New coach, star forward are major themes for St. Lawrence

Head coach may be a new title to St. Lawrence’s Greg Carvel, but it’s not a new role.

Carvel split coaching duties with Mike Hurlbut last season after long-time head coach Joe Marsh took a medical leave of absence. Marsh retired in March after 26 seasons and Carvel slid into the top spot, with Hurlbut staying on an as associate head coach.

“I feel more comfortable in [my first full year],” said Carvel, a Canton native who averaged a point per game for the Saints from 1989 to 1993. “I’ve told some people that a great way to become a head coach is to ease your way into it. Mike Hurlbut and I were able to lay a big part of the foundation as to what I wanted to see as part of my hockey team.”

He’ll return senior Kyle Flanagan, a dynamic forward who might have made a push at a 50-point season last year if it wasn’t for injuries that kept him out of eight games.

“I coached in the NHL for a long time and he has NHL ability,” Carvel said of Flanagan, who is also in his second season as the Saints’ captain. “He’s one of those kids that’s an honor to coach. I would expect him to be a Hobey Baker finalist. He has the ability to score points every night and he’s a good two-way player.”

But Flanagan’s contributions might be for naught if the Saints can’t shore up a defense that ranked 51st in the country in 2011-12. That’s a spot where first-year goalie coach Kris Mayotte, a former Union goalie and a volunteer assistant at Cornell last year, should help junior Matt Weninger refine his game.

“He sees the puck tremendously well,” Carvel said of Weninger, who played in 32 of the Saints’ 36 games last year.

“Pucks don’t get by him because he doesn’t see them,” Carvel said, adding that was he optimistic about Mayotte helping Weninger round out the technical aspects of the game, such as positioning and rebound control.

St. Lawrence returns most of its key offensive players from last year, which has Carvel optimistic the Saints can put up more goals in his first full season replacing Marsh as head coach.

“I warn people that I’m not Joe Marsh, who was absolutely loved by everybody,” Carvel said. “I’m bringing a lot to the program. I was a strong student-athlete myself, so I know exactly what they’re going through. I’ve got a lot of excitement trying to carry on this job and extend his legacy.”

About the Saints

2011-12 overall record: 14-19-3

2011-12 ECAC record: 10-11-1 (eighth)

2012-13 predicted finish (coaches’ poll): Sixth

Key losses: F Jacob Drewiske, D Peter Child

Players to watch: F Kyle Flanagan, F Greg Carey, F Chris Martin

Impact rookies: F Sean McGovern, F Alex Hagen

Why the Saints will finish higher than the coaches’ poll: The defense, led by Weninger’s breakout season, improves from a year ago. Flanagan joins the conversation as one of the top forwards in the nation, and gives the ECAC a player in the Hobey Hat Trick for the second straight season.

Why the Saints will finish lower than the coaches’ poll:  Weninger and the defense match last year’s performance and the offense simply can’t carry the Saints every night.