2018-19 Army West Point Hockey Preview

Army had a successful 2017-18 campaign finishing the regular season with a 15-13-6 record. However, the Black Knights season ended in heartbreak when they fell to Air Force in Game 3 of the AHA quarterfinals 1-0 in overtime. With a solid group of returning veterans, the Black Knights look to build on last year's success bring an AHA title to West Point and a NCAA tournament berth.

"Our team goal is kind of divided up into sections. I think overall we want to do all those great accolades...win a national tournament, win our conference, but day-by-day we have to win our battles. We have to come into the rink every single day and be prepared to get better by having the focus to winning...every shift, every pass, every play, everything that we do needs to be in the orientation of us stepping foot on that ice and doing the things that we need to do to win those one-on-one battles." said senior forward Michael Wilson.

The Black Knights will open their season against three non-league opponents in Union, UConn, and Merrimack which should help them get ready for Atlantic Hockey play.

"For us to have three non-league to start with Union, UCONN, and Merrimack, that will be great opportunity for us to see our guys especially our new guys and to see how guys have stepped up and put them in other roles. These three games go a long way to help us determine that," said head coach Brian Riley.

The schedule for Army and most of the AHA is unique in the fact they play some teams on their schedule four times this season. Yes, four times. The Black Knights will square-off against Mercyhurst, Air Force, Sacred Heart, and Bentley for four games. The familiarity with these teams could create some chippy play and great games. It's a great opportunity for Army to establish themselves against a schools like Air Force and Mercyhurst, who many predict will be at the top of AHA. The toughest part of their schedule may be the end of October and early November as they travel to Pittsburgh, PA to face Robert Morris for games then the following weekend head back to Pennsylvania to face 2017-18 AHA regular season champion Mercyhurst for two. After that they come home for Air Force, who was the 2017-2018 tournament champion and currently sits just outside the USCHO.com Top 20.

"We have to take it one game at a time, but the goal at hand is to beat Union and have a good week next and come back home and win a couple games at home, but I think through out the season our goal is set on winning an AHA tournament and having a shot at the national title." said sophomore goalie Jared Dempsey.

The Black Knights return two of their top three scorers form last season in juniors Michael Wilson and Dominic Franco. Wilson who led the team with goals (18) and plus/minus (+6), while Franco second on the team in both goals (12) and assists (18). Junior Zach Evancho should also make big contributions offensively for Army.

"We lost a couple forwards but we returned a lot of guys who played a lot of minutes for us and we're going to rely on them a lot." said Riley.

The biggest strength for the Black Knights may be their defense which will have a blend of experience and first year players. Senior Captain Dalton MacAfee and junior Alex Wilkinson will lead the Army defense. MacAfee is smart defenseman who doesn't draw a lot of penalties but and is solid offensively. Wilkinson was named AHA Defenseman of the year last season and was third on the team in scoring with 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists). Also returning is sophomore John Zimmerman who played in 27 games for the Black Knights last season and was named to the AHA "All-Rookie team." Army will also have three freshman on the blue line this year in Coby Mack, Andrew Quetell, and Marshal Plunkett.

"I think the new guys coming in have blended very well, we have a great group of freshmen coming in and they've adjusted really quickly and really well, which is great because they'll be a great addition to our d-corps." said junior defensemen Alex Wilkinson.

The Black Knights should be solid in net with Sophomore Jared Dempsey stepping into the starting role this season. Dempsey played in 10 games last season and posted a 2.44 GAA with a .923 save percentage.   He was in net for the Army's upset of #13 New Hampshire when he posted 37 saves, but his best game may have been his 36 save shutout against Bentley late in this season. Matt Penata and Treven Kozlowski will battle it out for back-up duties, neither saw game action last season.

Projection: Army is going to be a solid team in the AHA this season. They are very disciplined and move the puck well. Teams are going to be hard-pressed to score goals against their solid defense and goalie Jared Dempsey. Their offense, which was inconsistent last season, will need to find consistency with the right line-pairings.  A "bigger" issue for the Black Knights maybe be their size. Outside of two of their goalies they only have one player over 6'2." It will be interesting to see if they can hold up physically against bigger teams throughout the season.

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