The Bulldog men's hockey team will be looking to take one more final step in 2011-12. A year ago, Adrian College was just one win away from the NCAA Division III National Championship as they fell 4-3 in the championship game to St. Norbert College in an All-West Region final in Minneapolis. This year, the team will have several questions entering the season. The biggest question is how do you replace a senior class that went 102-12-2 over a four-year period and rewrote all sorts of record books in the process.
"I know you can't replace our senior class and the foundation that was laid," said fifth-year head coach Ron Fogarty. "This year's team has a big advantage over the guys four years ago in that our program is now established as a winner. We have a talented group of players coming back and those guys will be able to transition the newcomers. I've been asked about this year's team and honestly we will not know what we have until game one. I feel like the talent is still good and the rest will come with game experience."
The Bulldogs certainly realize that teams will be gunning for them with the idea that they are vulnerable after losing seven of the top 10 scorers from a year ago. But keep in mind that the cupboard is far from being bare. Junior Zach Graham (Palmerston, Ont.) was a dependable player and scorer in 2010-11. Graham was one of eight guys to play in all 30 games and ranked third on the team with 36 points. He scored 15 goals and added 21 assists while sporting one of the top shooting percentages (.214). Graham had eight power-play goals and three game-winning goals. In addition, he recorded a goal and assist in the NCAA Tournament run.
Senior Jordan Watts (Oakville, Ont.) made a significant impact in his first year with the team in 2010-11. Watts ranked sixth on the team in scoring with 23 points contributing 11 goals and 12 assists in 27 games. Watts recorded a hat trick in his first game with the Bulldogs against Marian University and also had a two-goal night at Buffalo State.
Sophomore Josh Cousineau (Penetang, Ont.) played in 22 games as a freshman and responded with 17 points including six goals and 11 helpers. Cousineau missed the final two games of the season due to injury which really hurt Adrian's depth in the NCAA Tournament. Cousineau will be looked upon as a guy who will greatly increase his production in 2011-12 as Adrian searches for point-makers.
Newly appointed captain junior Andrew Dovey (Burlington, Ont.) will also be asked to increase his offensive numbers. Dovey scored nine goals and chipped in five assists for the Bulldogs and had a +13 rating with three game-winning goals. He scored a goal in the NCAA semifinal against Oswego State and had an assist in the NCAA championship game against St. Norbert.
Do not look for Adrian to change its style of play as they work in newcomers into the lineup. On paper the newest recruiting class is smaller in stature, but quickness and speed is what fans can expect.
"We will not lose our physical presence with guys finishing their checks and competing," said Fogarty. "Our intent was to recruit a faster team and if people are looking for the biggest difference from the past four years it might be that aspect."
One addition to the lineup on defense is a familiar face in senior Chris Stansik (Livonia, Mich.), who missed last year due to injury. Stansik is a proven player whose return bolsters the team's defensive intensity. Stansik has played in 85 career games and recorded 28 goals and 76 assists for a total of 104 points. He is an amazing +122 in his career and also has 12 power play goals. He can set the MCHA record for career points by a defenseman with a solid season surpassing last year's record setter Quinn Waller.
"Having Chris back is huge for us," said Fogarty. "He is a team captain who leads by example and getting a healthy All-American player back on the blue line means more added depth to the defense. His knowledge of the game and situations makes him a real leader on the ice."
The Bulldogs will open the season in quest of their fifth straight MCHA regular season title on Saturday, October 22 at SUNY-Geneseo. The team's home opener will also be their MCHA opener on Friday, November 4 against Northland.