By Matt Ferri

Head Coach : Norm Bazin, 3rd season, UMass Lowell – ‘94

Projected finish: Coaches Poll: t-1st Media Poll: 1st

Last season: 28-11-2 overall (16-9-2 in Hockey East, 1st) Hockey East regular season and tournament champions; NCAA Tournament Northeast Region Champions, first appearance to the Frozen Four in school history

Losses: F Riley Wetmore, D Chad Ruhwedel

Newcomers: F Evan Campbell, F Joe Gambardella, F Chris Maniccia, D Michael Kapla

With UMass Lowell alum Norm Bazin behind the reins, the River Hawks seem to be set on course for another spectacular season. In his first two years as head coach, Bazin has manufactured the largest turnaround by a first-year head coach in NCAA Division I hockey history and went further last season when UMass accumulated their most successful record in its 29-year Division I history. UMass Lowell only lost two of its key players from last year and expects to come out big with a strong class of newcomers as well. “Our goal is to win championships. It’s been that way since I got here. We’re excited to start a new season and find out what this new group has in store for us,” said Bazin. The River Hawks were solid on offense (3 g/gm) and ranked first in defense (2.02 g/gm), with Winnipeg Jet’s draft pick goaltender Connor Hellebuyck boasting an astounding .952 save percentage. The offense will return three of its four major weapons from last year, seniors Joseph Pendenza and Derek Arnold and junior Scott Wilson but loses a key forward in Riley Wetmore. Other than the key returners on offense, a lot of the younger guys like Ryan McGrath and Adam Chapie should also help the scoring attack. “We’ll be very deep up front,” said Bazin.

While UMass only lost two key players in Chad Ruhwedel and Riley Wetmore, they had two of the biggest impacts on the ice. Wetmore netted a team leading 16 goals last season (tied with Pittsburgh Penguin’s draft pick Scott Wilson) and 27 points. Ruhwedel was also one of the top defenders in not only the Hockey East but in the entire country.

Bottom line: The River Hawk’s look to take back their spot on top of the juggernaut Hockey East again this year, in the regular season and in the Hockey East tournament. Boston College will present a significant challenge this year but with a combination of  strong returning players and a good cast of new players, UMass Lowell should assert their dominance early. Watch out for Norm Bazin’s crew to either win the Hockey East or come close and to make a run in the national tournament as far or farther than last year.