WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College men's ice hockey head coach Bill Kangas is ready for his 24th season at the Eph helm.
"We have a committed group of guys who understand the importance of competing hard daily in practice in preparation for competing at a high level in games," said Kangas. "We're excited for the season. We have a very good team with six seniors that have and will play important roles. The team culture is positive and that only bodes well for the season."
Lost to graduation were All-American and second leading scorer last season, Justin Troiani, and four-year starting goalie Ryan Purdy. "Replacing Purdy in goal is difficult," Kangas said. "But we're very confident in the three goalies we have."
"Sophomore Sean Dougherty is the guy we'll be leaning on as we begin the season," Kangas said. Dougherty played four games for the Ephs last season and stopped 121 of 128 shots for a .945 save percentage. Backing up Dougherty in net will be junior Sam Kurland and first year Noah Klag. Klag is coming to Williams from a season in junior league hockey.
Newly hired assistant coach James LaCour will coach the Eph goalies this season. LaCour played for four years at Salem State. The Ephs haven't had a goalie coach in at least 12 years, so he expects LaCour to contribute to the success of the trio that will be competing to get time in the net this season.
In addition to losing Purdy in goal, Williams graduated four defensemen.
"The positive is we have all of our forwards returning in addition to six freshmen who we believe will contribute right away, " Kangas said. "All five senior forwards understand how important it is for them to play hard in both ends of the rink to take pressure off the young defensemen."
Leading the Ephs on the blue line will be senior Mike Brofft, who has the ability to play at a high level in all situations. Brofft tallied three goals and registered 10 assists last winter. He will also be counted on to be a mentor for the young defenders as they make the adjustment to college hockey.
Along with Brofft, there are two other returning defensemen who saw quite a bit of ice time last season and three highly recruited first years. Returning to the blue line are sophomores David Jarrett and Brian McNamara and junior forward Paul Steinig will also see some action at defense. Jarrett and Steinig each netted three goals last season. First years Zander Masucci, Greg Johnson and Taylor Carmola have been acclimating quickly in practice and will be playing important minutes as the season gets progresses.
Offensively, the Ephs return 69 of the 82 goals they tallied in 2011-12, including last year's leading scorer junior Nick Anderson. Anderson netted 11 goals and registered 13 assists in his first season with the Ephs. He has been named one of this season's assistant captains and he will be looked to for leadership on and off the ice.
The five senior forwards include captains John Wickman (3 goals, 10 assists), Mark Lyons (5 goals, 8 assists), Cody Skinner (6 goals, 5 assists), 2010-2011 leading scorer Eric Rubino (6 goals, 4 assists last season) and assistant captain Evan Dugdale (7 goals, 8 assists).
Anderson and Rubino led the Ephs with two game-winning goals in 2011-12.
Underclassmen forwards who will be looked to for scoring are sophomore Peter Mistretta (6 goals, 5 assists) and junior Matt Doyle (5 goals, 5 assists). Freshmen Matt Werner and Mike Erickson, both coming to Williams from time spent in junior hockey, are also expected to be in the mix.
"Every season revolves around the seniors," Kangas said of the core of his team. "Everyone of those six is a critical component to the team. Everybody has role and everybody also has to play a little bit more than they have in the past, and that should be expected of this group. They represent the team well. They are really connected: they trust each other, work well together and for each other, and are really close friends. Each one is willing to put in their time to help the team succeed."
Last season the Ephs finished fifth in the New England Small College Athletic Conference with an 8-8-2 conference record and were 12-9-5 overall. The Ephs were plagued by injuries throughout last season. However, Kangas noted, "We're healthy today. We're confident with everybody we put on the ice. We're in great shape as [strength coach] Rob Livingstone has done an unbelievable job getting us prepared to this point."
The Ephs will open the 2012-13 campaign with the always-tough trip to Maine where they will face Bowdoin on Nov. 16 and Colby on Nov. 17.
Last season's opening weekend against the same two teams saw both games end in overtime. "We're in a pretty good place as a team right now," said Kangas. "We're excited for the season to begin."
The Ephs' first home action will come over Thanksgiving break when they host two teams from Minnesota – St. Olaf on Nov. 23 and Gustavus Adolphus on Nov. 24. Both contests will begin at 7 p.m. in Lansing Chapman Rink.