As the first season of hockey amid the COVID-19 pandemic begins in the WIAC, teams are looking at a decidedly different schedule than in years past.
Each team will play 10 games against conference opponents and Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-Stevens Point are the frontrunners for the conference title. The two shared the regular-season championship a year ago but the Blugolds won the WIAC tournament.
Wisconsin-River Falls is always in the mix for the title and Wisconsin-Superior was one of the most improved teams last season. Wisconsin-Stout and Northland could certainly play spoiler on any given night.
Below is a quick look at each of the teams in the WIAC as they prepare for the 2021 season.
Head Coach: Matt Loen
2019-20 Record: 22-4-2 overall; 11-3-1 WIAC
Key Returning Players: Andrew McGlynn (11 goals, 16 assists); Adam Parsells (8 goals, 16 assists); Jon Richards (12 goals, 16 assists); Zach Dyment (19-3-2, 529 saves)
Noteworthy: McGlynn was the top freshman in the league last season. Dyment and Parsells were first-team All-WIAC picks and All-Americans. Richards notched honorable mention honors in the WIAC. Dyment fashioned a 1.13 goals against average. The Blugolds won the WIAC tournament and were set to host an NCAA tournament game before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the season. All five of UW-Eau Claire’s newcomers have NAHL experience.
Head Coach: Steve Freeman
2019-20 Record: 16-10-3 overall; 7-6-2 WIAC
Key Returning Players: Christian Hausinger (10 goals, 26 assists); Cayden Cahill (12 goals, 19 assists); Gabe Wahl (6 goals, 3 assists); Josh Arnold (5 goals, 6 assists); Charlie Singerhouse (5 goals, 6 assists); Jackson Nauss (4 goals, 9 assists); Peter Karavos (3 goals, 14 assists)
Noteworthy: The Falcons return a formidable power play that was ranked as the best nationally for a good part of last season, with opponents going just 14 of 101 against it. Hausinger was the WIAC Player of the Year and an All-American. The Falcons return nine of its top scorers from last season. Cahill is the top returning goal scorer from last season.
Head Coach: Tyler Krueger
2019-20 Record: 18-7-3 overall; 10-2-3 WIAC
Key Returning Players: Zach Zech (16 goals, 14 assists); Steven Quagliata (11 goals, 8 assists); Carter Roo (9 goals, 17 assists); Colin Raver (8 goals, 10 assists); Eli Billing (17-7-2, 574 saves)
Noteworthy: Jordan Roo joins Stevens Point this year. His older brother Carter is currently on the team. Tyler Pietrowski has transferred in from Utica. The Pointers scored 116 goals, the most in the conference. Stevens-Point also led the WIAC in assists (181). Zech and Roo ranked second and third on the team in scoring last season.
Head Coach: Mike MacDonald
2019-20 Record: 8-18-1 overall; 6-9 WIAC
Key Returning Players: Logan Nelson (10 goals, 14 assists); Raphael Gosselin (8 goals, 9 assists); Konnar Dechaine (8 goals 7 seven assists); Evan Butcher (4 goals, 14 assists); Brennan Kitchen (7-10-1, 3.13 goals against average)
Noteworthy: MacDonald is in his first season as the head coach of the Blue Devils. He spent the last four years as an assistant at Curry College and played collegiately at Geneseo. Nelson is a two-time honorable mention selection in the WIAC. Gosselin ranked sixth in the league in power play goals (4). Kitchen logged more than 1,000 minutes in goal and made 500 saves. He was an All-WIAC pick as well.
Head Coach: Rich McKenna
2019-20 Record: 16-10-3 overall; 7-8 WIAC
Key Returning Players: Troy York (13 goals, 13 assists); Dylan Johnson (12 goals, 13 assists); Chad Lopez (9 goals, 16 assists); Lawson McDonald (2 goals, 15 assists); Artur Terchiyev (6 goals, 9 assists); Oscar Svensson (10-4, 2.25 goals against average)
Noteworthy: York was a first-team All-WIAC selection a season ago. Johnson earned rookie of the year honors in the conference. Svensson saved nearly 92 percent of the shots he faced and recorded two shutouts. The Yellow Jackets won six more games last season than they did the previous year. Their nine-game unbeaten streak last season was the eighth longest in program history. Two of Superior’s newcomers, Troy Quinn and Zach Bannister, played for Flin Flon of the SJHL.
Head Coach: Seamus Gregory
2019-20 Record: 4-22-1 overall; 1-14 WIAC
Key Returning Players: Cameron Coutre (4 goals, 4 assists); Jarrod Hester (1 goal, 4 assists); Matthew Murphy (3 goals, 2 assists); Cole Woodliffe (3 goals, 4 assists)
Noteworthy: The Lumberjacks begin their second season in the WIAC and are hoping to halt a 13-game winless streak. Coutre is the top returning player in terms of points scored. He’s also the leading returning goal scorer.