Men’s ECAC Hockey Preview

Sports Editor Cameron Levasseur evaluates the conference as the regular season fast approaches.


Cameron Levasseur/Connor Lawless/Harvard Athletics/Clarkson Athletics

Quinnipiac, Harvard and Clarkson are among the top teams vying for the ECAC Hockey championship this season.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

Title contenders


Quinnipiac Athletics


After a tremendously successful season that saw the Bobcats win 32 games (second most in the NCAA) and come just short of a Frozen Four appearance, Quinnipiac looks primed and ready to avenge its loss in the 2022 ECAC Hockey title game. 

The Bobcats have had the highest turnover in the conference, losing 13 players, including captain Wyatt Bongiovanni and Ty Smilanic, the highest NHL drafted player in program history, but a mixture of returning veterans and highly-touted freshmen should keep this roster dangerous heading into 2022-23.

Five of eight seniors who donned the blue and gold last season elected to return to Hamden for a fifth year, among them All-American defenseman Zach Metsa and alternate captain Ethan de Jong. Quinnipiac will also continue to be backstopped by sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets, who was a finalist for both the Hobey Baker and Mike Richter awards last season and broke the 18-year-old NCAA record for Goals Against Average. 

“Having third year, fourth year, fifth year players, you know, they’ve been there and done it,” head coach Rand Pecknold said in a preseason media call. “They know our culture, they know our identity … it’s nice to have those older guys.”

Among the players joining the team is sophomore forward Collin Graf, who transferred from Union after notching 22 points for the Dutchmen (second highest on the team) in 2021-22. 

“We loved him before he got to Union,” Pecknold said. “I watched him this year and I thought he was an impact player for them … we’ve had practices already, he looks great. High IQ … he’s really committed – staying on (the ice) late, getting on (the ice) early.”

This season will also see the debut of Arizona Coyotes draftee Sam Lipkin. The big, skilled forward ranked in the top five for goals in the USHL last season, posting 36 en route to a 71 point campaign. 

With the title game loss to Harvard still fresh on their mind and a plethora of talent joining the ranks, it’s safe to say the Bobcats have the motivation and skill to bring home the program’s second ever Whitelaw Cup.


Harvard Athletics


One would imagine that being the youngest team in the nation would lead to a wealth of inexperience and mistakes. That was not the case for Harvard last year. 

The Crimson, who boasted an average age of just above 21 and had 14 players who had never played a shift of college hockey prior to the season, met every challenge they faced with equal force. They won 21 games in the regular season before upsetting Quinnipiac in the ECAC Hockey championship game and putting up a strong fight against national runner-up Minnesota State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Expect this year’s iteration of Cambridge’s finest to match or exceed the play of its predecessors when the puck drops in October. The team may have lost Nick Abruzzeze and Casey Dornbach, who both donned the “C” for the Crimson last season, but Harvard’s treasure trove of young talent is only getting richer. 

“I really felt we came together at the end of the year,” head coach Ted Donato said. “This year we’re trying to build off that … the guys have come back hungry and ready and I think the sights are set pretty high as a group.”

Sophomore Matthew Coronato, who led the team in scoring as a freshman, posted seven points in five games at the IIHF World Juniors this summer, while junior Sean Farrell notched six in 10 in the World Championships. 

The Crimson’s incoming class is nothing to sneeze at either. Five of eight freshmen have been drafted, including 2020 Maple Leafs 6th rounder Joe Miller, who tallied a top-15 point total in the USHL last season. 

Entering the season as the reigning champs, there’s nothing to suggest that Harvard won’t be duking it out for its fourth Whitelaw Cup in the past decade come mid-March. 


Cornell Athletics


A strong regular season for Cornell in 2021-22 ended in disappointment, as it fell to a gritty Colgate team on home ice in the second round of the ECAC Tournament. 

Head coach Mike Schafer and the Big Red are determined to create a different outcome this time around.

“For us, it’s coming into the season with a different mindset, something to prove,” Schafer said. “Coming off of COVID, coming off of not playing, all the conversation seemed to surround that rather than the present. So I think that (there’s) a lot of refocusing going on in our program and kind of getting back to some of the basics.”

Cornell lost eight players to graduation or the portal, including impact forwards Kyle Betts and Brenden Locke, but Shafer isn’t worried about the team’s depth.  

“Probably the most balance and depth I’ve had up front as a coach in some time,” Schafer said. 

The Big Red are returning a majority of their core from last season, including their top four scorers and reigning All-ECAC First Team defenseman Sam Malinski, who tallied 23 points a year ago. 

They’ll also continue to be backstopped by sophomore goaltender Ian Shane, whose impressive freshman campaign won Cornell several key games, including an overtime victory over then-No. 1 Quinnipiac in Ithaca. 

That, combined with the addition of playmaking junior centerman Gabriel Seager from Union and freshman goaltender Remington Keopple, who played with Team USA at world juniors this summer, puts Cornell in the Whitelaw Cup conversation for 2022-23. 


Lake Placid hopefuls:


Clarkson Athletics


Clarkson is an interesting team heading into this season. The Golden Knights found themselves just one period away from their third straight ECAC title game appearance in March, but massive roster turnover leaves some questions with the season looming. 

Up front, the team lost captains Jack Jacome and Zach Tsekos, who combined for 56 points last season as well as another proven goalscorer in Luke Santerno. 

Clarkson returns four 28+ point scorers to the roster, including All-ECAC First Teamers Alex Campbell and Mathieu Gosselin, but beyond that group, the Golden Knights lack scoring depth. No other forward on the team managed more than four goals last season. 

They’ll instead look to the point for offensive production, where an experienced defensive core looks ready to invigorate the Golden Knights’ offense. 

“We can get up and down the sheet of ice and we can produce from the back end, which is really important for us,” head coach Casey Jones said.

Clarkson’s veteran back end is highlighted by four juniors and a senior, including All-ECAC Second Team defenseman Noah Beck, who was top five in the conference for points at his position a year ago. 

With all the top-end talent on the Golden Knights’ roster, Jones knows it’s crucial to not back down from a hard-nosed style of play. 

“We’ve got to make sure that our skill wants to play hard,” head coach Casey Jones said. “That we want to fight through stuff, that we want to get to the dirty areas, we want to be difficult to play against. It all starts (with) defense first.”

Clarkson has historically proved itself to be a team that’s always in the mix, so we should expect nothing less from the 2022-23 iteration. 


Colgate Athletics



There are two words that best describe Colgate as a team: veteran and gritty. 

It was those identities that helped the Raiders topple Cornell to earn a Lake Placid bid a season ago, and with another year of experience under their belts, this group is looking to take the next step. 

The Raiders roster is fairly similar to the one that took to the ice for the 2021-22 season, returning 13 upperclassmen, including their top three scorers and all but one defensemen. That older presence has allowed the coaching staff to take a less hands-on approach with the team. 

“It’s almost like you’re just steering the rudder and letting them take ownership (of) the team,” head coach Don Vaughan said. “That’s been really rewarding as a coach.”

In net, the Raiders will be relying on a big season from junior Carter Gylander, who posted a .908 save percentage and a 2.76 goals against average across 16 appearances in his second year with the program. Behind Gylander, both other netminders are freshmen.

With that in mind, in order for it to make the leap and compete for a conference title this season, Colgate will need to place a bigger emphasis on offense. 

“We scored enough last year, but we also had some incredible goaltending down the stretch, we can’t always rely on that to get the win,” Vaughan said. “We have to find a way to be a little bit more explosive, more offensive … trying to create, manufacture some goals if you will.”

A sibling duo of senior forward Colton Young and junior forward Alex Young should help the Raiders reach their offensive potential. The pair each tallied point totals above 30 last season and look to build off that performance playing alongside one another in 2022-23. 

They have the will, they have the experience, if Colgate is able to score enough to offset its depth in net, it will be a tough out come tournament time. 


On the cusp:


Union Athletics


It was a hectic season for Union in 2021-22. 

Longtime head coach Rick Bennett, who guided the Dutchmen to the program’s only national championship, stepped down in January in the wake of a school investigation into his coaching practices. The team struggled down the stretch following Bennett’s departure, but ultimately put together a sweep of Princeton in the opening round of the ECAC Hockey tournament and a close series with Clarkson in round two. 

This year, under the leadership of former Clarkson assistant Josh Hague, the Dutchmen may surprise people. 

Boasting one of the bigger rosters in college hockey, the 33-man team has the pieces to make some noise. 

Most of all, they have depth. Union’s forward core returns 14 players from last season, among them sharpshooter Liam Robertson, who had 13 goals for the Dutchmen a year ago.

Union lost the goal scoring of both senior forward Gabriel Seger and sophomore forward Collin Graf to the transfer portal, but brought in even more in the form of graduate student forward Chris Theodore, who had 29 points for Atlantic Hockey champions AIC last season as well as former Lake State forward Josh Nixon (8-12-20) and former Cornell forward Ben Tupker (3-4-7). 

Trying to implement a new system under Hague while also attempting to develop an inexperienced blue-line group is sure to lead the Dutchmen into some tight spots early in the campaign, something the first-year head coach realizes. He believes, however, that throughout the difficult points, the determination of his team will always remain high. 

“I think the biggest thing is just focusing day-to-day and not getting caught up in the fact that we’re not going to have everything covered on October first, there’s just no way we’re going to have everything dialed in … we’re going to have something missing,” Hague said. “What won’t be missing is our effort and our compete (level) and that’s what we’re striving to be perfect at early.”

With a new coach and a new system, Union is ECAC Hockey’s biggest wildcard heading into the season. If the pieces start to click as the weeks bear on, who knows what could happen in a playoff environment. 


RPI Athletics


It’s seemed like for the past few years that Rensselaer has been on the brink. 

In 2020 they cracked the top four in ECAC Hockey before the pandemic cut the season short. Then after a year off, the Engineers returned to the ice last season, winning a hard fought series against Dartmouth before pushing eventual league champion Harvard to the verge of elimination. 

This year, after severe offseason turnover, the question is whether they’ll be able to build from the past or start to regress backwards. 

RPI lost five of its top six scorers to the portal, including graduate student forward Ture Linden, who’s 20 goals and 39 points both led the conference in 2021-22. 

The Engineers dug into the transfer market themselves to recoup their losses, picking up junior forward Austin Heidemann and senior forward Brandon Budy among others from Mercyhurst and North Dakota respectively. 

Heidemann and Budy play into an identity RPI is looking to emphasize this season: speed. 

“Our individual skating ability and speed is just at a higher level than it was, head coach Dave Smith said. “(Budy and Heidemann) can really get up and down the ice.”

Some returning players, like junior forward Jack Brackett, who Smith says is among the fastest in the country, already fit this mold. It’s just a matter of utilizing the speed for the benefit of the team. 

“Just those individual pieces, we’re going to have to put it together for team speed, but my observation right now is our individual speed is significantly better,” Smith said. 

The Engineers will need that speed to consistently translate into goals if they’re going to be a near.500 team this season. A lack of returning scorers and depth on the blue line leave a lot of question marks heading into the year. 


St. Lawrence Athletics

St. Lawrence: 

Much like RPI and Union, St. Lawrence is another team that will be in the middle of the table mix this season. 

The Saints have returned a significant portion of their roster that earned them the eight seed last season, chiefly graduate student goaltender Emil Zetterquist. Zetterquist started 34 games for the club in 2021-22, posting a .904 SV% and a 2.57 GAA. 

“I think he’s an all-league type goaltender,” head coach Brent Brekke said. “Obviously we need to give him some more run support.”

St. Lawrence also brought back 14 forwards and all but one defenseman, creating a wealth of veteran talent up and down the lineup, something that will be key for the Saints in finding ways to create that run support and win games this season. 

“I think experience is a big piece to have in success,” head coach Brent Brekke said. “You’ve got to go through the ups and downs and get that experience under your belt. It’s finding a way to get over the top in tight situations.”

Winning those close games was something the Saints struggled with last year. Their seven ties were the most of any team in the country, and on top that, eight of their 19 losses came in one goal affairs. 

“Our guys compete at a high level, that’s one thing we’ve never questioned,” Brekke said. “It comes down to the execution in those tight games when you have those opportunities (to) finish plays off.” 

With the season on the horizon, only time can tell whether a more experienced Saints roster will be able to make the most of their chances and chase a winning record for the first time since 2016-17. 


Bottom feeders:


Dartmouth Athletics


After finishing last season in a four-way tie for the second-fewest wins in the nation, things might be starting to look up for Dartmouth, who haven’t finished the year with a winning record since 2015-16. 

That’s not to say that The Big Green will come close to .500 on the season, but there definitely seems to be a gap opening between them and some of the other conference bottom feeders. 

Little roster turnover and a large incoming group gives Dartmouth the resources to pick and choose talent when constructing the on-ice roster for the team this season. 

For the second straight year, the Big Green have brought in a sizable freshman class, with seven first-years making their collegiate debuts in Hanover this season. Among them is forward Robert Flinton, a 2021 Lightning draft pick who tallied 21 points with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in his only season of junior hockey. 

Dartmouth also added defenseman John Fusco out of the portal from Harvard. The Maple Leafs prospect is a good two-way defenseman who boasts a solid point shot. His brother Matthew is also committed to the Big Green for the 2023-24 season. 

Crafting such a large roster gives head coach Reid Cashman plenty of flexibility to shake around the lineup as he sees fit throughout the season. 

With the sea of irrelevance lapping at their ankles, the Big Green are looking to make a push toward mediocrity in 2022-23. 


Princeton Athletics


There are several ECAC Hockey teams whom the 2021-22 season was not kind to, Princeton is one of them. The Tigers won a meager eight games in a campaign highlighted by both nine and eight game losing streaks, the culmination of the former being a 9-0 loss to Quinnipiac. 

Picked to finish dead last in the conference in the preseason coaches poll, the spotlight remains on Princeton for all the wrong reasons, something that head coach Ron Fogarty is well aware of. 

“Seeing from the coaches poll, there’s only one way to head, (and that’s) up,” Fogarty said. “I love that, where we’re picked and we’re going to embrace that and utilize that, not for extra motivation, but just what we need to do to get back to relevancy.”

Turning things around for the Tigers means a complete 180 in their style of play, getting away from a timid, soft possession style and leaning into a more hard-nosed, gritty approach on the ice. 

“That’s going to be our identity, we’re going to be the toughest team to play against in the ECAC,” Fogarty said.

If Princeton is to compete this season, that toughness is going to have to translate into keeping pucks out of the front of the net, something they weren’t able to do a year ago, with all three Tiger goaltenders posting save percentages well below .900. 

When all is said and done, it’s likely we’ll see Princeton hanging out in the bottom three of the conference once more come March. 



Yale Athletics


A common phrase is “defense wins championships,” and to an extent, that’s correct, but in order to win championships in hockey, you have to be able to score, and that’s an ability this Yale team has been sorely missing. 

The Bulldogs were backstopped by solid defensive play and decent goaltending from junior Nathan Reid and sophomore Luke Pearson a season ago, but their lackluster offensive production cost them a number of games, as Yale was shut out a total of eight times on the year. 

While the wins weren’t there, head coach Keith Allain was encouraged by the strong back half of the season put on by his group. 

“What I like about my team is really the way our team finished last year and how much growth I saw through the course of the season in the group last year,” Allain said. 

Senior forward Justin Pearson, who led the team in points three seasons ago, left the Bulldogs for greener pastures after a year where he was unable to even halve his freshman production.

Chasing the wrong side of the record books, Yale spent a large portion of last season vying for the worst power play percentage in NCAA history. 

If the Bulldogs are going to win more than prescribed this season, they need goals both in five-on-five and man-advantage situations. But the question becomes who will step up for this team. 

Sophomore forward Briggs Gammill could be the guy to do so. The New Canaan, Connecticut, product managed the second highest point total on the team in 2021-22 and with a year under his belt is sure to do more damage on the scoreboard going forward. 

Regardless of if the Bulldogs see an offensive explosion from a player or two this season, it’s unlikely that will reflect on the team’s overall record in what appears to be another rebuilding year for Yale. 


Brown Athletics


Brown struggled mightily on the scoreboard in 2021-22, managing an NCAA-worst 50 goals for on the season, about 1.6 per game, which translated into a meager 7 win campaign and a bottom-four finish in the conference. 

Its scoring woes seem imminent to persist into this season, as the Bears lost their three top scorers, who accounted for 58% of the team’s goals last year, to graduation and the transfer portal, and are not returning a single skater who tallied more than three goals in ‘21-22. 

They are in desperate need of a breakout season from a veteran forward or an incoming freshman to lead the charge. Freshman Ryan Bottrill might be that guy. Bottrill’s creativity with the puck and passing ability led the 20-year-old to set records for both assists (42) and points (59) this past season with the Maryland Black Bears of the NAHL. 

Head coach Brendan Whittet says the team is taking a one day at a time approach to righting the ship this season. 

“We’re just trying to work each and every day to make sure that when the puck’s dropped … that we’re performing like I think we can,” head coach Brendan Whittet said. “Where that puts us at the end of the year, time will tell.”

Brown’s solid defensive core promises to keep them in games, but with an offense in dire straits, the Bears will be swimming against the current to keep themselves out of last place in ECAC Hockey.