Inspired a little bit by an exercise that Nate Ewell and Brad Scholssman went through on this week’s College Hockey Today podcast, as well as the 1988 team reunion that took place at Lawler Arena last week, I’ve decided to put together my All-Alumni team for Merrimack College hockey.
Ewell and Schlossman took the six positions (3 forwards, 2 defensemen and 1 goalie) and picked one player to represent each conference from the NHL.
Of course, these picks are subjective. Do you agree or disagree with these picks? Discuss in the comments below.
Forward — Jim Vesey (’84 – ’88)
Vesey is a no-brainer pick. Vesey is the program’s all-time leader in goals (110), assists (134) and points (244), and I don’t think anyone is ever going to touch him or even come close. Granted the first seasons Vesey played at Merrimack were under a Division II schedule, there’s no doubt he still would have been a prolific scorer in Division I. He was a winner of the Division II “Hobey Baker” Award as the best player in the nation below Division I in 1988.
In 1988, as a senior, he had 95 points in 40 games, including averaging a goal per game (40). He also had 95 penalty minutes.
Forward — Rejean Stringer (’95 – ’99)
Stringer is Merrimack’s all-time leading scorer among players who have played their entire career in Hockey East, totaling 165 points in 140 games. Stringer was one of the central figures during Merrimack’s early years in Hockey East, including leading the team in scoring in 1998, when the Warriors upset No. 1 BU in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs and advanced to the TD Garden.
Admittedly, it was a tough choice between Stringer and Jim Toomey (220 points in 140 games), but Stringer playing his entire career in Hockey East, when there was a wider separation between the top and bottom of the league, gives him the advantage.
Forward — Stephane Da Costa (’09 – ’11)
This pick might be controversial, because Da Costa only play two seasons for the Warriors and he’s the only person I have on my list who didn’t have a four-year career. But that being said, Da Costa was arguably the most dynamic player in the history of the program.
Despite only playing in two seasons, he’s 28th all-time in team scoring. Da Costa was on pace to finish with 180 points over a four-year career, which would have been third all-time in program history (behind only Toomey and Vesey) and 15 points better than Stringer for the most all-time among players who played an exclusive Division I schedule.
Not only that, but that’s assuming Da Costa continued his point production from his freshman and sophomore years. There’s reason to believe he would have been better in those final two seasons. Johnny Gaudreau had slightly better freshman and sophomore seasons (44 points and 51 points) before exploding for 80 points as a junior.
If Da Costa had remained at Merrimack for his entire four years, I don’t think there’s any question that we would recognize him as the best player to ever play for Merrimack. He may have won a Hobey Baker as well. In 2013, Drew LeBlanc won the award with 50 points (and only 13 goals), which was the season after Da Costa signed.
Defense — Bryan Schmidt (’02 – ’06)
Schmidt’s 34 career goals are the most by a Merrimack defenseman and his 90 career points are the most among defensemen who played an exclusively Division I schedule. Schmidt was also playing during a time where Merrimack was arguably at its worst. The team struggled to find wins, yet Schmidt was a consistent point producer. If Schmidt had come along a little later, he could have been a 100-point scorer from the blue line.
Schmidt’s junior season (13 goals, 18 assists in 36 games) ranks as one of the best individual seasons for any defenseman in Merrimack history, and it was happening during a season that would result in the Warriors earning just one Hockey East victory and the resignation of head coach Chris Serino. Despite those challenges, he still broke out and was considered one of the best defensemen in Hockey East at the time.
Defense — Karl Stollery (’08 – ’12)
This second defenseman spot came down to Stollery or Dave Schofield, who played the same years as Vesey (’84 – ’88). Schofield averaged more than a point per game (98 points in 97 games) and his sophomore and junior seasons were limited to 14 games or less. As a senior in 1988, he registered 52 points in 40 games.
But Stollery was Merrimack’s ironman and was a two-year captain on its two best teams in the program’s Hockey East history. Stollery’s 83 points are third among defensemen, and second among defenseman who played exclusively a Division I schedule (behind only Schmidt).
Goaltender — Jim Hrivnak (’85 – ’89)
This was a two-horse race between Joe Cannata and Hrivnak.
Hrivnak was the goalie for 37 of the 40 games during Merrimack’s magical run in 1988, posting a 2.38 goals-against average during a time when goals-against averages were usually averaging around 3.50. Cannata was obviously great for Merrimack, and he played an exclusive Division I schedule in Hockey East, but Hrivnak would have been right there with him. He was so much better than every other goalie in Division II, by about one goal per game.
It would be the equivalent of someone posting around a 1.10 goals-against average in 2017 … for an entire season.