Well, here it is. My annual crack at predicting the order of finish in the WCHA. Last season, I had my hits and misses, with Nebraska-Omaha (up six spots from my prediction), Alaska-Anchorage (up three spots), and St. Cloud State (down seven spots) the three teams that surprised me the most.
Here’s a reminder of how the teams finished last season:
WCHA 2010-11 Final Standings
|St. Cloud State||11-13-4||26|
And here’s how I see the bottom six spots shaping up in the league this year…
#12 Minnesota State University – Mankato Mavericks
Head Coach: Troy Jutting
2010-11 Record: 14-18-6 overall, 8-16-4 WCHA, (11th)
Key returning players: Sr. F Michael Dorr (12-14-26), Jr. F Eriah Hayes (11-11—22), So. F Chase Grant (8-12—20), Jr. F Eli Zuck (5-13—18), Sr. F Justin Jokinen (9-8—17), Jr. D Tyler Elbrecht (1-7—8), Jr. G Phil Cook (10-13-4, 3.01, .903)
Key losses: F Rylan Galiardi, F Andy Sackrison, D Kurt Davis, D Ben Youds, D Channing Boe
2011-12 season outlook: The Mavs lost eight conference games last season by one goal. If they can get consistent goaltending from Phil Cook and their underclassmen can overachieve, they could climb out of the WCHA cellar.
#11 Michigan Tech University Huskies
Head Coach: Mel Pearson
2010-11 Record: 4-30-4 overall, 2-24-2 WCHA, (12th)
Key returning players: So. F Milos Gordic (15-6—21), So. F Ryan Furne (12-9—21), So. F Jacob Johnstone (4-15—19), Jr. D Steven Seigo (4-13—17), Sr. F Brett Olson (4-6—10), So. D Dan Sova (0-9—9), Jr. G Kevin Genoe (3-17-2, 4.03, .883)
Key losses: F Bennett Royer, D Deron Cousens
2011-12 season outlook: With a new coach in Houghton, there is reason for optimism. Michigan Tech’s schedule is front-loaded with home games, so the Huskies should find some success early. MTU could climb to as high as 8th or 9th, but they’re probably a year away from double digit wins.
#10 Bemidji State University Beavers
Head Coach: Tom Serratore
2010-11 Record: 15-18-5 overall, 8-15-5, (10th)
Key returning players: Jr. F Jordan George (17-19—36), Sr. D Brad Hunt (3-18—21), Sr. F Shea Walters (1-13—14), Sr. F Jamie MacQueen (7-4—11), Sr. G Dan Bakala (14-13-4, 2.47, .919)
Key losses: F Matt Read, F Ian Lowe, D Ryan Adams
2011-12 season outlook: I doubt the Beavers will be able to pick up five wins against Omaha again this season, so they’ll have to perform better against St. Cloud State, Michigan Tech, Alaska-Anchorage, and MSU-Mankato (4-5-1 last year) if they hope to contend for home ice. It seems like so long ago that Bemidji State was in the Frozen Four, and it will be a while before they’re back.
#9 St. Cloud State University Huskies
Head Coach: Bob Motzko
2010-11 Record: 15-18-5 overall, 11-13-4 WCHA, (T-8th)
Key returning players: Sr. F Drew LeBlanc (13-26—39), So. F Cam Reid (8-21—29), Sr. F Jared Festler (12-12—24), So. D Nick Jensen (5-18—23), Jr. F David Eddy (9-8—17), Jr. F Ben Hanowski (13-7—20), Jr. G Mike Lee (12-14-4, 2.75, .910)
Key losses: F Garrett Roe, F Aaron Marvin, D Brett Barta, D Oliver Lauridsen, G Dan Dunn
2011-12 season outlook: SCSU qualifies as last season’s biggest disappointment. I had them picked to finish second in the league and they finished tied for eighth. They’ll probably surprise me again and finish in third or fourth place this year, but I’ll slot them in ninth and let them overachieve.
#8 University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves
Head Coach: Dave Shyiak
2010-11 Record: 16-18-3 overall, 12-14-2 WCHA, (T-8th)
Key returning players: So. F Jordan Kwas (4-20—24), So. F Matt Bailey (10-10—20), Jr. F Mitch Bruijsten (9-8—17), Sr. F/D Curtis Leinweber (4-6—10), So. F Brett Cameron (4-8—12), Sr. F Jade Portwood (2-9—11)
Key losses: F Tommy Grant, F Sean Wiles, D Luka (“he lives on the second floor…”) Vidmar
2011-12 season outlook: Coming into this season, the Seawolves are where some of this season’s top teams hope to be a year from now: a team that played as many as ten freshmen each night throughout the season, found some success late (sweeping Minnesota in the first round of the WCHA playoffs), and is a better team because of it. UAA graduated only five players and has only three seniors on this year’s roster, so the present and the future look bright for Dave Shyiak’s squad. If Alaska-Anchorage can hold serve at home (9-5-3 last season), they could contend for home ice this year.
#7 University of Wisconsin Badgers
Head Coach: Mike Eaves
2010-11 Record: 21-16-4 overall, 12-13-3 WCHA, (7th)
Key returning players: Jr. D Justin Schultz (18-29—47), So. F Mark Zengerle (5-31—36), So. F Michael Mersch (8-11—19), So. F Tyler Barnes (5-12—17), Jr. F Derek Lee (3-14—17), Jr. D John Ramage (1-10—11), So. D Frankie Simonelli (2-9—11).
Key losses: Everyone else. F Craig Smith, F Jordy Murray, and D Jake Gardiner left early; F Podge Turnbull, F Patrick Johnson, D Craig Johnson, and G Scott Gudmandson graduated.
2010-11 season outlook: The Badgers are the only team in the league without a returning goaltender, and freshman Joel Rumpel looks to have the early edge over fellow rookie netminder Landon Peterson. With just one senior on this year’s roster, the Badgers have a bright future but they will take their lumps this year, particularly on the road.
As you can see, I haven’t got the bottom six changing all that much, other than Mankato and Michigan Tech swapping places at the bottom. For an in-depth look at my predictions for the top six teams in the WCHA, please click here.