By Mike Zhe
The last Division 3 season culminated more than six months ago, when St. Norbert beat Oswego for the national championship in Lake Placid, N.Y., but in New England, there’s a sense that not much has changed.
|Goalie Jack Astedt won 15 games for the Panthers last season. (Photo: Plymouth State Athletics)|
In the MASCAC preseason coaches poll released Tuesday, Plymouth State was picked to repeat as league champion. The Panthers won their first MASCAC title a year ago and reached their first NCAA tournament.
In the ECAC East and ECAC Northeast, the top spot in the polls went to the teams – Norwich and Wentworth, respectively -- that finished there last year. The NESCAC does not vote on a preseason poll.
But back to the MASCAC, where few would dispute Plymouth’s right to the preseason top spot. The Panthers collected six of seven first-place votes and 48 points in the poll. They return All-Conference players Kyle Greco (14-22-36), defenseman Richie Zobak (3-19-22) and goalie Jack Astedt (2.28 GAA, .914 save percentage), and just about everyone else.
“We brought everyone back and have six freshmen capable of playing heavy minutes,” said Plymouth coach Craig Russell (Northfield, Vt.).
“Unlike most years in the league, this year’s it’s Plymouth’s to lose,” said UMass-Dartmouth coach John Rolli. “They return a huge number of veterans.”
Only the graduated Mike Owens (South Boston, Mass.) of UMD and returning Salem State standout Nick Lampson (Groton, Mass.) had more points than Greco among MASCAC players.
“He was a go-to guy last year,” said Russell. “I’d anticipate him having a monster year this year.”
Salem State finished second in the poll, receiving 42 points and the othera first-place vote. The Vikings return players like Lampson and goalie Ryan Sutliffe from the 15-9-3 team that lost in double-overtime to Plymouth in last year’s MASCAC championship game.
UMD brings back eight forwards, four defensemen and three goalies from a 16-9-2 team, including sophomore defenseman Stephen Ginand (Milford, Mass.), last year’s top rookie in the league.
The poll is rounded out by Fitchburg State (25 points), Westfield State and Worcester State (18 points apiece), and Framingham State (9 points).
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In the ECAC East, Norwich brings back its entire top line of Pier-Olivier Cotnoir, Kyle Thomas (Waltham, Mass.) and Travis Janke, who combined for 118 points a year ago.
The Cadets (99 points) received nine of 10 first-place votes. They were immediately followed by Castleton State (86) and Babson (72).
UMass-Boston, which received 67 points and the other first-place vote, was fourth, and followed by Skidmore (65), St. Anselm (48), New England College (42), Southern Maine (41), University of New England (19) and St. Michael’s (15).
“I think the league itself is getting stronger,” said Norwich coach Mike McShane (Wakefield, Mass.), who spent his first-place vote on UMass-Boston. “The lower-end teams are not so much the lower-end teams, now.”
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In the ECAC Northeast, defending champion Wentworth (62 points) received seven of eight first-place votes. The Leopards bring back the bulk of the team that won the league title for the first time since 2004 a year ago — including sophomore forward Mike Domsodi and sophomore goalie Alex Peck — and beat Plymouth State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“It’s Wentworth,” said Johnson & Wales coach Erik Noack. “There’s some teams in transition in our league.”
Western New England earned the other first-place vote and 50 points. The poll is rounded out by Curry (48), JWU (38), Nichols (31), Salve Regina (26), Becker (18) and Suffolk (15).