Ok, now that we got that out of the way, time to discuss why I'm starting this blog, what I hope to bring to you, my fellow Fighting Sioux fans as well as college hockey fans out there.
I am obviously a Fighting Sioux hockey fan but also a WCHA fan and a hockey fan in general. I plan on blogging a lot about the Sioux, but also other games that I attend. I will bring a perspective of not only fandom, but the nuances about the game as well. Hopefully some insight that can help you look at the game a little differently.
So...first, my WCHA Predictions for the year. A little synopsis about each team, as well as where they will end the year. I'll start off with each team based on where they finished last year, starting with 10th place. Here we go...
University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves
Coach - Dave Shyiak
The Seawolves are coming off of a disappointing season, winning just 3 games last year in league and finishing with an overall record of 7-21-8. They struggled at the end of last season, losing 9 of their last 10 games with the non-loss being a tie. However, a little credit should be given here being that they took the Colorado College Tigers to overtime in their final game of the season, possibly derailing the Tigers going into the playoffs. I don't see a lot coming from this team, unfortunately in the next year. I am of the firm belief that Shyiak is at best a mediocre coach and the talent just simply isn't there.
Michigan Tech Huskies
Coach - Jamie Russell
High hopes for the Huskies in 2007-2008. After making it to the WCHA Final Five in 2006-2007, this team was expected to contend again. But a lackluster offensive effort early on and a goalie that checked out early mentally brought this team down to earth quickly. They did take the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux to 3 games in the playoffs, which is impressive considering the drubbing North Dakota gave them in January. Teslak departing at goaltender isn't going to help either.
Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs
Coach - Scott Sandelin
Duluth is one of those teams that has talent but tends to underachieve. They should have won the Frozen Four in 2004, but couldn't capitilze on a 6 on 3. Since the days of Junior Lessard and Issac Reichmuth, this team has tanked, and fast. Stalock finished last year with a decent save percentage and GAA, but a very mediocre offense returns. Not only that, but their defense is subpar at best. Not too excited about Duluth.
University of Minnesota Golden Gophers
Coach - Don Lucia
This team was a mess, plain and simple. Okposo departing the team, a cluster at goaltender, and youth spelled disaster for the Gophers. Fans were calling for tDon's head, or at least for him to step down. By the end of the season though, things started looking up. A solid freshman goaltender, Alex Kangas, emerged. Blake Wheeler started playing better. They played tough in the end against a very good Mankato team and even made the NCAA tournament when all looked lost. This team is poised for a good season, as long as Kangas doesn't have a sophomore slump.
University of Wisconsin Badgers
Coach - Mike Eaves
Another team that underachieved last season and didn't turn it up until it was too late. Wisconsin finished under .500; yet made the NCAA tourney, where they nearly knocked off North Dakota to make the Frozen Four. The departure of under-achiever Kyle Turis should not hurt this team, as far as I'm concerned. But other than Ben Street and Michael Davies, I'm not really excited about the Badgers. There's not a superstar on this team, which Wisconsin needs. They had Earl a few years ago who I've been told was a cancer on the team but still had the talent to lead this team to their 6th National title. Questions at goaltender are also there.
St. Cloud State Huskies
Coach - Bob Motzko
Ok, I'll get it out of the way right now. O-fer in the NCAA's. A loss to Clarkson. A terrible game played against a lousy team. Yet again. Ok, enough. This was a team that despite that game, they finished strong, winning 8 of their last 11 going into the playoffs, including sweeping 'Sconni to go to the Final Five in what some considered an upset, even though St. Cloud had the home-ice advantage. Pretty sure Roe is not going to have a slump this year and is probably looking for more goals this year. This team could be a dark horse this year.
Minnesota State University Mavericks
Coach - Troy Jutting
Finally, the Mavericks break out of the WCHA basement for the first time since 2003. I've always been a huge Jutting fan and hope that he can help his team build on what was by all means a surprising season last year. And screw you Wisconsin fans, this team deserved to make the NCAA's over your team. Andrew Sackrison returning is huge, as is Zacharias at goaltender. Another dark horse team that might finally get the credit it deserves.
University of Denver Pioneers
Coach - George Gwozdecky
This is a team that I am torn on this year. Last year, they took the WCHA Final Five. They were the team to beat in the 1st half of the season. In the second half, they started falling. After a game against Wisconsin in which Randy Schmidt blew a call (maybe, probably, Schmidt just sucks), Denver began falling apart. Swept against North Dakota, swept against Mankato, and being swept in the home and home against Colorado College and it's a wonder this team did anything. They played pretty convincingly against Duluth but got smoked by 'Sconni in the regional. Key losses on defense, including Chris Butler and Andy Thomas leave some holes in the defense. Also looking at an unproven goaltender. However, offense is mostly intact, with Bozak, Rakhshani, and Ruegsegger returning. On top of that, you have what I personally believe to be the best coach in the WCHA.
University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux
Coach - Dave Hakstol
Hooray, I get to rant about my own team. Of course, this will just be the abbreviated version; you will get a better version later on. So what, we're 0-4 in the Frozen Four under Hak? Last year's loss being the most embarassing, a 6-1 defeat with the Sioux being down 4-0 after the first and me out in the concourse of Pepsi Center walking with no direction, almost being in a daze. Luckily, the Sioux remain mostly intact. Losing the Oshie and the Chorney hurts, as does losing Lammy and Bina. However, Duncan is sticking around again and VandeVelde is looking to improve on what I would call a weaker season. Trupp will be even better after a leg injury sidelined him. The BIG question will be at goaltender. An unproven goalie in a program that is expecting results AGAIN.
Colorado College Tigers
Coach - Scott Owens
A team that surprised is the best way to put this. A fantastic goaltender emerged in Richard Bachman and the CC offense churned out a lot of points. However, as many teams in the WCHA tend to do, this team may have peaked too early. A disappointing showing in the Final Five and Regionals. They fought for the home seed and blew it bigtime against Notre Dame, an unproven program. Things are looking good this year though. Sweatt, Rau, and Testwuide emerged last year as the DOT line of 2007. The loss of Kilpatrick and Hillen are big, but this team looks poised and ready to repeat, as long as Bachman doesn't have a slump.
Ok, there's my brief take on every WCHA team. Aside from CC being the #1 team and Anchorage and Tech fighting for last, 2-8 can be tossed up. I might as well draw cards to pick. But I won't. I'll use my superior hockey knowledge and hatred towards Wisconsin to make my picks. *ducks at whatever is being thrown at him*
6. St. Cloud
Like I said, this is a toss-up. I put Denver ahead of UND purely on the coaches. Mankato edges Minnesota based on goaltending, and 'Sconni just sucks, but not as much as the bottom 3 programs.
There's my take. Enjoy my blog this year!