Ok, I've been putting this off for awhile, but it's time to finally dive into the season preview.
So...let's break it down, shall we?
The Sioux return loaded. Aside from senior departures Darcy Zajac and Chris VandeVelde, the Sioux lost David Toews and Corey Fienhage to the pros. Other then that, everyone returns. The Sioux lost 1 person on a great defensive corps and return their leader and catalyst, Chay Genoway, who, in my opinion, is the best player in college hockey.
Brad Eidsness returns for his junior season, and brings with him a great sophomore season campaign. He posted a very respectable 2.11 GAA and .914 save percentage. Some of his big games included a 2-0 shutout of Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA Final Five play-in game, made 33 stops in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Denver, in which questionable officiating cost UND the game, and he shut out the Gophers at the beginning of the season. Eids has controlled his rebounds better and wanders less from the net. He is still prone to lapses, but overall, he has become a lot more consistent and was a big reason the Sioux saw a lot of success last year. His backups, Aaron Dell and Tate Maris have yet to show their talent, but assuming the Sioux do what they are expected to do this year, I expect we will see both of them get some playing time.
As I mentioned earlier, the Sioux lost no defensive players in the offseason other then Fienhage. After losing their defensive catalyst Chay Genoway to a concussion thanks to a dirty hit from SCSU goon Aaron Marvin, the defense stepped up nicely, finishing ranked #3 in the country. That can only improve this season, with the addition of Derek Forbort, who was drafted in the first round by the LA Kings. Junior Ben Blood will build on his great sophomore season, and senior Jake Marto will continue to be a strong force at the blue line.
As I said, the Sioux are returning a lot of people this year. Evan Trupp is here for his senior season, and it's time for this kid to be the consistent leader that I think he can be all year. Brett Hextall was quiet last season after a great freshman year, and he should return hungry and ready to piss off a lot of teams again. Gregoire is still great and just needs to harness that talent that he has. Matt Frattin's return to the Sioux last year was critical to their post-season run and having him around all year will help tremendously. Brad Malone could be the most underrated player on the Sioux. He's strong, he's fast, he's got great hands. Brock Nelson, a freshman, is coming to the Sioux and should immediately contribute.
The coaching staff remains intact and is continuing to do a great job. Hakstol continues to impress me and Cary Eades is a fine assistant, who is capable of being a head coach no problem. I think the players enjoy playing for Hakstol, who demands a lot from his players, but is clearly a players coach. He doesn't play favorites and juggles the lines when necessary.
I think this is a do or die year for the Sioux. They have a ton of talent and a lot of seniors. The WCHA appears to be in a downward spiral, so the Sioux need to capitalize on that. There's no reason to think that a run to the Frozen Four is out of the question. And with this team and talent, I think anything less would be unacceptable.