Starting with the faceoff unit, Utica faces an uphill battle. Returning just 45% of their faceoff experience, they’re at a clear disadvantage. The departure of Josh Bennett, who had a substantial role last season with a 42.0% win rate, leaves a void that isn’t easily filled. However, Jack Hogan’s increased involvement, as shown by his 43.3% win rate in 224 faceoffs, offers a glimmer of hope that internal development could counteract some of the lost production. The cupboard is certainly not bare. Nevertheless, with the faceoff unit’s performance lingering in the 25th percentile nationally last year, it’s imperative for this group to elevate their game to avoid putting additional pressure on the offense and defense.
Defensively, the story is quite a bit rosier, as Utica returns all of their defensive contributors from the previous year. This continuity, coupled with their middle-of-the-pack finish in the 56th percentile, suggests a platform for potential growth. The defensive unit’s familiarity and cohesion could translate into a more robust performance, especially with the experienced trio of goalkeepers, Patrick Oswald (52% on 261 shots faced), Jake Bowen (49% on 122 shots faced), and Owen Mix, back between the pipes. The introduction of freshman goalkeeper Max Frenette adds depth to a position that was ranked in the 34th percentile for save percentage last season. The hope is that stability in terms of defensive personnel leads to an improved defensive efficiency in 2024. If they can manage it, this unit could be a real strength for Utica.
Offensively, Utica returns 89% of their offensive production from last season. The loss of key shooter Luke Rinaudo-Concess, who accounted for 9% of shots and 8% of offensive EGA, poses a challenge in terms of goal-scoring opportunities. Yet, his lower individual efficiency rating, sitting in the 16th percentile, suggests that there’s room for a more efficient scorer to step up. This could, in fact, enhance the overall offensive efficiency. Utica’s offense struggled significantly last season, ranking in the 18th percentile nationally. This indicates that while the majority of offensive players are returning, there’s a pressing need for an overhaul of some sort to transform that experience into improved results. Or maybe it’s just a matter of rolling dice with inexperienced players in the pursuit of better results.
All in all, Utica’s roster does show areas where they could potentially be better than last year, especially on defense. The offense and faceoff unit, however, will require significant strides to not only fill the gaps left by key players but to also elevate their efficiency to reverse the program’s downward trend. It’s a roster that hints at stability in some areas but underscores the necessity for breakthrough performances in others. If Utica can capitalize on the returning experience and successfully integrate new talent, there’s a chance they could at least stabilize, if not improve, from their previous season’s struggles.
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P.S. What did I miss? Data-centric analyses like this can miss things that don’t show up in the stats (i.e. injuries/coaching changes). If you can help explain any of the above, put it in the comments.