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Union Starts in the Cellar

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, September 24, 2002

ALBANY - At first, Union College hockey coach Kevin Sneddon wondered what members of the media were thinking about when the voting for the preseason ECAC hockey poll was released.

But then, Sneddon realized the media had a point in selecting the Dutchmen last in its poll.

The coaches have a little more faith in Union, picking the Dutchmen 10th in the 12-team league. The coaches and media polls were released Monday at ECAC media day at Pepsi Arena.

Rensselaer was selected seventh in the media poll, and eighth in the coaches' poll.

The Dutchmen missed the playoffs last season, which was the final year of the 10-team playoff format. All 12 teams make the postseason this year. The Dutchmen finished 11th with an 8-11-3 league record and were 13-13-6 overall. They entered the final month of the season in the race for home ice, but stumbled down the stretch, going 2-6-1.

Union averaged just 2.2 goals in those games, and was shut out twice. Sneddon recruited some proven scorers, but he won't have goalie Brandon Snee back. Snee graduated, which means freshmen Tim Roth and Kris Mayotte will battle for the No. 1 spot.

Sneddon hopes to prove the media wrong. The Dutchmen's .500 overall record was just their third non-losing season in 11 years of Division I hockey.

"We know we're going to be better than that," Sneddon said. "It serves as a little motivation for that. They [the media] feel we're rebuilding. From an outsider's perspective, they're right. There's a lot of unknowns. I'm sure that factored into the media's decision."

Union, which received nine last-place votes from the 21 participants, has finished above 10th place only twice - sixth in 1993-94 and fifth in 1996-97.

"You can't fault anybody for doing it," Sneddon said. "I just don't believe it. I know my players certainly don't feel that way."

The Engineers, who reached the ECAC tournament semifinals last season, aren't a top-five pick in the coaches' poll for the first time since 1996-97. They were selected seventh that season. Their seventh-place ranking in the media poll is RPI's lowest placement since the media started making its selections in 1999-00.

The major question surrounding RPI (10-9-3, 20-13-4 last year) this season is who will pick up the scoring slack now that Marc Cavosie and Matt Murley are gone. The duo combined for 47 goals and 49 assists last season. Cavosie, the ECAC Player of the Year, gave up his senior season to sign a contract with the NHL's Minnesota Wild. Murley graduated, and is in the Pittsburgh Penguins' camp.

Senior forward Carson Butterwick, who scored 13 goals, is the only returning player to score 10 or more goals. That's why RPI coach Dan Fridgen isn't surprised to see where his team is picked.

"You just have to wait and see," Fridgen said. "We've got nine incoming freshmen. It's going to be an evaluation process the whole way, as far as seeing what you have.

"With the returning nucleus, I certainly like what we have. But we need some guys to step up and really take charge this year. You can't gauge that until you hit the ice and get into game situations.

Cornell No. 1

The coaches and media agreed on the top three teams.

Cornell, the defending regular-season champion, is picked to repeat. The Big Red received seven first-place votes in the coaches' poll and earned 116 points, one more than No. 2 Harvard. Cornell got 16 first-place votes from the media, and earned 247 points.

The Crimson, the ECAC tournament champions, got five first-place votes from the coaches and four from the media.

Clarkson, which received a first-place vote in the media poll, is third in both polls.

The coaches and media agreed on the first-ever preseason all-conference team. The honorees are Brown goalie Yann Danis, defensemen Trevor Byrne of Dartmouth and Doug Murray of Cornell and forwards Chris Higgins of Yale and Dominic Moore and Brett Nowak of Harvard.