#LMranks: No. 18 Fairfield Stags (Men)
|Michael Roe is back at the
faceoff X for Fairfield, which bodes well for the Stags in an ECAC
that has several good specialists.
© Greg Raymond
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* Out of 5
M Sam Snow (Sr.)
A potential All-American candidate, Snow pumped in 35 goals and dished out eight assists in 2012, leading the Stags in scoring. With linemate Brent Adams, considered among the top middies in the ECAC, and attackman John Snellman having graduated, Snow should be asked to carry even more of the load this season, though the dynamics will be different — Adams routinely attracted the pole, and Snellman could stretch the field. Snow is multi-dimensional, though, after spending the first several games last year at attack before shifting to the midfield.
M Colin McLinden (So.)
McLinden started all 16 games as a freshman, and he totaled 27 points (8 goals, 19 assists) playing alongside a talented group of elder statesman. His development — initiating and finishing — will largely determine the kind of offense Fairfield runs in 2013. Behind Snow, McLinden is the second-leading returning scorer; he played a key role in setting up several late scores in the one-goal wins.
The presence between the pipes. All-American Charlie Cipriano, one of the top goalkeepers in the country for the last few years, is gone. Fairfield has four goalies on its roster —Jack Murphy, Conor Fraylick, Tom Branca and Erich Wischmeyer — competing for the starting spot. Branca is a well-regarded lefty freshman. The Stags also lost well-respected defensive coordinator Kevin Conry to Maryland, and coach Andy Copelan replaced him with former Vermont assistant and Colgate standout Colin Hulme.
Michael Roe, a transfer from Drexel before last season, is back at the faceoff X, and that's a good thing for Fairfield. Roe won .608 percent (175-for-288) of his draws a year ago, establishing himself as one of the top specialists in the country. That's critical for any team, but especially in the ECAC, which also returns Denver's Chase Carraro, Oho State's Shawn Kaplan and Air Force's Bryan Price.
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Record: 12-4, 4-2 ECAC
In a Nutshell: One of the best seasons in program history came to a close with a 14-7 loss to Loyola in the ECAC championship, as Fairfield couldn't capture the postseason's automatic qualifier. The Stags were on the NCAA tournament bubble, and they were likely one of the last at-large teams cut from consideration. Fairfield posted a program-record 12 wins, including a school-best seven-game win streak to start the season — three of which came in overtime. Of the Stags' four losses, three came against tournament teams, and the other was against conference foe Ohio State. Looking back, a case could be made that the ECAC was the best conference in the country, and that Fairfield was the third-best team in the group.
High Point: Upsetting the second-seeded Buckeyes in the ECAC tournament a week after losing to them 8-3 was satisfying, but it wasn't quite as sweet as Fairfield's 9-8 overtime defeat of then-No. 10 Denver. The Stags were trailing by a goal with less than a minute to go, but Sam Snow scored the equalizer with 19 seconds left in regulation, then buried the golden goal 32 seconds into the extra session. The victory tied the program's single-season wins record and, at the time, put Fairfield squarely in NCAA tournament discussion.
Low Point: Debatably the only "down" moment in Fairfield's historic season was the 8-3 loss to Ohio State at the end of the regular season, at home on Senior Day, just a week after upsetting Denver. If the Stags had won that game — even though it's hard to know how the selection committee would've treated three-loss Fairfield —they would've better bolstered their postseason resume.
Best Case: Snow and McLinden pack a top-flight midfield punch, the Stags replace defensemen Brendan McTague and Drew Palmer without problem — relying on Johns Hopkins transfer Tobias Armour — and Fairfield finds its replacement for Cipriano in the cage. The Stags upset North Carolina in February, then find a way to knock off Loyola down the stretch, giving them a pair of quality wins for a postseason berth. Copelan earns even more respect as one of the game's best young skippers.
Worst Case: Fairfield can't replicate its success in extra sessions — the Stags were on the right side of four overtime games in 2012 — and the pendulum swings back the other direction. The losses of Adams and Cipriano are too much to overcome, as Fairfield takes a step back in Copelan's fifth season at the helm.