Tuesday, September 1, 2009

WCHA Previews: Duluth

School: Duluth
Mascot: Bulldogs
National Championships: more snickering…
Head Coach: Scott Sandelin, 144-173-44, 10th season (the team website says Sandelin has 1173 losses, damn!)

Last Season: 10-11-7, 7th Place WCHA; 22-13-8 Overall

Predicted 09/10 WCHA Finish: 6th

Key Departures:
F MacGregor Sharp, 26-24-50*
G Alex Stalock, 21-13-8, 2.13 GAA, 0.924 save %
D Josh Meyers, 10-18-28
D Evan Oberg, 7-20-27
F Michael Gergen, 9-9-18
*All stats listed from 08/09

Key Returnees: (48.1% of scoring returns)
F Justin Fontaine (Jr), 15-33-48
F Mike Connolly (So), 13-29-42
F Jack Connolly (So), 10-19-29
F Jordan Fulton (Sr), 12-5-17
F Drew Akins (Sr), 5-10-15

Top Sieve:
Brady Hjelle, 1-0-0, 1.50 GAA, 0.941 save %

Key Additions:
D Dylan Olsen (AJHL), 10-19-29
F Mike Seidel (USHL), 29-44-73
F Dan Delisle (MN HS), 33-29-62
D Wade Bergman (AJHL), 10-20-30
F Drew Olson (USHL), 2-6-8

Freshman Scouting Report: Best looking class in the WCHA yet, well besides Aaron Crandall. Dylan Olsen is a stud who was drafted late in the 1st round of this summer’s NHL Draft by Chicago. UW was recruiting him hard, but there really wasn’t room for him anyway. Mike Seidel was 4th in the USHL in scoring, and Dan Delisle was a finalist for MN Mr. Hockey. Drew Olson’s stats aren’t much, but he had an injury plagued season in Omaha, but was a mid-round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft.

When Wisconsin Beats Duluth: @DUMP 1/29 & 1/30

08/09 Recap: Duluth was up and down all season long last year. They were right in the middle of the race for home ice in the 1st round, but then were swept at home by UAA to end the season. Duluth had some of the better offensive players in the WCHA last season w/ MacGregor Sharp, Josh Meyers on the blue line, and Justin Fontaine. They also had my most loathed player in Alex Stalock, his goaltending is a mix of skill, luck and stupid decisions. Anyway, they rolled CC in the WCHA playoffs and went to the Final Five and did something no team from the play-in game has ever done winning three games and the Broadmoor. They were pretty convincing in St. Paul, I was even impressed. Duluth keep their string of unlikely success going in the first round of the NCAA tourney, when they scored 2 goals in the last minute of the game to force OT and then win in the extra session. They were later beaten soundly by Miami (OH) coming up just short of the Frozen Four. This late season success possibly saved Scott Sandelin’s job.

Team’s Biggest Strength(es): While it appears they lost a lot of scoring, I think their group of forwards is pretty solid. They win a lot of games at the DUMP (something about asbestos poisoning in the opposing locker room), so if they can be so so on the road they should be in the hunt for home ice.

Team’s Biggest Weakness(es): Similar theme here at the bottom of the league, goaltending. Stalock played almost every minute the last few seasons, but I think Brady Hjelle is a pretty good goalie, so this isn’t the same level of weakness of Mankato and CC.

09/10 Thoughts: I might have Duluth placed a little high, but I think Fontaine and the Connolly’s are going to provide a lot of offense. Their freshman class is very solid, Dylan Olsen should join Justin Schultz on the All-WCHA Rookie team, and I think if Brady Hjelle has a decent season they’ll be fine. They could finish toward the bottom of the league or skate at home in the 1st round. Their schedule is favorable too, they play the Badgers and DU only once and both are at the DUMP.

I’m really going to miss Alex Stalock and his antics. Whether it was him punching Blake Geoffrion in the balls or taking swipes at opposing players’ heads who get near his goal crease. He is a classy guy, the Sharks better rush him to the ECHL.