PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University men's ice hockey season gets underway this weekend when the Panthers compete in the Paine Webber Classic in Worcester, Mass, hosted by Assumption College.
The Panthers will skate against Assumption on Friday at 8:00 p.m. in the second game of the tournament, following the Fitchburg State-Worcester State encounter at 5:00 p.m. The two losers will play Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in the third-place game, and Friday's winners will meet for the championship Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
PSU will host ECAC Northeast Conference opponent UMass Dartmouth the following Saturday, Nov. 20, in the home opener at the Waterville Valley Arena. It is the first of four home games this semester and nine home games this winter, all beginning at 6:00 p.m.
One of the highlights of the schedule is PSU's return to the Police Athletic League (PAL) Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend in Manchester, N.H., where the Panthers will match up with Granite State opponent Southern New Hampshire University in the opener.
Plymouth State will be out to qualify for the ECAC playoffs after missing out the last two seasons. The conference play-offs begin on Feb. 25 and a champion is slated to be crowned on Mar. 3, receiving the conference's automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament.
2004-05 PSU Ice Hockey Outlook
Second-year head coach Brett Tryder welcomes back 19 veterans to this year's team in what will hopefully be a successful season. Plymouth State is looking to improve on last year's 8-15-1 overall record, which represented the most wins in a season since the 1998-99 Panthers finished 13-12-0. PSU was picked to finish eighth out of 12 teams in this year's preseason poll.
"Our goal is to make the play-offs, and hopefully have a home game," said Tryder. "I expect us to be better than last season. We don't have one area of strength, but we're balanced and we'll have to play together as a team."
The Panthers should be solid between the pipes this winter. Sophomore Trevor Cherry (Greenland, N.H.) returns after taking over the starting job last season and posting a 3.91 goals against average. He is the No. 1 goalie entering the season, but according to Tryder, two others - junior Kyle VanDingstee (Skaneateles, N.Y.) and freshman Karl Helgesson (Lerum, Sweden) - have been impressive in preseason and will be pushing Cherry.
Senior Max Wernert (Greenwich, Conn.) and junior Nick DeBaggis (Topsfield, Mass.), the two assistant captains, backbone the Panther defensive unit. Both have good size and are experienced, physical players who should be key contributors. Coach Tryder is also confident with four other returning veterans - juniors Matt Withers (Laconia, N.H.) and Paul Feeney (Lowell, Mass.) and sophomores Steve Milley (Sudbury, Mass.) and Kyle Allen (Shrewsbury, Mass.). Freshman Bobby Dashner (Hyde Park, Mass.) is an impressive newcomer who will be looking to crack the line-up.
Five of the top six scorers are back from last season, led by juniors Dennis Kane (Westford, Mass.) and Rory Nickerson (West Chatham, Mass.), who have been the top two scorers the last two years. Nickerson led the team with 19 points two years ago, and Kane was tops with 29 points last season. They will have to deliver for the Panthers this season.
Senior Michal Bodnar (Olomouc, Czech Rep./Laconia, NH) is also a key returning veteran, and is looking for a big senior season. Classmate Kyle Poirier (Concord, N.H.) has 29 career goals and 50 career points and could be a factor. Other returnees looking to contribute include sophomores Mykul Haun (Alameda, Cal.), Jay Londer (Philadelphia, Pa./Fr. Judge) and Derek Avakian (Edgartown, Mass.).
Tryder is pleased with a strong group of newcomers on offense that include sophomores Goose LaCroix (Moretown, Vt.) and Andy Herlihy (Bow, N.H./Tilton) and freshman Chris Cadieux (Nashua, N.H.), Deni Bojadzic (Gothenburg, Sweden), Ryan Moreau (Worcester, Mass.), and Topo LaCroix (Moretown, Vt.).
"We play in a very competitive conference," said Tryder. "The whole conference is improved and making strides, so we'll need to improve to keep up. I expect us to skate hard and hit hard, but we'll need to stay disciplined to win hockey games."
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