Panthers to compete for MASCAC championship
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The puck drops on a new season for the Plymouth State University men's ice hockey team this Saturday when the Panthers skate against Southern New Hampshire University in a non-conference game at The Ice Den in Hooksett, N.H.
After another non-conference road game at Stonehill College on Thursday, Nov. 10, PSU begins the home slate with back-to-back Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) games at Hanaway Rink, now in its second year as the home of the Panthers; PSU hosts Westfield and Framingham State University on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and Thursday, Nov 17, respectively.
|PSU Men's Ice Hockey Coach Craig Russell|
This will be the third year for Plymouth State as a member of the MASCAC men's ice hockey league. PSU finished third in the regular season the last two years. MASCAC men's hockey includes PSU, Salem State, Fitchburg State, Framingham State, Westfield State, Worcester State, and UMass Dartmouth.
The MASCAC tournament is set to begin on Saturday, Feb. 25, and will include the top six teams. The title game is Saturday, March 3, and for the first time, the champion will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2011-12 PSU Men's Ice Hockey Outlook
Panther head coach Craig Russell, now in his second season, welcomes back 18 veterans from last year's team that finished with a 15-6- 5 overall record and a 10-5-3 mark in MASCAC games. The returning group includes the top three scorers from last year, three key defensemen, and perhaps the top goaltender in the league. Coach Russell is optimistic about the season.
"I think we can be in the thick of things at the top of the conference again this year," said Russell. "We were right in there last year until the end, so we focused our offseason training on fitness and conditioning. There are some really good teams in our conference but I think we can be as good as anyone else."
PSU has the benefit of having junior goaltender Jack Astedt (Angelholm, Sweden) back between the pipes. Astedt set the single-season school record for goals against average last year with a mark of 2.18, earning Second Team All-Conference honors.
"Jack is our catalyst for sure," said Russell. "His raw talent was proven last year, and his competitiveness is something that drives everyone else every day. He pushes everyone on the team to be better. A lot of coaches told me he's the best goalie in the league, but he needs to prove that again this year."
Astedt has help in front of him in the form of juniors Richie Zobak (Evergreen Park, Ill.) and JC Richardson (Fort Collins, Colo.) and sophomore Dave Walters (Ottawa, Ont.). Zobak is a two-time First Team All-Conference selection who delivers at both ends of the ice. Richardson has become one of the top defensemen in the conference and Walters came on last spring after joining the team in midseason.
Russell says junior transfers Phil Moore (Lower Onslow, N.S./New England College) and Max Carter (Royal Oak, Mich./Johnson & Wales) will help out on defense, making up for the graduation of last year's seniors David Rose and Jake Curtin.
Juniors Kyle Greco (Hillside, Ill.) and Alex Cottle (West Chester, Pa.) should lead the Panther offense. Greco scored a team-high 16 goals in 22 games last year, while Cottle collected a team-high 23 assists. Senior Bryan Kriner (Newport, R.I.) also contributed 15 goals last year and will be a big factor.
The Panthers have plenty of depth on offense, with senior Chris Zaremba (Colorado Springs, Colo.), junior Matt Aponte (Plano, Texas) and sophomore Travis Stevens (Montclair, Calif.) ready to step in. Coach Russell says the top newcomers on offense are sophomore Phil Arnone (Litchfield, N.H.) and freshman Mike Freitag (Westmont, Ill.)
"We're bigger and stronger than last year and we hope to play more physical," said Russell. "If everyone stays healthy, we'll be right there challenging for the title."
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