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by Alex Pagliano / Buffalo Sabres

After a season that culminated with a 13-12-2 record and a SUNYAC semifinal appearance, the Buffalo State men’s hockey team has lofty expectations for the 2013-14 campaign.

“We’re expecting a championship,” said goaltender Kevin Carr. “We’re expecting to win a national championship. We want to have success, and we’re working hard for that every day.”

Carr’s response shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially Bengals head coach Nick Carriere.

We have an opportunity to do some things this year that have never been done at Buffalo State. We have 10 seniors. This is their last kick at the can, and I think that’ll have an impact.Bengals head coach Nick Carriere

“He’s a fierce competitor,” states Carriere. “He has a tremendous hockey IQ and, in my opinion, he could easily be playing Division I.”

Carr, the program’s winningest goaltender, returns for his senior season. The Unionville, Ont.-native has started 77-of-81 games in his career, posting a .917 save% along with a 2.71 goals against average.

“He puts in the time. Whether that’s coming out on the ice in the morning or [conditioning], he’s a professional,” said Carriere.

Entering his senior season, Carr understands the importance of each game.

“[I know] that every game counts. It’s such a short season. We do not have the opportunity to take a day off, period off or shift off. Every game is important.”

Offensively, the Bengals sent 21-point scorers Matt Bessing and Trevor McKinney to matriculation, but return five forwards who scored at least 10 points.

Returning for his senior season is forward Mike Zannella, who led the Bengals with 16 goals and ranked second on the team with 26 points last season. Zannella is quick to credit his teammates for his success.

“I think we have a lot of good players up front who can play together collectively as a unit,” Zannella said after practice last week. “I could not have the success that I’ve had without them.”

Outside of Zannella, the Bengals return Nick Melligan, who recorded a team-highs in both points (30) and assists (17) last season. Senior forwards Shane Avery (8-3-11) and Mac Balson (6-4-10) will also be expected to improve on last year’s totals.

The Bengals boast a talented freshmen class headlined by playmaking forward Adam Rossi, who heads south of the border after scoring 58 points in 43 games last season for the Abbotsford (B.C.) Pilots of the PJHL. Rossi will be joined up front by 6-foot-1 Taylor Pryce, who recorded 36 points and 86 PIMs last season for the OJHL’s North York Rangers.

The Bengals have also added another highly-touted player from North York in blueliner Charles Lapierre. A native of Amos, Quebec, the 20-year-old Lapierre collected six points in 52 games for the Rangers last season.

Carriere expects that the first-year players will come in and have an opportunity to contribute immediately.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been us with for very long. If you’ve been getting it done [in competitive leagues], you’ve been getting it done,” said Carriere.

Buffalo State will return eight defensemen from last season’s roster, including senior Anthony Orange. The Plainfield, Ill. native tallied 15 points on a goal and 14 assists last season.

Carriere will be counting on his defensive corps that quickly underwent a maturation process last season.

“We’ll just be that much better. We had three freshmen on defense last season that picked up a lot of experience points playing against teams like Penn State.”

The overall depth of this Buffalo State squad has Carriere excited.

“We have an opportunity to do some things this year that have never been done at Buffalo State,” he said. “We have 10 seniors. This is their last kick at the can, and I think that’ll have an impact.”

The Bengals play four straight road games to start the season, beginning with the opener at Cortland on Friday, November 1. They open the home portion of their schedule on Friday, November 15 against Potsdam at Buffalo State Ice Arena. Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Click here for their complete 2013-14 season schedule.

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