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The Good, The Bad, & The Future: NEC

We continue our conference recaps with the Northeast Conference.

Gretchen McMahon Photography

With the offseason now in full swing, it’s time to look back at the 2017 season! We’ll dissect all the individual teams from worst to first based off my final Power Rankings later during the summer.

But first, we’ll dissect each conference and return The Good, The Bad, & The Future series. We won’t talk a ton about each team until the individual dissections, but this should be a good quick glimpse at each team. Yesterday, we did the independent teams. We’ll now take a look at the teams from the Northeast Conference.

So let’s get started!

Wagner Seahawks (6-9)

The Good: The Seahawks had another six win season, which is better than previous years when they had one or two wins, or even none at all.

The Bad: Two of their six wins in 2017 were different than in 2016. Instead of Manhattan and Sacred Heart, they swapped with Lafayette and Mount St. Mary’s. Even with that, it’s five of the bottom six teams in my Power Rankings, lost to the 65th best team in triple overtime, and their best win was the Mount (ranked 55th). Had they been on the other end of one goal losses to Manhattan and Mercer, they’d finish above .500 for the first time in program history.

The Future: Many of the team’s leaders and starters will be back for 2017, including top point getter Andrew Streilein, defenseman Andrew Park, and sophomore goaltender Matt Sefcik.

Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (4-10)

The Good: The Mount went 3-1 in all of March, including wins against Bellarmine and Bryant. Chris DiPretoro once again led the way on offense with 29 goals and 38 points.

The Bad: Since 2011, the Mountaineers have usually hovered around the six-win mark, reaching that in 2016. This year was their lowest number of wins since a 1-15 mark in 2014. It’s tough to tell who this team is as well. The Mount almost could have gone 4-0 if they defeated Robert Morris in overtime. Plus, their offense reached double digit goals in only four games, going 2-2 in those games. If they can get more March-like performances in 2018, they can definitely compete in the NEC.

The Future: Many contributors are returning in 2018, such as DiPretoro and defenseman Daniel Barber. FOGOs Shawn Raum and Shawn Milione are back as well, and a handful of underclassmen got some time last season.

St. Joe’s Hawks (5-9)

The Good: The Hawks had their best win of the season against MAAC champion Monmouth in overtime back in March. The attack duo of Chris Blewitt and Jason Kelly were St. Joe’s leaders on offense all season without the services of Mike Rastivo.

The Bad: The Rastivo injury definitely hurt the Hawks, and I thought the Hawks would have picked up their slack after an 0-3 start with losses to Maryland, Penn, and Duke. They notched three straight wins, but it was downhill from there, losing six straight games, including their final two in overtime, to eliminate themselves from NEC contention.

The Future: There will be plenty of losses, especially on defense and at midfield. Probably their biggest loss will be goaltender T.J. Jones, who was solid for the Hawks during his time at school. I’m not sure if Rastivo can play another senior and use a redshirt or if he wants to, but if he comes back, the Hawks attack unit will be one of the tops in the NEC. Face-offs are also a question with Danny Manning and Mike Lanham graduating. There are some very important holes to fill for Taylor Wray’s squad.

Robert Morris Colonials (9-7)

The Good: From 3-11 in 2015 back to above .500 this year, it’s no surprise why Andrew McMinn was named the NEC’s Coach of the Year. The Colonials had a high-powered offense that even turned heads as early as the first game of the regular season against Penn State. Plus, many of their players aren’t seniors.

The Bad: At 9-4 and undefeated in NEC play, it appeared that Bobby Mo would host the NEC Tournament. Instead, they got stymied by Bryant’s defense and blew a lead against Hobart in a high-scoring season finale at home. That meant they’d have to face Bryant again, and they lost, 12-3. A bad end to what was a pretty good season in Robert Morris terms.

The Future: As I mentioned above, there’s only three seniors graduating this year, and one of them, Alexander Bohl, was a starter for most of the season. Tyson Gibson, Matt Schmidt, and Adrian Torok-Orban return to lead the offense, while the entire starting defense and goaltender Alex Heger will also return. They should compete for an NEC championship once again, and let’s hope they don’t stumble towards the finish line.

Sacred Heart Pioneers (9-7)

The Good: Heach coach Jon Basti led the Pioneers to their first winning record in nine years and a spot in the NEC Tournament after a 2-14 campaign in 2016. He produced an MLL draft pick in midfielder Brian Masi and has two sophomores in attackman Joe Saggese and midfielder Max Tuttle. And don’t forget their freshman keep Brooks Dutton.

The Bad: Dutton suffered an injury early in the regular season finale against Wagner. Greg Price came in to replace him and won the game. But he couldn’t hold off Hobart’s offense in the NEC semifinals.

The Future: Sacred Heart has a huge junior class staying for another year. But outside of Masi and Bryce Jurk at midfield, the Pioneers also lose top LSM Ryan O’Donoghue, who was one of the top LSMs in the country in terms of caused turnovers. Chase Godfrey at defense also goes. Look for the junior class to lead the way and fill some of the big holes for the Pios in 2018.

Hobart Statesmen (9-7)

The Good: Hobart, or “Hobert” as some like to call it, was once again one of the top teams in the NEC, hosting the NEC Tournament as well. They had some notable points in the season, beginning with a 21-15 loss to Penn State, which raised some eyebrows across the nation. They also doubled up on Cornell, 16-8, and took care of Bryant in their regular season meeting, 13-6. Attackman Frank Brown also received the NEC Player of the Year award and was an Honorable Mention on the USILA All-American list.

The Bad: If Hobart’s offense couldn’t score, they were toast, which is similar to most teams in the nation. In a three-game stretch in early March, they scored six goals in all three games and lost all three. They lost to Sacred Heart by a goal and scored only four goals against Bryant in the NEC title game. Their only win was an 8-7 overtime finish against St. Joe’s. Offense will be a big question mark heading into 2018. Brown, Sean Donnelly, Max Romm, Mark Darden, and Tanner John all graduate. That’s not all, as defensemen Arik Andreen and Grant Soucy, along with defensive midfielders Noel McGuinness and Sean Cunningham and goaltender Jackson Brown, also leave. Big holes to fill for Grey Raymond and company.

The Future: They do have some parts that can use to help ease their losses. SOPHOMORES Bryan Hancock and Chris Aslanian had solid second years. Aslanian was most known for his six goal and seven assist performance against Wagner this season. FRESHMAN Justin Scott made our All-Freshman team with 29 goals last year, good for second on the team. Senior D. Bennett Moore is the only returning starter on defense and both face-off guys, J. Andrew Spallanzani and Matthew Pedicine, also return. It will be a challenge for the Statesmen to get back to where they’ve been the past couple of seasons.

Bryant Bulldogs (11-8)

The Good: After a one year absence, the Bulldogs returned to the top of the NEC and defeated MAAC champion Monmouth in the Play-In game, before they bowed to eventual champion Maryland in the First Round. Tucker James was once again their top player with 43 goals and 70 points, while junior goaltender James Werner slowly began to develop his play late into the season.

The Bad: Along with a couple of really good wins (Yale & Monmouth), there were some very questionable losses along the way, such as Drexel and Mount St. Mary’s. It was a so-so season if you look at the record, but the Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament once again thanks to their zone defense. James graduates, and that will be a big loss to their team. His attack buddy, Brett Baker, is also gone, along with midfielders Tom Forsberg and Ryan Sharpe, and defenseman Kyle Mummau.

The Future: Cam Ziegler, Kyle Cornell, and Tom Kennedy return as seniors on offense, while Chas South and Anthony Johnson return on defense to project Werner. Kenny Massa will also be a senior, so it will be a very big class to lose next season. Expect to see plenty of time from rising sophomores and juniors as well, such as Jake Buonaiuto and Jake Fiske.