Three years ago, a big freshman class debuted for the MSOE hockey team and helped the Raiders to add 10 wins from the year before. Now, in 2017, that rookie class makes up a nine-member senior class, which welcomes 12 new faces to the roster.
Head coach Mark Ostapina has had a brief preseason to incorporate so many new faces into the squad, but having so many upperclassmen certainly helps. There will be plenty experience on the ice for MSOE this season with a lot of young talent that should make for an exciting season.
That experience, though, is invaluable. The Raiders return eight of their 10 double-digit point-scorers from last season, five of their six regular defensemen, and their starting goaltender from a team that went 12-8-5 and was in a fight for a playoff spot down to the last series of the season.
Sights are set high at MSOE, as the Raiders look to exceed the preseason expectations where league coaches pegged them fifth in the NCHA preseason poll.
Four returning defensemen played in all 25 games last season while the unit helped Red & White goalies combine for a 2.75 goals against average with three shutouts.
Senior captain Zach Simpson and senior assistant captain Clint Garris headline the group, with junior Matthew Romund and sophomore Zack Davis also dressing each game last season. Senior Chris Hinrichs also played in 19 games, including few games in which he put in shifts on a forward line.
Sophomore Nick Redmon returns after playing in 12 games as a rookie. Senior Dylan Dailey was limited to six games last season but has played in 52 career games and brings plenty of experience to the position. Sophomore Mack Stevens also returns after playing in six games.
The defensive unit has also demonstrated its ability to join in the attack, as Romund was fourth on the team with 16 points. He quarterbacked the power play unit and chalked up 12 assists to go with his four goals (two power plays). Garris had 13 points on five goals, all on the power play, and eight assists. Simpson scored three goals to go with nine assists.
Davis set up five goals in his first season, scoring one of his own. Hinrichs (3g, 2a) and Redmon (2g, 3a) also got in the action on offense.
Ostapina has four netminders behind defense this season with senior Zach Woodman back to lead the group. He started 14 times last season with a 2.78 GAA, .912 save percentage, and two shutouts as a junior.
Sophomore Kyle Barone is the only other returning goalie. He dressed a few times as the team's No. 3 option last season, but did not play in a game.
The biggest losses from last season's roster were All-NCHA performer Gage Christianson and Jordan Guth, but that doesn't mean the team is without goal-scorers. Seniors James Ring, Jerad Tafoya, Brett Wagner, and junior Eric Tien are in their fourth season together in the program and each has demonstrated a nose for goal.
Ring scored seven goals last season and tallied 18 assists for 25 points, which was second on the team. Wagner was third on the team with six goals, while Tafoya, Tien, and junior Michael Romund each had five goals. Tafoya and Tien also reached double-figures in assists with 11 and 10, respectively.
Adding even more returning depth is senior Conner Enciso and sophomores Austin Kearns and Kevin Shand back this season. The speedy Enciso played in 22 games last season and tallied seven goals with five assists as a sophomore in 2015-16. He had a goal and two assists last season. Kearns and Shand seemed to acclimate to the college game nicely, each lighting the lamp twice with five assists.
With so much experience returning, the freshman class will have its work cut out for itself in fighting for ice time. However, that is what Ostapina is looking for. Whether it is on the ice in games or in practice pushing the front line guys for playing time, these freshmen will contribute right away.