Panthers top Preseason Poll, open season Friday
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University men's ice hockey team was picked to defend its Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) title after finishing atop the Preseason Coaches' Poll following a vote of the league's seven head coaches.
Plymouth State collected five first place votes to finish with 34 points, while UMass Dartmouth earned the final two first place votes for 29 points. Westfield State (25) and Salem State (20) rounded out the top four, with Fitchburg State (19), Worcester State (14) and Framingham State (6) filling out the bottom of the poll.
Head coach Craig Russell enters his tenth season on the bench, having experienced nothing but success. PSU has earned seven regular season titles and advanced to the conference championship game seven times, including three wins and the program's only three NCAA Tournament appearances, all under his direction. Despite the loss of a strong class that included five of the team's top seven scorers and the starting goaltender, Russell returns a motivated core and has added ten new faces to the team.
Senior captains Victor Bergstrom (Angelholm, Sweden) and Drake Longaker (Gilroy, Calif.) will anchor the PSU defense. Bergstrom claimed All-MASCAC First Team honors for the second straight season after leading the league in defensemen scoring with nine goals and 13 assists last winter. Not necessarily known for his scoring, Longaker picked up some key goals for the Panthers including the game-winner in a 4-3 overtime win at Fitchburg State last February.
Juniors JR Barone (West Chester, Pa.) and Peter Laviolette (Brentwood, Tenn.) are the top-scoring forwards to return, with Barone tallying 12 goals and 11 assists. Laviolette added eight goals and three helpers a year ago, while classmates Jake Gerbner (Havertown, Pa.) and Henrik Axelson (Danderyd, Sweden) were also regular offensive contributors.
The biggest change for the Panthers will come in net following the graduation of Evan Morelli, who logged all but 180 minutes in goal last winter. Freshman Brendahn Brawley (Morton, Pa.) will be between the pipes on opening night, with senior Andreas Pettersson (Trollhattan, Sweden), sophomore Ben Parker (Ashland, Mass.) and junior transfer Jake Sabourin (Catonsville, Md.) all provide Russell with additional options.
Plymouth State opens the regular season at home on Friday (Nov. 1) with a 7:00 p.m. clash with #15 Salve Regina. Prior to puck-drop the team will reveal its 2018-19 championship banner.
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