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Atlantic Hockey boasted its share of impact freshmen last season, especially Niagara's Ludwig Stenlund and Sacred Heart's Austin Magera.
Among other accomplishments, Stenlund tied for first in the nation with 10 power-play goals and tied for second with 23 goals, while Magera tied for first in the country with seven game-winning goals.
The bad news for their opponents is that Stenlund and Magera are bound to be even better next season, along with others who turned heads as freshmen.
Here are seven Atlantic Hockey sophomores worth keeping an eye on during the coming season, which begins in less than 90 days.
Ludwig Stenlund, F, Niagara
The native of Skellefteå, Sweden, went from being just the fourth-leading scorer on his USHL team (Madison Capitols) to one of the most dangerous scoring threats in Division I hockey.
In only his second college game, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder powered the Purple Eagles to a 4-3 overtime win against American International, which later made the NCAA Tournament field. Stenlund scored a power-play goal in regulation before netting the game-winner in overtime.
Stenlund led all DI freshmen in goals and points with 42 (23-19) in 41 games. In the past 10 seasons, only Michigan's Kyle Connor (35 in 2016), North Dakota's Brock Boeser (27 in 2016), Boston University's Jack Eichel (26 in 2015), and Notre Dame's Andres Lee (24 in 2011) have scored more goals as freshmen.
Stenlund was also Atlantic Hockey's top goal-scorer and was third in the league in points and short-handed (3) goals. He netted three game-winning goals and four game-winning assists as well.
Postseason honors rolled in as Stenlund was named Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year and to the all-conference first team and All-Rookie team. Ferris State’s Copper Zech (WCHA) was the nation’s only other freshman selected to the all-conference first team.
Stenlund, who recently wrapped up a stint at the New York Islanders Development Camp, finished second to Boston University’s Joel Farabee in voting for the Tim Taylor Award, which goes to the country’s top freshman.
Stenlund had 12 multi-point games, including a four-point (2-2) effort in a win over Canisius.
During November, Stenlund tallied eight points (3-5) and earned an AHA Rookie of the Week Award, NCAA Third Star of the Week, and the AHA Rookie of the Month awards.
In January, he scored at least once in eight straight contests and put up 14 total points (9-5) while shattering Niagara’s previous mark for consecutive games with a goal (five).
As a result, Stenlund was named the AHA’s Rookie of the Month for the second time and became the second freshman in Roo history to earn Hockey Commissioners’ Association Rookie of the Month honors.
Niagara was 11-8-4 when Stenlund recorded at least one point, 6-11-1 when he did not.
Austin Magera, F Sacred Heart
The Suwanee, Georgia, native is the first freshman to lead the nation in game-winning goals since North Dakota's T.J. Oshie in 2005-06.
Magera was Sacred Heart’s top scorer with 27 points (13-14) in 36 games and was named to Atlantic Hockey’s All-Rookie team. He also had two power-play and two short-handed goals along with a plus-six rating.
The 6-foot-1, 285-pounder finished with five multi-point games as well.
Magera was named HCA Rookie of the Month and Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Month in March after ranking second nationally during the month in points per game by rookie skaters. He had seven goals and two assists in eight games played as Sacred Heart went 7-1-1.
Overall, Sacred Heart was 12-5-2 when Magera recorded at least one point and 4-11-2 when he did not.
Dalton Hunter, F, Mercyhurst
Hunter, a native of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, was third among Atlantic Hockey rookies in points with 24 (11-13) and plus/minus (plus-8).
The 6-foot-3, 201-pound Hunter also had two power-play goals and six multi-point games. He had a game-winning goal and two game-winning assists. He was named to the Atlantic Hockey All-Rookie team as a result.
After netting four goals and three assists during a weekend series against Canisius, Hunter was named Atlantic Hockey Player of the Week.
Hunter was invited to the Islanders’ development camp in 2017 and 2018.
Luke Orysiuk, D, Bentley
Bentley was clearly better with Orysiuk in the lineup.
However, it took time for the Edmonton native to crack that lineup. Orysiuk was not dressed for the first 11 games of the season during which with the Falcons went 3-7-1.
They were 14-8-4 thereafter as Orysiuk established himself as arguably Atlantic Hockey's top rookie blueliner. The 6-foot, 190-pounder finished with two goals and seven assists in 23 games and was a healthy plus-8.
He had one game-winning goal and a game-winning assist in consecutive games in early February and was named to Atlantic Hockey's All-Rookie team.
Expect Orysiuk to make more of an impact during the coming season when he is a mainstay in the lineup from day one.
Josh McDougall, D, Mercyhurst
Another Atlantic Hockey All-Rookie team member, McDougall finished with two goals and 11 assists while playing in all 38 of Mercyhurst’s games last season.
The Saskatchewan native made a quick impact with a goal and two assists in just his second game as the Lakers skated to a 6-6 tie with nationally-ranked Notre Dame.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound McDougall had four multi-point games and two game-winning assists. He blocked 29 shots as well.
Josh Benson, G, Sacred Heart
The Stillwater, Minnesota, native did not play the first eight games of the season during which the Pioneers went 2-5-1. They were 14-9-3 the remainder of the season as Benson established himself as the team’s primary netminder.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Benson started 19 consecutive games from Nov. 30 to Feb. 16, winning 11 of them.
He finished with a 13-7-2 record for a .636 winning percentage that ranked first in Atlantic Hockey and 16th in the nation. It was also the fourth-best among freshman goalies. Only Minnesota State’s Dryden McKay (24) recorded more wins among rookie netminders.
Benson’s 2.54 goals-against average was also second in the conference. He also had an .898 saves percentage and was named to Atlantic Hockey's All-Rookie team.
Benson was honored three times by Atlantic Hockey during the season.
He was named Goaltender of the Week on Feb. 5 after tallying a 3-0 record and finishing with a GAA of 1.33 and a save percentage of .951. In total, he made 78 saves and played a total of 180 minutes that week.
Benson earned the same honor on Dec. 11 after finishing with 59 saves and two wins.
A week earlier, he was named Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Week after a total of 48 saves in a two-game series against Robert Morris during which he allowed only two goals.
Luke Edgerton, F, Niagara
The Wheeling, West Virginia, native also had six multi-point games, two power-play goals, one game-winning goal, and a game-winning assist along with 19 blocked shots. Edgerton’s best outing was a two-goal, one-assist effort in a 4-4 tie against RIT on Jan. 4. He finished the season at plus-8.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder’s most memorable moment of the season also came against RIT on Feb. 27 when Edgerton made ESPN’s Sportscenter with a jaw-dropping, one-handed goal that quickly went viral.
He took a pass from the red line in the neutral zone before twice moving the puck around a defender and regaining possession by leaping around him. Edgerton then kicked the puck back to his own skate before scoring with a one-handed shot through the five-hole while on his knees.
He is the eldest son of former Canadian Junior A Player of the Year and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Hall of Famer Devin Edgerton, who enjoyed a 17-year professional career in the United States and Europe.