Date Posted:11/19/2002,  8:00AM

2002-03 Men's Ice Hockey Preview

BRUNSWICK, Maine - The Bowdoin College men?s ice hockey program carries with it a tradition like few other teams in the nation. It is a legacy of success that was re-kindled last season with a trip to the NCAA Tournament and an 18-6-3 record. The 2002-03 season will likely be a challenging one for the Polar Bears, however, as the squad lost seven seniors, including All-American forward Mike Carosi and All-NESCAC defenseman Brian Shuman. Nevertheless, U.S. College Hockey Online ranked the Polar Bears ninth in the nation in their preseason poll and coach Terry Meagher remains optimistic entering his 20th year at the helm of the Polar Bears.

?We lost a great deal of leadership from our senior class last season,? says Meagher. ?That?s the thing about having good teams- you graduate good people. But we?ve been extremely pleased with what we?ve seen so far from this year?s senior class both on and off the ice.?

One thing Meagher won?t have to worry about is a dearth of talent at any position. He returns four top defensemen from last season, including two senior captains, Ryan Seymour (Fredericton, N.B.) and Jared Porter (Duxbury, Mass.). Sophomore Nate Riddell (Nanaimo, B.C.) returns after a stellar freshman season that was cut short by injury. He was second on the team with 18 assists last year. The veteran defensive corps will also include seniors Kevin Castonguay (Lewiston, Maine) and Chad Hart (Waterville, Maine). Juniors Peter Nasveschuck (Rutland, Vt.) and Andrew DeMarco (Winthrop, Mass.) will join sophomore Brooks Boucher (Lewiston, Maine). First-year Jesse Minneman (Bloomingdale, Ill.) will also see playing time at defense this winter.

Perhaps the key to Bowdoin?s success last year was the play of then-sophomore Mike Healey in goal. In his first full season as a starter, Healey?s play in net saved the Polar Bears in numerous contests, as he posted a 2.16 goals-against-average and a .912 save percentage. Sophomore Dave Sandals (Wallingford, Conn.) and first-year George Papachristopoulos (D.D.O., Que.) will back-up Healey in net.

?Mike was outstanding last season between the pipes,? according to Meagher. ?In a lot of ways, he is critical to what we do. It all starts in goal, and we?ll be counting on him to perform at that high level again this year.?

Bowdoin?s roster lists 18 players as forwards, which gives Meagher numerous options at the position. Top scoring threats senior Sean Starke (Montreal, Que.) and junior Chris Pelletier (Nashua, N.H.) return, hoping to improve on their combined 29 goals and 27 assists from last winter. Senior Adam Mantin (Wyckoff, N.J.) will look to take advantage of Starke and Pelletier?s power forward play to improve on his 10-goal, 12-assist output of 2001-02.

Upperclassmen Albert Mayer (Providence, R.I.), Mike O?Neill (Tewksbury, Mass.), Marty Brisebois (Verdun, Que.) and Michael Stevens (Miramichi, N.B.) will see time at forward this season. The huge sophomores class of Adam Mackie (Charlottetown, P.E.I.) Matt Kovacich (Brookfield, Wisc.), Shannon McNevan (Peterboro, Ont.), Chris Donnelly (Canton, Mass.) and Bobby Cavanaugh (Warwick, R.I.) make up one of the most critical units of the team and will be looking to fight for ice time this season.

?One of the most critical pieces to a team?s success is the play of their sophomores,? according to Meagher. ?Our freshman class is very talented and we expect a great deal from them. But the most important class is always your sophomore class. How they improve from their first to their second year can make or break a season.?

The freshman class is indeed talented up front and will see significant ice time this winter. Newcomers Kevin Richardson (Holbrook, N.Y.), John Landry (Montreal, Que.), Adam Dann (Burlington, Vt.), Andy Nelson (Marston Mills, Mass.), Matt Roy (Greenville, R.I.) and Mike Chute (West Hartford, Conn.) have already contributed to intense pre-season practice sessions and will look to make an impact right away.

The always-tough NESCAC schedule promises to be tough again this winter as the Polar Bears host arch-rival Colby in their first regular-season home game on December 3. A string of home contests in January include home games against Williams and Middlebury on the 17th and 18th, and a four-day stretch in February includes a return trip to NCAA foe Norwich on the 7th, at St. Michaels on the 8th and at Colby on the 11th.

Meanwhile, Meagher creeps closer to former coach Sid Watson?s career wins mark of 326. Currently, Meagher has 314 victories and has averaged 16.5 wins per season since taking over the program in 1983. Another average-win season and Coach Meagher will eclipse Watson?s mark. Already, Bowdoin can boast of being the only Division III school with two 300-win coaches. But that is seemingly just a footnote to Meagher?s squad this season, as they hope to take the next step in 2002-03.

?It?s going to be tough, with our schedule, to get another at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament,? according to Meagher. ?We were fortunate last year, but this year, we?d like to control our own destiny by getting that automatic bid, if we could. Our goal as a team is always to make the playoffs. The next step is to win in the playoffs and, eventually, to win a championship.?

Bowdoin opens their season this weekend when they travel play at St. Anselm on Nov. 22 and at the University of New England on Nov. 23.