What do we say about last year’s WCHA season to try to recap it?
Do we talk about the ridiculous parity, and how it came down to the final night of play to determine the standings, only narrowly avoiding using a plethora of tiebreaking procedures that would be enough to make anyone cry?
Do we talk about how North Dakota once again surged to capture its 11th MacNaughton Cup? Or do we talk about Minnesota-Duluth and how it became the first team to win three games at the Final Five to capture the Broadmoor Trophy?
Or maybe, do we mention how last year was the first time in a decade a WCHA team failed to make the Frozen Four, perhaps signaling the end of an era of dominance?
We talk about all of these things, as well as the fact this year will be the last year of the WCHA as we know it, as the league gains two more teams next year — the Bemidji State Beavers and the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.
This season, however? Look back to point No. 1 above about the parity, as all signs point to more of the same this year. Spots six through nine could be interchangeable and probably will end up being so by the time March rolls around.
Strap in folks, it’s going to be one heck of a ride. Again.
Please click on each team’s name for more detailed analysis.
Coach: George Gwozdecky
2008-09 record: 23-12-5, 16-8-4 WCHA (36 points, second of 10 teams)
Key returners: Marc Cheverie, G; Rhett Rakhshani, F; Patrick Wiercioch, D
Key losses: Tyler Bozak, F; Patrick Mullen, D/F; J.P. Testwuide, D
2009-10 predicted finish: Me, 1st. Media, 1st. Coaches, 1st.
Bottom line: The Pioneers have senior depth and no visible question marks except for one — can they survive the pressure of being tabbed No. 1? Remember, CC didn’t seem to have any visible question marks last year, either …
Coach: Mike Eaves
2008-09 record: 17-15-4, 14-11-3 WCHA (28 points, t-third of 10 teams)
Key returners: Ryan McDonagh, D; Derek Stepan, F; Ben Street, F
Key losses: Shane Connelly, G; Tom Gorowsky, F; Jamie McBain, D
2009-10 predicted finish: Me, 2nd. Media, 3rd. Coaches, 3rd.
Bottom line: The Badgers have a bit of a question as to who’s going to step up in net, but it’s Wisconsin — it’s known for cranking out good goalies. In any case, expect to see them fighting it out for the top spot in the league.
Coach: Dave Hakstol
2008-09 record: 22-12-4, 17-7-4 WCHA (38 points, first of 10 teams)
Key returners: Brad Eidsness, G; Chay Genoway, D; Chris VandeVelde, F
Key losses: Ryan Duncan, F; Joe Finley, D; Andrew Kozek, F; Brad Miller, D/F
2009-10 predicted finish: Me, 3rd. Media, 2nd. Coaches, 2nd.
Bottom line: It may not look like the Sioux have many question marks, but Hakstol thinks otherwise. Regardless, his team will be in the thick of things come late February like always.
Coach: Don Lucia
2008-09 record: 15-12-7, 12-11-5 WCHA (29 points, fifth of 10 teams)
Key returners: Jay Barriball, F; Cade Fairchild, D; Alex Kangas, G; Jordan Schroeder, F
Key losses: Ryan Stoa, F
2009-10 predicted finish: Me, 4th. Media, 4th. Coaches, 4th.
Bottom line: You’d think the Gophers would be higher up given they only really lost one key player and gained a lot by having Schroeder return … and they would be, if it only weren’t for the rest of the league.
Coach: Bob Motzko
2008-09 record: 18-15-3, 13-13-2 WCHA (28 points, sixth of 10 teams)
Key returners: Ryan Lasch, F; Garrett Raboin, D; Garrett Roe, F
Key losses: John Swanson, F; Jase Weslosky, G
2009-10 predicted finish: Me, 5th. Media, 5th. Coaches, 5th.
Bottom line: Losing Weslosky will hurt the Huskies unless junior Dan Dunn (or someone else) steps up. What will help the most, however, is finally finding consistency — particularly on the special teams — throughout the entire season.
Coach: Troy Jutting
2008-09 record: 15-15-6, 11-13-4 WCHA (26 points, eighth of 10 teams)
Key returners: Kurt Davis, D; Geoff Irwin, F; Kael Mouillierat, F
Key losses: Mick Berge, F; Dan Tormey, G; Mike Zacharias, G
2009-10 predicted finish: Me, 6th. Media, 8th. Coaches, 7th.
Bottom line: The Mavericks are returning a lot of upperclassmen which will help them through their growing pains of finding a new goaltender. They might be in the hunt for home ice by the end, though they probably won’t be far out of the muddled middle.
Coach: Dave Shyiak
2008-09 record: 14-15-5, 9-14-5 WCHA (23 points, ninth of 10 teams)
Key returners: Bryce Christianson, G; Kevin Clark, F; Tommy Grant, F; Jon Olthius, G
Key losses: Paul Crowder, F; Mat Robinson, D
2009-10 predicted finish: Me, 7th. Media, 9th. Coaches, 9th.
Bottom line: Shyiak’s been doing good things with the Seawolves — they were in the thick of things right until the end — and I see no reason why this year shouldn’t be a continuation of the same. If they end up near the bottom again, see my reasoning on why Minnesota isn’t higher.
Coach: Scott Owens
2008-09 record: 16-10-10, 12-9-7 WCHA (31 points, t-third of 10 teams)
Key returners: Gabe Guentzel, D; Nate Prosser, D; Bill Sweatt, F; Mike Testwuide, F
Key losses: Richard Bachman, G; Brian Connelly, D; Jake Gannon, D; Chad Rau, F; Eric Walsky, F
2009-10 predicted finish: Me, 8th. Media, 7th. Coaches, 8th.
Bottom line: The Tigers were probably hit the hardest in the summer due to early departures and graduation, dropping everyone’s expectations of them way down low. If Owens can draw on his few bright spots and find a goaltender, he may manage to surprise a few people along the way.
Coach: Scott Sandelin
2008-09 record: 16-12-8, 10-11-7 WCHA (27 points, seventh of 10 teams)
Key returners: Justin Fontaine, F; Mike Connolly, F; Jack Connolly, F
Key losses: Josh Meyers, D; MacGregor Sharp, F; Alex Stalock, G
2009-10 predicted finish: Me, 9th. Media, 6th. Coaches, 6th.
Bottom line: The Bulldogs do return three of their top five leading scorers, but they also lost a goaltender and a lot of leadership, losing nine total players from their Broadmoor Trophy-winning team. Still, if they can find a goalie to work out and fill their other holes, they could be in the fight for home ice at the end of the year as well.
Coach: Jamie Russell
2008-09 record: 6-23-7, 2-19-7 WCHA (11 points, 10th of 10 teams)
Key returners: Jordan Baker, F; Drew Dobson, D; Malcolm Gwilliam, F; Josh Robinson, G
Key losses: Alex Gagne, F; Geoff Kinrade, D; Rob Nolan, G
2009-10 predicted finish: Me, 10th. Media, 10th. Coaches, 10th.
Bottom line: It’s undoubtedly going to be another long year for the Huskies. Russell seemingly does the best he can, but often times in the WCHA, that’s just not good enough. Avoiding the injury bug might help too, but there’s only so much control one has over that.