The pieces are in place for Minnesota-Duluth to meet expectations and finish near the top of the WCHA standings in 2010-11.
The Bulldogs return three 40-plus-point scorers — Jack Connolly, Mike Connolly and Justin Fontaine — that anchored a UMD power play that ranked third in Division I at the end of last season.
The media picked the Bulldogs to finish second in the WCHA, while the coaches projected them to take third.
“I like our chances to continue performing at a high level on the power play with the personnel we’re bringing back,” Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said in a press release. “We probably have more players, both forwards and defensemen, who are capable of seeing power-play time than we ever have.”
On Dec. 30, the Bulldogs will move into the new, $70 million Amsoil Arena to replace the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, which the Bulldogs called home for 44 years.
Fontaine and the Connollys will undoubtedly be counted on to score a bulk of UMD’s goals this year after the type of seasons they had in 2009-10.
Jack Connolly was the Bulldogs’ overall points leader with 49 and led the team in assists (31) to go with his 18 goals. WCHA coaches voted him the conference’s preseason player of the year.
Fontaine led the Bulldogs in goals with 21, finishing with 46 points. Mike Connolly finished the season with 14 goals and 40 points.
“Travis Oleksuk is another guy we’ll need production from to try and take some pressure off our big three,” Sandelin said. “Our opponents are going to focus on them, but we have some other capable players.”
The Bulldogs will miss 40-point scorer Rob Bordson, who left Duluth after his junior season.
On the blue line
Sandelin expects Justin Faulk to have an impact on the Bulldogs’ blue line this season after scoring 33 points for the U.S. National Under-18 Team last season. He also helped Team USA win the IIHF U18 World Championship gold medal.
“Justin Faulk comes in as a very talented, highly touted player who has obviously played at a high level with the National Team Development Program the past two winters,” Sandelin said. “He brings an element of offense to his game, but can also play tough if need be.”
Brady Lamb was UMD’s top scoring defenseman from last season with 24 points.
In the crease
Kenny Reiter split time in net with Brady Hjelle last season, with Reiter starting the majority of the games. Reiter had better numbers with a 2.37 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.
Hjelle returned to the USHL in the offseason.