Review & preview: Three teams flying under the radar for 2011
The past four days have featured a premature attempt at the 2011 preseason poll. Friday’s entry includes three teams that did not finish above .500 and missed the tournament this past season. But what they do have is intrigue in either the form of returning players, a new head coach or a campaign that just fell short of the tournament. In alphabetical order, the teams flying under the radar are:
Albany (2010 record: 5-11)
Outlook: The Great Danes advanced to the America East Tournament final, but were never at full strength after sophomore attackman Joe Resetarits was sidelined after five games because of a broken foot. The return of Resetarits, who led the team in scoring with 13 goals and three assists at the time, should more than make up for the graduation of attackman Dave Brock (34, 6). Add the presence of junior attackman Brian Caufield (10, 22) and incoming Under Armour All American Miles Thompson, and offense doesn’t appear to be an issue for Albany. The defense looks just as solid with junior defensemen Mike Banks (21 groundballs and 10 caused turnovers) and Scott Raffensperger (24 GBs, 6 CTs), fifth-year senior long-stick midfielder Mark Kelly (46 GBs, 26 CTs) and sophomore goalkeeper John Carroll (11.33 goals-against average and .514 save percentage).
Outlook: In their first year in Division I, the Dolphins defeated a pair of eventual NCAA Tournament participants in Denver and Mount St. Mary’s and dropped three one-goal contests. Next season, the team joins the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (replacing Mount St. Mary’s) and immediately should challenge the likes of Siena and Canisius for league supremacy. Jacksonville does bid farewell to goalie Brad Hester (11.32 GAA, .503 save percentage), but that’s the only starter who is gone. An offense that finished eighth in the country in scoring with 12 goals per game could be even more prolific, and a starter that emerges from a goaltending pool that includes junior Alex Discala, sophomore Brendan Niklason and freshmen Nick Antonicci and Mark Destro will be complemented by a starting defense of sophomore Jake Ziegler (22 GBs, 16 CTs) and freshmen Cory Lovrich (23 GBs, 10 CTs) and Garrett Swaim (14 GBs, 5 CTs).
Penn State (2-11)
Outlook: The Nittany Lions have often been called a "sleeping giant." It’s now up to former Cornell head coach Jeff Tambroni to awaken the troops and get them playing to their potential. The offense could be much stronger if sophomore attackman Matthew Mackrides (36, 8) doesn’t transfer, but even so, the unit figures to return five of its top six scorers led by a pair of first-year attackmen in Billy Gribbin (23, 8) and Nick Dolik (21, 6). Graduating two face-off specialists hurts, but the defense – anchored by junior defenseman Matt Bernier (23 GBs) and sophomore defenseman Billy Davis (9 GBs) – could be solid. And if there’s one coach who has blasted preseason expectations out of the water, Tambroni may be able to work wonders.