As the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference men’s ice hockey season hits full stride, the News presents the preseason media poll and weighs in on why the prognosticators made the following predictions (and why they already may not be wholly accurate).

1. Colgate

2005-’06 Record: 20-13-6, 14-6-2 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 7-8-2, 3-4-1 ECACHL

Head Coach: Don Vaughan, 14th year

Home Arena: Starr Rink

The Squad:

Colgate returns three of its top five scorers from last year’s ECACHL season, a highly successful Raiders campaign that earned the team a share of the regular-season title.

This year, tri-captains Liam Huculak, 2005-’06 leading scorer Tyler Burton and Jesse Winchester, are attempting to repeat their conference crown. But the Raiders have underperformed so far this year, falling to sixth in the ECACHL.

Colgate went 2-0 last weekend, downing Union and Renssalaer, and forward Burton (3-8-11, 3rd ECACHL) is leading the charge back to the top.

Yale has defeated the Raiders once already this season, but if Colgate continues its recent trend of success, the Bulldogs will face a much different team in Ithaca, N.Y., come January.

The Schedule:

November 3, 2006: Yale 2, Colgate 1

January 20, 2007: Yale at Colgate, 7:00 p.m.

Rematch Interest Rating: 2.5

2. Harvard

2005-’06 Record: 21-12-2, 13-8-1 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 3-9-0, 2-7-0 ECACHL

Head Coach: Ted Donato, second year

Home Arena: Bright Hockey Center

The Squad:

Despite having just one of the top 30 high-scorers in the ECACHL last season, Harvard made an impressive run all the way to an ECACHL championship and a showing in the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

The Crimson have struggled this season to find the momentum that brought them last year’s success. Despite returning 21 lettermen from last season, including standout blueliner and captain Dylan Reese, the Cantabs are a dismal 10th in the conference.

The Elis have already downed Harvard once, 5-2, in Cambridge. With Yale’s improved prospects, the Bulldogs appear ready to begin reversing a painful history against the Crimson that has resulted in a 70-131-17 series record.

The Schedule:

November 18, 2006: Yale 5, Harvard 2

February 16, 2007: Harvard at Yale, 7:30 p.m.

Rematch Interest Rating: 3

3. Dartmouth

2005-’06 Record: 19-12-2, 14-6-2 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 5-3-2, 4-3-2 ECACHL

Head Coach: Bob Gaudet, ninth year

Home Arena: Thompson Arena

The Squad:

Last season, Dartmouth’s 14-6-2 league record placed the Big Green in first place, along with Colgate, at the end of regular-season play. But the Big Green graduated standout forwards Mike Ouellette and Eric Przepiorka, threatening the stability of their front line.

Once again the Big Green — which rests in a three-way tie for second place in the ECACHL — boasts three of the top 10 league scorers. Its 19 returning lettermen and co-captains David Jones and Tanner Glass are having no trouble leading their team. Jones’ 13 points are first in the conference and junior forward Nick Johnson isn’t far behind (5-4-9, 6th place).

Given Dartmouth’s offensive prowess and early league success, expect the Big Green to be a major playoff contender.

The Schedule:

November 17, 2006: Yale 4, Dartmouth 2

February 18, 2007: Dartmouth at Yale, 4:00 p.m.

Rematch Interest Rating: 3

4. Cornell

2005-’06 Record: 22-9-4, 13-6-3 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 8-3-1, 5-2-1 ECACHL

Head Coach: Mike Schafer, 11th year

Home Arena: James Lynah Rink

The Squad:

Don’t tell the Big Red that they’re supposed to tumble from the ECACHL elite after the losses sustained in the offseason — losing nine of 22 letterwinners, including three underclassmen to the National Hockey League. On top of that, the boys from Ithaca don’t want to hear about how the painful finishes of 2005-’06 — a 6-2 implosion against Harvard in the ECAC title game, then an excruciating triple-overtime loss to Wisconsin in the Frozen Four quarterfinal — could haunt them this winter.

Cornell has confidently blasted off to the best early season of any conference entrant, with a league-best 11 points fueled in no small part by a powerful offense that has averaged nearly four goals a game so far. Captain Byron Bitz, with a team second-best 10 goals last year, anchors an experienced crew.

The Schedule:

November 4, 2006: Cornell 5, Yale 2

January 19, 2007: Yale at Cornell, 7:00 p.m.

Rematch Interest Rating: 2.5

5. Clarkson

2005-’06 Record: 18-17-3, 9-11-2 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 11-5-1, 5-2 ECACHL

Head Coach: George Roll, third year

Home Arena: Cheel Arena

The Squad:

After the Golden Knights swooped into Ingalls Rink and trampled the hot Elis last Friday night, Yale fans knew firsthand the damage that this potent Clarkson squad can wreak, The program, picked No. 5 in the preseason media poll, sits exactly in that spot four weeks into the ECACHL season and has made quite a reputation for itself already as the most dangerous road team (4-0) in the conference.

The story of the sheer ferocity of the Clarkson offense becomes clearer as nonleague games are factored in: The Knights’ 62 goals in 16 games work out to a league-best 3.88 gpg, and the squad boasts the most effective power play in the conference. Junior forward Steve Zalewski has 11 goals already, and junior goalkeeper David Leggio has a .926 save percentage.

The Schedule:

December 1, 2006: Clarkson 4, Yale 1

February 10, 2007: Yale at Clarkson, 7:00 p.m.

Rematch Interest Rating: 2

6. Quinnipiac

2005-’06 Record: 20-18-1, 8-13-1 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 7-4-3, 4-2-2 ECACHL

Head Coach: Rand Pecknold, 12th year

Home Arena: Northford Ice Pavilion

The Squad:

Hockey marks the only sport where the Elis play conference games against the boys up Whitney Avenue, and if last year was any indication, the two Elm City schools are pretty evenly matched in conference play. Both teams finished off 2005-’06 near the bottom of the ECACHL ranks, each took a game in the season series, and now both the Bulldogs and the Bobcats have run out to impressive starts due in no little part to a pack of standout freshmen.

Forward Bryan Leitch will continue to anchor one of the best lines in the ECACHL, alongside juniors Ben Nelson and Jamie Bates. Leitch was perhaps the finest rookie in the nation last year, easily scooping up conference Rookie of the Year honors and finishing second in the NCAA in freshman scoring.

The Schedule:

January 13, 2007: Quinnipiac at Yale, 7:30 p.m.

February 2, 2007: Yale at Quinnipiac, 7:00 p.m.

Interest Rating: 2

7. St. Lawrence

2005-’06 Record: 21-17-2, 12-9-1 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 8-6, 5-2 ECACHL

Head Coach: Joe Marsh, 21st year

Home Court: Appleton Arena

The Squad:

After graduating four of their top five point scorers, the St. Lawrence Saints are back for another season. The two highest point scorers returning to the team, captain Kyle Rank and sophomore Kevin DeVirgilio, must carry the weight dropped by the team’s graduated seniors.

The Saints’ top four defensemen last year were freshmen, so they return to the ice this season as more seasoned contributors to the team’s efforts.

St. Lawrence’s four-game win streak ended with a brutal face-off against Brown last Friday, but the team bounced back with a win over Yale on Saturday. The talent is there for this squad, but consistency and commitment will be the Saints’ keys to success on the ice.

The Schedule:

December 2, 2006: St. Lawrence 5, Yale 2

February 9, 2007: Yale at St. Lawrence, 7:00 p.m.

Rematch Interest Rating:2

8. Union

2005-’06 Record: 16-16-6, 9-9-4 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 5-5-2, 1-3-0 ECACHL

Head Coach: Nate Leaman, third year

Home Arena: Frank L. Messa Rink

The Squad:

The Union Dutchmen return this season with five of their six top scorers. Olivier Bouchard (14-12-26 in 2005-’06) leads the team that was finally defeated in five overtimes by Yale last spring in the longest game in NCAA history.

If the Dutchmen are looking to advance out of the first round of the conference playoffs this season, they must work on their power play — on which the team only converted 11.6 percent last season — and offense, led by sophomores Augie DiMarzo and TJ Fox.

Union began the season on good footing and came into this past weekend’s games riding on the high of a three-game win streak. But this early optimism came crashing down after two tough losses to Colgate, 5-2, and Cornell, 6-0.

The Schedule:

January 27, 2007: Union at Yale, 7:00 p.m.

February 23, 2007: Yale at Union, 7:00 p.m.

Interest Rating: 1.5

9. Rensselaer

2005-’06 Record: 14-17-6, 8-8-6 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 4-4-5, 1-1-2 ECACHL

Head Coach: Seth Appert, first year

Home Arena: Houston Fieldhouse

The Squad:

In addition to being under the direction of new coach Seth Appert, the Engineers benefit from the return of Kirk MacDonald. MacDonald, who earned 16 goals and 20 assists two seasons ago, returns to the ice for his senior year after winning a battle against testicular cancer. Also back for the Engineers is Kevin Broad; the senior missed the last 14 games of the 2005-’06 season because of injury.

This past weekend, however, was more of a testament to the team’s inexperience than its freshness. After going ahead 3-0, the Engineers’ game against Cornell ended in a frustrating 3-3 draw, their fifth tie of the 2006-’07 season. And though Rensselaer hoped to prove itself the following night, the Engineers were defeated by Colgate, 3-2.

The Schedule:

January 26, 2007: Rensselaer at Yale, 7:00 p.m.

February 24, 2007: Yale at Rensselaer, 7:00 p.m.

Interest Rating: 1

10. Princeton

2005-’06 Record: 10-18-3, 7-12-3 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 3-7-2, 2-5-1 ECACHL

Head Coach: Guy Gadowsky, first year

Home Arena: Hobey Baker Memorial Rink

The Squad:

Returning eight seniors and five juniors from the 2005-’06 squad, the Tigers hope to avenge the losses they suffered on the way to a ninth-place conference finish last season. Although they have struggled to get into the win column so far, the Tigers did upset No. 17 Clarkson, 3-2, after being swept by the Golden Knights in the first round of the 2006 ECACHL playoffs.

With five new freshman joining the forward ranks alongside all three of the Tigers’ top point producers from last year, it is no surprise that the Princeton offense has taken over 100 more shots than its opponents. Senior captain Darroll Powe currently leads his team in scoring, while classmate Grant Goeckner-Zoeller, who had 15 goals and 14 assists last season, has seen a lot of action as well.

The Schedule:

January 12, 2007: Yale at Princeton, 7:00 p.m.

February 3, 2007: Princeton at Yale, 7:00 p.m.

Interest Rating: 2

11. Yale

2005-’06 Record: 10-20-3, 6-14-2 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 6-4-1, 3-3 ECACHL

Head Coach: Keith Allain ’80, first year

Home Arena: Ingalls Rink

The Squad:

To say that the Bulldogs are a totally different team this year would be an exaggeration. But after going 1-6 to open the 2005-’06 season, the Elis did a complete 180, getting off to a 6-1 start this year, their best since their 1997-’98 ECACHL championship season. Although they fell out of the national rankings this week after a few tough losses, the squad has made an impression on the hockey world with victories over three ranked opponents, bringing respect back to the Yale program.

On the forward line, the Elis have outshot their opponents 317-297 and tallied 30 goals, even with the absence of key player Brad Mills ’07, who is out with an injury. Leading the way in both points and goals are Sean Backman ’10 and Mark Arcobello ’10, who have made an outstanding debut alongside Jean-Francois Boucher ’08 and former ECACHL Rookie of the Year Mike Karwoski ’09, among others.

The Elis also added two blueliners to a talented crew that includes captain Matt Cohen ’07 and Bill LeClerc ’07. Behind them in goal for almost every minute of the season has been Alec Richards ’09. Richards, now under the tutelage of first-year head coach and former Yale goaltender Keith Allain ’80, has recorded 258 stops this fall after his outstanding debut freshman year.

12. Brown

2005-’06 Record: 5-20-7, 3-14-5 ECACHL

2006-’07 Record: 5-4-2, 2-3-1 ECACHL

Head Coach: Roger Grillo, ninth year

Home Arena: Meehan Auditorium

The Squad:

After only one player scored more than six goals in their miserable 12th place 2005-’06 season, the Bears have nowhere to go but up this year. But even with the return of all top 12 scorers, the going still hasn’t been easy.

Predicted to remain on the bottom rung this season, the Bears struggled to find legitimacy early on. But in the past four games, they have come away with three wins, and their recent 4-1 trouncing of St. Lawrence — previously the only undefeated team — may be a sign of good things to come for the squad.

Senior captain Sean Dersch has led his team to as many wins this fall as they recorded all of last season. Alongside him on the forward line has been assistant captain Antonin Roux, who leads the team in points.

The Schedule:

December 9, 2006: Yale at Brown, 4:00 p.m.

January 6, 2007: Brown at Yale, 7:00 p.m.

Rematch Interest Rating: 1.5