On the musical chart, the Blue Devils are somewhere between “Auld Lang Syne” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
Sure, the team is lamenting the loss of its four leading scorers, most notably All-American and 2009-10 NCHA Player of the Year Joel Gaulrapp, who tied for the team scoring lead with 27 points on 12 goals and 17 assists with fellow senior Scott Motz (10 goals, 17 assists).
Yet there is a sense of renewal with the influx of 10 freshmen and two unexpected sophomore transfers in forward Charles Lachance and defenseman Jason Cohen.
UW-Stout is a former of its 2006-07 shell when the 10-3-1 Blue Devils tied for first in the NCHA. The team subsequently tied for third (7-5-2) in 2007-08 and came in second (10-2-2).
Fifth-year senior Bobby Kuehl, who missed last season due to injury, forward Robert Carr, and defenseman David Larson are the remnants from the team’s zenith.
“About 70- to 75 percent of our team is freshmen and sophomores, so, we’re starting over,” coach Terry Watkins said. “We’re going to struggle a bit early.”
Rather than rue the departures though, the 15-year coach is buoyed by the promise ahead.
“I think we’re going to be pretty decent by the end of the year,” he said. “Teams turn over. You graduate a bunch of guys and all of sudden you start fresh.”
The new era includes a slew of frosh forwards in Robb Haider, (Alaska NAHL), Casey Kirley (Alexandria NAHL), Kevin O’Donnell (Springfield NAHL), Dan Cecka (Indiana USHL), Dusty Moser (North Iowa NAHL), Chris Stafne (Des Moines USHL) and Logan Rounds (Alaska NAHL).
Freshmen reinforcements also dot the blue line where Russ Whited (Motor City NAHL) and Logan Maly (Alaska NAHL) join mainstay seniors Jesse Johnston, Larson and Kuehl.
The addition of Cohen and Lachance from American International was an added bonus, the coach says. Lachance, a Quebec City native, scored three goals and added two assists in 22 games with American International. Cohen, who is from Anchorage, Alaska, had two assists in 17 games at AI.
“Jason was a kid we recruited hard two years ago,” Watkins said. “Then, for whatever reason, didn’t enjoy his stay at the previous school and called me and said, ‘I want to come and I have a buddy who wants to come with me.’ They are two very good additions. Both are good hockey players and great kids.”