New-look NCHA should bring excitement in ’13-14

After a successful run in the MCHA, Adrian is looked to be a favorite in the NCHA this season (photo: Adrian College Athletics).

It’s a brand new season for the NCHA and the landscape of the league looks quite different from where it ended last season.

It was announced prior to the 2012-13 season that the two remaining schools in the NCHA would join the MCHA. Last spring, the league decided to stick with NCHA as the league identifier while merging the two group’s traditions. The league’s regular-season champion will earn the Peters Cup, the cup used by the NCHA. The Harris Cup, traditionally the MCHA playoff award, will be a part of the NCHA tournament.

Eight of the teams are old foes from the MCHA with Adrian, Concordia (Wis.), Finlandia, Lake Forest, Lawrence, Marian, Milwaukee School of Engineering and Northland returning. St. Norbert and St. Scholastica are new to the mix this season from the NCHA.

Adrian coach Ron Fogarty voiced positive reaction when speaking of the new competition in the league.

“It’s great having those two teams in the conference,” said Fogarty. “It will add excitement.”

St. Scholastica coach Mark Wick has a similar outlook on the new season.

“As we looked to where we would end up, we thought the MCHA was the league on the rise,” Wick said. “All teams are making commitments to their programs. We are going to have to compete each night to play.”

St. Norbert’s coach, Tim Coghlin, voiced a similar sentiment. Coghlin has a long history with coaches of the other teams in the newest version of the conference. AJ Aitken was an associate head coach under Coglin at St. Norbert before taking the head coaching job at Marian. Mike Szodkinski, head coach at Lawrence, was a standout goalie under Coghlin’s reins from 1999-2000.

“We may not know the players on the team, but we are very familiar with the men behind the benches,” said Coghlin.

St. Norbert and Adrian have both been dominant in their conferences in the most recent history. Adrian won the MCHA regular-season title, as well as the Harris Cup championship last year. St. Norbert won the NCHA playoffs, while placing second behind Wisconsin-Eau Clare in the regular season.

They are the only two teams to make it to the NCAA tournament last season. Both teams were knocked out in the quarterfinals by the eventual championship-game contenders. St. Norbert lost to Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the 2012-13 national champions, 3-1, while Adrian dropped an overtime thriller to Oswego 3-2.


Nickname: Bulldogs
2012-13 Record: 17-0-3 MCHA (1st), 23-2-3 overall
2012-13 Postseason: MCHA regular-season and playoff champions, suffered a 3-2 OT loss to Oswego in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Head Coach: Ron Fogarty, sixth season (122-18-3)
Key Returning Players: F Josh Cousineau (12-16-38), F Josh Ranalli (18-17-35), G Scott Shackell (.933, 1.95), G James Hamby (.914, 2.41)
Key Departures: F Zach Graham (14-25-39), F Shaq Merasty (22-16-38), F Andrew Dovey (11-10-21)

The Bulldogs will look to fill key losses from last season while losing seniors Zach Graham and Andrew Dovey. They also will not be returning top-scoring rookie, Shaq Merasty. The Bulldogs have always done a good job recruiting and their freshmen will be competing for playing time right off the bat. Adrian hosts a culture that knows how to win both conference and non-conference games and the new dynamic of adding two very talented teams this season will challenge the team in a positive way.

Concordia (Wis.)

Nickname: Falcons
2012-13 Record: 7-13-0 MCHA (t-6th), 7-18-0 overall
2012-13 Postseason: No postseason.
Head Coach: Jasen Wise, second season (7-18-0)
Key Returning Players: F Devin Stuermer (9-8-17), D Eli Riddle (1-14-15), F Chris Hughes (6-6-12)
Key Departures: There were no departing players with significant playing time during the ’12-13 season.

The Falcons are returning 12 sophomores to their roster who earned valuable experience last season. Concordia’s 7-18-0 overall record matches their win total in the last three seasons combined. Wise guided the team and remained positive on the team’s growth despite the tied-for-sixth-place finish in the conference. This season will bring more development for the team, but with the year of experience and wins last season, they have a chance to compete.


Nickname: Lions
2012-13 Record: 7-13-0 MCHA (t-7th), 7-18-0 overall
2012-13 Record: No postseason
Head Coach: John McCabe, fourth season (17-57-1)
Key Returning Players: F Collin Saint-Onge (11-13-24), F Sean Burke (7-10-17), G Troy Chandler (.908, 3.33)

Eight freshmen and nine sophomores will pose fresh legs for the Lions, who have not been in the top half of the MCHA standings since 2008-09. Senior assistant captain Collin Saint-Onge had a big season last year and the team will look to him to produce again this season to serve as an example for the rookies on the team.

Lake Forest

Nickname: Foresters
2012-13 Record: 6-10-4 MCHA (4th), 10-12-5 overall
2012-13 Postseason: Lost in the first round of the MCHA playoffs.
Head Coach: Ryan McKelvie, third season (15-34-5)
Key Returning Players: F Jason McAloon (7-15-22), F Roberto Caparelli (8-11-19)
Key Departures: G Brendan Sullivan (.911, 2.42)

McKelvie will look upon strides that have been taken each season since he started to get the Foresters to have a productive season.

“This season will be a concerted team effort, everyone needs to play well,” said McKelvie. “Our veteran players have been working hard and improving during the offseason and are looking to make some strides again this year.”

The one question for the Foresters this year will be their goaltending. With the loss of goalie Brendan Sullivan, Lake Forest now has three goalies who will be competing for playing time to earn the No. 1 billing in the net.


Nickname: Vikings
2012-13 Record: 6-11-3 MCHA (5th), 8-16-3 overall
2012-13 Postseason: Lost in a mini-game to Northland in the first round of the MCHA playoffs.
Head Coach: Mike Szkodzinski, eighth season (84-95-16)
Key Returning Players: F Logan Lemirande (7-20-27), F Rudi Pino (11-14-25)
Key Departures: F Brad Scurfield (12-14-25), F Phil Bushbacher (13-8-21)

Logan Lemirande and Rudi Pino were two of the top three scorers last season in their rookie campaigns. The Vikings will look to these two sophomores to be just as productive this season and lead the team offensively — they will be the players to watch. Lawrence will want to get out of the fifth-place bubble and earn a spot in the top half of the standings.


Nickname: Sabres
2012-13 Record: 12-8-0 MCHA (3rd), 13-12-1 overall
2012-12 Postseason: The Sabres lost in the MCHA semifinal playoffs.
Head Coach: AJ Aitken, second season (13-12-1)
Key Returning Players: F Tyler Klein (15-6-21), F Brian Berger (8-11-19), G Josh Baker (.920, 2.43)
Key Departures: D Mitch Kriz (7-11-17)

The Sabres were third in the standings closing out last season. Aitken will be very familiar with the two new teams in the conference, which will be an advantage for his team as they fight for a top spot in the conference. Marian returns eight seniors that will play a big role in guiding the team to a solid finish.

Milwaukee School of Engineering

Nickname: Raiders
2012-13 Record: 12-6-2 MCHA (2nd), 17-10-2 overall
2012-12 Postseason: MSOE lost to Adrian in the MCHA playoff championship game.
Head Coach: Mark Ostapina, 13th season (189-130-14)
Key Returning Players: F Cody Ganchar (9-16-25), D Michael Thompson (3-16-19), G Nick Kohn (.924, 2.12)
Key Departures: F Bradley Tierney (13-16-29), F Jordan Keizer (17-11-28)

Sophomore goalie Nick Kohn will be a big part of the Raiders’ season. He was second in the league in GAA touting a 2.29 with a .920 save percentage. Kohn won the most conference games out of any goalie in the league with 12 (the next closest was nine). With little worries between the pipes, the Raiders will need to fill in the offense since their two top scorers from last season were seniors (Tierney and Keizer).


Nickname: LumberJacks
2012-13 Record: 7-13-0 MCHA (t-6th), 10-17-1 overall
2012-12 Postseason: Lost in the MCHA semifinals to Adrian 8-0.
Head Coach: Steve Fabiilli, 9th season (38-167-9)
Key Returning Players: F Mike Lennon (13-17-30), F Mike Mikulan (9-16-25)
Key Departures: F Kraig Wright (10-13-23), D Brady Vandenberk (5-16-21)

The Lumberjacks stunned in the postseason last season as they beat Lawrence in the first round of the playoffs. They have a substantial number of upperclassmen on their roster that will want to continue the momentum that the postseason provided them. They are returning their two top scorers as Mike Lennon was third in league scoring last season, while Mike Mikulan was third in rookie scoring for the league.

St. Norbert

Nickname: Green Knights
2012-13 Record: 13-4-1 NCHA (2nd), 23-6-1 overall
2012-12 Postseason: Won the NCHA postseason title, lost in the NCAA semifinals.
Head Coach: Tim Coghlin, 21st season (434-119-46)
Key Returning Players: F Joe Perry (11-20-31), F Cullen Bradshaw (13-14-27), G David Jackson (1.61, .931)
Key Departures: F Kyle Stroh (19-22-41), F Cody Keefer (17-17-34)

Coghlin talks very candidly on where he is confident in his team and where they may have a problem this season.

“Our defensive core is solid, we have added all the right pieces and they will be better this year,” explained Coghlin, “Our goaltending will be better this year. The questions becomes who will produce our offensive scoring.”

The Green Knights lost their two top scorers (Stroh and Keefer) and it is unclear where the point production will come from. As long as St. Norbert stays solid on defense and in goal, this team will continue their successes that they have had in the past decade.

St. Scholastica

Nickname: Saints
2012-13 Record: 7-10-1 NCHA (4th), 13-14-1 overall
2012-12 Postseason: Fell to St. Norbert in the NCHA semifinals.
Head Coach: Mark Wick, 10th season (121-103-31)
Key Returning Players: F Brandon Nowakowski (17-11-28), F Dylan Nowakowski (6-18-24), G Colin Rundell (.904, 3.11)
Key Departures: F Brett Corcoran (12-17-29), F Tyler Miller (10-16-26)

After a lackluster start to the 2012-13 season, the Saints rallied to a 9-3-1 record in the second half of the season.

“I think the last season was a motivator as we had a good stretch and we were very close in big games,” said Wick, “It kind of left a bitter taste in the players’ mouths, but there were a lot of positives that came out of last season.”

St. Scholastica will look to the Nowakowski brothers to have another successful season with linemate Paul Marcoux.