last year when he tallied a team-high 63 points – 20 more than any other Wildcat. But New Hampshire does have a wealth of young talent that will keep them competitive throughout 2017-2018. Patrick Grasso was third on the team a year ago in goals and now returns to Durham as just a sophomore. Classmate Brendan van Riemsdyk and junior Ara Nazarian both had double-digit assists a year ago and now will play with more experience this season. The biggest keep for the Wildcats though is senior netminder Danny Tirone. Playing in 38 games last winter, Tirone posted a .910 save percentage to go along with a 2.99 goals against average. Tirone also played in all but one Hockey East game last season.

Merrimack

Last Year: 15-16-6, Finished 7th in Hockey East, Lost to New Hampshire in 3 games in Hockey East first round

Key Losses: G Collin Delia, F Hampus Gustafsson

Key Additions: F Jackson Bales, F Laine McKay, D Simon Loof, G Logan Halladay

The Warriors will look to improve upon a strong finish to last season that included a 6-1-3 record over their final nine games. The early departure of goaltender Colin Delia will hurt, and goaltender Drew Vogler, who posted a .897 save percentage in 18 games last year, will likely be the starter. Merrimack returns leading scorer Brett Seney as well as Jace Hennig and will have a strong defensive unit with senior captains Marc Biega and Jared Kolquist and sophomore Johnathan Kovacevic. Merrimack also boasts one of the best home ice advantages in the conference at Lawler Rink.

Massachusetts

Last Year: 5-29-2, Finished 12th in Hockey East, Swept by Providence in Hockey East first round

Key Losses: F Steven Iacobellis, F Ray Pigozzi, G Nic Renyard

Key Additions: D Cale Makar, G Matt Murray, D Mario Ferraro

UMass continues a rebuild under second-year head coach Greg Carvel. While a number of players left the program early, including goaltender Nic Renyard, the Minutemen’s incoming class is ranked third in the nation behind only North Dakota and BU by Neutral Zone. Defenseman Cale Makar highlights the class, the fourth overall pick by Colorado in last year’s NHL Draft. Sophomore Ryan Wischow will be the likely starter in goal after a good freshman season, but he won’t be enough to keep UMass out of the bottom of the standings.

Maine

Last Year: Finished 11th in Hockey East, Swept by Vermont in Hockey East first round

Key Losses: F Cam Brown, F Blaine Byron, D Eric Schurhamer

Key Additions: F Emil Westerlund, F Adrian Holesinsky, G Jeremy Swayman

Nolan Vesey  – brother of the 2016 Hobey Baker winner – will look to take a big step this year as the team’s top returning scorer. Losing production from Blaine Byron and Cam Brown will definitely hurt the Black Bear’s offense at the beginning of the year, and the season will hinge on the team’s ability to put the puck in the back of the net. Vesey will need to lead the returning players and Maine will need to get solid production from their freshman if they are to rise from the cellar this season. A step in the right direction comes all the way across the ice however; as junior Rob McGovern returns between the pipes for Maine. Last year, McGovern crafted a 2.99 goals against average to go with his .912 save percentage.

 

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