Last season, the Saints possessed one of the top power-play units and drew praise from opposing coaches. With Canton native Kyle Flanagan gone to graduation as well as defenseman and man advantage quarterback George Hughes, the Saints rely heavily on Greg Carey, who led the nation in goals and power play goals in 2012-13. Senior and assistant captain Jeremy Wick (14-14-2), who scored six of his 14 goals on the power play in 2012-13, will skate on the top line with Carey and younger brother Matt Carey. In all, St. Lawrence returns nine forwards, including senior and team captain Kyle Essery and juniors Patrick Doherty, Gunnar Hughes, also a co-captain, and Chris Martin. In Saturdays 4-2 exhibition victory over Carleton, Doherty (9-4-13) played right wing on a line with Gunnar Hughes (7-16-23) on the left side, with sophomore Brian Ward, a transfer from Dartmouth, at center. Essery (7-4-11) also centered a line, with Martin (7-11-18) on left wing and sophomore Sean McGovern (0-8-8) on the right side. Freshmen Alex Dahl and Woody Hudson played at center and right wing, with sophomore Alex Hagen on the right, providing the team with a fourth line, a luxury that depth-challenged St. Lawrence didnt have down the stretch and into the playoffs last season.
While St. Lawrence was tied for fourth in the ECAC in goals scored (107) and sixth in goals per game (2.82), it ranked 11th in goals allowed (107) and 10th in goals per game (2.78). With the departure of Hughes, senior Justin Baker (5-21-26) enters the season as the Saints leader on the blue line, with senior Pat Raley (1-6-7) also returning with experience. After being challenged without a full group last season, the Saints will have strength in numbers on defense with four incoming freshman class. Eric Sweetman will line up opposite Baker and Gavin Bayreuther will play opposite Raley. Senior Riley Austin (2-2-4) and sophomore Ross McMullan both return for St. Lawrence, but freshmen Ben Masella and Mike Graham will also be in the mix defensively.
Senior Matt Weninger has been quite busy in his first three seasons with the Saints, as he enters this campaign holding career school records for appearances (98 games), minutes played (5,660 minutes and 28 seconds), saves (2,668) and ties (10). As a junior, Weninger (18-16-4, 2.76 GAA, .915 save %) rarely took a night off, starting in all 38 games, and helped lead the Saints on a six game-unbeaten streak (4-0-2) in the ECAC, which they extended to an 8-1-2 run late in the season. One of the top returning goalies in the league, Weninger will once again be St. Lawrences go-to guy in net this season. With sophomore goalie Kyle MacDonald returning and with the arrival of freshman Tyler Parks, Weninger will be spelled at times and receive an occasional night off over the course of the season.
Last year, the Saints finished tied for fifth place in ECAC Hockey (technically sixth with Dartmouth getting the tiebreaker), just missing out on home ice for the quarterfinal round. This season, St. Lawrence was selected to finish 10th in the coaches poll and seventh in the media poll. The Saints have a strong core of returning players who will be bolstered with depth with the arrival of 11 newcomers to the program, which represent coach Greg Carvels first full recruiting class. This depth is much needed as the team was down to only three lines and five defensemen against Yale in the league playoffs. The Saints should generate another winning season.
Prediction: Fifth in ECAC Hockey.
Times sportswriter Chris Fitz Gerald