2022 MAAC Preview

(Photo Courtesy of Marist Athletics)

The MAAC might’ve gone down as the weirdest conference last season. Playing a conference-only schedule, there were many problems that certain teams ran into. First of all, Marist barley got to play and secondly, Quinnipiac had their season shut down with a week left in the regular-season. But beyond on all those issues, it was a fun league to follow a year ago as every team just continued to beat each other up week in and week out.

With normalcy returning, I expect the MAAC to not likely be as tight from top to bottom as they were a year ago, but in a conference where no team has repeated as champs since 2008, I do expect the usual chaos at the we are accustomed to seeing from this conference.

Here is a look at how the MAAC shook out last season:

*MAAC Tournament Champs !Co-MAAC Regular Season Champs

  1. Manhattan – 5-5 (4-3)!
  2. Monmouth – 8-3 (4-2)!*
  3. Quinnipiac – 4-3 (4-2)
  4. Detroit Mercy – 3-4 (3-2)
  5. Canisius – 5-5 (3-3)
  6. Marist – 3-1 (2-0)
  7. St. Bonaventure – 5-5 (2-4)
  8. Siena – 0-8 (0-6)

Manhattan and Monmouth shared the MAAC regular season title while the Hawks won the conference tournament and saw their season end with a loss to North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. St. Bonaventure and Canisius both pulled off big wins in the conference quarterfinals to be the other two MAAC semifinalist, beating Detroit Mercy and Marist.

Reminder: Detroit Mercy is no longer in the conference as they have moved to the ASUN.

Now let’s turn the focus towards the 2022 season.

Canisius Golden Griffins

Last season: 5-5 (3-3)

Key Departures: Mike Penna (A)

Key Returners: Keegan Kozack (A), and Hunter Parucki (A), Jacob Buck (A), Matthew Vavonese (G)

Transfer Additions: None

Canisius went 0-5 and had lost each game by an average of nine goals when the 2020 season was cut short. In 2021, despite playing the gauntlet that was the MAAC-only schedule, the Golden Griffins improved, going 5-5 overall and defeating defending conference champion Marist to advance to the MAAC semifinals.

Much of the Griffins’ resurgence last season, especially on offense, can be credited to young players like Keegan Kozack (19G/5A) and Hunter Parucki (7G/9A), who were top-three point-getters along with Jacob Buck (14G/15A), who also returns. Goalie Matthew Vavonese returns, along with two of their top close defensemen in Ryan Sharkey and Robbie Marten, to highlight a defense that was right outside the top-25 a year ago, allowing 10.62 goals per game. LSM Jacob Pahnke and SSDM Isaiah Ricketts highlight that rope unit while Connor Beals (.553%) returns at the faceoff dot. Facing a schedule that features a fairly strong non-conference slate (Air Force, Michigan, Denver, and Robert Morris all in February and early March) and only four home games, Canisius will get to show what they are made of this spring.

Manhattan Jaspers

Last season: 5-5 (3-3)

Key Departures: Brendan Bank (LSM), Daniel Newton (D)

Key Returners: Kyle Gucwa (A), Liam Walshe (A), Luke Pacher (D), Brendan Krebs (G)

Transfer Additions: Brendan O’Sullivan (A, York), James McCoy (M), Kevin Jaffe (M)

After years of climbing under Drew Kelleher, the Jaspers finally had their breakthrough season last spring. Being Co-Regular Season Champs and earning the top seed in the MAAC Tournament, Manhattan saw their season end with a 14-9 loss against Monmouth in the title game. Subsequently, Kelleher was named the MAAC Coach of The Year following the historic season they enjoyed in Riverdale.

Defense is very much the identity of many teams across the conference and Manhattan is no exception. The Jaspers ended last season ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense (9.70 goals allowed per game) while also being ranked 16th in man-down defense, shutting down 71% of their opponents’ extra-man opportunities. Returning the MAAC Co-Defensive Player of The Year in goalie Brendan Krebs and an an All-MAAC defenseman in Luke Pacher, both of whom are back for a fifth season, provide a solid foundation for this defense to be just as good in 2022. But it won’t be all defense in Riverdale this spring as they also return their top three scorers from a year ago in attackmen Kyle Gucwa, Sean MacKinney, and Liam Walshe, and adds York (DIII) transfer Brendan O’Sullivan after a 68-point senior season in 2021.

Marist Red Foxes

Last season: 3-1 (2-1)

Key Departures: Joe Tierney (M)

Key Returners: Jamison Embury (A), Vito Musso (A), JoJo Pirreca (A), Logan Covey (G)

Transfer Additions: None

For Marist, 2021 can be marked up as a lost season. The Red Foxes opened the season with a 15-11 home victory over Detroit Mercy on March 6th but would have to wait a full 45 days before they saw the field again due to highly-scrutinized COVID protocols imposed by the university. When they returned just two regular season games remained.

Offense has carried Marist in recent years, and despite having only four games last season their offensive prowess still showed through and expect that end of the field to be just as good in 2022. Each of their top-five scorers is in attackmen Jamison Embury, Vito Musso, and JoJo Pirreca, as well as midfielders Hunter Embury, and Jason Intermesoli, who will be back for an extra season. That core combined for 19 starts last season and 32 over the past two seasons alone. Experience is everywhere on this Red Foxes offense. And its a similar situation on defense as well with Logan Covey returning to anchor things in cage after an All-MAAC season as a freshman in 2021. Defensemen Kyle Stofko highlights the returners at close while LSM JT Roselle SSDM Keenan DeRaeve will lead a rope unit that was fairly strong last season with the two combining for 12 ground balls and nine caused turnovers. Just imagine what this Marist team can do with a full and normal schedule.  

Monmouth Hawks

Last season: 8-3 (4-2)

Key Departures: Chris Hervada (D), Dillon Smart (LSM)

Key Returners: Cade Stratton (A), Matt Soutar (FO), Noah Lode (G)

Transfer Additions: Chase Fairbanks (D, Bellarmine)

In, 2021 Monmouth reached the top of the MAAC for the second time in program history, taking down Manhattan in the title game and seeing their season end in the NCAA First Round. The question is whether they can do something that hasn’t been done in the MAAC in over a decade: repeat as champions.

As is the case with many of their conference foes, defense has been the cornerstone of this program for multiple years now and was certainly their strong suit last season. The Hawks trotted out a unit this past spring that ended the year as the second-best defense in the nation, allowing just 8.73 goals per game. However, Junior Michael Quigg, who started all but one game at close last season, and fifth-year goalie Noah Lode are the only returners on defense. Where the real star-power comes from this year for Monmouth is at the faceoff dot with Matt Soutar returning. He went 152-for-222 (.685%) and ended the season ranked atop the conference and fourth in DI in faceoff win percentage. In many ways, Soutar is the heart and soul of this team as their top returner and most important player. Can Soutar’s success help this offense, which returns our of their top six offensive weapons from last season, including leading scorer Cade Stratton, improve after 9.45 goals per game a year ago.

Quinnipiac Bobcats

Last season: 4-3 (4-2)

Key Departures: Jake Tomsik (A)

Key Returners: Dylan Donnery (A), Steven Germain,  Will Abbott (M), Demitri George (FO), Nick DiMuccio (G)

Transfer Additions: None

Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Quinnipiac Bobcats were sitting with a 4-3 record and in contention for that top seed in the MAAC Tournament. However, COVID protocols shut the program down and ended their season prematurely. Simply put, Quinnipiac has unfinished business to attend to in 2022.

Demitri George is one of the biggest impact players, among a long list of them, coming back in 2022. George went 115-for-155 (.742%) last season and ended the year second in DI in faceoff percentage. Outside of the star faceoff man, the Bobcats will see a fairly young crop of offensive players in Dylan Donnery, Steven Germain, and Evan Perry return. All three were MAAC All-Freshman selections and Donnery was named the MAAC Rookie of The Year while leading the Bobcats in scoring with 15 points off 13 goals and two assists. Midfielder Will Abbott, who was the team’s second-leading scorer last season, will also return. Goalie Nick DiMuccio is the big returner on the back end after making 62 saves with a .575% save percentage a year ago.

Siena Saints

Last season: 0-8 (0-6)

Key Departures: Dylan Pantalone (M), Jake Marcus (D), Colton Hart (LSM)

Key Returners: Jack Kiernan (A), Trevor Marsala (D), Christopher Yanchoris (G)

Transfer Additions: Rocco Barbero (A)

In 2021, playing a MAAC-only schedule along with the rest of the conference, Siena went 0-8 and only thrice had double-digit goal outings. However, they only had an average margin of loss of 1.9 goals. The Saints weren’t too far off a season ago and look to turn things around in 2022.

The biggest of the Saints’ returnees lies on the offensive side of the field where Jack Kiernan will be returning for a fifth and final season of college lacrosse. He led the Saints with 34 points off 23 goals and 11 assists this past season while racking up second-team All-MAAC honors. Kiernan will headline this offense and team as a whole once again in 2022, but the Saints also return two other top-five scorers from a year ago in attackmen George Rusnak (6G/4A) and Colin Gleason (3G/6A) as well as sophomore defenseman Trevor Marsala, who led the team with 15 caused turnovers, and senior goalie Christopher Yanchoris who had 119 saves with a .595% save percentage a year ago. Marsala and Yanchoris will lead the way for a defense that averaged 10.12 goals per game last spring and holding their opponent to single-digits three times.

St. Bonaventure

Last season: 0-8 (0-6)

Key Departures: N/A

Key Returners: Jake Rosa (A), Sean Westley (A), Zack Belter (D), Brett Dobson (G)

Transfer Additions: None

Year three of the Bonnies DI era saw them pass many milestones, the first of which was just winning a game. The Bonnies ended the year with a 5-5 record and reached the MAAC Semifinals, where they faltered against eventual conference champion Monmouth, 12-5. Will year four be even bigger for Randy Mearns and company?

St. Bonaventure made a huge jump on the back end and finished the 2021 season with the nation’s fourth-best scoring defense, allowing 9.10 goals per game. Goalie Brett Dobson as well as starting poles in senior Zack Belter (23GB/14CT) and sophomore Nick Porfilio (8GB/9CT) return to lead that unit. Reigning MAAC Offensive Player of The Year Jake Rosa leads the way for the Bonnies offense after putting up 39 points off 17 goals and 22 assists a year ago. Sean Westley (23G/8A) and Austin Blumbergs (15G/3A) also return.

2022 MAAC Predictions

Here is a look at how I can see the MAAC shaking out this season, as well as who I would pick right now as the conference’s Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year.

Final Standings:

  1. Marist
  2. Quinnipiac
  3. Manhattan
  4. Monmouth
  5. St. Bonaventure
  6. Canisius
  7. Siena

The MAAC is always difficult to predict, but even more so this year with teams having only played each other a season ago. I am pretty confident that we will see Marist and Quinnipiac at the top of the conference, but outside of that I believe anything could happen. Each of those teams I have seated from 3-7 has some real strong points and some weak points, and I could honestly see a situation where any mixture of those teams makes the postseason.

Offensive Player of The Year: Jamison Embury, A, Marist

Defensive Player of The Year: Brendan Krebs, G, Manhattan

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