PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The puck drops on the Plymouth State University men's ice hockey season this week with a pair of Eastern College Athletic Association Northeast Division road games.
The Panthers will face Stonehill College in the season debut on Thursday (Nov. 13) at the Foxboro (Mass.) Sports Center (7:00 p.m.), and will visit conference newcomer Westfield State College on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. The home opener is slated for a week from Saturday, Nov. 22, against the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth at 6:00 p.m. at Waterville Valley Arena.
One of the highlights of the schedule is PSU's return to the Police Athletic League (PAL) Stovepipe Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend at The Ice Den in Hooksett, N.H., hosted by Southern New Hampshire University. The three-time defending champion Panthers will match up with Tufts 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 return to the ECAC Northeast playoffs this season after missing out last winter. PSU had finished in the top four out of 12 teams the previous three seasons, earning home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The conference playoffs are the first week in March, with the champion receiving the conference's automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament.
2008-09 PSU Men's Ice Hockey Outlook
Led by sixth-year head coach Brett Tryder, PSU returns a veteran squad from last season, with 19 players back in uniform. Tryder is hoping to lead the Panthers back to the upper echelon of the conference. The team was picked eighth in the pre-season coaches' poll.
"Last year was a rebuilding year," said Tryder (right). "We had 17 new guys and we didn't really develop an identity. But we gained a lot of experience that we're hoping will pay off this year. Having all those guys with a year under their belts is going to help. I think we can be back to fighting for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs."
The Panthers have five of their top six scorers back and several veterans on defense.
"We didn't lose many games by a lot," said Tryder. "We were in just about every game; we just weren't physical enough and couldn't bury it when we had a chance. We have more talent and more experience this year, and we hope to improve and open things up a little."
Some of the top returning forwards are seniors Dave Dufresne (Dracut, Mass./Bishop Guertin) and Chris Cantara (Pelham, N.H./Central Catholic), junior Chris Chambers (Crofton, Md.) and sophomores Seth McQuade (Manchester, N.H.) and Sean Buckley (Sagamore, Mass./Lawrence Academy). Dufresne and Cantara provide a veteran presence on the ice, and McQuade finished second on the team in scoring last year. Tryder is expecting big things from Chambers and Buckley.
The top newcomers on offense are freshmen Chris Zaremba (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Justin Phenney (Brunswick,,Ohio). Tryder said junior Stephan Davis (Lafayette, Calif.) and sophomores Tim Vlcek (LaGrange Park, Ill.) and Steve Ficaro (Manchester, N.H./Trinity) could form a strong checking line.
The Panthers have four returning sophomore defensemen who will all get regular shifts along the blue line, David Rose (Haddon Township, N.J.), Kyle Tobin (Kanata, Ontario/Hebron Academy), Jake Curtin (Concord, N.H./Concord), and Bryan Horrigan (Brookfield, Wis.) They could form an outstanding contingent for the Panthers for the next couple of years, according to Tryder. Freshman Chris Mohar (Bloomfield, Colo.) joins the group as the top newcomer.
Freshman Allen Schneider (Strongsville, Ohio) has started to emerge as the top goaltender for the Panthers. Sophomore Kevin Crosby (Farmington, Conn.) and junior transfer Aaron Runner (Alpharetta, Ga.) are pushing for playing time as well between the pipes.
"We're excited about the season," said Tryder. "We should have solid defense and goaltending and we're looking to improve on offense. We want to be a hard working team. The hardest working team gets the bounces, so if we're not getting the bounces, we're not working hard enough."
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