PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The puck drops on the Plymouth State University men's ice hockey season this weekend when the Panthers play a pair of games in the Becker College Ice Breaker Tournament.
The Panthers will meet Suffolk University in the opener this Friday at 3:30 p.m. at the New England Sports Center Rink in Marlboro, Mass. Becker will face Stonehill College in the second game at 6:30 p.m. The two winners will play in the championship contest Saturday at 5:10 p.m., following the consolation game at 2:10 p.m.
PSU's next game will be a significant one, as the Panthers travel to Worcester State on Tuesday, Nov. 17, for the first game of the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference men's ice hockey conference. MASCAC men's ice hockey, which had a solid tradition from 1971-2003, returns after a six-year hiatus.
Plymouth State, which played in the ECAC ice hockey conferences for over a quarter of a century, joined the MASCAC this year. MASCAC men's ice hockey now includes PSU, Salem State, Fitchburg State, Framingham State, Westfield State, Worcester State, and UMass Dartmouth.
The MASCAC tournament will be the first week in March. As a new conference, the champion will not be eligible for an NCAA Tournament berth until its third season. PSU made 11 ECAC post-season appearances from 1986-2007.
2009-10 PSU Men's Ice Hockey Outlook
Seventh-year head coach Brett Tryder will have a good mix of veterans and newcomers on this year's squad, with 15 returnees on the roster as well as 13 freshmen and one sophomore newcomer. Tryder is optimistic that the team can compete in the new conference.
"Playing in the first MASCAC game in six years in pretty cool for our guys," said Tryder (right). "It's exciting to start off in a new conference knowing you have a chance to win it right away. The teams in the league are all rich in history with experienced coaches, so I think it's a great opportunity for us."
The Panthers have their top three scorers back and several newcomers who have shown that they will be offensive threats, according to Tryder.
"We have some natural goal scorers coming back," said Tryder, "and some other returning guys that we're expecting a lot from, so I expect we'll have more firepower up front this season. We have some guys who can be more creative offensively."
Junior Sean Buckley (Sagamore, Mass./Lawrence Academy), senior captain Chris Chambers (Crofton, Md.) and sophomore assistant captain Chris Zaremba (Colorado Springs, Colo.) finished 1-2-3 on the team in scoring last winter and should be among the conference scoring leaders this season. Buckley (11-13-24) led the team in points, and Chambers (14-8-22) was tops in goals. Zaremba (13-8-21) was one of the top freshman scorers in the league.
Tryder said there's a solid group of newcomers he will be looking for production from, including sophomore Bryan Kriner (Newport, R.I.) and freshmen Tim Visich (Mount Pleasant, Mich.), Sean Foley (Weymouth, Mass.), Chad Wilhelm (Plymouth, Mich.), Kyle Weiland (Hampden, Maine), Alex Cottle (West Chester, Pa.) and Matt Aponte (Plano, Texas).
The Panthers have an experienced group of defensemen with six returnees along with a couple of strong newcomers. Juniors Jake Curtin (Concord, N.H./Concord), Kyle Tobin (Kanata, Ontario/Hebron Academy) and Dave Rose (Haddon Township, N.J.) are in their third year together and should lead the unit, and freshmen Richie Zobek (Evergreen Park, Ill.) and JC Richardson (Fort Collins, Colo.) look like the top newcomers.
Junior Erik Shields (Lebanon, Maine) has a leg up on the starting goaltender's job, according to Tryder. Shields saw action as a starter in the Panther goal in 2006-07 and 2007-08 before sitting out last season. Senior Aaron Runner (Alpharetta, Ga.) and freshman Jack Astedt (Angelholm, Sweden) are pushing each other for the No. 2 position and are fully capable to fill in if Shields needs a break.
"We have a lot of new faces, but they guys are working hard and they're all on the same page," said Tryder. " That's an area where we're already ahead of last year's team. I think we'll be very competitive in the MASCAC and we're looking forward to the season."
-- 30 -