The WIAC always tends to be one of the more competitive conferences in NCAA Division III hockey and is the home of the 2019 national champion in Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The league has a new look this year as Northland is now part of it. Below is a look at the season ahead in the conference.
Last year’s Champion: Wis.-Stevens Point swept the regular season and conference tournament championships on its way to winning the national title during an unbeaten season. The Pointers beat Wisconsin-Eau Claire 3-2 in the WIAC final.
The Contenders: The Pointers are the clear-cut choice until someone proves otherwise. But don’t count out Wis.-Eau Claire. The Blugolds are always a force in the WIAC and this year shouldn’t be an exception.
Dark Horse: Wisconsin-Superior picked up six wins in its last 10 games to close out the season and has the talent to contend, returning its top five scorers from last season.
Players to Watch:
The cupboard isn’t bare for Wis,-Stevens Point as it takes aim at another national title this season. The Pointers return seven of their top players and have added two Division I transfers. Four of the top five scorers lead the way, including Zach Zech, who finished second with 10 goals and 20 assists.
Carter Roo tallied 11 goals and 14 assists, Luke McElhenie came through with 10 goals and 15 assists and Colin Raver struck for a team-high 14 goals to go along with eight assists. What the Pointers will need is a new goalie as Connor Ryckman transferred to Northern Michigan.
Wis.-Eau Claire has every reason to believe it can contend for the WIAC crown. The Blugolds return two-time all-conference picks Jake Bresser and Adam Parsells. They lead a team that won 19 games last year behind an attack where no player hit double digits in goals. Bresser scored four goals and led the team in assists (17). Parsells finished with seven goals and six assists. Andrew McGlynn is coming off a year where he tallied six goals and seven assists.
Wisconsin-River Falls has two all-conference players back and looks to contend in the WIAC. Cayden Cahill was one of the best scoring threats for the Falcons last season, scoring eight goals and tallying 13 assists. Christian Huasinger came through with two goals and 14 assists. Both players were honorable mention all-league picks.
Troy York was the leading scorer for Wis.-Superior last season, punching in 15 goals and dishing out 10 assists.Chad Lopez came through with eight goals and nine assists. Troy MacTayish and Artur Techiyev combined for 21 assists and Andrew Durham scored nine goals.
Logan Nelson is poised to lead the way for Wisconsin-Stout. He scored 10 goals and earned honorable mention all-conference honors as a freshman. Hunter Anderson led the Blue Devils in assists with 11. Lucas Carroll finished fifth in points (14), scoring seven goals and dishing out seven assists.
Northland has two of its best players back. Gus Ford scored seven goals and dished out 19 assists. Cole Woodliffe came through with 10 goals and 11 assists. Ty Kraus (11), Kyle Pouncy (11) and Kurt Sonne (10) all recorded 10 or more assists for the Lumberjacks.
Wis.-Stevens Point enters the year as the reigning champs and riding a 31-game unbeaten streak. Head coach Tyler Krueger as named the USCHO and ACHA Coach of the Year for guiding his team to a title.
Matt Leon, a former player for the Blugolds, ranks sixth all-time in wins among WIAC coaches. He enters this season just 10 away from 200 for his career. Leon’s team gets the opporutnity to play in the presigious PrimeLink Great Northern Shootout in late November, facing Plattsburgh State Nov. 29 and either Norwich or Middlebury the next day.
Steve Freeman is in his 24th year as the head coach of Wis.-River Falls. He has won 388 games in that time and should get to the 400-win milestone this season.
Wis.Superior features players from seven different countries, including goalie Oscar Svensson, who hails from Sweden. Svensson won six games and made 375 saves for a Superior team that finished third in the standings, its best finish in the WIAC since it branched off from the NCHA.
Wis.-Stout head coach Terry Watkins is just one win away from moving into second all-time on the WIAC wins list. He is currently behind former Wis.-Stevens Point head coach Joe Baldarotta, who won 265 games.
Northland begins its first season in the WIAC. The Lumberjacks played in the NCHA tournament last year and in their sixth season under the direction of Seamus Gregory.