2013-14 SUNY Potsdam Men's Hockey Season Preview
Renovations to Maxcy Hall Ice Arena forced the SUNY Potsdam men's hockey team to temporarily relocate to Massena Arena last season. The Bears practiced in Cheel and Pine Street Arenas and seemed to constantly be on the move. For other teams, that could have been a distraction. Instead Potsdam posted a 6-4 "home" record in Massena and clinched its third playoff berth in three seasons.
The Bears head into the 2013-14 campaign with a lot in their favor. They open a new facility on Nov. 2. Their NCAA probation is behind them and they possess a deep and veteran roster at all positions. They have also been given the scheduling gift of 16 games in Maxcy Hall. The arena has been a home ice advantage where the Bears have posted a 215-210-21 record since 1976. There's a lot to feel good about.
"We are extremely excited about every aspect of the upcoming season," said fifth year Head Coach Chris Bernard. "We feel great about our personnel. We feel excellent about our culture and the atmosphere around our team. The guys are certainly contributing to that with their work ethic and focus. Being in this building and all it has to offer gives us an opportunity to simply go out and focus on the job at hand and not worry about the logistics of travel and everything that goes with it. The players can simply get information from the staff, be challenged to apply that information and then execute daily."
Despite the attention of the new arena, Bernard said the Bears haven't lost sight of team expectations.
"I don't think we've had any degree of distraction," said Bernard. "I think they've all just got an appreciation for the opportunity that's in front of them and the amenities they have here now. They know that comes with responsibilities. They understand that if you're going to have a pro atmosphere, then you're going to have pro expectations. That's what we're trying to continue to cultivate."
Potsdam returns nine of its 12 top scorers from a balanced offense, all of who reached double-digits in points. The Bears also keep all three goalies from a year ago, each with significant playing time. While they lost co-captains Matt Viola and Brett Waters to graduation, three veteran leaders step into their shoes. All-SUNYAC senior forward Mike Arnold (Didsbury, Alberta/Kingston Voyageurs) exchanges the "A" on his jersey for a "C". Senior defenseman Nick Avgerinos (Bolton, Ontario/Georgetown Raiders) will continue to serve as an assistant captain, while junior forward Ryan Miller (Didsbury, Alberta/Arizona State) dons an "A" for the first time.
"Mike has the respect of our players and staff with his professional, no nonsense demeanor," Bernard said "He is a great example of an honest, two-way player who happens to be one of the most dangerous scorers in the SUNYAC. Ryan is a tenacious worker. His guts and positive attitude will influence our team greatly. Nick is a talented guy as well as a steady and consistent presence for our players."
At forward, the Bears have 10 veterans returning this season and five new faces. Senior Adam Place (Scarborough, Ontario/Bowmansville Eagles) is back after leading the team in scoring with nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points and suiting up for all 26 games. Arnold broke out last season with a personal best 16 goals and four assists for 20 points in 22 games. He is Potsdam's key threat on the power play with a team-high six goals. His performance earned him a spot on the all-conference second team.
Four juniors are back with the offense in 2013-14. Trevor Cope (Swartz Creek, Mich./Atlanta Jr. Knights) totaled two goals and 17 assists for 19 points, while seeing action in every game. Ken Simon (Norwell, Mass./Philadelphia Revolution) had a career year with eight goals and six assists and led the Bears with three game-winning goals. Zach Blake (Campbellford, Ontario/Plattsburgh State) had a solid debut season with Potsdam, posting five goals, including three on the man-advantage, and eight assists for 13 points. Miller was on the ice in every contest last year and chipped in two goals and an assist.
Billy Pascalli (Deer Park, N.Y./New York Bobcats) headlines a strong group of four sophomores. The Deer Park, N.Y. native contributed 17 points (7g, 10a) in 24 games to place him fifth on the team's scoring list. Matt Thompson (Anchorage, Alaska/Kenai River Brown Bears) notched five goals and five assists in 23 games. Todd Thomas (Davidsville, Pa./Hartford Wolfpack) (3g, 7a) and Jake Rivera (Pacific Palisades, Calif./Hartford Wolfpack) (2g, 3a) saw significant ice time in 2012-13 and are expected to build off solid starts to their careers.
Five freshmen look to complement an already potent offense this year. Jake Butler (Atlanta, Ga./Smith Falls Bears) becomes the second Georgian to put on a Bears jersey, while Alex Goodhue (Traverse City, Mich./Atlanta Jr. Knights) makes the trek east from Michigan and Logan Brown (North Woodstock, N.H./Boston Rangers) heads west from New Hampshire. The trio will battle for playing time with New Yorkers Vinny Caligiuri (Shoreham, N.Y./Wolfpack) and Tommy Telesca (Selden, N.Y./New York Bobcats).
Seven of the eight defensemen on the squad are veterans. That should help the Bears improve their defensive numbers, which Bernard said is a priority.
"Those numbers were not reflective of a championship caliber program. And so I think we've simply got to be better in our own end. That comes from hard work, attention to detail, veteran guys stepping up and playing system hockey."
The Bears have the tools to accomplish that goal, starting with Avgerinos (5a, 23gp) and junior Erick Ware (Huntsville, Ala./Kenai River Brown Bears) (4g, 6a, 26gp). The duo stands out among an experienced group as threats at both ends of the ice. Senior Kevin Carpenter (3a) is another steady defender who returns after manning the blue line in all but one game last season.
Three other juniors and a sophomore are back as well. Juniors Dan McCamey (Dayton, Ohio/Minnesota Flying Aces) (5g, 4a, 24gp), Max Fogel (Williamsville, N.Y./Buffalo Jr. Sabres) (1g, 1a, 20gp) and Kevin O'Connor (Ann Arbor, Mich./New Mexico Mustangs) (19gp) will push each other to get into the lineup. Brad Campagna (Monroe, N.Y./New York Bobcats), the lone sophomore, saw time in 15 games last season. Freshman Nick Casacci (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Connecticut Oilers) completes Potsdam's defensive corps.
Senior Shane Talarico (Greensburg, Pa./Elmira College) and sophomores Austin Keiser (Dunwoody, Ga./Boston Bulldogs) and Jon Hall (Dexter, N.Y./Stouffville Spirit) each had very impressive moments last season and continue to battle for starts.
"All of the goalies are healthy and ready to go," Bernard said. "All have proven that they have the ability to play well at this level and there's going to be daily completion for ice time. They are outstanding teammates to each other and everybody else on our roster. So I think our guys are confident that whoever is in the net on a given night is going to give us a chance to win."
Keiser saw the majority of time between the pipes last season. He posted a 5-9-1 record, a 4.17 goals against average and a .884 save percentage. He capped his season with a 29-save performance in the playoff clinching 2-1 win over Cortland on Feb. 16. Talarico was 3-4 last year, earning two victories in an emergency back up role. His season highlights included back-to-back overtime victories over Brockport and Geneseo on Feb. 8 and 9 to keep the Bears playoff hopes alive. Hall battled through injuries that severely limited his playing time. However, he showed glimpses of his ability with three strong starts last January, including a 33-save effort to earn his first collegiate victory at Western New England on Jan. 11.
The Bears look to climb the SUNYAC standings this year, battling through the always challenging 16-game conference slate. Potsdam's non-conference schedule includes first-time meetings with the University of New England, Johnson & Wales and St. Anselm. The Hawks arrival will mark Bears Hall of Fame Coach Ed Seney's first game in Maxcy as an opposing coach. Potsdam will host SUNY Canton for the first time as a NCAA team. The Bears will also face perennial powers Castleton State and Hobart.
Potsdam opens its season on Nov. 1 with a SUNYAC battle at North Country rival Plattsburgh State at 7 p.m. The Bears return home the following day to celebrate the Grand Re-Opening of newly renovated Maxcy Ice Arena. Potsdam will host New England at 7 p.m. and induct the program's 1995-96 SUNYAC Championship team into the Bears Hall of Fame during the first intermission.