NCAA hockey preseason top 20: Nos. 11-15

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September 27, 2012 by Casey Hart

Consider this the East Coast-bias portion of my preseason top-20 list. Three of the five teams listed below hail from ECAC Hockey, while other two are current or future members of Hockey East.

Previously: Nos. 16-20 • Near misses
11. HarvardCrimson
2011-12 record: 13-10-11
ECAC finish: third • Ivy finish: third
ECAC Hockey 
tournament: runner-up
USCHO final rank: 18 • My final rank: 18

Start the bias claims if you like, but I really like my former team’s chances to return to its spot as a rankings regular this year. The Crimson obviously needs to turn some of its NCAA-record 11 ties into wins, but the team lost only six times after Christmas last season: twice each to Union, Boston University and rival Yale. Traditionally, Harvard has been at its best when its seniors are its best players, and the Class of 2013 came on strong after the Beanpot. Even with former classmate Louis Leblanc long departed for the professional ranks, there are few senior classes that compare to this group of seven significant contributors led by All-America defenseman Danny Biega (10-25-35) and forward linemates Marshall Everson (13-20-33) and Alex Fallstrom (13-12-25). Each member of that trio was part of the nation’s top power-play unit (27.3 percent) last season. Goaltending, a question mark a year ago, now looks like a strength following an outstanding stretch run by Raphael Girard (.933, 2.14, 6-3-3), who ranked fifth nationally in save percentage. The Crimson also brings in a reinforcement of strong recruits to help ease the pain of losing All-American Alex Killorn (23-23-46).

Danny Biega

Danny Biega • Harvard Athletics/Gil Talbot photo

12. CornellBig Red
2011-12 record: 19-9-7
NCAA tournament: quarterfinalist

ECAC finish: second • Ivy finish: champion
ECAC Hockey tournament: third

USCHO final rank: 10 • My final rank: 14

I love Big Red fans (really!), but if there’s one thing they hate, it’s looking up at their rivals from Cambridge. It was Harvard, though, that trounced Cornell 6-1 in the teams’ ECAC Hockey semifinal and that boasts a more offensively established group of forwards. Greg Miller (14-17-31) was one of just two double-digit goal-scorers for the Big Red last year and is the only one back. He and defenseman Nick D’Agostino (8-12-20) are the elder statesmen in an otherwise-young Big Red attack. Cornell lost just four total skaters and, with Andy Iles (.919, 2.12, 19-9-7) again in net after posting six shutouts in 2011-12, figures to be tough as ever on opposing offenses. Another point in the Big Red’s favor: bouncebackability (which is totally a word). Cornell lost consecutive games just once last season and responded to the throttling at the hands of Harvard by bottling up Austin Smith in a consolation blanking of Colgate, ending Michigan’s season in the NCAA first round and playing Ferris State even through 46 minutes of a one-goal loss in the regional final.

13. Boston UniversityTerriers
2011-12 record: 23-15-1
NCAA tournament: quarterfinalist
Hockey East finish: third
Hockey East tournament: semifinalist

USCHO final rank: 11 • My final rank: 8

I feel like the Terriers, more than any other team, annually benefit from name recognition to overcome personnel losses in preseason polls—and they almost always prove the voters right. BU begins this season without three of last season’s top four scorers and without a second of in-game goaltending experience, but he more I thought about it, the further the Terriers inched up my ranking. They lost a four-year starter in goal and three of last season’s top four scorers but bring back a 40-point man in Matt Nieto (16-26-42), a 20-goal scorer in Wade Megan (20-9-29) and a high-scoring defenseman in Garrett Noonan (16-11-27). And in they-don’t-rebuild-they-reload news, five BU freshmen were taken in this summer’s National Hockey League Draft. The Terriers are ranked behind rivals Harvard and Cornell because of goaltending, but things worked out OK the last time they started a freshman goalie.

14. Notre DameFighting Irish
2011-12 record: 19-18-3
CCHA finish: eighth (tie)
CCHA tournament: quarterfinalist

USCHO final rank: 19th • My final rank: 20th

The Irish sport one of the nation’s top scoring duos in juniors T.J. Tynan (13-28-41) and Anders Lee (17-17-34). A year after combining for 98 points and helping Notre Dame reach the Frozen Four, the pair settled for “only” 75 points during an up-and-down campaign that saw the team start out 10-2-3 but win just nine of its final 25 games. Apart the loss of the third- and fourth-leading scorers, the Notre Dame lineup returns mostly in tact and will strive for a 2012-13 that looks more like 2011 than the start of 2012.

15. QuinnipiacBobcats
2011-12 record: 20-14-6
ECAC Hockey finish: fourth (tie)
ECAC Hockey tournament: quarterfinalist

Only four regulars graduated from last year’s QU lineup. Only one of those was a defenseman, none ranked among the team’s top five scorers and not one was named Eric Hartzell (.913, 2.20, 12-11-6). The Bobcats are loaded with weapons. The line of brothers Connor (13-28-41) and Kellen Jones (14-22-36) and Matthew Peca (8-31-39) was virtually unstoppable by season’s end, but it was Jeremy Langlois (17-9-26) who was the top goal-scorer for the season.

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