Paula's Picks: Sept. 30

How was your summer? Quiet?
So much to talk about in the world of college hockey in the coming weeks and months, including the impending — and sad — demise of the CCHA.
In the meantime, however, there is hockey to be played and within the next five days, two CCHA teams are playing hockey that counts.
Hockey that counts. I’m going to be thinking about that all season long and right on through until the end of the 2012-13 season. This is still CCHA hockey, and it’s still hockey that counts. It starts with nonconference and exhibition play Saturday night.
Lake Superior at Alabama-Huntsville
The Lakers travel to Huntsville for two games this weekend, a Saturday-Sunday nonconference series to begin the 2011-12 season. LSSU finished the 2010-11 season eighth in the CCHA with an overall record of 13-17-9. Gone is Rick Schofield, the Lakers’ lead scorer from a season ago responsible for 17 of LSSU’s 93 goals. Returning, however, is sophomore goaltender Kevin Kapalka, whose .924 freshman save percentage earned him a spot on the CCHA 2010-11 All-Rookie Team.
The Chargers finished last season with a record of 4-26-2 and remain the lone independent team in D-I men’s ice hockey. I’m just happy that they remain at all. The prognosis for the program is not optimistic. Here’s the latest about the program from John Turner at the Huntsville Times. Turner has done a great job of keeping up with everything that affects UAH hockey — including the lukewarm commitment to the program by the university itself.
UAH adds 10 freshmen to its roster this season while losing its two top scorers from a year ago. Last year, senior defenseman Matt Baxter led the Chargers with nine goals and 13 assists. Second-leading scorer, Keenan Desemet (8-10–18), left to play for the Arizona Sundogs (CHL) after his sophomore year. The Chargers return three goaltenders; sophomore Clarke Saunders (3.80 GAA, .898 SV%) and junior John Griggs (3.95, .883) split time in the net last season.
Picks: LSSU 4-3, 3-2 It’s a homer pick, I admit, but I’m banking on Kapalka’s abilities in net to prevail over the rookie enthusiasm of the Charger team.
Niagara at Michigan
Atlantic Hockey’s Purple Eagles visit the Wolverines Tuesday, Oct. 4, for one nonconference game. Last year, Niagara finished fourth in the AHA with an overall record of 18-13-4. In 2010-11, they were led in scoring by seniors Paul Zanette and Bryan Haczyk, who contributed 57 of the Chargers’ 124 overall goals. Sophomores Ryan Rashid (13-13–26) and Scott Arnold (16-6–22) are the two returning 10-plus goal scorers from a year ago. Four goalies saw action for Niagara last season; three of them return.
Every CCHA fan knows what the Wolverines did last season. Their remarkable second half resulted in their regular-season conference title and an appearance in the NCAA championship game. Seniors from a season ago who comprised four of UM’s top five scorers — Louie Caporusso, Carl Hagelin, Matt Rust, Scooter Vaughan — are gone, but the Wolverines return David Wohlberg and Kevin Lynch, two double-digit goal scorers, and the excellent, entertaining goaltender Shawn Hunwick (2.21 GAA, .925 SV%) — as well as their most potent weapon, coach Red Berenson.
Pick: Michigan 4-2 This is less league homerism as it is common sense. The Wolverines have proven me wrong in the past, but I’m not picking against this team until they give me a reason to.
Exhibition Games
Oct. 1-2
Ontario IT at Michigan, Bowling Green
Toronto at Western Michigan, Ferris State
Windsor at Ohio State, Miami
Oct. 1
Northern Alberta IT at Alaska
Oct. 2-3
Western Ontario at Notre Dame, Michigan State
Oct. 3
US Under-18 Team at Michigan
Picks: For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that the NCAA prevails in every game.
Preseason CCHA Poll
Here’s how I picked the league this season.
1. Notre Dame
2. Miami
3. Michigan
4. Western Michigan
5. Alaska
6. Northern Michigan
7. Ferris State
8. Michigan State
9. Ohio State
10. Lake Superior
11. Bowling Green Poll
Here’s my first ballot of the season.
1. Notre Dame
2. North Dakota
3. Boston College
4. Miami
5. Michigan
6. Denver
7. Minnesota-Duluth
8. Nebraska-Omaha
9. Boston University
10. Western Michigan
11. New Hampshire
12. Colorado College
13. Yale
14. Union
15. Merrimack
16. Minnesota
17. Maine
18. RPI
19. Alaska
Next Week
USCHO rolls out the conference season previews next week, including mine on Wednesday. I may have something to say in the blog about the early action of this weekend, and I’ll definitely have picks on Friday.
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