Entering the 2016-17 season, there were plenty of question marks surrounding the men’s hockey program. The team had a new head coach and a new assistant coach, lost all three of their top centers and lost several recruits in the coaching change.
At least in my mind, they silenced all the doubters. To win 17 games in the first year of Morris’ term and lock up their third straight first round bye is impressive enough, but to have done it while battling the injuries this team faced is nothing short of remarkable. Their freshman class came in and made an immediate impact, and other players took their games to the next level in an up-and-down season.
Ben Finkelstein played every game for the Saints, put up 23 points on defense and was one of the most consistent defenders the Saints had. Carson Gicewicz notched 17 points as a rookie playing big minutes for a significant portion of the schedule and Alex Gilmour had 9 points in 18 games after joining halfway through the year.
Mike Ederer found his game around the midway point of the season, finishing with 9 goals, and though the points may not have been there for stretches, his skating with the puck looked much more confident than it did at any point last year, and that’s a good sign for SLU.
Joe Sullivan was Joe Sullivan but better, putting up 27 points and generally being a pain to play against. Nolan Gluchowski set a new career high in points and Mike Marnell scored 13 goals in 15 ECAC games, becoming a legitimate scoring threat whenever the puck was on his stick.
Gavin Bayreuther lead the Saints in scoring for the second straight year, and is now displaying his goal scoring acumen in the AHL with the Texas Stars. Drew Smolcynski and Woody Hudson are both playing in the ECHL now and other seniors could be on their way to the pros.
Kyle Hayton won the Ken Dryden Award as the top goalie in the ECAC, posting a 13-8-4 record with a 1.91 GAA and a .938 save percentage and was once again one of the top goalies in the entire country.
Even with all their success, a third straight trip to Lake Placid wasn’t in the cards for the Skating Saints, as they dropped a tough three games series to Quinnipiac at home. But each and every one of the guys on that team can hold their heads high for playing a tough schedule with a depleted roster and making it as far as they did.
The seven seniors who skated, along with equipment manager Nick Bayruns, dedicated more hours to this program than we could imagine, and they’re impact is difficult to measure. They helped turn St. Lawrence back into a contender in the ECAC and represented the program with class over four years. The goals, blocked shots, and wins are just the icing on the cake.
The Saints return a strong team for next year and bring in some really strong recruits. Year two of the Mark Morris era should bring even more success than year one did, and that leaves us fans with lots to look forward to while we wait for the offseason to end. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy watching our alumni light it up in professional leagues across the world. Not a bad way to live.