Panthers out to continue momentum from banner season
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University men's ice hockey team is looking for another outstanding season in 2012-13, which begins this Thursday, Nov. 8, when the Panthers host Stonehill College at 6:00 p.m. in a non-conference game at Hanaway Rink.
The Panthers are coming off a banner season in 2011-12, capturing the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) title for the first conference championship in the program's 40-year history. PSU will recognize the championship and the school's first NCAA playoff berth prior to Thursday's opener against Stonehill.
|Head Coach Craig Russell|
A highlight on this year's schedule will be PSU's participation in the Pathfinder Bank/Oswego Classic in Oswego, N.Y., on Dec. 30-31. The Panthers could earn national exposure with a solid performance against Oswego in the opening round as the Lakers are defending national runner-up and currently ranked second in the nation in Division III.
The 18-game MASCAC regular season slate gets underway with two games next week, as the Panthers visit Westfield State University on Tuesday and Framingham State University on Thursday.
The MASCAC tournament is set to begin on Saturday, Feb. 23, and will include the top six teams. The title game is Saturday, March 2, and the champion will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2012-13 PSU Men's Ice Hockey Outlook
Panther third-year head coach Craig Russell welcomes back 22 veterans from last year's team, including three First Team All-Conference selections. PSU has its top six scorers and top four defensemen returning, along with the league's top goaltender, from a team that finished 17-7- 3 overall and 12-3-3 in MASCAC games. Russell says the team also has a group of newcomers who should bolster the offense.
"The strength of our team is in the back end," says Russell. "Our defensemen are among the best in the league, and goaltending is definitely a strong point for us. Our team identity should be the same, but many of our freshmen are natural scorers so we should have more offense this season and not have so many low-scoring games."
Senior goaltender Jack Astedt (Angelholm, Sweden), who earned First Team All-MASCAC honors last year after Second Team honors as a sophomore, is primed for a strong senior season. He's had goals against averages of 2.08 and 2.18 the last two years, the two best marks in school history. Astedt is capably backed up by junior Tyler Ingerson (Concord, N.H.), who could see more playing time this season.
"Jack is our main guy for sure," said Russell. "He's proven that he's one of the top goalies in the country and we're looking for him to have a great senior year. Tyler is also looking good and can take the load off of Jack early in the season."
Russell says PSU's group of defensemen is the top unit in the league. Senior Richie Zobak (Evergreen Park, Ill.), a three-time First Team All-MASCAC pick, tallied 22 points last year and leads the group, while senior captain JC Richardson (Fort Collins, Colo.) is very strong defensively. Junior Dave Walters (Ottawa, Ont.) and sophomore Zach Sarig (Reading,Pa.) are reliable players at both ends of the ice.
Seniors Kyle Greco (Hillside, Ill.) and Alex Cottle (West Chester, Pa.) should again lead the Panther offense. Greco earned First Team All-MASCAC honors a year ago after leading the team in scoring and topping the conference in assists. Cottle is also a top-line forward who is among the league leaders in scoring.
Other key returnees on offense for PSU include juniors Phil Arnone (Litchfield, N.H.) and Travis Stevens (Montclair, Calif.), sophomore Mike Freitag (Westmont, Ill.), and senior Kyle Weiland (Hampden, Maine), who are all capable of seeing significant ice time, according to Russell. Among the newcomers who are expected to impact the Panther offense are freshmen Andrew Wigg (Lantz, Nova Scotia), Brantley Sherwood (San Anselmo, Calif.), and Zach Fox (Sandown, N.H.)
The Panthers were picked to win the MASCAC Championship in this year's preseason coaches' poll. Russell says that's the plan, but there's a long way to go.
"I think we're improved over last year, with the returning guys having another year of experience plus the skill the freshmen bring," says Russell. "We should definitely be in the hunt, but Salem was right there with us and UMass Dartmouth nipping at our heels, so we have a lot of work to do and a lot to prove. It's a nice challenge to have and we're excited."
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