The 2010-11 DI Season is Coming!
Yup, Season ONE of the 12 team WCHA is just around the corner, and despite the filth that is the NCAA and the Nickname issue, I’m getting excited (add to that that the NFL season is around the corner and the Cubs have once again crapped out and renewed all the haters’ claims that they really are baseball’s professional punch line organization)!
The season brings old challenges and new challenges and I plan to outline the new challenges and what the league brings to the table this year in my own way as well as briefly (I promise) review the old challenges. This will be done in several parts as this would surely make an unbelievably long blog post and one that I don’t have the time to dedicate to writing all in one go. I plan to review a new and old challenge as well as 2-3 teams per blog post until I’ve run out of challenges this season faces and have previewed all 12 WCHA teams. I will not be spending any time talking about the latest nonsense regarding the BTHC or Major Juniors.
Hopefully this will be well received and I will make this a yearly occurrence.
And So It Begins
The first thing I’ll hit on is the age old challenge regarding Obstruction. A few years back, the NCAA issued a crackdown on Obstruction, including what the WCHA fans call “Clutch and Grab Hockey.” The result was the same as any other crackdown issued by the NCAA: Unconcern, overzealous implementation, Gradual Indifference, and finally bogus exclamation of resolution.
The WCHA almost seemingly didn’t care about this, as McLeod stooge Greg Shepherd (then only a part time Head of Officiating) only half heartedly implemented his interpretation of the rules. This resulted into penalties being called every 30 seconds or so. However, as the season progressed, the penalty calling decreased and clutch and grab returned gradually, this time more adapted to make it not so overt. Inevitably, Shepherd was asked to report the progress the WCHA has made on the crackdown on obstruction and he said that the teams were very sharp and fast to learn to the point that clutch and grab practically didn’t occur any longer.
Don’t worry folks, you’ll sense a theme here. Today, the old challenge is to engage in the up tempo style that many of the WCHA teams employ (such as UMN, SCSU, UND, and as of late UW) with a seemingly non existent Clutch and Grab mentality blinding the FOUR officials on the ice.
Teams to Preview: Michigan Tech University, University of Alaska-Anchorage, MSU Mankato
Michigan Tech University (MTU)
WCHA Record last year: 4-24-0 Overall Record: 5-30-1 (1-6-1 in Non-conference Play)
Key Losses: Malcolm Gwilliam, Drew Dobson
Key Returnees: Kevin Genoe, Jordan Baker, Brett Olson, Deron Cousins, Josh Robinson
Key Recruits: Brad Stebner, Daniel Holmberg, Dennis Rix
My Take: Well…. if you are a betting man, avoid Tech. They have some gems, but none of them produce offensively. Mainly, their top player is Kevin Genoe, a goaltender who is only a sophomore this year. Josh Robinson is also returning, and he is my sleeper on this team. I’ve always thought pretty highly of Tech’s goaltending since watching Cam Ellsworth play way back in my on campus days. Unfortunately, they can’t get offensive help. Dennis Rix comes into Houghton with a pretty good offensive output all things considered last season with Grande Prairie of the AJHL. Daniel Holmberg is a BIG Swede center who could possibly fill a role as big bodied finisher, but who knows how Europeans convert their game to the NCAA way. They do get leadership back in Baker and Olson.
Remember: Most NCAA student athletes go pro in something other than sports. Watch Tech players become good pros in other areas than hockey as soon as their eligibility is up.
Predicted Outcome: 11th
University of Alaska-Anchorage (UAA)
2009-10 WCHA Record: 9-17-2 Overall Record: 11-23-2 (Non-conference Record: 2-6-0)
Key Losses: Lee Baldwin, Bryce Christianson, Jon Olthuis, Nils Backstrom, Kevin Clark, Jared Tuton, Josh Lunden
Key Returnees: Curtis Leinweber, Tommy Grant, Daniel Naslund, Kane Lafranchise, Luka Vidmar
Key Recruits: Rob Gunderson (G), Chris Kamal (G), pretty much all forwards
This team is much similar to MTU…except the defections have begun and it’s hurt them as only one defection was to the pros (Baldwin) and the other was seemingly discontent. However, when the discontentment involves a player that could have been… no, essentially WOULD HAVE BEEN the #1 goaltender coming into this season and couple that with the graduation of the only other goaltender on UAA that has even ONE NCAA DI game under his belt…. This can’t be good.
Junior practice goaltender Dusan Sidor (0 games entering his 3rd year in Anchorage) is joined by AJHL graduate Rob Gunderson and NAHLer Chris Kamal to vie for the starting position. Lookie at all that inexperience. This question mark is simply too GIGANTIC to even consider putting this team in any role in the WCHA other than spoiler/ruiner of PWR… if they manage to win. There’s even a significant chance that they’ll lose to whichever CIAU college they are playing this year.
The saddest thing is their Head Coach Dave Shyiak. I really don’t think he’s that bad of a coach. He’s no Serratore or whoever it was that coached RIT, but UAA has the misfortune of being, well, UAA. Recruiting to Anchorage is very nearly impossible. And that means that UAA is doomed to be a virtual cellar dweller in the talent-heavy WCHA.
Predicted Outcome: 12th
Minnesota State University at Mankato (MSUM)
2009-10 WCHA Outcome: 9-17-2 Overall Record: 16-20-3 (Non-conference Play: 7-3-1)
Key Losses: Geoff Irwin, Kael Mouillerat, Kevin Murdock, Zach Harrison, Tyler Pitlick
Key Returners: Michael Dorr, Phil Cook, Andrew Sackrison, Ben Youds, Ryan Galiardi, Channing Boe
The Mavericks aren’t the worst team in the league. They’re just not talented enough to hang with the top pack. Add into that their historical penchant for rather…ahm…unethical standards of play and it’s hard to get excited about the Mavs unless you are a diehard fan…which means you are a current or former student at Mankato.
They have some talent. Phil Cook and Austin Lee were ok. Andrew Sackrison, Galiardi, Dorr, and Youds have talent… they just can’t seem to put it all together. They had the future in hand with Kevin Murdock and Tyler Pitlick but they bolted for greener pastures (Major juniors for Pitlick and the USHL for Murdock). It’s too bad. That being said, of the bottom three, MSUM can best act as the best spoiler and can steal some games against the top of the league on any given night.
They give UND fits in Mankato, even when UND gets the win. That being said…. They’ll fight with UNO and BSU for the top 10. In the end, I think Blais and the experience of the Beavers will be too much.
Predicted Finish: 10th