Friday, September 30, 2011

Fired Up, Ready To Go

It's Friday, which means, it's pump up time. Aww yeah. Get your towels ready.

Er, yeah.

By the way, if you want to request a pump up, feel free. Hit me up at tomyousieve (aaat) gmail. (dooooot) com.

Reaching back to the 90s for this one, but it's always been a solid jam for the beginning of... well, anything. The women get their season underway officially tonight in Storrs, CT as they take on the UConn Huskies of Hockey East, while the men hit the ice for the first time in an exhibition against Acadia of the AUS.

It's on! Hockey season is here!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today's Podcast: David Kilfoil, Mike McMahon

The Without a Peer podcast makes its 2011-12 debut this afternoon with a couple of format tweaks, but nonetheless, we're back on the air.

Today at 3:30pm Eastern, Without a Peer Radio (our new name) goes live with a good half an hour worth of interviews.

Our first guest will be David Kilfoil, from the University of New Brunswick. We talked with David last year before the Engineers' tangle with the UNB Varsity Reds, and he provided some very solid insight into his team. This year, with RPI set to take on the Acadia Axemen from the same Atlantic University Sport conference as UNB, David will return to give us a quick primer on Acadia.

Our second guest is Mike McMahon, who covers Merrimack, Hockey East, and college hockey in general for the Eagle Tribune of North Andover, Mass. Mike has had his finger on the pulse of the Notre Dame saga as it has played out within Hockey East, and we'll get his take on the whole affair, what it means for RPI, and if we have time we'll get a quick Hockey East preview as well.

This year, our podcasts will mostly feature interviews with players, coaches, members of the media, and other relevant and interesting guests. We hope you'll continue to listen as we bring you some great interviews from around the college hockey world.

Click "Listen to Without a Peer" on the right side of the page at 3:30pm to listen to Without a Peer Radio!

UPDATE (4:15 p.m.): Did you miss the podcast? Never fear. It's available on demand. Just click the "Listen to Without a Peer" icon and check it out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Our Ballot

As a member of the ECAC Hockey Media Association (and once again, thank you to EHMA head Ken Schott for including blogs as insightful league observers), we have a vote in the yearly pre-season media poll and post-season media awards. We always promise to be as fair as possible in the balloting process - no instant boosts for the team we follow, just because we follow them. Anyway, here's the ballot WaP submitted as part of this year's media poll.

1. Yale
2. Cornell
3. Union
4. Quinnipiac
5. RPI
6. Princeton
7. Dartmouth
8. Harvard
9. St. Lawrence
10. Brown
11. Colgate
12. Clarkson

That was sent about a month ago, so... if I had to do it over again, I think I've probably overvalued Harvard and undervalued Colgate... I'd probably swap the two, and maybe swap Princeton and Dartmouth too. Our Know Your Enemy series, I think, explains most of these placements - except, of course, for RPI.

I'm being a little pessimistic with the Engineers as opposed to where I think they can finish, but only because I think a significant part of the power from this team could come from the freshman class - and in preseason predictions, it's never a good idea to put too much stock in freshman performance, since you can never tell how they're going to adjust to the college game. Some would say I'm even being optimistic in fifth, since the Engineers lost more offense than any other team in the league from last year to this year - but this happy medium should be about right. That said, if RPI comes in fifth again this year... heart-ache.

At any rate, here's the actual media ballot, and the coaches' ballot as well (first place votes in parentheses). My top seven gel with what the rest of the media had, which is satisfactory.
1. Yale (23)
2. Union (11)
3. Cornell (3)
4. Dartmouth (1)
5. RPI
6. Quinnipiac
7. Princeton
8. St. Lawrence
9. Clarkson
10. Colgate
11. Brown
12. Harvard

1. Yale (9)
2. Union (2)
3. Cornell
4. RPI
5. Dartmouth
6. Quinnipiac (1)
7. Harvard
8. Princeton
9. St. Lawrence
10. Colgate
11. Clarkson
12. Brown

Both All-ECAC teams included:
G - James Mello, Dartmouth
D - Nick Bailen, RPI
D - Danny Biega, Harvard
F - Brian O'Neill, Yale
F - Andrew Miller, Yale

The media chose SLU's Greg Carey for the final forward spot and the coaches had Brown's Jack Maclellan.

My preseason All-ECAC picks, with explanations for the deviations.
G - Eric Hartzell, Quinnipiac: The obvious choice here is Mello, but from our admittedly limited opportunity to see both Mello and Hartzell, RPI lit up Mello while struggling to score on Hartzell. Last year I rolled the dice with Dan Clarke over Kinkaid and York here, and obviously lost, so... yeah, this might be a shot in the dark too.

D - Nick Bailen, RPI

D - Danny Biega, Harvard

F - Brian O'Neill, Yale

F - Kelly Zajac, Union: Can't argue with the consistent numbers he put up last season. Kinkaid got a lot of the credit but it was guys like Zajac who, on nights their netminder wasn't on top of his game, put Union in the win column anyway.

F - Greg Carey, St. Lawrence: Could have gone with Union's Jeremy Welsh here, but Carey wowed the crap out of me last year and he's going to be a leader for St. Lawrence again this season. Figured he deserved some credit for doing what he did last year, but Welsh is a close fourth in my book.

Know Your Enemy: Colgate

The final installment of "Know Your Enemy" deals with one of the biggest headscratchers of last season. Widely picked to be one of the better teams in the ECAC, Colgate instead was one of the worst from October through February - also known as the regular season. In March, you will recall, they did a practical 180, sweeping through the Capital District in 6 games to reach the ECAC semifinals.

Nickname: Raiders
Location: Hamilton, NY
Founded: 1819
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2005
Last Frozen Four: 1990
Coach: Don Vaughan (19th season)
2010-11 Record: 11-28-3 (4-15-3 ECAC, 12th place)
Series: RPI leads, 56-55-3
First Game: February 19, 1916 (Hamilton, NY)
Last RPI win: March 4, 2011 (Troy, NY)
Last CU win: March 6, 2011 (Troy, NY)

2011-12 games: February 4, 2012 (Troy, NY); February 24, 2012 (Hamilton, NY)

Key players: F Austin Mayer, sr.; D Kevin McNamara, sr.; D Corbin McPherson, sr.; F Nick Prockow, sr.; F Austin Smith, sr.; F Kurtis Bartliff, jr.; F Robbie Bourdon, jr.; D Thomas Larkin, jr.; D Jeremy Price, jr.; G Eric Mihalik, so.; F Chris Wagner, so.; D Brendan Corcoran, fr.; F John Lidgett, fr.; F Joey Wilson, fr.

Key losses: F Francois Brisebois, F Brian Day, D Wade Poplawski

Previous KYE installment:
It was only said about 20 million times last season - "wow, Colgate has an awful lot of draftees." That only seemed to increase the shock when the Raiders started their season 3-22-2, not picking up their first ECAC victory until the first week of February (including a stretch of 13 losses in 14 games from December to February). Everything was a mess in Hamilton from the beginning of the year through their late resurgence. They couldn't score. They couldn't keep the puck out of their own net. Their power play was awful. Their penalty kill was awful.

That said, Colgate seemed to "get up" for RPI, as they usually do. The Engineers finally ended a long drought at Starr Rink last year, but it took Chase Polacek scoring on a penalty shot, in overtime, during a five-minute penalty kill (something I guarantee you'll never see ever again). The Raiders earned the season split with a victory in Troy in early February (their second league win of the year, and in a row) and then, of course, upset the Engineers in the first round of the playoffs. It has been noted that Colgate appeared to modify their game in February in order to find success, essentially playing the same way Brown did late in the 2010 season and accomplishing the same as the Bears - a first round upset of RPI followed by a quarterfinal upset of the Cleary Cup winners.

The late season surge despite a last place finish for the first time since 1978 begs the question: which Colgate is the real thing - the one that looked horrendous for four months, or the one that looked was accomplishing more of what had been expected from the beginning of the season in the last six weeks? And which one are we going to see this year?

It's hard to say. At the end of the day, you have to look at the hard statistics, and there just weren't an awful lot of guys contributing for much of the year. Of the ones that were, Brisebois and Day are not returning due to graduation. That means Colgate will lean on guys like Smith, Bourdon, Bartliff, and Wagner even more. Can they produce? Probably. Remember all those draftees the Raiders had on their roster? They're all back with the exception of Day and Andrew Hamburg, who left the team after the first semester last year and doesn't appear to be coming back.

Question marks remain in net. Mihalik was the go-to guy for much of last year, but he didn't start impressing really until he seemed to put the team on his back in the playoffs. Is he ready for an Allen York type breakout season? If so, his numbers are going to have to improve significantly over last season.

It's hard to imagine Colgate being anywhere nearly as bad as they were last season, but on paper they don't seem primed to make a giant leap back up the ECAC table unless those drafted players turn into the panacea they were supposed to be last season. Of course, when it comes to RPI, Colgate has been a bit of a stumbling block for years, and that could well continue based on the results of last season - or perhaps, as with Brown, the Engineers will be inspired to turn the screws on what may well be a weaker team. We won't find out until February, since both games between RPI and Colgate come at the end of the year.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tsunami Watch: Night of the Living CCHA

It's alive!

Well, not quite yet. But it does sound like reports of the CCHA's demise may have been exaggerated.

Last week, we mentioned that Bowling Green appeared to be out of options when it came to their final destination, with a rapidly expiring WCHA offer sitting on the table and not much else.

Now, via the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, comes news that instead of trudging off to the WCHA, the Falcons may instead channel their inner North Dakota, and take the lead on the formation of a new league... or at the very least, rebuild the CCHA around themselves.

In yesterday's paper, the Sentinel-Tribune stated that Bowling Green was in talks with those dissatisfied Atlantic Hockey programs we've already mentioned - Canisius, Mercyhurst, Niagara, and Robert Morris - on joining together. Those schools had previously been in discussions with the CCHA as a whole before the majority of the remaining members bolted for the WCHA (and WMU for the NCHC). But that only makes for five programs - one less than needed for an automatic bid.

Enter Bucky Gleason's dream team.

You may remember our artful dismantling of The Buffalo News reporter Bucky Gleason in May 2010 following an over-exuberant reworking of college hockey in his apparently uneducated image. We stand by every word of that today, but you'll note that we never pooh-poohed the idea of the University of Buffalo one day having a team, just that it wouldn't necessarily be as easy as Gleason made it sound - not to mention, coming equipped with a silly arrangement by which Clarkson and St. Lawrence would, for some reason, join up with the Bulls.

At any rate, it does sound like UB is at the very least interested enough to be a party to discussions with Bowling Green and the AHA insurrectionists. However, the university told WGRZ-TV that "there are several things that would need to occur both fiscally and within conference alignments for this to work for UB at this time."

Additionally, when it comes to small conferences, this new Zombie CCHA wouldn't necessarily be on the world's greatest footing. They'd probably want at least one, if not two more programs.

So where do we now stand with this news?

Bowling Green: To be quite frank, Bowling Green didn't seem like the type of program that would be taking a lead on forming what in essence would be a brand new league even if it may end up being a new-look CCHA - which is why we're calling it the "Zombie CCHA" for the time being. Sure they've got a national title in their history, but the program has been in rough shape for some time, to include a period of time a few years back in which the program seemed to be in danger of folding (which serendipitously led to Nick Bailen's arrival in Troy). Together with ongoing renovations to BGSU Ice Arena, this may be part of a WMU-like rebound for the program. At any rate, the Falcons have until Oct. 7 to let the WCHA what they want to do for the 2013-14 campaign, so we'll probably know more soon about whether this Zombie CCHA is a real thing.

Canisius: Noteworthy in the Sentinel-Tribune story is the little tidbit - alluded to in Gleason's comedy bit - that Canisius may be working out a deal with none other than Terry Pegula, the man who donated the seed money to get Penn State's program off the ground. Pegula, who also owns the Buffalo Sabres, would apparently be seeking to use to use the facility as a practice rink for the Sabres as well, which would only mean good things for the Griffins and their program, especially if they can be part of a conference like the CCHA that will allow them to offer a full slate of scholarships. This could be a program on the rise.

Mercyhurst, Niagara, and Robert Morris: Nothing really new to report here other than that the rest of the teams who had already been in contact with the CCHA are still apparently looking to leave Atlantic Hockey if they can.

Buffalo: Something about UB's statement has me a little skeptical that they're actually going to pull this off, especially since BGSU has a timetable of their own that they need to adhere to that expires in a couple of weeks. Still, if the money is there - reputed to be coming via Buffalo billionaire Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins, who's been generous to the school before - this is certainly something that is possible. About the only thing Gleason had going for him in that article was that he was right about the potential for college hockey growth in the Buffalo area, and if the Bulls can anchor the Zombie CCHA along with Niagara and Canisius, it would even have its own hub city. UB is trying to significantly transform itself into the undisputed top school in the SUNY system - a move like this wouldn't hurt that at all.

RIT: Notably, the other school that yearns for more than Atlantic Hockey still isn't a part of the discussion. This could well be a matter of the Tigers waiting to see if something becomes available in the ECAC, as it has been mentioned that RIT would love to earn a place in with the Ivies and some of their peer schools. That doesn't look likely unless a current team leaves, which, as we've said, is only probably going to happen if Notre Dame goes to Hockey East. RIT's probably waiting for the dominoes to fall. A Notre Dame move to the NCHC could trigger some interest in the Zombie CCHA, if it exists by then, from the Tigers.

Air Force: It hasn't been reasonably confirmed that the Falcons are eager to leave Atlantic Hockey yet (there have only been a few Twitter rumors here or there), but in the same vein, they could be a candidate for a Zombie CCHA or even the WCHA, especially if BGSU ultimately turns down the WCHA's invite (leaving them with just eight teams). The Academy already bailed on the CHA when it appeared that conference was ready to go down the drain, if several teams leave Atlantic Hockey their survival instincts may just kick in once again.

Atlantic Hockey: That leads into the obvious next step... if these wheels eventually get set in motion, it could be relatively disastrous for the AHA moving forward - the only teams not presently linked to a potential move from the conference are American International, Army, Bentley, UConn, Holy Cross, and Sacred Heart. The league's already lacking in fire power, this league would not only be relegated to the bare minimum of six teams, it would be very dependent on the seeming "it's just there" nature of the AIC program (as we discussed in AIC's Know Your Enemy) for survival. Something to consider.

Alabama-Huntsville: These new developments have been nothing but positive for the Chargers, who now could find themselves with as many as three decent options for conference membership if all goes well. We talked about the WCHA as a potential landing spot, but the Zombie CCHA or a vastly depleted Atlantic Hockey would probably be even better candidates for the Chargers. Right now, of course, their biggest hurdle is a temporary president who seems ready to throw the team away before they get the opportunity to try for a permanent home.

Notre Dame: Completely unrelated to the Zombie CCHA is the seemingly never-ending question of where the Fighting Irish are going to land. The Eagle Tribune's Mike McMahon said yesterday that independence is pretty much now off the table and the NCHC or Hockey East choice is all that remains - and at the very least, Hockey East doesn't seem to think that the Irish are leaning as far toward the NCHC as they originally were.

Hockey East: Today was Hockey East Media Day, which was abuzz with the possibility of Notre Dame joining the conference. McMahon got a chance to speak to Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, indicating that the league would probably seek a 12th team if Notre Dame comes into the conference - and he also tweeted that the discussions at Media Day had RPI as the top potential choice with UConn as a longshot (there are Title IX issues at play in Storrs) and a little less discussion on Quinnipiac.

RPI: So... we wait. And if Notre Dame declares their undying love for Hockey East... hold onto your helmet.

Women's Hockey - Injury Update

Thanks to Alan Carey, manager of the RPI Pep Band, for the following updates of which we were woefully ignorant:
  • We will be seeing a lot more of the freshmen netminders than we may have expected - Shannon Ramelot is out with a torn ACL which happened last year. This also further explains the addition of Alicia Miksic to the roster - not as a fourth goalie, but a third.
  • Katie Daniels is out for the season due to a hip injury.
  • Kristen Jakubowski is also out for the time being as she recovers from concussions suffered last season.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Women's Hockey - Toronto Aeros (23 Sep)

RPI opened the 2011-2012 season at Houston Field House this weekend, as the Engineers took on the Toronto Junior Aeros in an exhibition before they jump into the season with three straight weeks on the road.

Despite play which favored the Engineers for much of the game, the Aeros presented quite a challenge and it was only with a goal in the final ten seconds that the Engineers picked up a 3-2 win

Toronto Aeros


Le Donne/Vadner


RPI took to the ice Friday night with three goaltenders in the line up, and that didn't include the only returning netminder, Shannon Ramelot. Coach Burke used the exhibition opportunity to get the two freshmen netminders some playing time, electing to start Brianna Piper for the first half of the game.

It didn't take long for RPI to get rolling, as Sierra Vadner gave the Engineers a 1-0 lead just 2:18 into the game when she sent a lofting shot on goal from the right point which sailed right past Aeros goalie Sarah Stephens.

RPI laid on the pressure early but Toronto tied the game at 8:55 when Victoria Andreakos tipped a shot from the point past Piper, giving the Engineer netminder little chance at making the stop. RPI continued to pressure, however - and early in the second period it paid off as captain Alisa Harrison put home the rebound of an Eleeza Cox shot to take a 2-1 lead.

RPI switched goalies at the midpoint of the second, and as Kelly O'Brien took the ice the Aeros seemingly stepped up their game, with much better puck control and pressure. Shots were hard to come by for the visitors while RPI peppered the Aeros net, but Laura Stacey capitalized on a two-on-one late in the second to again tie the game. Although RPI outshot Toronto 15-3 in the first and 14-8 in the second, the game was getting increasingly close.

It looked like the teams were headed to overtime despite a big push from the Engineers in the third, but back-to-back-to-back penalties on the Aeros allowed the Engineers to chip away and look for the equalizer. With just ten seconds left in regulation and Toronto's Erin Ambrose off on a hooking call, freshman Taylor Mahoney took a pass from Jordan Smelker at the goal post and put it home for the game-winning goal. RPI would end up outshooting the Aeros by a 45-16 margin despite the close final score.

A few miscellaneous observations from the game - Eleeza Cox was a serious presence on the ice, factoring in more than a few nice plays, picking up a pair of assists, and leading the team with seven shots on goal. Jordan Smelker picked up an assist and looks to have picked up right where she left off last season, at one point breaking away from double coverage by Aeros defenders to carry the puck into the offensive zone singlehandedly. Both RPI goalies looked okay, but a little shaky. This was true of many of the skaters as well, and we can assume will pass as the team gets a few games under its belt.

All told, RPI played a good game against a strong Aeros squad who just last year captured the PWHL championship, and went on to hang eight goals on Colgate the next day. The Engineers now hit the road for the next three weekends straight, starting with a pair at UConn on Friday and Saturday.


RPI vs. Toronto Aeros
Exhibition Game – Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
9/23/11 – 7:00pm
RPI 3, Aeros 2



RECORD: 0-0 (0-0 ECAC)


Upcoming Games

Sep. 30 - @UConn (7pm)
Oct. 1 - @UConn (3pm)
Oct. 7 - @Vermont (7pm)
Oct. 8 - @Vermont (4pm)
Oct. 14 - @Niagara (7pm)
Oct. 15- @Niagara (4pm)

Break Out the Sines and Cosines, It's Time for Rotation

When it comes to the ECAC Tournament, there are two elements that seem to be the topic of consternation on a yearly basis. The first is the now 10-season long inclusion of all 12 teams in the tournament. The second is the tournament location.

There's honestly nothing that's ever going to be done about the first of those elements. That's something we're stuck with going forward. The second one tends to be the catalyst for some very heated arguments from time to time.

First, a little history. The ECAC held the final weekend of its tournament in Boston for its first 30 years, from 1962 to 1992. At first, it made sense to have the final weekend there - it's a college hockey hotbed, and was home to four of the league's teams to boot for much of that time. After the Hockey East split, however, it became obvious in short order that the ECAC tournament was playing second fiddle to Hockey East's tournament. It only made sense for the league to leave Boston behind despite the history and the hotbed.

From 1993 to 2002, the tournament was held in Lake Placid, a time period which is remembered fondly by many long-time ECAC observers, including myself. This was something of a golden age for the tournament, especially given the relative success of the league's hot draws during that time period - RPI, Clarkson, Cornell, and St. Lawrence all made repeated trips to the home of the Miracle on Ice during this time period and although 1980 Rink was not as big as Boston Garden had been, it was generally full every year and created a bit of a destination experience for the tournament.

The 2002-03 season was where everything changed. Lake Placid was increasingly seen as being too remote and too small to properly house the tournament, and along with the addition of the 11th and 12th place teams, the tournament moved to Albany. Things turned sour right away. Whereas every single season in Lake Placid featured at least two of the league's three biggest draws - Clarkson (also a local team in LP), Cornell, or RPI - in nine seasons in Albany, Clarkson and Cornell never made it there in the same season, and RPI, the biggest local draw, never made it at all. Combine that with lackluster advertising for the weekend from the league, the Times Union Center, and the city of Albany, and attendance has been dwindling.

Last year, the league began what was supposed to be a three-year experiment in Atlantic City, but fans were underwhelmed, and attendance was even worse so far removed from the league's geographic footprint. Now, rumor has it that the league is in talks to move the tournament to the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence as early as this season.

One basic truth has to be established here. When certain teams aren't successful, the four-team final round will not be successful no matter where it's held. Harvard, Dartmouth, and Brown simply don't draw fans to the tournament. RPI's recent resurgence, unfortunately, hasn't resulted in a semifinal appearance (yet). Clarkson is now floundering almost as badly as RPI was in the middle of the last decade. St. Lawrence is having struggles of their own.

So with that in mind, where's the best spot for the ECAC? It's certainly not Atlantic City, a destination chosen with guaranteed dollars for the league, not fan happiness foremost in mind. Boston's out of bounds, since there's no use in returning to second fiddle. In all honesty, the options seem to be, in alphabetical order, Albany, Bridgeport, Lake Placid, Manchester, Providence, and Syracuse.

Which do we support? Well, for obvious personal reasons, we like Albany. But as a long-term location, Albany underwhelmed due in large part to the venue and the city seemingly dismissing the weekend in terms of promotion. They haven't earned the right to host the tournament every year moving forward, that's pretty clear.

So... how about the option of "all of the above?"

We're talking about a rotation - or at least, a tournament that has a different location every year. This is a bit of a foreign concept for college hockey, as it's really only been tried in the minor conferences. The CHA, during its existence, tended to have a different neutral venue every year, but that league was so far outside of the norm with smaller programs in Minnesota, New York, Colorado, and Alabama at various times, that there was no place that really made sensein terms of a draw.

But could it work for the ECAC?

The rotation would eliminate the regional bias by moving it to areas near(ish) to all of the six travel partners over the course of six seasons - Albany (RPI/Union), Bridgeport (Quinnipiac/Princeton), Lake Placid (Clarkson/SLU), Manchester (Dartmouth/Harvard), and Providence (Brown/Yale) are each at least somewhat within the league's footprint, and each have solid links to college hockey, either in the annals of history or in the recent past. Why not mix it up from year to year?

It would liven up the travel for those who attend the tournament every season. Even during the golden age in Lake Placid, there was only so much one could do year in and year out in a small town in the Adirondacks. By using a rotation, it'll give fans the opportunity to do and see new things each year. Rather than try to force the host city as a destination, make the tournament itself the destination, and see how it changes the league's outlook moving forward.

Each of these locations, despite what snarky know-it-alls will tell you in argument, have unique attractions for those willing to seek them out. Do they have the glitz of a big time city like Boston or New York? No. But then again, the ECAC as it currently exists would get swallowed up in those cities. Boston, as we've said, would feature the league competing with a far more popular league for attention. New York would be be practically impossible, trying to sandwich the tournament in between the Rangers, the Islanders, the Devils, the Nets, the Knicks, the Big East basketball tournament, and, oh yeah, the circus. That wouldn't end well.

The argument frequently features people who have a very close attachment to one specific location - there are those who yearn for the nostalgia of the Lake Placid years. There are those who merely want it to be close to home. Each realistic location has strengths, and each has weaknesses. A rotation of sites would allow the league to take advantage of each site's strengths, while allowing it to mitigate, to some extent, their weaknesses.

The WCHA has St. Paul. Hockey East has Boston. The CCHA has Detroit. Those tournaments are wildly successful in part because they each have a monopoly (or in Hockey East's case, at least a cornered market) in those major cities. It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out between the WCHA, the Big Ten, and the NCHC, but regardless, the ECAC doesn't have the luxury of a major city that makes sense or high demand to create a yearly destination.

For a league that is no longer among the top draws in college hockey but isn't quite among the dredges, rotating tournament sites just makes sense.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Pump-Up Part

One of the funniest things I read over this summer was on a Reddit page that someone had linked to this site. It was a link to the last pumpup of the last year, just before the men's team took on North Dakota in the national tournament.

They raved about how excited they were to see RPI play in the national tournament, proud, and all that good stuff. But then... "did they really have to put a link to Aerosmith's 'Dream On' up there?"

Yes. Yes we did.

Call it corny, call it hokey... or, if you prefer, call it awesome and call it way sweet. Practically from day one, we've made it a WaP tradition to throw out a tune on game weekend to, if you so choose, get yourself fired up for some hockey. Sometimes it has meaning. Sometimes it's just a song that's pumping me up. At any rate, I hope it's something that gets you pumped up.

And it ain't goin' nowhere.

We love hockey here at WaP, no matter what form it comes in and when it starts. So while many may be waiting until the official men's opener on October 7 to get excited, we say... why wait? RPI hockey begins now, as the women's team drops the puck against the Toronto Jr. Aeros tonight at the Field House. Hockey is hockey. It's time to come out and support the Engineers!

Today's pump-up is pretty straight forward. Motley Crue may be an aging hair band, but if music from their prime can't get you pumped, I'm afraid there may be no hope for you.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tsunami Watch: Double Dipping

Just when you thought the conference carousel might be slowing down, something happens and it kicks right back into full gear once more.

Without much notice, it was announced yesterday that the NCHC would offer membership to Western Michigan and St. Cloud State. The former wasn't much of a surprise, as the Broncos had an offer on the table already, but the latter was... surprising to say the least. Almost as surprising, the Huskies quickly accepted, going against statements the school had made a couple of months ago.

Why the turn around? Well, for one, everyone's still waiting to see what Notre Dame is going to do. In the meantime, the NCHC had only six teams: Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, and Nebraska-Omaha. Those are some high powered programs, and one of them has to come in last. Thus, thanks to the NCAA's rule that no team with a sub-.500 record can earn an at-large bid to the national tournament, the league would probably restricted to three or, at a maximum, four bids a year. Thus, the need to expand, and in a hurry.

So where does that leave us? Well, let's break it down.

Western Michigan: At the end of the day, this one's not too surprising, especially once St. Cloud was given an offer as well. WMU, through their actions over the last year, have proven that they are going to give 110% to their hockey program, and their athletic director has a stated goal for the program of a national championship. The huge raise they gave Jeff Blashill before the Red Wings came calling and the hiring of NHL coach Andy Murray is plenty to indicate an up and coming program, and the NCHC, in the long run, is probably the best place for the program given those goals.

St. Cloud State: This one's a little more surprising and there's already been a lot of debate in St. Cloud as to whether this was the right move to make. First off, when the NCHC was first announced, SCSU was adamant that they wanted nothing to do with the league and that they planned to take a leading role in the new WCHA. Secondly, when the "new" WCHA started to congeal, most observes had the Huskies pegged as one of the programs that could potentially dominate the conference on a regular basis, leading to more frequent NCAA appearances and, in turn, better shots at the Frozen Four and the national title.

Now, SCSU will have to fight with the big dogs of the NCHC - not that they haven't tangled with most of the teams in the league before, but there were also some minnows to fall back on in the WCHA. They won't have that in the NCHC. They also suddenly look like one of the villains just months after promising to be a hero for the WCHA. This move will help the school with their visibility, but they may find it a tougher row to hoe in the long run.

It's also worth noting that with this move, St. Cloud State turns its back on its MnSCU brethren in Bemidji and Mankato, something that definitely won't sit well with those programs. The loss of St. Cloud State takes an already weakening conference and makes it decidedly more weak.

Notre Dame: Once again, the Fighting Irish dither while the rest of the hockey world moves in anticipation of what they may or may not do. The options are still mostly the same as we've gone over many times before - NCHC, Hockey East, or independence - but in the much larger picture (not something hockey fans are used to examining), there may be a fourth option opening.

If you've been paying attention to the NCAA as a whole lately, you've seen the carousel going on at the highest levels as well, with teams changing conferences left and right. The Big East especially seems to be in serious danger of either fracturing outright or what we should probably call WCHA-ization in that they won't be much of a major conference anymore by the time the wheel stops spinning. The problem here is that while Notre Dame is famously independent in football, they're a member of the Big East in everything else. If the Big East implodes, Notre Dame will need a new home, and the rumor that will never die always revolves around the Big Ten. So that route may yet be open.

By the way, there's even talk of these BCS superconferences breaking from the NCAA altogether - and that would make some serious waves in college hockey as well since you're talking the Big Ten plus Boston College and Notre Dame among those. Topic for another day, perhaps, but... that would make this tsunami look like a ripple in a kiddie pool.

Bowling Green: The only other CCHA program without a dance partner, the Falcons appear to be out of options other than the still-pending WCHA invitation. If the NCHC had any interest in BGSU, they probably would have already sent them an invite, and since league members are already talking about how eight teams is fine and a ninth would have to bring a lot to the table (code for Notre Dame), BGSU might as well just take the WCHA invite while they have it.

Alabama-Huntsville: This new development actually opens the door a little bit for the Chargers as it pertains to the WCHA. Adding BGSU would leave the WCHA in the same place they were before this new development: nine teams. UAH could potentially round that back off to ten... if they can find a way to be palatable to a league that's already going to have to deal with having a pair of teams from Alaska in it, as we've already mentioned.

NCHC: Sitting pretty now that they've got a couple more teams to boost that at-large potential. The numbers and teams involved definitely make the conference better able to compete with the Big Ten head to head, which was the goal all along, though purists will point to its makeup - 6 WCHA teams and 2 CCHA teams - and call it a WCHA rehash, more polite than asking UAA, MTU, Mankato, and Bemidji to leave.

Big Ten: Of course, it's worth mentioning that the Big Ten, like the NCHC before yesterday's announcement, has only six members right now, and thus has the same issue with top programs potentially being forced out of the NCAAs due to their record. Unlike the NCHC, however, the Big Ten doesn't have any real prospects for expansion on the horizon (with the possible exception of the Notre Dame scenario above). The league has the stability that comes with direct affiliation with a major non-hockey conference, but it also has the limitation that it can't just throw invites to teams the way the NCHC just did. If the Big Ten expands, it's going to be with new varsity programs at Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska-Lincoln, Northwestern, or Purdue. That's it.

By the way, do you know who the sub-.500 at-large rule now benefits the most? WCHA, Hockey East, and ECAC teams.

RPI: Speaking of ECAC teams... we're still keeping an eye on the Notre Dame situation as it could pertain to new opportunities for RPI as we discussed earlier this summer. There are two things this NCHC expansion does to the metric we laid out for a potential RPI-Hockey East merger. First, it makes larger conferences more acceptable again. Second, it may increase the likelihood of Notre Dame choosing Hockey East, though they're certainly still more than welcome in the NCHC. As it is, there's little doubt that RPI is keeping a hawk an eagle eye on Notre Dame and weighing their own options. As always, stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Cornell

The penultimate (I love that word) edition of Know Your Enemy rolls into that beloved region in the Finger Lakes that New York Post columnist Fred Dicker so lovingly refers to as "10 square miles surrounded by reality." As far as the ECAC goes, it's frequently a harsh reality, however, and this year promises to be little exception.

Nickname: Big Red
Location: Ithaca, NY
Founded: 1865
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 2 (1967, 1970)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2010
Last Frozen Four: 2003
Coach: Mike Schafer (17th season)
2010-11 Record: 16-15-3 (11-9-2 ECAC, 4th place)
Series: Cornell leads, 59-31-6
First Game: January 31, 1908 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: March 13, 2009 (Ithaca, NY)
Last CU win: February 12, 2011 (Troy, NY)

2011-12 games: February 3, 2012 (Troy, NY); February 25, 2012 (Ithaca, NY)

Key players: F Sean Collins, sr.; F Locke Jillson, sr.; F Jordan Kary, sr.; D Keir Ross, sr.; D Braden Birch, jr.; D Nick D'Agostino, jr.; F Greg Miller, jr.; D Kirill Gotovets, so.; G Andy Iles, so.; F Cole Bardreau, fr.; F Madison Dias, fr.; F Brian Ferlin, fr.; F Philippe Hudon, fr.; F Joel Lowry, fr.; D Jacob MacDonald, fr.; D Joakim Ryan, fr.

Key losses: F Joe Devin, D Mike Devin, F Tyler Roeszler, F Patrick Kennedy

Previous KYE installment:

Does Cornell play exceptionally boring hockey? Their fans will deny it to the death ("nothing boring about winning!"), but yes, they do. Unfortunately, that exceptionally boring hockey has worked exceptionally well - in the ECAC, anyway - since Mike Schafer got his start behind the bench. The Big Red haven't finished outside the top four since 1999 (they were the 5th seed in the playoffs in 2008 but tied with Union for 4th). So be prepared to watch exceptionally boring hockey when Cornell plays for the foreseeable future.

The Big Red got off to a slow start last season that had some observers wondering if that streak was in jeopardy, but in the usual fashion Cornell made a late season charge to finish right there in a tie for fourth with RPI and Princeton, claiming the bye based on their season sweep of the Engineers (to include that farce in Troy back in February, but whatever). Much like Dartmouth, they just barely missed out on the NCAAs, but they had a more direct route since they played in the ECAC Championship, where they were thoroughly dismantled by high-flying Yale, proving that, yes, speed does kill. And, for what it's worth, that loss was the last element to fall into place for RPI to make the national tournament.

Mike Schafer has always had a keen eye for talent that will play his system well, and last year the team had a bit of adjustment to make in assimilating freshmen and a pair of goaltenders. This year, they won't have the adjustment to make in net, although there will not be a rotation this year as Mike Garman left the program with one year of eligibility remaining. That means Iles, who split time with Garman last year, will be the man for the Big Red. He's got lots of talent - he'll be on the World Junior Championship team again this year - but last year seemed a bit vulnerable at times. Then again, he was a freshman, and they're sometimes prone to early struggles.

Offensively, a lot of the top scorers from last year are gone, namely, both of the Devins and Roeszler, but there's plenty returning. Miller was the lead scorer based primarily on his solid contributions in the assist column (25 on the year), and expect to see a jump in goals from Collins and Jillson.

Then there's the incoming freshman class, which is among the best if not the best in the league. Ferlin and Hudon are two names you're going to be hearing a lot of in the coming years, and incoming d-men Ryan and MacDonald promise to add to the litany of Cornell blueliners who contribute immensely to making their goaltenders look like the next Ken Dryden year-in and year-out.

Basically, given all we've ever come to expect from Cornell, combined with what they've got and what they're bringing in, it should come as no surprise that the Big Red will be among the best teams in the ECAC once again.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Women's Hockey - 2011-12 Season Preview

With the new season ready to kick off with an exhibition in just five days, it's high time to take a look at what the 2011-2012 season has in store for the Engineers. We will again take a look at the ECAC and the coaches' preseason picks in more detail before the league schedule kicks off, but before that, let's review the newcomers to RPI this season, along with an overview of the season schedule.

With the graduation of Sonja van der Bliek last season, one of the big question marks for the season is in goal. Junior Shannon Ramelot returns for another season and will likely get the nod early in the season. Ramelot is joined by two incoming freshmen in Kelly O'Brien and Brianna Piper. O'Brien put together a 1.89GAA and .936% playing for the Madison (WI) Capitols, while Piper, who played for the familiar-to-RPI Toronto Aeros, tallied a 1.80GAA and .912% en route to a PWHL championship. Piper will likely challenge for playing time early and keep some healthy competition going between the pipes. The Engineers also appear to have added a walk-on goalie in Alicia Miksic, listed as a graduate student in architecture at RPI.

At forward, the Engineers welcome four new players to fill the space left by graduates Sydney O'Keefe and Kendra Dunlop, and Audrey Stapleton who departed the team after her sophomore season. Eleeza Cox played for Ridley College, a private high school in Ontario, along with a season for the Aeros. She racked up significant points for Ridley, where she was a four-year starter and was the team's youngest ever assistant captain.

Taylor Mahoney joins the Engineers from the Chicago Mission, where she helped the team to three state championships and a USA Hockey national runner-up finish in 2009. She was in the top 20 for league scoring for three years straight. Ali Svoboda also comes to Troy from the Chicago Mission, having also spent four seasons playing for Team Illinois. She was an assistant captain in her senior year.

Marianna Walsh arrives from the Massachusetts prep school scene, where she achieved notoriety at Phillips Academy both for goal scoring as well as racking up penalty minutes, leading the team in both categories three years straight. In her senior campaign she set the school's single season scoring record and was named Female Athlete of the Year.

On the blue line, the Engineers bring in just one recruit as there were no losses to graduation last season. Kathryn Schilter is another Toronto Aero-turned-Engineer, who previously helped her high school team in Aurora, Ontario to two undefeated championship seasons in a row.

With only the three graduates noted above, the Engineers add significant depth to the roster this season, a point which should prove important as the season wears on. Many games last season saw the Engineers rolling three lines or two defensive pairs due to injury and a short bench. While it may prove tough to depend so heavily on freshmen, there comes a point where just having fresh legs on the bench makes a big difference.

After the exhibition on 9/23 against the same Toronto Aeros team which has almost become a training ground for future Engineers, RPI spends four weeks on non-conference opposition, with the first three weekends on the road at UConn, Vermont, and Niagara, before returning home for a series against Robert Morris. While none of these teams made significant tracks in the 2010-11 season, all four had some high points and should serve as a good tune-up for the Engineers before digging into the league schedule.

The ECAC schedule gets underway the weekend of 10/28 when RPI hosts Quinnipiac and Princeton, before welcoming St. Lawrence and Clarkson the following weekend. A pair at Yale and Brown marks the end of the early ECAC schedule as the Engineers face a few more non-conference opponents before again taking on Clarkson and SLU before winter break.

One of the definite highlights of the 2011-12 schedule comes on the weekend of 11/25 when the Engineers welcome national champion Wisconsin to Houston Field House. The Badgers come to troy on a return trip for one made to Madison last year, where the Engineers were defeated 7-0 and 6-0 in their first games of the season. RPI will hope for better results on home ice but no matter how you cut it, it will be a challenging weekend.

The Engineers go on to welcome Syracuse for a weekend series in what has become an annual affair since the Orange moved to Division I. Syracuse took away a win and a tie last season at the Tennity Ice Pavilion, so again RPI will hope for better luck within the friendly confines of Houston Field House.

After winter break, the meat of the ECAC schedule remains, starting with games against Colgate and Cornell the weekend of 1/6. RPI then hits the road to visit Dartmouth and Harvard before returning home for a pair against Yale and Brown. The home-and-home with Union comes on 1/27 in Schenectady and 1/28 in Troy.

RPI is back on the road against Cornell and Colgate, returns home to face Harvard and Dartmouth, then closes out the regular season at Princeton and Quinnipiac the weekend of 2/17.

The struggles of last season still fresh in everyone's mind, this season may well be another difficult one for the Engineers. Aside from Wisconsin who will almost certainly be a powerhouse once again, the non-conference schedule appears to be a balanced and competitive one. We'll take a look at the ECAC in the coming weeks in order to better evaluate the Engineers' league prospects for the coming season.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Harvard

We're getting down to the wire - the men drop the puck for the first time on October 1 against Acadia in an exhibition game, and we have just three teams left to review as part of this year's "Know Your Enemy." Today's profile features a team that may have reached rock bottom last year that features a coach who's in desperate need of results but bringing in a class that just may deliver them.

Nickname: Crimson
Location: Cambridge, MA
Founded: 1636
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 1 (1989)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2006
Last Frozen Four: 1994
Coach: Ted Donato (8th season)
2010-11 Record: 12-21-1 (7-14-1 ECAC, 10th place)
Series: Harvard leads, 46-35-3
First Game: December 27, 1951 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: January 21, 2011 (Troy, NY)
Last HU win: November 6, 2010 (Boston, MA)

2011-12 games: January 7, 2012 (Troy, NY); February 10, 2012 (Boston, MA)

Key players: D Ryan Grimshaw, sr.; F Alex Killorn, sr.; F Conor Morrison, jr.; D Danny Biega, jr.; F Marshall Everson, jr.; F Alex Fallstrom, jr.; D Dan Ford, so.; F Colin Blackwell, fr.; F Kyle Criscuolo, fr.; D Max Everson, fr.; D Mark Luzar, fr.; F Patrick McNally, fr.; G Steven Michalek, fr.; F Petr Placek, fr.

Key losses: G Kyle Richter, G Ryan Carroll, D Chris Huxley, F Michael Biega

Previous KYE installment:
Harvard hasn't had too many seasons as ugly as last year's - their 10th place showing was their lowest finish since the Hockey East split. For a program that has never, not even once, finished in the bottom two of the ECAC in 50 seasons, they came awfully darn close. The Crimson required three wins in their last four games to stay out of the cellar (oddly enough, the one loss during that stretch coming against last place Colgate).

Overall, it was Harvard's third-consecutive losing season (for the first time since five straight in the late 1990s), fourth losing season in five years, and second-consecutive 20-loss season (first time ever).

That all has to add up to head coach Ted Donato probably being on one of the hottest seats in the conference, but fortunately for him, he's bringing in an outstanding class this year that will probably have the Crimson working their way back up to more familiar spaces on the ECAC table.

If it's been said once, it's been said a thousand times: you can't rely on freshmen to be successful. However, Harvard's freshman class this year will probably at the very least give them the juice they need to stay out of the cellar of the ECAC, since it represents some serious talent, especially where it's needed most, up front.

The names that stand out the most are certainly Max Everson, whose older brother is already on the team, and goaltender Stephen Michalek, who was invited to the World Junior Championships camp in Lake Placid this summer. Those two are likely future stars in Boston, but Michalek is almost certainly going to need to perform well at the outset, since he's almost certainly going to be the starter following the graduations of Carroll and Richter.

Huxley and Michael Biega were both solid talents, but they were two of the better players on a pretty bad team last year. In addition to strong play from Michalek, guys like Danny Biega (the team's leading scorer last year, which should tell you about how well the forwards did) and Killorn are going to need to be solid enough to give that talented freshman class time to grow.

Harvard is still very young this year, and as such probably won't be among the teams fighting for a first round bye, but as with their former travel partners at Brown, there's at the very least groundwork that is laid out for a return to grace for the Crimson. Their new talent infusion gives them a leg up on some of the league's worse teams, however, so expect them to at least give a very solid run at home ice in the first round.

Monday, September 12, 2011

In Defense of Friends

We mentioned a few weeks back that Alabama-Huntsville was enduring what we called a "nightmare scenario" with the WCHA and CCHA agreeing, in principle, to a full merger.

Our friends at didn't need to be told that. They see what is going on. And thankfully, they aren't taking it lightly - certainly not taking it sitting down.

"[T]here is a possibility of dropping the Division 1 Charger Hockey program to the Club level, and a decision could be made in early October."

WaP is a family blog. So let me just say that the first word in our two word response is four letters, starting with the letter F, and the second word is "that."

Long term, UAH needs a conference that it can call home. Short term, it doesn't seem to look overly promising. But if Chancellor Mack Portera decides to fold his tent early, we'll never know.

It's time to make our voices heard. Sign the petition.

You may remember that Tech Hockey Guide and WaP made a bit of a mistake in using, which sends emails to petition targets on every signature, as a tool for our petition. After all, we were just hoping to show a bit of support for playing a few games. This is different. We WANT to bombard this decision maker with our numbers. We NEED him to see, full force, that our community wants UAH not just to survive, but to thrive.

Hockey at UAH isn't a novelty, not anymore. It's tradition. We, as a community, cannot turn our backs on tradition, not with so much about our sport about to change in the coming years. If UAH loses their program, it is a clear message to other schools that might be a little bit off the beaten path and outside of the "traditional" hockey areas: don't bother, you won't make it.

Please, sign the petition. Let the powers that be in Huntsville hear not just Charger fans but college hockey fans as a whole: college hockey NEEDS its southern outpost!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Harder, Faster, Longer, Stronger

We're gearing up for the 2011-12 season here at Without a Peer (after all, that counter on the right side of the page is rapidly approaching zero!), and with that, as with last year, we're making some changes to the site.

First off, we've heard from you (thank you!) and we are planning to keep our podcasts going this season. Still working out the particulars - and some tweaks will be made - but we're hoping to produce a weekly podcast as we did last season.

Second, and most important... we're looking to add to our roster! We're seeking motivated individuals who enjoy RPI hockey that wish to share their talents with the fan community. Do you have what it takes to be a WaPper? Um... wait a minute...

Club correspondent: Although we like to delve into the goings on around the ECAC and around the college hockey world (in part so our readers can be well versed and stay among the most knowledgeable in the country), WaP focuses first and foremost on RPI hockey. This year, we've decided that we should not be ignoring the men's club team, which represents the Institute well with much less fanfare. They deserve a bit more attention.

We are seeking a writer whose main focus would be on club hockey, especially current or recently graduated students. All we'd need would be one update a week on how the team is doing, who they've played, and who they're playing next.

Artists: You may have noticed that WaP didn't have as many lame photoshops last year. Oh, the photoshops we had were still plenty lame, but there weren't nearly as many of them. Since we do so love the satire around here, we want to make a double change - more photoshops, and less lameness! Are you more handy with photoshop than I am? The answer's probably yes. If you'd like to take a stab at being a regular artist, drop us a line!

In-game chats: We tried them at the start of last year, and it was pretty obvious from the get-go that they weren't exactly lighting the world on fire. However, our "Judgment Day" chat, moderated by Gary and myself, did pretty well. We've decided that we want to give in-game chats another go, and we're planning to bring on board some volunteer moderators to add running commentary (and sarcasm, where necessary) to the chats, along with automatically updating Twitter feeds bringing in scores from around the college hockey world instantaneously. We think this will work much better than the empty cocktail parties that our attempts last year became.

If you are interested in helping with any of these fields, please do drop a line... the address is tomyousieve [Shift+2] gmail [period] com.

We're looking forward to an awesome season. Let's Go Red!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Dartmouth

Sometimes, you have to wonder if the Dartmouth of the last ten years is the most snakebitten team in the history of college hockey. Long among the doormats of the ECAC, they've put together year after year of solid performances, and yet, they still haven't been to the NCAA tournament in over 30 years. They came close once again to ending that stretch last season, but by the time the dust had settled, it was the Engineers who, more than anyone, had kept the Big Green on the sidelines in late March (except, perhaps, Alabama-Huntsville, whose win over Nebraska-Omaha on Jan. 29 also put RPI over the top).

Nickname: Big Green
Location: Hanover, NH
Founded: 1769
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 1980
Last Frozen Four: 1980
Coach: Bob Gaudet (15th season)
2010-11 Record: 19-12-3 (12-8-2 ECAC, 3rd place)
Series: RPI leads, 40-30-5
First Game: January 17, 1908 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: January 22, 2011 (Troy, NY)
Last DC win: February 13, 2010 (Hanover, NH)

2011-12 games: January 6, 2012 (Troy, NY); February 11, 2012 (Hanover, NH)

Key players: D Jim Gaudet, sr.; D Connor Goggin, sr.; F Doug Jones, sr.; G James Mello, sr.; F Nick Walsh, sr.; D Mike Keenan, jr.; F Dustin Walsh, jr.; F Matt Lindblad, so.; F Jesse Beamish, fr.; F Brandon McNally, fr.; F Eric Neiley, fr.; F Tyler Sikura, fr.

Key losses: F Scott Fleming, F Adam Estoclet, D Evan Stephens, F Matt Reber, D Joe Stejskal

Previous KYE installment:
One could point to the idiosyncrasies of the PairWise Rankings and say that without UAH's win over UNO, Dartmouth would have been in the national tournament, but sometimes you have to look a little closer to home - the Engineers were one of the few teams that had the Big Green's number last year, as only RPI and Yale swept the season series with Dartmouth. The Engineers didn't just win twice, they were a pair of emphatic wins by a combined 9-2 tally. The 4-1 win in Hanover was against freshman Cab Morris in the only 60 minutes he's played in his collegiate career. The 5-1 win in Troy was largely against James Mello, who had been (and still likely is) one of the best goaltenders in the conference.

As a matter of fact, goaltending is probably the one area that Dartmouth will have a leg up on the rest of the league as this season gets underway. Mello does have the best returning numbers of any goaltender since Keith Kinkaid and Allen York are now earning paychecks.

Offensively, there's still a lot to like. Although Fleming and Estoclet depart as the team's top two socring threats, the Walshes, Jones, and last year's rookie sensation Lindblad should provide some good depth on that front, as well as a number of decent freshman pickups.

Defensively, replacing one of the league's better blueliners in Stephens and Stejskal won't be easy, and the Big Green may not be as solid all around in back as they were last year. Keenan, Goggin, and Gaudet provide the experience, but we'll have to see if a diminished blueline impacts the type of numbers that Mello was putting up last year.

Overall, it points to a team that will continue to be competitive in the ECAC, but may have trouble reaching the heights of last season, where they earned a first-round bye for the first time in four years. A very solid defensive front is going to be necessary against the Big Green.