The 12 members of the ECAC are gearing up for a new round of long bus trips, competitive play, and championship runs. Before the schedule ramps up, let’s take a look at the teams contending for the Whitelaw Cup
12. Brown University Bears
Since reaching the ECAC’s Championship Game in 2013, the Bears from Providence haven’t had much to cheer about. Brown hasn’t finished above 9th place in the ECAC since that loss to Union in 2013. Unfortunately, not much has changed to give the Bears more hope for the upcoming season. Gavin Nieto can steal games in net and Brady Schoo, Max Gottlieb, and Connor Wynne provide a physical blue line. The trouble is producing offense. For Brown to make noise, forwards like Chris Berger, Alex Brink, and Brent Beaudoin will have to show some development on the attack. Otherwise, the quest for winning hockey in Meehan Auditorium will continue.
11. St. Lawrence University Saints
2017-2018 was a disastrous season for St. Lawrence. The Saints lost their first seven games and only had one victory after the first semester. The program did not adjust very well with Greg Carvel departing for UMass. St. Lawrence was decimated by injuries for the first half of last season, to the point of skating and it seems unlikely they will be as depleted again. Still, Appleton Arena will feature a young team. 10 freshmen take the ice for the Saints while Michael Ederer, Alex Gilmour, and Michael Laidley provide the team with some veteran leadership. If the freshman skaters provide strong seasons, the Saints can return to competitive form.
10. RPI Engineers
Dave Smith’s first season in Troy was a struggle. A young team showed flashes of talent and pushed their playoff series with Colgate to the limit. Sadly, the Engineers couldn’t beat Colton Point and fell short. Much of the same team returns to the Houston Fieldhouse for the new year. Linden Marshall returns in net and promises to take a step forward. TJ Samec and Tommy Grant are joined on the blue line by freshmen like Brady Ferner and Jake Johnson. And up front, RPI brings back Brady Wiffen and Jay Hayhurst. The problem will be scoring goals. RPI scored four or more goals only five times last season and failed to do so after January 6th. Smith is hoping for an offensive burst from his team.
9. Colgate University Raiders
Colton Point lifted the Raiders to a respectable record and helped hang a number on the Raiders’ name for much of the 2017-2018 season. Unfortunately, Point signed a contract with the Dallas Stars. He leaves Hamilton, NY, with the team facing significant questions between the pipes. Mitch Benson, Andrew Farrier, and Will Friend are the three goalies on the roster and are all freshmen. One guy will need to claim the starting job. The skaters provide stability. Jared Cockerill, Rory McGuire, and Adam Dauda provide veteran guile up front while Willie Brooks and Ken Cintron bring physicality to the blue line. It’s mostly an older team that can handle themselves, but the Raiders need to sort out their goalie spot to climb the standings.
8. Yale University Bulldogs
Keith Allain’s Bulldogs have been interesting this decade. They’ve made the NCAA Tournament four times and wrote one of the best underdog stories the sport has ever seen in 2013, winning the National Championship. The last two years, Yale has been a painfully average team. The Elis finished .500 in 2017 and a few games under last year thanks to a disappointing offense and terrible power play. Fortunately, the Bulldogs do have a new duo of stars. Sophomore defenseman Phil Kemp brings a strong checking presence and defensive attitude while freshman Curtis Hall, a Bruins draft pick, brings scoring potential. Both played in the World Junior Showcase this summer. They join a defensively responsible team featuring Ted Hart, Joe Snively, and Robbie DeMontis among others. The Bulldogs can play defensive hockey but need to show a stronger power play and offensive game this season.
7. Quinnipiac University Bobcats
From 2012-13 to 2015-16, no collegiate hockey team won more games than Rand Pecknold’s Bobcats. However, the last two seasons have not been as successful. Quinnipiac narrowly missed the 2017 NCAA Tournament and fell under .500 last season for the first time in their history as a Division 1 Hockey team. They lacked top-tier scorers and could not keep up with the ECAC’s top talent. They did have quality defensive talent and highly touted goaltender Keith Petruzzelli, both of which performed admirably, but not well enough to overcome a lacking offense. That appears to be their M.O. for the upcoming season as well. Chase Priskie and Luke Shiplo anchor a solid blue line and Petruzzelli promises a strong sophomore season in net. But for the Bobcats to return to the NCAA Tournament, returning forwards like Craig Martin and Odeen Tufto, and new forwards like Matthew Cassidy and TJ Friedmann need to improve the offense. If so, they can make noise again. Otherwise, Hamden is looking at a potentially long year.
6. Dartmouth College Big Green
If you’re looking for a potential upset team for this season, keep an eye on Dartmouth. The Big Green scored notable wins last season over ranked opponents Clarkson and Denver, and held their own against the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the Ledyard Bank Championship. They landed a playoff series win over St. Lawrence, then pushed Ryan Donato and the Harvard Crimson to a three-game series before falling. They ended only one game under .500 and one game over .500 for ECAC play. The Big Green only lose one major piece, goalie Devin Buffalo. Succeeding him falls to Adrain Clark or Dean Shatzer. Dartmouth doesn’t feature an overwhelming star, but do have quality depth with Kevan Killstoff, Carl Hesler, and Shane Sellar up front. Connor Yau and Cameron Roth anchor the blue line and are aided by Joey Matthews, Clay Han, and new arrival Harrison Markell. Dartmouth has the hallmarks of a potential upset unit and Bob Gaudet will be sure to maximize this unit.
5. Union College Dutchmen
The ECAC’s standard-bearer for much of this decade missed the NCAA tournament by a narrow margin after being upset by Princeton in the ECAC playoffs. Rick Bennett was implicated in the BU coaching search but returns to Schenectady, NY, for another season with a promising unit. Jake Kupsky brings stability to the Dutchmen’s net and senior leadership. The forwards feature other seniors like Sebastian Vidmar, Brett Supinski, and Mark Dufor. The defense has a strong crop of young players like Brandon Estes, Ryan Sidorski, and Fletcher Fineman that bring some speed and will take some time to adjust to college hockey’s speed. Once they catch up, Union should be a respectable threat in the conference.
4. Harvard University Crimson
The Crimson has been the ECAC’s standard-bearer since 2015. They’ve won two of the last four Whitelaw Cups and played in Lake Placid for the ECAC’s Final Four each of the last four years. However, this year feels like a crucial turning point with several important parts leaving after losing to Clarkson in the ECAC Semi-Finals. Ryan Donato forwent his Senior season for a contract with the Bruins. Wiley Sherman, Seb Lloyd, Jake Horton, and Merrick Madsen all graduated. And Assistant Coach Paul Pearl departed for nearby rival Boston University. Donato’s departure is the most damaging because he scored 26 goals. The next closest was a three-way tie with 10 goals. Fortunately, there are plenty of exciting pieces returning to the Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
Adam Fox is among the most exciting defensive prospects in all junior hockey circuits, not just the American collegiate system. Henry Bowlby and Jack Badini showed promise in their freshman years and have plenty to build on. Rielly Walsh and Ben Foley have roles to fill on the back end, but have the talent to do so. Nathan Krusko and Viktor Dombrovskiy step into veteran leadership roles, along with Adam Baughman and Lewis Zerter-Gossage. Michael Lackey is the likely successor in net with Madsen departing. But Cameron Gornet and Derek Schaedig will get time to compete for the goalie job. Ted Donato has pieces to work with this season but work to do to make the pieces fit.
3. Clarkson University Golden Knights
Last season, Jake Kielly and Sheldon Rempal led the Golden Knights to their first NCAA Tournament since 2008 and nearly won the ECAC for the first time since 2007. They gave the fans in Potsdam plenty to enjoy with a quality offense and a Richter Award nominated goaltender. Rempal left for the L.A. Kings, but Kielly is back for another season looking for a new ECAC Banner for Cheel Arena. Nico Sturm and Devin Brousseau return to split the Captaincy and are joined by returning forwards Haralds Egle, Jack Jacome, and Juho Jokiharju. Josh Dunne and Nick Campoli join the forwards and Casey Jones has a skilled unit that will make the North Country trip to Potsdam brutal for the rest of the ECAC.
2. Princeton University Tigers
Princeton claimed consecutive ECAC Championships in 2008 and 2009. A decade later, the Tigers are trying to claim consecutive crowns again. They rode a powerful offense to upsets over Cornell and Clarkson for last year’s ECAC Championship. Much of that offense returns this season with hopes for a contending season. Ryan Kuffner and Max Veronneau are the highest scorers returning from last season and Josh Teves adds to the scoring from the blue line. The team is not just offense all the time. Ryan Ferland grew into the role of a champion goaltender, holding Cornell and Clarkson to one goal each in the NCAA Tournament. In addition, the Tigers added Matt Kellenberger and Mike Ufberg to the back end and promise to be a stronger unit this year in pursuit of another championship.
1. Cornell University Big Red
Cornell rode a talented crop of freshmen to a wire-to-wire top ECAC record. Matt Galajda was nominated for the Richter Award, and the Big Red earned a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, their youth showed late in the year, with an upset loss to Princeton in the ECAC Semi-Final and a loss against Boston University in the NCAA Tournament. The entire freshman class, anchored by Richter Award nominee Matt Galajda, returns to Ithaca with universally high expectations. Galajda is expected to contend for the Richter Award and Morgan Barron, Tristan Mullin, and Cam Donaldson lead the skaters from the second year Ithaca residents. Seniors Alec McRea and Mitch Vanderlaan aim to leave Cornell with the school’s first ECAC Crown in almost a decade.