Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Hockey East Pre-Season Picks

Once again, it is time to roll out my preseason Hockey East poll, a ranking that has the possibility to be very off. This year, like most years, Hockey East is wide open. But this season seems to be a little more of a shot in the dark than previous ones. From top to bottom, teams have lost key components of their lineups.

10. University of Vermont
The offseason treated the Catamounts like a salmon trying to swim up river in Alaska. Prior to the summer kicking into full force, Sebastian Stalberg departed the university for the San Jose Sharks. As the NHL Draft approached, things were looking up, as Zemgus Girgensons was selected 8th overall by the Buffalo Sabres. Days after the draft, Girgensons decided against attending college and signed with the Sabres. Weeks later, Vermont lost their Assistant Head Coach John Micheletto to UMass. The lone bright spot for the Cats this summer was that they did sign BU decommit Robert Polesello. All and all, it looks like Vermont has way too much to overcome this season and I don't see them leaving the basement this season, much like last year.

9. Northeastern University 
Bypass the blatent cross check in front
and you will see Clay Witt attempting
to play goalie.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
NU had almost as tumultuous an offseason as UVM. Decommit after decommit rocked the Huskies. Top goalie prospect John Gillis opted out of NU and instead headed south to Providence. Also, Northeastern lost stud defenseman Anthony Biteito and Steve Quailer to the pro ranks. NU was fortunate to claim Kevin Roy and his brother. Kevin was the USHL MVP posting 103 points with the Lincoln Stars. Kevin was who everyone wanted, but the team also had to sign his brother, an at best third string backup goalie. BU was, in fact, in the running for Kevin, but when both Kevin and his brother decommited Brown on the same day, it was sure to be a package deal. Anyway, NU ended up with both and now have a top notch player in Kevin and a fourth string goalie. NU already had three goalies coming back for 2013 as it was- Chris Rawlings, Clay Witt, Brian Mountain- and now have another. Rawlings was better as a freshman than his last two years, and it would not surprise me if Witt overtook him by the end of the year. That being said, Witt is not the second coming of Patrick Roy (No retaliation to Kevin). Not by a long shot. I think Witt could be a decent goalie in Hockey East. I don't think NU has enough to get into the playoffs.

8. The University of Massachusetts 
Some may say that UMass had the toughest offseason because of the seemingly never-ending search to replace "Toots" Cahoon, who abruptly stepped down as Head Coach after the season ended. After months of interviewing potential candidates (and there were quite a few), UMass finally announced that John Micheletto, former Vermont assistant coach was the new bench boss of The Minuteman. On the Ice, UMass returns a strong tandem of goalies in Kevin Boyle, Jeff Teglia, and Steve Mastalerz. Leading scorer T. J. Syner graduated, but besides that, most of the UMass offense is returning.  Because of the coaching struggle, I see UMass just sneaking into the playoffs. 
Sam Morotta will likely become the
new Merrimack starter
(Photo by Matt Dresens)

7. Merrimack College
Last season, Merrimack came back down to earth after making the Hockey East Championship Game in 2011, finishing 5th in the conference and failing to make The Garden. This year, I see the slide continuing. MC lost undoubtably their best player to graduation in goaltender Joe Cannata. Cannata had the ability to "steal" games. With him gone and the loss of Seniors Ryan Flanigan and Jesse Todd there are huge holes in the offense. Merrimack has a solid recruit class, so I still see them making the playoffs.

6. The University of Maine
Last year, Maine surprisingly (to me anyway) made it to the Hockey East Championship. They did that on the back of strong goaltending from Dan Sullivan and a killer power play. This year, two of the three key players on the power play won't be there, as Brian Flynn and Spencer Abbott both graduated. In addition to Abbott and Flynn leaving, defenseman, Matt Mangene left early and signed with the Flyers. I think Maine's recruit class is good enough, and with Sullivan between the pipes, the Black Bears easily make the playoffs. Without Abbott and Flynn, I don't see them hosting the first round in Orono.

5. The University of New Hampshire 
A season ago, UNH scraped together a second half charge that put them in 6th at the end of the year. The Wildcats were a very young team last year and with another year under their belts, the large amount of underclassmen UNH had, will make a big impact this year. The one big loss that stands out is goalie Matt Di Girolamo, who by the end of the year had been replaced by Casey DeSmith. So, all in all, the losses are very manageable. Some may see UNH a little higher, but I think there still could be some growing pains up in Durham.

4. Providence College
Stefan Demopoulos
will return for
his sophomore year
after posting 17pts
his freshman season
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
Providence is my big mover this year. Last year they finished 7th in the conference and upended second seeded Lowell in the quarterfinals. To the surprise of many, they hung around and at one point lead Boston College in the Hockey East Semis. On to this year. PC lost underachieving goalie Alex Beaudry to graduation. Besides that, there were no other big losses. Last year's leading scorer Ross Mauermann returns and so does basically everyone else who put up some kind of numbers last season. Providence will bring in top goalie recruit John Gillis, who was supposed to go to Northeastern. Under second year head coach Nate Leaman and a strong group of returning players, I see PC hosting the Hockey East Quarterfinals for the first time since 2003.

3. Boston University
Matt Nieto (17) and Garrett Noonan
celebrate a goal together.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
BU, like a lot of other teams, lost their fair share of talent to graduation and the NHL, but in my opinion, BU has the strongest recruit class in the league. Losing Kieran Millan hurts, but Sean Maguire and Matt O'Conner (the two incoming goalies) were both highly ranked. Maguire was a fifth round draft pick by the Penguins. With the abundance of freshman on the team, there may be a lull in the middle of the year, but come the end of the year, BU should be a strong team contending for the regular season title. It will be interesting to see all that young talent come together. A lot of the offense will come from captain Wade Megan, Junior Matt Nieto and defenseman Garrett Noonan.

2. UMass Lowell
Last year, I pegged Lowell to finish dead last. Little did I know that the River Hawks would piece together one of the best season's in program history, making the NCAA's for the first time ever. They also picked up their first NCAA win, dropping Miami in overtime. This year, Lowell returns the foundation of last year's team in goalie Doug Carr and most of their offense. The key offseason losses are all to graduation. Matt Ferreira and David Vallorani were both in the top six in scoring on the team, with 32 and 29 points respectively. Lowell should be able to finish where they did last year, (tied for second) but I could see a slide.

1. Boston College
I'm taking this poll as if I was betting on a horse race. Put the favorite on top, and throw in a few long shots. BC would be the favorite simply because they won the National Championship. They, like all the other 9 teams in the league have holes to fill. Barry Almeida posted 40 points last year and graduated after four strong years as an Eagle. To most teams that would be the biggest loss. Not for BC. Chris Kreider, who weeks after winning the national championship, was skating for the New York Rangers in the NHL playoffs. Kreider notched 46 points last year. On defense, BC says goodbye to (in my mind) overrated Brian Dumoulin, who left after three years to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes. BC does return one of the league's craftiest players in Johnny Gaudreau, who accumulated 45 points in his Freshman campaign. Parker Milner will once again be the Eagle's goalie. He has made everyone but me forget how average a goalie he really is, by playing outstanding in the NCAA tournament. So for the lack of a better candidate, I pick Boston College to once again stand on top of Hockey East.


  1. Last year was not Lowell's first trip to the NCAA tournament. I believe they had 2 prior visits and at least 1 previous NCAA win as well.

  2. Brian Dumoulin is most definitely not overrated. Brian Dumoulin is an outstanding hockey player and an outstanding defenseman.

  3. Last year was Lowell's 4th trip to the NCAA's (1988, 1994, 1996) and 3rd NCAA win.

  4. Lowell has made the NCAA tourney 4 times. Their DI tourney record is 3-4-1. The tie was from the 1988 season which used a 2 game total goal format in the first 2 rounds of the tournament.

  5. Seriously, gotta do your homework...

  6. Lol, Northeastern won't make it because they lost Bitetto and Eibler who played better as freshmen?

    Injuries are the only reason Northeastern finished 9th last season. They lost 4 of their top 6 forwards down the stretch.

  7. You are wrong to classify Brian Dumoulin as being overrated. He is an excellent player. Although Dumoulin left BC early to play for Carolina he was part of a major player swap and is now with Pittsburgh. As far as UMASS Lowell first trip to the NCAA you are also wrong. If your going to be taken serious here as a sports writer you need to do your homework.