With a noted RPI bias like I have here, I’ve always tried to play it cool with expectations. I don’t know that I can do that this year.
- St. Lawrence
Preseason All-Conference Team
Goalie: Jason Kasdorf – RPI
Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere – Union — Tommy Fallen – Yale
Forwards: Greg Carey – St. Lawrence — Kenny Agostino – Yale — Matt Lorito – Brown
As usual with this conference, you can take the top four, five, or six teams and arrange them however you want at the top and then draw names out of a hat for the bottom.
I’m sure you’re wondering why/how I put Rensselaer ahead of both of last year’s national finalists.
Quinnipiac was easy enough because they graduated essentially half of last year’s team. That’s hard to overcome but coach Rand Pecknold gets a ton of credit for what he’s done with this team already and what guys are returning can score.
Yale will be very good again this year. I know they’ve got questions in goal thanks to Jeff Malcolm graduating, but when haven’t the Bulldogs had questions there? I’m sure there will be some brand of let down and everyone will question if they can do it again. I think they’ll be fine.
As for RPI though, there’s a couple reasons for going with them at No. 1:
Jason Kasdorf would’ve been the ECAC’s top goalie had it not been for QU’s Eric Hartzell and his out-of-this-world season. Kasdorf is just heading into his sophomore year and provided there’s no namely letdown this year (and no injuries) he should be at the top of the league again.
2. Lack of roster turnover
Know how many seniors the Engineers had last season? Five. One of them was their top scorer in defenseman Nick Bailen. Losing his production on the power play could be a big issue for RPI, but they’ve got other guys ready to jump into his shoes.
The other four players weren’t burning the house down in production last year. Captain C.J. Lee was 11th on the team in points while Greg Burgdoerfer was a grinder and Marty O’Grady had injury problems. Goalie Bryce Merriam was, for all intents and purposes, the team’s third goalie by the end of the year.
Who’s back? Everyone that made RPI one of the hottest teams at the end of last season. Juniors Matt Neal, Jacob Laliberte, and Ryan Haggerty lead the forwards while sophomore forwards Mike Zalewski and Milos Bubela provide the second wave with senior Brock Higgs, junior Mark McGowan, and sophomore Mark Miller.
RPI will score plenty and they’ve got perhaps the best goalie in the conference. The only question comes on defense, but even there things are looking good with guys like Curtis Leonard, Guy Leboeuf, and Chris Bradley providing stability. Freshman Parker Reno will jump into the defensive fire and help toughen things up as well.
Speaking of their freshmen, there’s not many coming in (just five) and three are forwards with high offensive upside. Like Yale, RPI could prove to be one of the most fun teams to watch in the ECAC.
As for explaining the rest of the rankings, let’s do that quickly:
I know I’ll catch hell for putting my faith in Dartmouth again, but at some point they’re going to get over the hump in conference, right? They have to.
Quinnipiac will still be good. Go ahead and think they won’t be and then they’ll wind up surprising you in the face.
Union’s been bitten by the departure bug, but like the New Jersey Devils in the NHL, counting them out is foolhardy. Rick Bennett will find a way to make it work. They’re virtually a system team at this point, just not head-bangingly boring the way…
Cornell still is. At least now with a lack of scoring the Big Red are (somewhat) justified in playing the most awful brand of hockey going. If you can’t score, at least make sure no one else can have fun at your expense, right? Ugh.
Some of you might be surprised not to see Brown at the very bottom. Forward Matt Lorito makes that possible. He’ll be hotly pursued as a free agent when he’s done with the Bears in 2015.
St. Lawrence could be a surprise if Greg Carey keeps doing what he’s been doing and filling the net at will. He’s worth seeing on his own