Yep, I've done a little research. And I've done a little thinking, and the time has come to talk about each WCHA team and make my predictions. It's a little early, but hey, the season is right around the corner!
Without further ado...
Michigan Tech University Huskies
Let's be honest. Tech was horrible last season. Just terrible. I blame their negative fan base who seems to accept that their team will suck every year. Last year the Huskies won a total of 7 games with only two of those being conference wins. This year doesn't look much better for the kids in Houghton, with only two seniors on the roster. There is a deep sophomore class at this school, and with leading scorer Jordan Baker returning, the Huskies may be able to win 10 games this year...but don't hold your breath
University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves
UAA! UAA! We are the Seawolves and we're ready to play! Sorry, had to. The best part of UAA's season is right now, when they are in first place. They showed some grit last year early and even cracked the top 20 in USCHO's poll. But by Christmas, the Seawolves were on their way to the depths of mediocrity in college hockey. They closed off the season strong though, sweeping a red-hot Minnesota Duluth team. Kevin Clark is coming off of a 30 point season and returns to the roster. Jon Olthuis returns in net for the Seawolves, who may surprise some teams this year. Or maybe not...
Minnesota State University - Mankato Mavericks
If anyone thought that Mankato would fall so fast, raise your hand. *pauses, waits* That's right, none of you. The 2007-2008 season was so surprising and the Mavericks just missed both the WCHA Final Five and the NCAA Tourney. Last year, they started out somewhat strong but quickly stumbled and never really recovered. Senior goalie Mike Zacharias departed last year, as well as senior defenseman Blake Friesan. The team does return some quality players though. Andrew Sackrison and is returning, so the Mavs can hope for some better offense production this year. Coach Troy Jutting is signed on for 4 more years.
University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs
Face it. None of us predicted their return to the NCAA's. And let's be honest. It's not like they had a spectacular season. In their last 7 regular season games they were 2-2-3! But they got hot at the right time. Swept Colorado College on the road then steamrolled over the competition in St. Paul to capture the WCHA championship. They took care of Princeton in an amazing game but the magic run out against eventual runner-up Miami of Ohio. Can the Bulldogs repeat what they did last year? I doubt it. 7 seniors depart the team, including MacGregor Sharp, who provided the Bulldogs with much spark late in the season. Goalie Alex Stalock has departed, though. I'm not ruling the Bulldogs out, but I don't think it's going to be like last year for them.
St. Cloud State Huskies
Another season of hope, another season of disappointment. Really, St. Cloud is that team that you have to pick early in the season based on the talent they have, but they can never seem to put anything together. They are like the New York Jets. Seem good on paper, should be good, but really, they are not. One of their best players, goalie Jase Weslosky departed the team for academic reasons and they also lost forward Brent Borgen to him being a senior and graduating. Ryan Lasch is back, at least for now, as well as defenseman Garrett Roe, who everyone loves for some reason. Goalie is obviously a huge question mark right now, so we'll see on this team.
University of Minnesota Golden Gophers
Chants of YOU GOT LUCKY! should be flying all over the place here. They somehow pulled a split of both Duluth and Michigan Tech to gain home ice for the WCHA playoffs. Goalie Alex Kangas was not nearly what he was freshman year and the offense could never really get going last year. Combine that with young defensemen and the Gophers, some might say, overachieved. They did miss the NCAA tourney for the first time since like, the thing was invented. But this year brings some more promise. As far as I'm concerned, the only loss from this team was Ryan Stoa. RJ Anderson being gone is probably better for this team. Kangas is returning and hoping to shake off a sophomore slump. Freshman phenom Jordan Schroeder is returning for his sophomore year even though the Vancouver Canucks REALLY wanted to sign him. Combine that with another year of experience for the D and the Gophers will be back near the top of the WCHA standings.
Colorado College Tigers
Oh how the mighty have fallen! CC was picked by many to repeat, but couldn't ever get into a groove. Goalie Richard Bachman fell into the trap known as the sophomore slump and forwards Chad Rau, Bill Sweatt, and Mike Testwuide never found the spark they had in the 2007-2008 season. And take a look at the offseason the poor Tigers have had to endure. Assistant coach Mike Guentzel left the program for the Des Moines Buccaneers, prized recruit John Moore chose to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets instead of play for CC, and Colten St. Clair changed his verbal commitment from CC to University of North Dakota. It's certainly been a rough off-season for CC, and IMO, it's not looking much better on the ice either.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers
It's no secret how much I hate Wisconsin. And it's no secret I want that school to explode. But Wisconsin had a decent season last year. They definitely struggled early but ended up putting together a decent season. This upcoming season should be even better. This team is loaded with talent on both sides of the puck. Ryan McDonagh and Blake Geoffrion return for their senior seasons. The ultimate question, as usual, is goaltender. Wisconsin has a history of excellent goaltending, so if they can get a good season out of junior Scott Gudmandson, the Badgers could be knocking not only on the door of the WCHA top, but the door of Ford Field as well. But I still hope they fail.
University of Denver Pioneers
George is a funny coach. He gets so riled up against North Dakota. I mean, really? Do they piss you off that much? Ok, that out of the way, let's focus on the team that that most will pick as the preseason favorite. And why not? They had a great season last year, relinquishing first place to UND really late in the season. They return some ridiculous talent, including forward Tyler Bozak, Anthony Maiani, and Brandon Vossberg. They also return goalie Marc Cheverie, but I'm not convinced he's all that great. He's good, but not great. I watched him last year. When he's on, he's ON! But when he gets off, oh boy. He has a tendency to get rattled really easily, so if teams get to him early, that can spell trouble for the Pioneers. But with this roster, this team should be the favorite.
University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux
I'm convinced that after Minnesota, North Dakota is the most hated school in the WCHA. Because they are good. And because of events like last year, where they go from 9th place to winning the WCHA. Even though the Sioux stumbled in the Final Five and eventually against UNH in the NCAA's, they still had a great season. This year, the Sioux lose proven playmaker Ryan Duncan as well as cornerstones Ryan Martens, Matt Jones, Brad Miller, Andrew Kozek, and Joe Finley. However, they are bringing in some ridiculously talented freshmen, Eidsness is looking to improve on what I would call an above-average season, and seniors Chay Genoway and Chris VandeVelde were willing to stick around. And it's the Sioux. Can you really count them out?
Alright, there you have it. Takes on every team. Now, time for the rankings. Like last year, the bottom two teams are easy to pick. Unlike last year, there is no clear cut #1. I think the middle is easier to pick this year than last year, but #1 is tough, as well as 2-3-4. Oh well, here we go:
8. St. Cloud