PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The puck drops on the Plymouth State University men's ice hockey season this Saturday, Nov. 10, when the Panthers host Nichols College in a 6:00 p.m. opening face-off at Waterville Valley Arena.
It will be the only home game of the month for the Panthers. The first ECAC Northeast Conference contest is a week from Saturday, Nov. 17, at defending champion and pre-season favorite University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. PSU will have two more home games in December, and seven in January and February.
One of the highlights of the schedule is PSU's return to the Police Athletic League (PAL) Stovepipe Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend, this year at The Ice Den in Manchester, N.H., hosted by Southern New Hampshire University. The two-time defending champion Panthers will match up with Suffolk University in the tourney opener Saturday at 1:00 p.m., with SNHU and UMass Boston skating in the second game at 4:00 p.m. The consolation and championship games are Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Plymouth State will be out to make another run at an ECAC Northeast title this year after finishing in the top four out of 12 teams the past three seasons. There are 13 Division III teams this year, with the addition of Becker College, along with four Division II teams in the Northeast. The conference playoffs are the first week in March, with the champion receiving the conference's automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament.
2007-08 PSU Men's Ice Hockey Outlook
Led by fifth-year head coach Brett TryderPSU has proven to be one of the top teams in the Northeast. Tryder (right) and the Panthers are hoping this is the season they get over the top and capture their first conference championship.
PSU finished 10-4-1 in conference games last year, 11-13-2 overall, and hosted a first-round game in the playoffs for the third straight season. The Panthers were upset in the first round last season after advancing to the semifinals the previous two years. PSU was picked to finish fourth again this season in the pre-season coaches' poll.
"We plan an aggressive style that requires hard work and pressuring the other team," said Tryder. "If we stay within ourselves and play as a team, we can be successful."
While the Panthers have a balanced team, a big key to the season is the return of senior goaltender Karl Helgesson (Lerum, Sweden). Helgesson was a two-year starter for the Panthers his freshman and sophomore years from 2004-06 and was the ECAC Northeast Goalie and Player of the Year before transferring and playing last year at Plattsburgh State.
The Panthers also have another returning goalie in sophomore Erik Shields (Lebanon, Maine), who started 14 games second semester last season and led the team with an 8-4-1 record, a 3.03 goals against average and a .903 saves percentage. Freshman Kevin Crosby (Farmington, Conn.) gives the Panthers a solid third netminder.
Coach Tryder says the Panthers will rely on a balanced offense, and he is confident in the players he'll put out on the ice.
"I like the depth on this team, from top to bottom," said Tryder. "We should be able to dress and skate four strong lines. We have a lot of new faces and I expect them to blend in well."
PSU returns its top two scorers in sophomore Chris Chambers (Crofton, Md.) and senior Deni Bojadzic (Gothenburg, Sweden). Chambers led the team with 17 goals, 17 assists and 34 points in 26 games and was named to the ECAC Northeast All-Rookie Team. Bojadzic was second on the team with 13 goals, 15 assists and 28 points, and is the leading active career scorer with 30 goals, 42 assists and 72 points. Senior captains Chris Cadieux (Nashua, N.H.) and Topo LaCroix (Moretown, Vt.) are key returning players and will be looked to for offense and leadership. Senior Nate Gardner (Manchester, N.H./Memorial) and sophomore Bryan Radomski (West Hartford, Conn./Watkinson) are also solid returnees who could contribute.
Sophomores Chris Cantara (Pelham, N.H./Central Catholic) and Dave Dufresne (Dracut, Mass./Bishop Guertin), a pair of transfers from SUNY Brockport, lead the group of Panther newcomers. Freshmen Jason Butler (Farmington, Conn./Hebron Academy), Sean Buckley (Sagamore, Mass./Lawrence Academy), Seth McQuade (Manchester, N.H.) and Andrew Stewart (O'Leary, Prince Edward Island) have all shown promise and could earn plenty of playing time.
Senior assistant captain Bobby Dashner (Hyde Park, Mass.) and junior Pat Turcotte (Goffstown, N.H.) are the top returnees along the Panther blue line. Sophomore Andy Weigand (Burlington, Vt.), who was a solid Panther defenseman last season before suffering an injury, is back and healthy and looking to contribute. Freshman Bryan Horrigan (Brookfield, Wis.) should log plenty of ice time as the top newcomer on defense, while classmates Jake Curtin (Concord, N.H./Concord), Kyle Tobin (Kanata, Ontario/Hebron Academy), Tommy Woods (Nashua, N.H./North) and David Rose (Haddon Township, N.J.) will all look to make an impact as rookies.
"We're excited about the season," said Tryder. "We have a lot of new faces, who are supporting a strong group of returnees. With the talent we have, we think we can make a run at the conference title."
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