The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference seems to be separated into three tiers of teams. In the first tier is Bethel and St. Thomas, the second consists of Augsburg, St. Olaf, Gustavus Adolphus, and St. Johns, and the third includes St. Marys, Concordia-Moorhead, and Hamline.
Now, this breakdown of the MIAC might seem obvious since it was the way the teams finished last season. However, both Bethel and St. Thomas have not taken any steps down to the lower tier, instead they have both improved. The second tier teams dont seem to have the weapons to compete with the two powerhouses, and the lower tier teams are still struggling to fix major issues such as penalties, goaltending, and recruiting.
The teams are organized below by predicted order of finish.
St. Thomas Tommies
Coach: Terry Skrypek, 21st season at St. Thomas (372-165-36)
2006-2007 overall record: 17-10-0
2006-2007 MIAC record: 12-4-0
2006-2007 MIAC finish: Second
2007-2008 predicted finish: First
St. Thomas graduated several all-conference talent, however the Tommies are also returning several all-conference players. Nick Pernula returns off a 58 points (28 goals, 30 assists) performance last season in 42 games.
St. Thomas restocked its depth chart with ten new players this season. Sophomore goaltender Tyler Chestnutt, a transfer from Holy Cross, will challenge junior Cameron Voss for the netminding position. Junior defenseman Adam Davis, a transfer from Minnesota-Duluth, will give the Tommies experience at the blue line.
St. Thomas has more depth than any other team in the conference, as each position is solid from top to bottom. The Tommies could possibly only see two or three losses in the MIAC this season.
Coach: Joel Johnson, first season at Bethel (2-0-0)
2006-2007 overall record: 18-10-1
2006-2007 MIAC record: 12-3-1
2006-2007 MIAC finish: First
2007-2008 predicted finish: Second
Bethel was a bit of a surprise last season as they finished with the best record in the conference. This season the Royals should remain a force in the MIAC despite having young scorers. One major obstacle in Bethels path is trying to fill the holes that graduation left. With 12 veterans missing from last seasons team the Royals will need to find young players who can pick up the slack.
Incoming forwards Christian Fogerty, Lukas Jorgensen, Tom Menozzi, and Ian Vanbiesbrouck need to be key players if Bethel wants to continue its success from last season.
Seniors Dan Bonne and Jeff Balvin will need to provide leadership to the young crew of forwards. The Royals have an experienced defensive unit returning from last season that allowed the fewest goals per game (2.83) in the conference. Sophomore Aaron Damjanovich, who led the MIAC in goals against average, save percentage, and winning percentage, is the anchor of the Bethel squad.
The Royals were the top pick in the MIAC Preseason Coaches Poll and ranked 15th in the USCHO.com Preseason Poll. Clearly, the expectations are very high for Bethel and with such young forwards it will be interesting to see how first year coach Joel Johnson handles the pressure his team faces.
Gustavus Adolphus Golden Gusties
Coach: Brett Petersen, eighth season at Gustavus (83-87-15)
2006-2007 overall record: 11-13-2
2006-2007 MIAC record: 9-6-1
2006-2007 MIAC finish: Fifth
2007-2008 predicted finish: Third
Gustavus lost three of its top four scorers to graduation but retains its top scorer from last season, Eric Bigham. The main concern for the Gusties this season should be goaltending. All three sophomore netminders from last years squad left the team and coach Brett Petersen brought in two first-year players and a junior transfer to fill the void. This could be the factor that makes or breaks the Gusties season.
Gustavus added six first-year skaters to its roster with three forwards and three defensemen. These newcomers will see minimal playing time with so many veterans on the team.
The Gustie defensemen do not have much size, as the tallest is 61, however two of the goaltenders are listed at 63 and 64. Without the ability to clear the traffic in front of the net the goaltenders must be able to handle added pressure. It will be interesting to see what kind of netminding the Gusties have.
St. Johns Johnnies
Coach: John Harrington, 15th season with St. Johns (229-131-29)
2006-2007 overall record: 9-14-2
2006-2007 MIAC record: 6-9-1
2006-2007 MIAC finish: Sixth
2007-2008 predicted finish: Fourth
St. Johns had its first losing season (9-14-2) last year since 1994-95. The good news is that they lost only six players to graduation and will have a lot of experience returning to the lineup this season. Senior Pat Eagles will be the leader of this years squad and will be expected to boost the offense that the Johnnies lacked last season.
Junior goaltender Vince Wheeler will be back between the pipes as the teams top goalie this season. Wheeler posted respectable numbers last year with a save percentage of .890 while surrendering 2.89 goals against per game.
It will be up to this seasons junior class to take what they learned from their hardships last year and show improvement. Two important members of that group are forward Joel Stacklie and defenseman Clayton Rehm. Last season Stacklie recorded eight points (5 goals, 3 assists) in 19 games and Rehm notched seven points (7 assists) in 18 games.
If St. Johns is to rebound from last seasons disappointment it will need to increase its goals per game — 2.81 — which ranked seventh in the MIAC.
Coach: Chris Brown, second season at Augsburg (12-12-4)
2006-2007 overall record: 12-10-4
2006-2007 MIAC record: 9-3-4
2006-2007 MIAC finish: Third
2007-2008 predicted finish: Fifth
Augsburg will be looking at the 2007-2008 season as a reloading year. After losing players like Aaron Johnson, last seasons top scorer, Critter Nagurski, Greg May, A.J. Hau, and Chad Georgell, the Auggies need to find returners to fill their skates.
Augsburg has several players who will be expected to fill the void left by graduation. Defensemen Dan Leopold and Ben Bradbury will be the leaders on an experienced blue line. Sophomore Chris Johnson is the top scorer returning from last years squad with 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists). Junior Brett Way and Senior Danny Carlson will be big factors in the Auggie offense.
Andy Kent was one of the top netminders in the MIAC last season and should continue his solid play into this season. Kent compiled a record of 10-8-4 last season and was an All-MIAC selection. Senior Michael Henrichsen and junior Adam Hendel give Augsburg a lot of depth between the pipes.
The Auggies come into the 2007-08 season with nine first-year players on the roster. Defenseman Ben Roberts, and forwards Joel Sauer, Jim Jensen, Gerrit Hooker, and Cory Ellertson are the top newcomers to the program.
This season Augsburg may take a step back but it would be hard not to with the firepower they lost. However, the Auggies should still be competitive this season in the conference and will be a force in a couple years with its current first-year players.
St. Olaf Oles
Coach: Sean Goldsworthy, 11th season at St. Olaf (99-133-28)
2006-2007 overall record: 11-14-2
2006-2007 MIAC record: 9-5-2
2006-2007 MIAC finish: Fourth
2007-2008 predicted finish: Sixth
St. Olaf is anchored by its blue line unit, which is led by All-American John Paulson. Paulson led the Oles in goals last season with eight in 25 games. Junior Dylan Mueller led the team in scoring last year with