Tuesday, September 16, 2008

WCHA Previews: minnesota

School: minnesota
Mascot: imbecilic smiling golden ground squirrel
Head Coach: Don Lucia, 10th year, 239-113-38

Last Season: 9-12-7, 7th place WCHA; 19-17-9 Overall

Predicted 08/09 WCHA Finish: 6th

Key Departures:
F Blake Wheeler, 15-20-35*
F Ben Gordon, 15-14-29
F Mike Howe, 7-14-21
D Derek Peltier, 4-17-21
G Jeff Frazee, 6-7-0, 2.93 GAA**
*All stats listed from 07/08
** Sarcasm intended

Key Returnees:
F Jay Barriball (Jr), 6-15-21
F Mike Hoeffel (So), 9-10-19
F Tony Lucia (Jr), 7-11-18
F Ryan Flynn (Jr), 4-11-15
D Cade Fairchild (So), 2-13-15

Top Sieve:
Alex Kangas (So), 12-10-9, 1.98 GAA

Key Additions:
D Aaron Ness (HS), 38-44-72, 2008 Mr. Hockey
F Jordan Schroeder (NTDP), 22-31-55
F Jake Hansen (USHL), 31-27-58
D Sam Lofquist (NTDP), 7-9-16

When Wisconsin Beats UM: KC 10/24 & 10/25, @ UM 2/6 & 2/7

07/08 Recap: minnesota struggled last season, and the rest of the WCHA enjoyed watching the powerhouse flounder in the bottom half of the conference. minnesota started things off on the right foot by falling way behind in the season opener to Rensselaer, only to be bailed out by biased officiating at a home tournament. At mid-season, Kyle Okposo left and joined the NY Islanders organization, depriving Minnesota of one of their top players and creating a storm of harsh words, including a critical critique of Don Lucia by Islanders GM Garth Snow. Around the same time, Jeff Frazee was benched for poor play in net, and in stepped Alex Kangas. There was a lot of talk about how great Kangas played in the 2nd half of the season, mainly by experts like Mazdorko and Woog. I wasn’t impressed though. Down the stretch minnesota did poorly against good teams (Denver and North Dakota) and feasted off of poor teams (UAA and Duluth). They stumbled into the WCHA Playoffs where they caught fire and made it to the final only to lose to Denver in front of a home audience at a “neutral” site. The WCHA Playoff surge landed them in the NCAA tourney where Boston College dispatched them in the 1st round on its way to the National Championship. Following the season assistant coach Mike Guentzel resigned, and rumors swirled that he was forced out as a scape goat for a poor season. If you are going to let someone go, why not convince FSN to let moron Kevin Gorg walk.

08/09 Thoughts: I originally had minnesota to finish 4th in the WCHA, but then in researching them I realized how much scoring they lost and how young the team will be. Four of their top five scorers are gone, and they struggled last season to score goals. Sure Kangas is back in net, but so what? He won’t be the first talented goalie to arrive in the Twin Cities only to leave a huge sieve. No doubt that minnesota has talented players, but they are very young. Included in this mix is a HUGE freshman class, bigger than either Wisconsin has brought in the last two years, which has to assimilate. At the end of the day, minnesota could easily finish higher in the WCHA standings if they pull it all together. The rest of the WCHA won’t shed any tears if minnesota has to travel again for the WCHA playoffs.