February 6, 2012

Season Preview: NCAA Division I Men's Nos. 11-20

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

We're counting down our preseason top 20 men's teams on LaxMagazine.com, beginning with Nos. 11-20. Check back for in depth previews on our top 10 throughout the week.

Injuries plagued Princeton during a 4-8 season in 2011. Can the Tigers rebound in 2012? Goaltender Tyler Fiorito (above) is one of the nation's best at his position.
© Joe Rogate  

11 Harvard

2011 Record: 10-6 (3-3 Ivy League) Power Ratings: Offense 4; Defense 3; Goalkeeping 3; Faceoff 4

The Crimson has scoring depth, led by attackman Jeff Cohen, who averaged 31 goals his first three seasons. But Harvard needs to get more aggressive on offense. It took only 24.6 shots per game in 2011 while going 1-4 in one-goal decisions to Ivy League competition. If goalie Harry Krieger (9.38 GAA, .540 sv pct) and sophomore faceoff ace Gabriel Mendola (.578) continue to improve — and if a freshman class that includes U.S. U19 stars Daniel Eipp, Sean Mahon and Stephen Jahelka can contribute — Harvard could run down Cornell in the Ivies.

12 Massachusetts

2011 Record: 10-5 (5-2 CAA) Power Ratings: Offense 3; Defense 4; Goalkeeping 4; Faceoff 3

The Minutemen are rock solid on defense, where fifth-year senior goalie Tim McCormack (8.33 GAA, .548 sv pct) rarely has a bad day and close defensemen Jake Smith and Tom Celentani shut down scorers and generate turnovers consistently. Senior midfielder Anthony Biscardi gets the offense going with excellent moves and quickness from up top, while attack mainstays Will Manny (45 points) and Art Kell (44) give UMass the kind of balance that could be the difference in the CAA. Greg Cannella, the team's 18th-year coach, can do special things with so much veteran leadership.

13 Princeton

2011 Record: 4-8 (2-4 Ivy League) Power Ratings: Offense 2; Defense 4, Goalkeeping 5, Faceoff 2

The injuries that destroyed the Tigers en route to a 4-8 finish a year ago especially took a toll on an offense that ranked 55th in Division I and was held to seven goals or fewer in four losses. Sophomore midfielder Tom Schreiber (16 goals, 13 assists) is the igniter, but he is surrounded by question marks. Will junior attackmen Luke Armour and Forest Sonnenfeldt step up? How about junior midfielder Jeff Froccaro? Princeton must ease the pressure on its fine senior-laden defense — even though defenseman Chad Wiedmaier and goalie Tyler Fiorito are among the nation's best at their positions — and junior midfielder Bobby Lucas must lead the team's ineffective faceoff unit back to respectability.

14 Penn State

2011 Record: 7-7 (4-3 CAA) Power Ratings: Offense 2, Defense 3, Goalkeeping 4, Faceoff 3

Second-year coach Jeff Tambroni hopes the Lions don't lean too much on sophomore goalkeeper Austin Kaut, who led the nation in save percentage (.640) and was arguably the best freshman in Division I. Fall injuries to freshman Reed Kennedy and junior Tyler Travis held back the development of the close defense. The midfield is so unproven that, for Penn State to be a CAA contender, attackmen Shane Sturgis and Matt Mackrides might have to produce conference player of the year-caliber seasons.

15 Penn

2011 Record: 8-7 (4-2 Ivy League) Power Ratings: Offense 2, Defense 4, Goalkeeping 3, Faceoff 3

Freshman faceoff specialist Joe McCallion could be a season-changer for the Quakers, whose problems at the "X" caught up with them last year in a season-ending three-game losing streak. Third-year coach Mike Murphy needs to find a pure finisher in the mold of Al Kohart. The return of junior attackman Tim Schwalje, an excellent feeder, could make that happen. The first midfield, a nicely balanced group led by seniors Dan Savage and John Conneely, returns intact. Penn's shooting (25.5 percent, 54 percent on goal) must improve.

16 Bucknell

2011 Record: 14-3 (6-0 Patriot League) Power Ratings: Offense 3, Defense 4, Goalkeeping 3, Faceoff 3

The Bison, 14-3 last year and the class of the Patriot League, are one of the fashionable picks to crash the NCAA tournament final four for the first time. And despite the loss of senior midfielder Charlie Streep to a knee injury in the fall (he's targeting a mid-March return), Bucknell deserves the expectations. The Bison have a well-established system of multiple defenses, and combined with their smarts on offense, Bucknell forces its share of scoring droughts upon the opposition. Senior attackman Billy Eisenreich and sophomore attackman Todd Heritage should keep the offense humming.

17 Yale

2011 Record: 10-4 (3-3 Ivy League) Power Ratings: Offense 3, Defense 3, Goalkeeping 2, Faceoff 5

The best faceoff combination in the game returns in the form of junior Cole Yeager (62.5 percent) and sophomore Dylan Levings (72.6 percent). That should allow the Bulldogs to control tempo. The midfield is solid but lacks a consistent playmaker beyond senior Greg Mahony, and sophomore Jack Meyer leads a group of unproven goalies. Senior attackman Matt Gibson (20g, 16a) could elevate an offense that averaged 11 goals despite taking just 22.6 shots per game.

18 Hofstra

2011 Record: 13-3 (5-1 CAA) Power Ratings: Offense 2, Defense 3, Goalkeeping 4, Faceoff 4

The Pride has excellent tools in the cage and at the faceoff "X." Senior goalkeeper Andrew Gvozden (6.00 GAA, .602 sv pct) and junior faceoff specialist John Antoniades (63 percent) came up big in last year's 13-3 season. They need to play huge while Hofstra retools its depleted offense. Much of the Pride's chances in a tougher CAA will come down to how quickly the midfield meshes together. Junior Ian Braddish (16g, 17a) could be a star in waiting. Senior Brad Loizeaux has recovered from a summer knee injury. Sixth-year senior Steve Serling (spleen injury) could be a big comeback story.

19 Loyola

2011 Record: 8-5 (4-2 ECAC) Power Ratings: Offense 3, Defense 3, Goalkeeping 3, Faceoff 3

Opposing defenses will pay special attention to superb junior attackman Mike Sawyer (31g). A consistent supporting cast needs to emerge — possibly junior midfielder David Butts and junior attackman Patrick Fanshaw — or the Greyhounds will have to win a bunch of 7-6 games to keep pace with Denver, Ohio State and even Fairfield in the much-improved ECAC. While Loyola tries to stabilize its inexperience up the middle at goalie and on faceoffs, it will lean heavily on a transition defense led by junior short-stick midfielder Josh Hawkins.

20 Ohio State

2011 Record: 8-8 (3-3 ECAC) Power Ratings: Offense 3, Defense 3, Goalkeeping 3, Faceoff 3

The Buckeyes, who finished .500 against a difficult schedule last year, don't have a glaring weakness, which should keep them in most games. The core of the starting defense is back, led by redshirt senior and reigning ECAC Defensive Player of the Year Matt Kawamoto. He and sophomore goalkeeper Greg Dutton could lead the Buckeyes into 10-win territory by regularly keeping opponents in single-digit scoring. Junior attackman Logan Schuss (32g, 20a) and versatile junior midfielder Dominique Alexander lead an offense that was equally explosive and inconsistent in 2011.

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