CCHA 2007-08 season preview

By DJ Powers

Fifty-seven NHL prospects will be playing in the CCHA this season, the most of any conference in the country, second only to the WCHA. All member schools have at least one NHL prospect on their roster.  The University of Michigan leads all teams with 13.

Michigan State University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 8)

The defending National Champions Michigan State come into this season hoping to be the first team since the University of Denver did it in 2005, to repeat. However, North Dakota made sure that the Spartans knew that they had their eye on the prize too, after sounding defeating them 6-0 in the season opening U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game on Oct. 13.

Michigan State, like their North Dakota counterparts, comes into the season with much of their team intact.

The biggest changes for Michigan took place on their blueline. Four members of their defense in Chris Snavely, Ethan Graham, Tyler Howell and Brandon Warner have all graduated. The foursome were key contributors to the Spartans during their NCAA Tournament run, so filling those holes as quickly as possible will be crucial to the team’s success this season. Seniors Daniel Vukovic and Jeff Dunne will anchor the blueline.

One player that saw limited playing time last season was versatile sophomore Ryan Turek (STL). The Northville, MI native played both at forward and on defense. This season, Turek is expected to play solely on defense and should see not only increased ice time but also a more prominent role as well.

In addition to their returning group, Michigan State will also welcome two outstanding sizable freshmen defensemen, the most notably Jeff Petry. The 2006 draft selection of the Edmonton Oilers is coming off of a stellar USHL career that earned him the USA Hockey Junior Hockey Player of the Year honor. As head coach Rick Comley explains Petry is a special young man who’ll bring many things to his team.

“Jeff is a big, highly talented kid who has a very bright future. He’s a good kid and has had a great upbringing. He’s going to help us a lot in a lot of areas. His natural skill is offense, and he’ll probably play on our first power play unit as a freshman. Jeff will learn how to play at both ends of the rink equally well. He’s going to improve our offensive game but he’ll be fine defensively too.”

While the defense has gone through a number of changes, the goaltending situation remains the same. Diminutive junior Jeff Lerg, who will serve as one of the team’s assistant captains, continues to be a big time player for the Spartans. The Livonia, MI native was one of two goaltenders (Boston College’s Cory Schneider was the other) that played in every game for his team last season. In 42 appearances, the workhorse Lerg posted a 26-13-3 record that included three shutouts.

Lerg was the backbone of the excellent Michigan State defense that allowed just 2.43 goals per game last season, which ranked 12th in the nation. The Spartans were also very good on special teams, particularly on the penalty kill. Michigan State’s 86.9 percent efficiency rating was eighth in the country. The Spartans were just as impressive on their power play.  Their 18.8 percent efficiency rating ranked them 19th in the nation.

Nowhere was Michigan State’s superb defense more evident than in their four NCAA Tournament games. The Spartans allowed an average of just 1.25 goals per game in that stretch. They also limited the opposition to just one goal in three of the four contests. While Michigan State was outshot in three of the four games, Lerg managed to shut the door on 104 of the 109 combined shots while posting a .950 save percentage.

Of the 44 power play goals that Michigan State put up last season, the players who accounted for 61 percent of them will all be returning, led by seniors Bryan Lerg and Chris Mueller and the fantastic junior  “09” line of Tim Kennedy (BUF) Justin Abdelkader (DET) and Tim Crowder (PIT). Lerg, who will serve as team captain, led the Michigan State in goal scoring with 23 and was second on the team in points with 36. Kennedy led the Spartans in scoring with 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists). Of his 18 goals, ten came on the man-advantage, which also led the team. The ”09” line, which played together in the opener against North Dakota, is expected to remain intact throughout the season barring injuries, etc.

While the Spartans only lost two players upfront, the ones that they did lose were significant contributors to the team’s successful post-season run last year. Chris Lawrence graduated and Jim McKenzie opted to forgo his final year to sign with the Ottawa Senators.
 
Part of what enabled Michigan State to successfully win the National Championship last season was the togetherness and the “all-for-one” attitude that emerged and grew throughout their lineup.
Comley believes that the attitude is there again this season and it all stems from the team’s collective approach to the game.

“Well I think that they arrived at that and I think that togetherness is a good description of our team. Every player has individual goals and I don’t care what program they’re in. In the end, it’s team success that matters. I think that this team learned that very much last year. We didn’t have any All-Americans, but we had a lot of good players. I think that everybody in this program right now buys into a team-first approach because we’re built on defense and you have to play defense first. I think that helps to kind of get them to project what as a coach, you want them to project.”

University of Alaska

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 2)

The 2007-08 season, which gets underway on Oct. 19 at in-state rival Anchorage for the 15th annual Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup, marks the dawning of the Doc DelCastillo era in Fairbanks. The former Nebraska-Omaha assistant coach takes over as the Nanooks new bench boss after Tavis MacMillan resigned in April.

DelCastillo will take over a Nanooks team that will be looking to better their ninth place finish from last season in addition to trying to fill the significant holes left by the off-season losses.

Many of the losses took place on upfront. Leading scorer Kyle Greentree opted to forego his senior year to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers. Curtis Fraser, Lucas Burnett, and Jordan Emmerson all graduated. Greentree and Fraser were Alaska’s top two scorers last season posting 42 and 35 points respectively. Furthermore, the two were also the only players that tallied ten or more goals.

One of, if not the greatest challenge that Alaska faces coming into the season is generating more offense, and with the losses of Greentree and Fraser, the task is made that much more difficult. The Nanooks averaged just 2.56 goals per game last season, which ranked them 43rd in the nation.

While the losses are significant, the Nanooks should be able to replace all, if not most of the scoring that left with the departures. Sophomore sensation Dion Knelsen and junior Adam Naglich return as the team’s two top scoring forwards.

Despite missing time due to injury and participating in the WJC with Team Canada, Knelsen wrapped up a stellar freshman campaign that saw him post 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) and be named an honorable mention to the CCHA All-Rookie Team. This season, Knelsen should be able to better those numbers. The Three Hills, AB native, who is the youngest member of the Nanooks, has an exceptional mind for the game. For such a young player, he thinks the game like a seasoned veteran and uses those smarts to great advantage. Knelsen, who surprisingly was not taken in this summer’s NHL draft, will be eligible again in 2008.

Las Vegas, NV native Adam Naglich completed a strong sophomore campaign posting 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) playing in all 39 games. Where Naglich really made his mark with the Nanooks last season was on faceoffs, winning just under 53 percent of his draws.

In addition to the returning group upfront, Alaska will also welcome six newcomers. The one player who’ll certainly be able to help repair the Nanooks offensive woes and will be the one to watch is diminutive winger Dustin Sather. The Wanham, AB native was an offensive powerhouse in the AJHL last season after leading the league in scoring with 103 points (41 goals, 62 assists) playing for the Grande Prairie Storm. Sather, in case you were wondering, is not related to former Edmonton Oilers head coach Glen Sather.

The Nanooks blueline should be very good this season, though they will miss the two players who have moved on. Nathan Fornataro has graduated and Darcy Campbell opted to forego his senior season to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Anchoring the blueline will be junior Tyler Eckford (NJ) and senior team captain T.J. Campbell.

Eckford continued to make further strides in his development with the Nanooks last season. He returns as the team’s top scorer (along with Dion Knelsen) after posting 22 points (five goals, 17 assists). Where Eckford made the greatest improvements was away from the puck, making him a more rounded defenseman. Though he’ll still be counted for his great offensive abilities, the hockey intelligence that Eckford possesses is beginning to be used more effective on the defensive side.

A contrast in style to Eckford is Campbell. The Ft. McMurray, AB native played in 38 games last season and tallied six points (all assists). If Eckford is the Nanooks best offensive defenseman, then Campbell is their best defensive defenseman. Nowhere was Campbell’s impact felt more last season than on the penalty kill, where he could usually be found blocking shots. His tireless work ethic and team-first attitude makes him the perfect captain for the Nanooks.

One area that Alaska hopes to remedy this season is consistency in goal. The Nanooks return their outstanding tandem of senior Wylie Rogers and junior Chad Johnson (PIT). While they both played very well at different stages of the season, neither was able to put it together consistently. Rogers saw action in 26 games and went 6-15-4. Johnson saw action in 19 games, going 5-6-2 and posted the team’s lone shutout. Both netminders proved two years ago that could go toe-to-toe with the best netminders in the conference. If they can find that magic again this season, Alaska could really shake things up in the CCHA.

Bowling Green State University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 2)

There wasn’t much that went right for the predominantly young Bowling Green Falcons last season. They finished at the bottom of the CCHA standings, and also finished at or near the bottom in the nation in many team stats categories. The good news coming into this season, which opens on Oct. 18 at Niagara, is things can only get better and all of those young players will have a year of experience under their belts. The bad news is the Falcons lost some of their top players in the off-season.

Nowhere are the losses going to be felt more than upfront. Top scorer Jonathan Matsumoto opted to forgo his final year to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Orleans, ONT native, along with returning senior Derek Whitmore, carried much of what little offense Bowling Green was able to generated last season. Matsumoto finished his junior campaign with 33 points (11 goals, 22 assists). He also led the team with six power play goals.

In addition to losing Matsumoto, the Falcons also lost James Unger and Rich Meloche to graduation. Brian Bales, who saw action in just five games, transferred to Alaska-Anchorage.

Offensive production was a huge problem for Bowling Green last season. They tallied four or more goals in just six contests. The Falcons averaged a measly 1.97 goals per game, which ranked 58th in the nation. Their 74 total goals scored were the fewest in the CCHA and the fourth fewest in the nation. Only American International, UMass-Lowell and Merrimack tallied fewer. To put into perspective how much Bowling Green struggled on offense last season consider this. Of the 74 goals generated by the team last season, nearly 30 percent of it left with their off-season departures. Furthermore, only four returning players posted five or more goals last season and of them, only Whitmore posted more than ten.

Senior Derek Whitmore, who will also serve as one of the team’s tri-captains this season, returns as their top scorer after posting 29 points (19 goals, 10 assists) playing in all 38 games last season. Whitmore will be leading Bowling Green’s offensive attack, but that attack has to come from some one other Whitmore himself.

A trio of sophomores in Tomas Petrushka, Todd McIlrath and Kai Kantola will amongst those that the Falcons will be relying on to step up this season. Petrushka and McIlrath finished third and fourth in scoring last season with 17 and 15 points respectively.

Kantola is a player who could see a breakout year this season. He posted 11 points (five points, six goals) in 36 appearances last season. Though he looked relatively raw for a good part of the season, Kantola has the tools and offensive capabilities to make Bowling Green better and they’re counting on him to do just that.

With the goal-starved Falcons needing to find increased scoring this season, help is on its way with six outstanding incoming freshmen. The player to watch is centerman Jacob Cepis. The Parma, OH native is a small, quick, offensive dynamo that will be fun to watch. After starting his collegiate career with a suspension that forced him to miss an exhibition game against the University of Windsor last weekend, Cepis will officially make his collegiate playing debut this weekend.

One area that will be interesting to watch this season is in goal. To say that returning sophomore Jimmy Spratt (CGY) had a very trying season last year is probably an understatement. He had his moments and actually played quite well down the stretch keeping his team from being completely blown out. He posted a 6-22-1 record that should improve this season.

However, Spratt will get some serious competition from newcomer Nick Eno. The 2007 draft selection of the Buffalo Sabres came in as a result of Josh Unice (CHI), who had originally committed to Bowling Green for this season, unexpectedly leaving to play in the OHL in late July. The turn of events could potentially work to the Falcons favor down the road. Eno is a very raw, young goaltender with an immense upside. The Howell, MI native has size and strong fundamentals to along with a great work ethic.

Coming into this season, the Falcons look to be the most stable on the blueline. Bowling Green will also more experienced there as well. The only losses were of Jeremy Bronson, who graduated, and Jon Ralph, who transferred to D-III Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Anchoring the blueline will be seniors Mike Nesdill and tri-captain Michael Hodgson. The Falcons defensive corps will be relied upon to help bring down the 3.87 goals per game average that the team allowed last season.

Ferris State University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 2)

The inconsistency that plagued Ferris State throughout much of the season was one of, if not the biggest reason for their tenth place finish. The good news however, was that the Bulldogs enjoyed a very good late season run going 7-4 in the final month. Ferris State’s season ended at the hands of Lake Superior State in a grueling three-game set. The Bulldogs are hoping to build on last season’s late run. Though that will have to start this weekend against Wayne State, after being swept at Union College in last weekend’s season-opening series.

The Bulldogs look to be in good shape on the defensive side coming into the season but the forward lines is the biggest concern. Zac Pearson, Matt Verdone, Mark Bomersback and Eric Vesely have all graduated. Dan Riedel opted to leave Ferris State to turn pro. This season, he’ll be suiting up for the Central Hockey League’s Mississippi Riverkings.

The departures accounted for a sobering 37 percent of the team’s goal scoring. What makes it so significant is that the Bulldogs do not have the offensive depth nor firepower that some of their CCHA counterparts have, so getting offensive production will be even more of a daunting task for Ferris State this season than it was last season, when they averaged just under 2.75 goals per game. What is worse is that Ferris State only had two players, one of whom is gone, that posted 10 or more goals.

Nevertheless, some very good players will be returning that are expected to pick up the scoring slack. Sophomore Cory Chupp and junior Brendan Connolly return as the team’s top scorers. The versatile Chupp, who will serve as an assistant captain, led all Ferris State rookies in scoring with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) and those numbers could potentially rise significantly this season. The local kid logged a ton of ice time last season, playing in a variety of situations. He also demonstrated a knack for scoring timely goals as well.

Connolly returns as Ferris State’s top goal scorer after posting 11 and finishing with 22 points overall. Though he has continually gotten better, his offensive production will particularly crucial for the Bulldogs’ success this season.

In addition to the returning group, Ferris State welcomes five newcomers. Not among them is Patrick Maroon (PHI), whom the Bulldogs lost to the OHL’s London Knights over the summer. One freshman that could help boost Ferris State’s offensive numbers is Justin Menke. The Shamrock, SK native played for Yorkton (SJHL) last season and posted 64 points (24 goals, 40 assists). Menke, along with Chad Nehring (now at Lake Superior State), gave the Terriers an excellent one-two punch upfront. Menke is a small, offensively creative player that is a tireless worker with great leadership skills.

The blueline looks likely to be Ferris State’s strongest position coming into the season, despite Joe Van Culin and Jeremy Scherlinck graduating. Two very good and sizable defensemen in senior team captain Adam Welch and junior Chris Zarb (PHI) will anchor the Bulldogs blueline.

Welch will be serving as captain for the third consecutive season. The Hastings, MN native doesn’t often get the credit that he deserves outside of the Ferris State and CCHA communities. What Welch lacks in offensive ability he more than makes up for with his strong leadership and character. He may not be the most skilled guy out there, but he’ll always be the one to have his teammate’s back. Welch played in all 39 games last season, posting eight points (two goals, six assists).

Zarb has continued to make good progress with Ferris State, especially on the offensive side. The Waterford, MI native played in 29 games last season and posted 14 points (one goal, 13 assists). While he has the skills to be a top-flight defenseman, his lack of consistency prevents him from being one. When Zarb is good, he’s very good but when he’s not, he can be a liability to his team. If he can somehow find some consistency to his game, Zarb could become an even more dangerous and effective cog on the Ferris State blueline.

An area where consistency was a real problem for the Bulldogs last season, particularly in the first half, was goaltending. If Ferris State expects to compete for one of the top six spots at season’s end, solid and consistent goaltending will be absolutely crucial. While junior Mitch O’Keefe and senior Derek MacIntyre (SJ) both had their moments last season, neither was spectacular. O’Keefe got the lion’s share of the work, appearing in 29 games and going 7-19-3 that included one shutout. MacIntyre posted a 7-3-0 record in 13 appearances. Both goaltenders also posted save percentage numbers below .890.

In addition to battling each other for playing time, O’Keefe and MacIntyre will also get some competition from incoming freshman Pat Nagle. The Bloomfield, MI native comes to Ferris State with some impressive credentials after leading St. Louis to the claim the Robertson Cup as NAHL Champions. Nagle possesses superb athleticism and will add size to an already huge goaltending group.

Lake Superior State University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 3)

Lake Superior State became one of the best stories to come out of the CCHA last season. After an eighth place regular season finish in the conference standings, the Lakers earned a trip to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semi-finals before a heartbreaking 7-6 overtime loss to eventual National Champions Michigan State ended their season. With a new season that began last weekend in the Superior Cup Tournament, there are more questions than answers. The first two 2007-08 games saw the Lakers tie Minnesota-Duluth before losing to Michigan Tech.

One of the biggest concerns coming into the season for Lake Superior State is in goal. All-CCHA Second Team selection Jeff Jakaitis (TOR) has graduated. The Rochester, MN native was the backbone of a very good Lakers defense and was instrumental in guiding the team to their first CCHA semi-final appearance in over a decade. Jakaitis posted a 16-16-3 record that included three shutouts. His .931 save percentage ranked tied for second in the nation, while his 2.31 goals against average ranked 19th.

Towering sophomore Pat Inglis returns from last season after going 5-3-0 in 11 appearances backing up Jakaitis. Inglis will get some competition for playing time from incoming freshman Brian Mahoney-Wilson. The 2004 draft selection of the San Jose Sharks is also the nephew of current Sharks head coach Ron Wilson. Mahoney-Wilson bounced around the junior ranks for a couple of years before arriving at Lake Superior State. His final junior stint was with the OPJHL’s Newmarket Hurricanes last season.

Another area of concern will be on defense. The Lakers suffered numerous losses in the off-season. The most notable of which was top offensive defenseman Derek A. Smith, who opted to forgo his final year to sign with the Ottawa Senators. The Belleville, ON native and All-CCHA Second Team selection became an offensive force from the blueline in a big way when he led the Lakers in scoring among defensemen and finished second overall with 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists). His 30 points nearly tripled his offensive output from his sophomore season.

In addition to Smith, Lake Superior State also lost stalwart Barnabas Birkeland to graduation. At mid-season, rookie Matt Martello bolted for the OHL and most recently, Ryan Baird announced that he was retiring due to a recurring shoulder injury.

Lake Superior State will be predominantly young on the blueline this season, but they’ll field what is shaping up to be a very solid group, anchored by junior Steve Olesky. Three new additions will also be patrolling the Lake Superior State blueline this season in Ben Kitzmiller, Matt Cowie and Dillon Stonehouse. With the loss of Jakaitis and a less experienced goaltending tandem, the youthful Lakers defensive corps will be tested very early.

The Lakers also suffered some key losses upfront. Last season’s top scorer Trent Campbell (12 goals, 19 assists for 31 points), along with Jeff Rainville, Dominic Osman, and Derek R. Smith have all graduated. Despite the losses however, Lake Superior State returns an excellent nucleus that should be able to replace much of the offensive production that was lost with the departures. Juniors Troy Schwab and Josh Sim return to lead the Lakers offensive charge. Schwab is the top returning scorer after posting 29 points (six goals, 23 assists) last season. Sim returns as the team’s co-leading goal scorer with 15. He finished last season fifth on the team with 26 points.

One player who made quite a splash for Lake Superior State last season was Nathan Perkovich (NJ). The returning sophomore from Canton, MI got off to a torrid start to his collegiate career when he tallied goals in six consecutive games. While Perkovich did cool down, he was no less effective, particularly where the power play was concerned. He finished tied with Sim for the team’s goal-scoring lead with 15 and ended his stellar rookie year with 22 points and an honorable mention to the CCHA All-Rookie Team. This season, the Lakers are expecting big things from the 6’5 winger.

In addition to the superb returning group, Lake Superior State will also welcome five newcomers, led by a pair of transfers. Carter Lee (SJ) is the second transfer from Northeastern that has made the trek to Sault Ste. Marie, following senior forward Jason Blain. The Lakers other transfer Zac MacVoy comes to Lake Superior State from CCHA instate rival Michigan. The Livonia, MI native spent last season in the USHL playing with Omaha and Ohio respectively.

An area where Lake Superior State excelled as a team last season was in their discipline. They were one of the least penalized teams in the nation, averaging just under 13 penalty minutes per game. Their 552 total penalty minutes were the fewest in the CCHA.

Miami University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 6)

Another great season that included a third-place finish in the CCHA standings, earned Miami another trip to the NCAA Tournament last season, but it wasn’t the way the RedHawks wanted it to end. After upsetting top-seeded New Hampshire in the Northeast Regional semi-finals for their first ever NCAA Tournament victory, Miami was unceremoniously bounced by Boston College in the Regional final the following day.

With few off-season losses and an excellent incoming freshman class, Miami looks to once again be amongst the top teams coming out of the CCHA this season. Their 2007-08 campaign got off to a flying start after sweeping visiting Vermont at Cady Arena last weekend.

Miami lost five players in the off-season when forwards Marty Guerin, Joe Cooper, Matt Christie, Geoff Smith and Andy Nelson graduated. Though the forward lines will be slightly younger, they’ll also be very good and very balanced. Last season, the RedHawks averaged 3.21 goals per game, which ranked 19th in the nation. What makes the number even more impressive is the fact that Miami was able to get offensive contributions from virtually their entire lineup. The team also featured nine players with 20 or more points.

Leading the charge again this season is Miami’s dynamic duo of seniors Nathan Davis (CHI) and Ryan Jones (MIN). They, along with returning sophomore Jarod Palmer, comprised the RedHawks lethal top line that accounted for 35 percent of the team’s offense. Davis, a Hobey Baker finalist last year and All-CCHA Second Team selection, led Miami with 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists). Where the Rocky River, OH native was particularly effective last season was on faceoffs, winning just under 54 percent of his draws. Jones, also an All-CCHA Second Team selection, led the RedHawks in goal scoring with 29 and finished second in points with 48. Nowhere was Jones more dangerous than on the man-advantage. His ten power play tallies led the team. The third member of Miami’s top line Palmer wasn’t shabby either. His 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) ranked fourth on the team in scoring last season.

In addition to the returning players, Miami will also welcome four outstanding freshmen forwards, led by the imposing Justin Vaive. Vaive, the son of former NHLer Rick Vaive, is a 2007 draft selection of the Anaheim Ducks. The younger Vaive is a power forward out of the USNTDP noted for his physical play and ability to use his enormous 6’5 frame to great advantage. The big knock on Vaive is his skating. While he did make progress in that area while with the NTDP, it should continue to improve with further development and added strength.

As good as Miami’s offense is, their defense is even better. The RedHawks have established themselves as one of the nation’s best and most disciplined defensive teams. Last season, Miami allowed an average of 2.55 goals per game, which ranked 17th in the nation. Their 107 total goals allowed were the third fewest in the CCHA behind only Notre Dame and Michigan State.

Where the RedHawks have really made their mark was on the penalty kill. Miami possessed the nation’s second best penalty-killing team that clicked at an astounding 89.3 percent. In addition, they tallied nine short-handed goals, which ranked tied for sixth in the nation.

With the defensive side returning nearly intact both on the blueline and in goal, Miami will be as potent this season, if not more so, than they were last season.

One of the nation’s best goaltending tandems of junior Jeff Zatkoff (LA) and senior Charlie Effinger returns to backstop the RedHawks. Zatkoff, who saw action in 26 games, went 14-8-3 that included one shutout, while Effinger went 10-6-1 in 17 outings. The two players combined to post an impressive .911 save percentage last season.

Seven of Miami’s eight defensemen return. The only change on the blueline is the addition of freshman Vincent LoVerde. The Chicago, Ill native will bring some toughness to the Miami blueline. LoVerde, one of two 1989-born players (Vaive is the other) on the RedHawks roster, will also be eligible for the 2008 NHL Draft.

Like the forward lines, the RedHawks defensive corps looks quite balanced coming into the season with a good mix of size, strength, mobility and skill. One player that continues to get better with age is junior Alec Martinez (LA). The Rochester, MI native led Miami in scoring among defensemen last season with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists). However, it isn’t his stats that were perhaps the most impressive aspect of Martinez last season. The noticeably increased strength that he has gained has made him not only stronger on his skates, but has also made him far more effective in shutting down opposing forwards without taking away any of the speed or smoothness in his skating.

University of Michigan

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 13)

No team in the CCHA was hit harder with the sheer number of losses, especially those who were key contributors, than the Michigan Wolverines. Of the 25 players who suited up for the maize and blue last season, only 12 have returned this season. Amongst the losses are seven players, including top scorer T.J. Hensick (COL) and top defenseman Matt Hunwick (BOS) that have graduated. The speedy forward Andrew Cogliano and top scoring defenseman Jack Johnson opted to forgo the remainder of their collegiate eligibilities to sign with Edmonton and Los Angeles respectively. So the Wolverines will certainly have a very different look this season and the nation got to view the revamped Michigan team in their season opening Icebreaker appearance last weekend, first defeating Boston College in overtime before falling to host Minnesota.

Of the collective positional losses that Michigan suffered, none will be felt more early in the season than the losses on the blueline. In addition to the departures of Hunwick and Johnson, the Wolverines also lost stalwarts Jason Dest and Tim Cook, both of whom have graduated.

With a suddenly much-younger defensive corps, Michigan will be relying on junior Mark Mitera (ANA) and versatile sophomore Chris Summers (PHX) to anchor the blueline. Mitera is also the lone upperclassman on the Michigan defensive unit this season. Summers, who played at both forward and defense last season is expected to play exclusively on defense this season.

In addition to the returning trio, the Wolverines will add four newcomers to their blueline. The one player to watch is Kevin Quick.  The 2006 draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning is an immensely smooth-skating defenseman that could eventually fill much of the roles, both offensively and defensively, that Matt Hunwick has left.

While junior Billy Sauer (COL) returns as the main man between the Wolverines pipes this season, he’ll have a new player in freshman Bryan Hogan that will be competing for playing time. Steve Jakiel, who was Sauer’s backup last season transferred to D-III Curry College. One of the problems that plagued Sauer last season was the lack of consistency and the numbers he posted reflect that. The Walworth, NY native racked up a 25-14-1 record in 40 appearances. He posted a 3.03 goals against average to go along with a disappointing .896 save percentage. How Michigan will fare this season, especially with an exceedingly young defense, will depend a lot on how well their goaltenders perform. It’s a point that head coach Red Berenson can’t stress enough.

"Goaltending to me is huge. Our goals against have to go down. Certainly we weren’t happy with our goals against last year and we’ve got to improve on that this year. So, that puts a lot of pressure on our goalies because we will have a younger defense. Therefore Billy Sauer will have to think a lot about the competition from Bryan Hogan. Sauer will be pushed and challenged by Hogan.”

Last season (and not surprisingly), Michigan featured the top offense in the nation that averaged an astounding 4.24 goals per game and scored 174 goals. The Wolverines roster also featured nine players who posted 20 or points. The big challenge this season will be in replacing the whopping 49 percent of the goal scoring that has left, which includes five of their top seven top overall scorers. While Michigan isn’t likely to match last season’s torrid offensive output this season, they will be very deep upfront once again.

The good news for Michigan is the return of dependable senior Kevin Porter (PHX). The Northville, MI native had the opportunity to sign with the Phoenix Coyotes in the off-season but opted to return to Ann Arbor, much to the delight of Berenson and the Michigan hockey community. Porter, who will serve as team captain this season, is the top returning scorer after posting a career-high 58 points (24 goals, 34 assists). Porter, along with fellow Coyotes prospect Chad Kolarik are the lone seniors on the entire Michigan team this season. The Abington, PA native Kolarik, who will serve as an assistant captain this season, returns as the Wolverines second leading scorer after posting 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists).

In addition to the returning group upfront, the Wolverines will also welcome six new forwards, all of whom were drafted this past summer. They are: Max Pacioretty (MTL), Aaron Palushaj (STL), Louie Caporusso (OTT), Ben Winnett (TOR), Matt Rust (FLA) and the Swedish-born Carl Hagelin (NYR). The group will add a variety of attributes to the Michigan team fabric, most notably excellent skating ability and an enormous amount of skill.

“We definitely like the fact that our freshmen are going to give us an added skill level. I think there’s a little of everything in there. They’re not high, high end, but they’re all high-end players. I wouldn’t be surprised if two of them or maybe three of them could score 15 goals this year. That could take a lot of heat off maybe the players that we had lost. Still, they are freshmen and they don’t have the experience that an older player does. So we’ll see. It’ll be interesting,” Berenson said. “I think we’ll be more skilled upfront than we were last year, but we may not be as skilled on defense. You can’t replace guys like Jack Johnson and Matt Hunwick. I think with the depth and the quality of that players coming in, we may be less of a one-line team and more of a “team” team. That’s how we’re going to have to play.“

University of Nebraska-Omaha

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 1)

After earning a berth to the NCAA Tournament two years, Nebraska-Omaha couldn’t quite make it last season. However, they were in the thick of the CCHA race all season long. While many wonderful things continue to emerge from the team, the new season will present some daunting challenges. Nebraska-Omaha opens their 2007-08 season on Oct. 19 hosting the University of Manitoba (CIS) in the Maverick Stampede Tournament.

The Mavericks lost a number of players in the off-season, but the one they’ll miss most is the incomparable Scott Parse. (LA) The Portage, MI native leaves Nebraska-Omaha as the program’s most celebrated player that did it all. He is the program’s all-time points leader with 197 (79 goals, 118 assists) and led the Mavericks in scoring in three of his four years. Parse was also a two-time Hobey Baker finalist.

Parse, along Alex Nikiforuk, and Brent Kisio have graduated. Parse and Nikiforuk alone accounted for 23 percent of the Mavericks offense last season posting 52 and 43 points respectively. With finding offensive production being perhaps the biggest concern, head coach Mike Kemp explains it will have to come by committee this season.

“Obviously, the first and foremost concern is replacing the lost offense that we had graduating last year. You can’t replace a Scott Parse or an Alex Nikiforuk. Replacing our lost offense is going to be by committee. We have enough players coming back that have put up significant numbers that I believe we should be able to sustain a similar level of offense that we’ve enjoyed the last three seasons.”

Two returning players that could help replace the offense that went with Parse and Nikiforuk are seniors Bryan Marshall and Brandon Scero.  Marshall, who will serve as team captain this season, returns as the top scorer after posting 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) in 38 games. He has spent the better part of the last three seasons playing alongside Parse.

Scero was fourth on the team in scoring with 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists). Where the Canton, MI native did much of his damage last season was on the Mavericks power play. Of his 18 goals, seven came on the man-advantage.

Another area where Nebraska-Omaha also suffered some key losses was on the blueline. Dan Knapp, Mike Eickman, Bobby Henderson and Phil Angell graduated. The departures mean that the Mavericks blueline will be very young this season. Juniors Juha Uotila and Adam Bartholomay anchor the Nebraska-Omaha defensive corps.

In addition to the returning players, the Mavericks will also add a quintet of freshmen to their blueline. The newcomers will bring a number of attributes to the Nebraska-Omaha defense, notably size. Three of the five freshmen are 6’3 or taller.

The one player to watch is Alain Goulet. The 2007 draft selection of the Boston Bruins is an outstanding puck-moving defenseman with size. With the offensive skills that he is blessed with Goulet could likely become a mainstay on the Mavericks power play. The Kapuskasing, ONT native is also one of four players coming out of the Aurora Tigers (OPJHL) program that’s on the Mavericks roster this season.

Like most collegians, Goulet garnered considerable interest from other teams. One that heavily pursued him was the Sudbury Wolves, the team that holds his Canadian Major Junior rights. Goulet turned down the opportunity to play in the OHL with Sudbury, opting instead to go the NCAA route and attend the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

With the predominantly youthful blueline that Nebraska-Omaha will have this season, solid goaltending will be paramount to stabilizing the defense. That shouldn’t be a problem as the Mavericks return all three netminders from last season. Sophomore Jeremie Dupont returns as the main man between the pipes, but once again will be challenged by junior Jerad Kaufman and senior Eric Aarnio. Dupont posted a 13-10-6 record last season and as good as he was last year, he could be even better this year.

“Jeremie is coming back with one more year of experience under his belt and one more year of maturity. Knowing the kind of capability and commitment that Jeremie has and what he has done to prepare for this season, I would expect that to work to his advantage. He’s a pro and the maturity level for his age is incredible. He has gotten stronger and his conditioning level is extremely high. While I don’t think that he has put on the kind of weight that we would’ve like to have seen him put on, he does look very fit,” Kemp said of his budding young netminder.

Northern Michigan University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 4)

For Northern Michigan, the 2006-07 season proved to be a difficult one, finishing tenth in the CCHA. However, the difficulties of last season pale in comparison to what is in store this season for the Wildcats. After earning a split in the inaugural Superior Cup tournament last weekend, first defeating Michigan Tech before falling to Minnesota-Duluth, Northern Michigan’s road to the end of the season will be about re-establishing the team’s identity.

The Wildcats lost a number of players whose departures impact all three positions. Furthermore, 12 new faces will be donning the Northern Michigan colors for the first time this season.

The most significant loss that the Wildcats suffered was that of All-American Mike Santorelli, who opted to forego his final year to sign with the Nashville Predators. The Burnaby, BC native was a one-man wrecking crew for the Wildcats last season. He led the team in several categories including points (47), goals, (30), shots (190), power play goals (11) and shorthanded goals (4).

In addition to Santorelli, Northern Michigan also lost Darin Olver, Pat Bateman, Dusty Collins, and Rob Lehtinen all to graduation. Also, Jacques Lamoureux has transferred to the Air Force Academy. The six players combined for 47 percent of the team’s scoring. The Wildcats, who ranked 50th in the nation in team offense last season, will be tested further this season to generate some much-needed offense. Junior Nick Sirota returns as the team scorer after posting 20 points (ten goals, ten assists) playing in all 41 games.

One veteran who is poised to have a very good year is rugged senior Matt Siddall (ATL). The North Vancouver, BC native posted 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) in 37 outings. He also led the team with 107 penalty minutes. His punishing style was particularly evident in helping the Wildcats win many of the battles along the boards. If Siddall could find a way to balance his ultra-aggressive style with a bit more discipline, he could be even more effective and dangerous this season.

Joining the returning group upfront, are eight newcomers, led by Alaska-Anchorage transfer Billy Smith. The Sterling, AK native will bring some much-needed experience and leadership to Marquette, MI. Interestingly enough Smith will also serve as one of the team’s co-captains this season.

An incoming freshman forward to keep an eye on is Mark Olver, the younger sibling of now-former Wildcat Darin Olver. The younger Olver is a superbly skilled forward. Last season, he played for the Omaha Lancers racking up 64 points (29 goals, 35 assists).

One position that will be interesting to watch is in goal. Bill Zaniboni and Josh Hartinger have graduated. While Ian Keserich (COL), the former Ohio State Buckeye who was expected to arrive in Marquette this season opted to turn pro and will be playing for the Central Hockey League’s Colorado Eagles this season. Zaniboni, who saw the bulk of the work between the pipes for the Wildcats last season, will be a difficult player to replace. In his 35 appearances, he went 12-21-2 that included three shutouts.

Towering sophomore Brian Stewart is the lone returnee from last year’s squad. The Burnaby, BC native saw limited action as a knee injury kept him out of the lineup for a good portion of the season. He played just 13 games and posted a 3-3-0 record. Fellow sophomore Derek Janzen makes a return to the Northern Michigan lineup after a one-year stint in the BCHL.

Depending upon how things transpire in goal over the course of the season, the goaltender to watch is Reid Ellingson. The recipient of the 2007 Frank Brimsek Award as the top Minnesota high school goaltender, was brilliant between the pipes at Cloquet/Esko/Carlton last season. He posted a 17-4-2 record that included two shutouts. One of Ellingson’s most remarkable stats was the fact that he allowed just 39 goals in 23 games. Ellingson is a small goaltender with great athleticism and focus. With an ’89 birthdate, he is also one of the youngest members on Northern Michigan’s squad this season and will be eligible for the 2008 NHL Draft.

The Wildcats defensive corps was also not immune to key off-season losses. Stalwarts Matt Maunu, Bobby Selden and Zach Tarkir have all graduated, and Spencer Dillon (FLA) has left the team. Nevertheless, Northern Michigan returns some outstanding veterans, most notably T.J. Miller (NJ). The Placentia, CA native will serve as one of the team’s co-captains. Miller, who is a sophomore this season, made tremendous strides in his development over the course of his freshman campaign. Though he posted just 14 points (two goals, 12 assists), he was solid contributor at both ends of the ice and logged a considerably amount of ice time. As good as he was last season, Miller could be even better this season.

University of Notre Dame

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 7)

The 2006-07 season goes down as the most successful season in the history of the Notre Dame hockey program that culminated in capturing the CCHA regular season and Mason Cup Championships as well as their second trip to the NCAA Tournament. As the Fighting Irish move onto this season, the team faces some new challenges. Last weekend’s season-opening Lefty McFadden Tournament proved to be an early test for Notre Dame after losing to Wisconsin before moving on to defeat Mercyhurst.

Nowhere will the off-season losses be felt more early in the season than in goal.  Hobey Hat Trick finalist David Brown (PIT) has graduated, leaving the program as the most celebrated netminder in the team’s history. Brown was also the backbone of the nation’s stingiest defense last season. He posted a 30-6-3 record that included six shutouts. His miniscule 1.58 goals against average led the nation while his .931 save percentage tied for second.

With the loss of Brown, the Fighting Irish will be inexperienced in goal but won’t be lacking in solid talent. Junior Jordan Pearce only saw action in three games last season but posted a 2-1 record in which one of his wins was a shutout. He was also in goal for both games of the Lefty McFadden Tournament.

Pearce will get some serious competition from incoming freshman Brad Phillips. The 2007 draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers comes to Notre Dame as the most highly touted incoming goaltender this season. The Farmington Hill, MI native is one of the three newest Fighting Irish players from the USNTDP. Phillips is a very technically sound netminder whose summer training has added a few pounds to his thin frame coming into this season.

Another area where Notre Dame also lost key contributors was on the blueline. The Fighting Irish graduated three excellent defensemen in Noah Babin (CAR), Wes O’Neill (COL) and Tom Sawatske. While the losses are significant, the Notre Dame should be rock solid again this season. Seniors Brock Sheahan and Dan VeNard, both of whom will serve as assistant captains this season, along with outstanding sophomore Kyle Lawson (CAR) will anchor the blueline.

The strength of the Fighting Irish’s defense last season made them particularly effective on the penalty kill. Their amazing 90.4 percent efficiency rating was the best in the nation. Furthermore, the 70 total goals allowed were also the fewest in the nation.

In addition to the returning defensive corps, Notre Dame will welcome a pair of 2007 drafted freshmen that will certainly add some toughness to the team’s blueline in Ian Cole (STL) and Teddy Ruth (WSH). As head coach Jeff Jackson explains Cole and Ruth add not only some excitement to his team’s defense but also some other elements necessary for the team’s success.

“We’re excited about our defense. We are going to have some inexperience and youth back there, but we’re also going to have some ability back there too. I think with Ian (Cole) and Teddy (Ruth), we’re definitely going to have more grit back there than we’ve had and have a little more physical intensity too. That was something that we had identified as a weakness when we started to recruit this class a few years ago. I think our defense is going to be just fine. It’s just a matter of them gaining confidence and learning how to be consistent, because the biggest challenge will be playing well every night as opposed to playing well just once in awhile.”

Upfront, the Fighting Irish didn’t lose much offensive production but they did lose four quality leaders in graduates Josh Sciba, Jason Paige, T.J. Jindra and Michael Bartlett. With those players now gone, the leadership torch passes to senior Mark Van Guilder, who will serve as this season’s team captain. The Roseville, MN native has established himself as one of the best two-way forwards in the CCHA that can also play both on the wing and at center. He finished fourth on the team in scoring with 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists).

Notre Dame also returns one of the nation’s most dangerous line combinations in junior Erik Condra (OTT) and sophomores Ryan Thang (NSH) and Kevin Deeth. The trio alone accounted for 32 percent of the team’s offense last year that included 35 percent of the goals scored. Condra, who will serve as one of the team’s assistant captains, led the Fighting Irish with 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists). Thang, a CCHA All-Rookie Team selection and a 2007 draft pick of the Nashville Predators, led the team with 20 goals.

Notre Dame was one of only three teams (Clarkson and New Hampshire were the others) in the nation that ranked in the top ten in both team offense and defense last season.  The Fighting Irish averaged 3.40 goals per game, which ranked them tenth. However, a good portion of the offense came from their top line. This season, Jackson hopes to try and get more offensive production from throughout his lineup.

“There’s no question that that’s one of the biggest keys to our season. It’s one thing that I think hurt us in the end last year because we were easy to defend against in terms of our one top line. We had contributions from other players but not on a consistent basis. I think that will be one of the things that we’ll be trying to find a way to fix with the depth that we have returning upfront and with the incoming freshmen having a high level of skill and hockey sense. Getting goals chipped by our third and fourth lines and having a second line that can be productive consistently will take some of the pressure off of any individuals that (other) teams may want to isolate.”

The Ohio State University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 5)

After a slow start to their 2006-07 season, Ohio State came back strong in the second half and ended up finishing seventh in the CCHA. This season, the Buckeyes are off to a very good start after winning last weekend’s Lefty McFadden Tournament to open their 2007-08 campaign defeating Merychurst and Wisconsin.

Ohio State will have a number of issues to address this season, namely re-building the team chemistry with such a large number of newcomers. The Buckeyes will have the CCHA’s biggest incoming class with 15. With a predominantly young and inexperienced team come some unique challenges, the most daunting of which will be with the blueline.

The Buckeyes lost three outstanding defensemen to graduation in Sean Collins (WSH), Matt Waddell and Tyson Strachan. In addition, Kevin Montgomery (COL) bolted for the OHL at mid-season. Compounding matters is the fact that Ohio State also have some defensive woes that need to be dealt with. The Buckeyes surrendered an average of 3.24 goals last season, ranking them 40th in the nation.

With all of that, Ohio State will return some very good defensemen including seniors Jason DeSantis and Johann Kroll, who will anchor the blueline. DeSantis returns as the Buckeyes top scoring defenseman after posting 25 points (five goals, 20 assists) playing in all 37 games last season. Kroll, who will serve as one of the team’s assistant captains, was another contributor who also appeared in all 37 games. He finished with ten points (one goal, nine assists).

Ohio State will also welcome four newcomers, led by offensive-minded defenseman Shane Sims. The 2006 draft selection of the New York Islanders is a player that head coach John Markell believes might be able to eventually fill the role Sean Collins leaves.

“Shane’s a highly skilled defenseman that we were very impressed with two-three years ago when we went out and saw him in the USHL. He possesses some agility and good presence. We hope that he can continue on the path that he’s on right now. I think that he’ll be able to eventually take over for a guy like Sean Collins. He can emerge as an offensive defenseman but we want to make sure that he stays concentrated on being a defensive defenseman. His natural instincts will be there. The quicker that he gets acclimated to the defensive end and feeling secure about that, then his offensive skills will only improve.”

The forward lines will also have a very different look for the Buckeyes this season. Five players, including top goal-scorer Mathieu Beaudoin, have graduated. Domenic Maiani was dismissed and Sam Campbell opted not to return to the team.

The departures at both forward and defense means that Ohio State will not have seven of their top eight scorers back. The top returning scorer is senior Tommy Goebel, who finished second on the team with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists).

The greatest news for Ohio State coming into the 2007-08 season was that the team was able to start with their best forward in the lineup in senior Tom Fritsche (COL). His battle with ulcerative colitis limited him to just 19 games and 13 points (five goals, nine assists) last season.

“When Tom came back he was down 45 pounds. The first time that we truly saw him was in our Christmas tournament. He had reserved energy and was truly excited and all, but after that it was extremely difficult for him to compete at this level after having lost 45 pounds. He gained all of that back and plus some. Tom comes back (this season) in probably the best shape that he’s ever been in here in the last three years. He’s also a lot stronger. I told Colorado that they might even get a better player than they thought they did when they drafted him, now that he’s discovered what his problem is,” Markell said of Fritsche.

With many familiar faces having left, ten new faces upfront arrive, led by a pair of 2007 draft selections in C.J. Severyn and John Albert. Severyn, a Calgary Flames draft pick, is a strong, intense centerman whose ultra-competitive nature is matched by his penchant for the physical side of the game. Albert, an Atlanta Thrashers draft pick, is also centerman. Albert possesses a nice combination of speed and intelligence, and is a player that has the ability to control the tempo of the game.

One area that should be significantly more stable this season is goaltending. The sophomore tandem of Joe Palmer (CHI) and Nick Filion will be a year older with some experience under their belts. The duo experienced trial by fire last season and while it was a struggle to get through the first half, the then-freshmen fared much better in the second half. Palmer, who appeared in 34 of the 37 Buckeyes games last season, posted a 15-15-4 record that included one shutout. He also posted a respectable 2.96 goals against average. His counterpart Filion saw action in seven games, going 0-2-1.

Western Michigan University

(Number of NHL prospects on 2007-08 roster: 4)

After finishing in the bottom tier of the CCHA standings for the last couple of years, Western Michigan was able to put together a very strong 2006-07 season that saw them finish sixth in the conference. This year, the Broncos will look to continue their climb up the CCHA standings when they open their 2007-08 campaign on Oct. 19 hosting non-conference foe Bentley College.

Two areas where Western Michigan vastly improved from the seasons before were getting consistently solid goaltending and their increased offensive production.

The latter, specifically where the forward lines are concerned, took the hardest hits in the off-season. Second leading scorer Paul Szczechura, along with Brett John, Kevin Labatte and Jason Moul have graduated, while CCHA Rookie of the Year Mark Letestu opted to forego the remainder of his eligibility to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins. With the departures of Letestu and Szczechura, the Broncos lose their two top scorers. In addition to leading Western Michigan, Letestu also led the nation in points per game (1.24) among rookies as well as co-led the nation in rookie scoring. Szczechura, who blossomed into one of the CCHA’s most consistent performers during his career, led the Broncos in assists (26) and finished with 45 points.

Szczechura and Letestu were integral parts of a Western Michigan team that averaged 3.24 goals per game – that tied them for 17th in the nation. What makes that number even more impressive is the fact that the team got offensive production from nearly all of their regulars. Last season, the Broncos had nine players on their roster that posted points in double digits.

While the losses of Letestu and Szczechura are significant, Western Michigan returns some outstanding point producers led by seniors Jeff Pierce and Brian Bicek and junior Jeff LoVecchio. However, the biggest challenge will be replacing Letestu and Szczechura’s high point production. LoVecchio, who will serve as team captain, returns as the team’s top scorer after posting 35 points (19 goals, 16 assists). Where the Chesterfield, MO native really made his mark last season was on special teams. Of his 19 goals, three came on the power play and four came shorthanded. Pierce and Bicek return after very solid junior campaigns that saw them post 33 and 26 points respectively.

In addition to the returning veterans upfront, Western Michigan also brings in a superb group of five freshmen led by Max Campbell and Ryan Watson. Campbell, a 2007 draft selection of the New York Rangers, is a skillful centerman that established himself as an offensive threat in his junior days with the Strathroy Rockets (OPJHL) in Ontario. Watson, a 2007 draft selection of the Florida Panthers is the younger brother of Broncos sophomore Cam Watson. The younger Watson is a versatile player in that he can play both on wing and at center upfront and defense as well. He also brings a very good combination of skill, energy and grit to Western Michigan.

As head coach Jim Culhane explains, the two young NHL prospects along with the rest of his group of incoming forwards bring elements that fit the style of Western Michigan Broncos hockey quite well.

“I think what we’re trying to do is recruit to our identity as a team. I think all of the guys coming in play the game with a lot of energy and are tremendous competitors. They all have the ability that we feel that can contribute offensively as well as having good skills. I think for us, we need to have these young guys settle in and feel comfortable as soon as they can and when they do that, hopefully they can contribute to the success of the team.”

Another area that Western Michigan looks very strong coming into the season is on their blueline. The lone loss was that of the always-dependable Ryan Mahrle. Mahrle led all Broncos defensemen in scoring last season with 17 points (two goals, 15 assists). He was also one of six players to play in all 37 games. With the departure of Mahrle, Western Michigan loses not only their top defenseman, but also the cornerstone of their defensive corps.

One returning player that could help fill part of what Mahrle leaves is senior assistant captain Nathan Ansell. The Sarnia, ON native made great strides in development last season. While he played well in the first half of the season, it was in the second half where Ansell really took off. His confidence and maturity level paid off quite well for Western Michigan, particularly on the power play. Ansell capped his junior season posting seven points (all assists).

“Nathan really emerged for us in the second half of last season not only on the ice, but just maturing as a young man and really understanding the whole picture of being a D-I college hockey player and what it takes to be successful. I feel very strongly that he’ll have an outstanding senior year and will replace the leadership and the minutes that Mahrle played,” Culhane said of Ansell.
 
After struggling to find some consistent stability in goal over the last few years, the Broncos finally found their man last season in Riley Gill. The returning sophomore and member of the CCHA All-Rookie Team, won the starting job around mid-season and never looked back. He posted a 13-8-1 record that included four shutouts. Gill is also the lone returning netminder for the Broncos after Daniel Bellissimo and Trevor Heffernan left the team. This season, Gill will get some competition from newcomers Matt Federico and Jerry Kuhn.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.