PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Coming off its best season in over a decade, the Plymouth State University men's ice hockey team gets the 2005-06 season underway this Saturday when the Panthers host Nichols College in a non-conference game at Waterville Valley Arena (6:00 p.m.)
The Panthers begin ECAC Northeast Conference play on Monday (Nov. 14) with a home match-up against Stonehill College (6:00 p.m.) PSU then plays on the road for seven of its eight games before the semester break.
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 Saint Anselm College in the tourney opener.
Plymouth State will be out to make a return visit to the ECAC playoffs after hosting a first-round game last season. The conference playoffs begin in late February and a champion is slated to be crowned on Mar. 4, receiving the conference's automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament.
2005-06 PSU Men's Ice Hockey Outlook
The Panthers return nine of their top 10 scorers from last season, five of the top six defensemen, and their All-Conference goaltender for what should be an exciting campaign.
Led by third-year head coach Brett Tryder
(right), PSU is seeking to maintain its spot in the upper
echelon of the ECAC Northeast Conference. The Panthers finished
fourth out of 12 teams last year, and skated to a home-ice victory
in the first round of the playoffs. The team finished with a
13-10-2 overall record, the best since the 1993-94 Plymouth State
squad finished 17-8. PSU was picked to finish fourth out of 12 in
this year's preseason poll.
"We're pleased with the progress we made last year," said Tryder. "Our goal was to make the play-offs, and have a home game in the first round, and we did that. We won our first round game. This year we'll be striving to win the conference championship. That's our goal."
The Panthers have plenty of experience returning with 23 veterans on the roster, including 19 juniors and seniors. Tryder will rely on the leadership of senior Rory Nickerson (West Chatham, Mass.), a two-year captain, senior Nick DeBaggis (Topsfield, Mass.), a two-year assistant captain, and junior Jay Londer (Philadelphia, Pa./Fr. Judge), a first-year assistant captain.
"They are three of our top players as well as outstanding leaders," said Tryder. "We have high expectations for them."
The top five scorers are back from last season and they should provide plenty of firepower for the Panthers this winter. Nickerson and senior Dennis Kane (Westford, Mass.) have been the scoring leaders the past three years, and are among the all-time scoring leaders in school history. Sophomores Chris Cadieux (Nashua, N.H.) and Deni Bojadzic (Gothenburg, Sweden) made impacts on the team in their outstanding rookie campaigns, and should be even stronger this year. Senior Paul Feeney (Lowell, Mass.) is also primed for a strong year after averaging a point a game last season.
The Panthers have plenty of depth at forward. Junior Mykul Haun (Alameda, Cal.) returns after missing last season with an injury, and his presence will be a plus. Other looking to contribute include juniors Goose LaCroix (Moretown, Vt.), Derek Avakian (Edgartown, Mass.) and Andy Herlihy (Bow, N.H./Tilton) and sophomores Ryan Moreau (Worcester, Mass.) and Topo LaCroix (Moretown, Vt.)
DeBaggis and senior Matt Withers (Laconia, N.H.) lead a deep and talented group of Panther defensemen that is as strong as any in the league, according to Tryder. Senior Joey Lee (Manchester, N.H.), sophomore Bobby Dashner (Hyde Park, Mass.) and freshmen Pat Turcotte (Goffstown, N.H.) and Loren Tennent (Bolton Landing, N.Y.) give PSU plenty of strength and depth along the blue line.
Even with all the experienced skaters, perhaps the biggest key among the returnees is sophomore goalie Karl Helgesson (Lerum, Sweden). He is expected to pick up from where he left off last season, when he was named Second Team All-Conference and to the All-Rookie Team after a terrific freshman year. His 2.89 goals against average was the second-best in school history.
"We were solid in the defensive zone last season," said Tryder, "and forechecked with tenacity. With improvement in the neutral zone and a commitment to taking fewer penalties, we think we can compete for the conference title and the NCAA berth."
-- 30 --