Thursday, September 17, 2009

09/10 WCHA Previews: North Dakota

School: North Dakota
Mascot: Fighting Sioux (for awhile yet)
National Championships: 7 (’59, ’63, ’80, ’82, ’87, ’97 & ’00)
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol, 130-71-19, 6th season

Last Season: 17-7-4, 1st Place WCHA; 24-15-4 Overall

Predicted 09/10 WCHA Finish: 4th

Key Departures:
F Ryan Duncan, 20-19-39*
D Brad Miller, 6-29-35
F Matt Frattin, 13-12-25 (booted for drunken escapades)
F Ryan Martens, 10-12-22
F Andrew Kozek, 8-12-20
*All stats listed from 08/09

Key Returnees: (54.1% of scoring returns)
F Chris VandeVelde (Sr), 18-17-35
D Chay Genoway (Sr), 3-29-32
F Jason Gregorie (So), 12-17-29
F Brett Hextall (So), 12-14-26
F Evan Trupp (Jr), 7-13-20

Top Sieve:
Brad Eidsness, 24-12-4, 2.56 GAA, 0.906 save %

Key Additions:
F Michael Cichy (USHL), 34-42-76
F Carter Rowney (AJHL), 35-43-78
D Andrew MacWilliam (AJHL), 8-21-29
G Aaron Dell (AJHL), 25-17-8, 2.53 GAA, 0.924 Save %
F Corbin Knight (AJHL), 34-38-72
F Danny Kristo (USHL), 22-35-57

Freshman Scouting Report: Wow are all the best players in the AJHL going to NoDak? Carter Rowney was the AJHL playoff MVP leading his team to the title last season. His new teammate Michael Cichy did the same thing w/ the Indiana Ice in the USHL; he is a good looking player. Corban Knight is a late addition to the roster after Matt Frattin threw a landmower in the road and a few weeks later drove drunk and was AJHL Rookie of the Year. Andrew MacWilliam was a AJHL All-Star and Aaron Dell was one of the top goalies in the same league last season. I’d have to give NoDak the nod on the best class in the WCHA.

When Wisconsin Beats the Sioux: @lgm 12/11 & 12/12

08/09 Recap: In typical recent Sioux fashion, the team struggled in the 1st half of the season and then in the 2nd half went on a tear on their way to winning another MacNaughton Cup. Note to WCHA teams, request all games against NoDak before Christmas. The Sioux arrived at the Final Five as the favorite, only to fall flat on their face losing in the 3rd place game to Wisconsin. In the 1st round of the NCAA tourney, they had the game firmly in hand only to watch New Hampshire mount an epic comeback to end their season. Brad Eidsness was solid all season, but really fell apart when it mattered the most. Brett Hextall firmly established himself as every opposing fan’s new most hated player (hey Denver fans you guys are first in line), while Joe Finley had his mom write a note to Coach Hakstol that he had an injury and missed most of the season. And can a Sioux fan tell me what happened to David Toews?

Team’s Biggest Strength(es): Hakstol coaches an intimidating style of play, which I’d have to say has been very affective. Teams hate to play NoDak and opposing fans love to hate their players.

Team’s Biggest Weakness(es): Youth, the team is young, but talented. They have a huge freshman class, and huge freshman classes don’t regularly take the WCHA by storm. I’m not convinced that Brad Eidsness is a superstar goalie either.

09/10 Thoughts: I’ve seen North Dakota regularly in the top 3 in other WCHA pre-season rankings (1st by Western College). I think youth puts them behind to start the season to facilitate their normal poor start, strong finish model, but this season I think that start will put them too far behind to catch up. North Dakota will be a tough team by the end of the season, they always are. They lost a lot of offense and that takes time to overcome. Ryan Duncan has signed a lifetime contract w/ Travelocity to be their roaming gnome, and Joe Finley is now a janitor w/ the Washington Caps ECHL team; they will be missed. The leadership and play of seniors Chris VandeVelde and Chay Genoway will go a long way to determining the success for the Sioux. Again, Brad Eidsness does not impress me like he has others; I guess his soft play against Duluth at the Final Five is burned into my mind.