Thursday, October 6, 2011

Five Predictions for the 2011-12 Season

5) UMD will win more games than people think because of an easy schedule
This year the Bulldogs play both home and away series with only three teams in the WCHA: Alaska-Anchorage, Mankato, and Michigan Tech, AKA the three perennial conference doormats. Not one of these teams has finished above 8th place for the last three years, and they're expected to finish 10th, 11th and 12th again this year.

Now this is good news for the Bulldogs because they can rack up conference points and have a good shot at making the Final Five. Also winning builds confidence, which will be important to a squad that just lost three of its top six scorers and its top two defensemen. In the long run a weak schedule will negatively affect UMD's Pairwise ranking, which could leave the Bulldogs on the outside looking in if they're on the bubble come NCAA tournament selection day.

4) WCHA Predictions
The Contenders
1) Denver
Denver boasts arguably the best line in the WCHA, returning last year's team-leading scorer Drew Shore, future Wild star Jason Zucker, and Penguins' 2010 first-round pick Beau Bennett. Losing starting goalie Sam Brittain until January leaves them vulnerable though.

2) North Dakota
North Dakota lost a ton of guys to the pros - Frattin, Malone, Trupp, Hextall, Gregoire, Genoway - but are so deep they still have a lot of horses left - Blood, Kristo, Knight, Corbin, Dell. Plus I've seen WCHA ROY favorite Rocco Grimaldi in person and he is the real deal.

3) UMD
UMD returns All-American Jack Connolly and Frozen Four MVP JT Brown, as well as Travis Oleksuk, who scored 33 points last season and had two goals in last Sunday's exhibition. Basaraba, Seidel and Reiter are all poised for breakout seasons as well. If things go the Bulldogs' way early they could surprise some people.

4) Colorado College
The Brothers Schwartz scare the shit outta me and goalie Joe Howe is one of the most underrated players in the league. Not very deep, like UMD.

You're looking at a minimum of 50% of Colorado
College's scoring this season

Show Me Something
5) St. Cloud
The Huskies sucked hard after lofty expectations last season. They lost their goon Marvin and their underachieving star Roe, which may be a good thing. Hanowski and Hermantown native LeBlanc anchor St. Cloud up front while Mike Lee is very solid between the pipes.
via ND Goon

This has to be the year Lucia gets fired right? New year, same story for the Gophs: A lot of talent and draft picks destined to underwhelm.

Solidly Flawed
7) Wisconsin
The Badgers top two freshman skaters are straight out of high school. After graduating two senior goalies they hand the reigns to freshman Joel Rumpel. They finished 7th last year and I'm hard pressed to see how they improve on that this year.

8) Nebraska-Omaha
The Mavericks lost their entire top line and top defenseman. They have 10 freshmen on the roster. Their senior captain Alex Hudson is suspended indefinitely. Blais can only do so much, right?

Probably Gonna Suck
9) Bemidji
10) Alaska-Anchorage
11) Michigan Tech
12) Mankato

Ugh. Have fun vying for the WCHA title with the CCHA scraps in two years.

3) Lines
Forwards                                           Defense
JT-Jack-Basaraba                                Lamb-Bergman
Seidel-Oleksuk-Danberg                      Olson-McManus             
Herbert-Hendrickson-Grun                    Kishel-Casto

2) Future Awards
1st Team All-WCHA - Jack Connolly
2nd Team All-WCHA - JT Brown
3rd Team All-WCHA - Kenny Reiter

1) Bulldogs win in their season opener against top-ranked Notre Dame Friday night
Amsoil will rock like it has never rocked before on Friday night after that championship banner is raised. Reiter will keep us in it, JT will cause too much trouble for the Irish's defense and in the end Jack will find a way to get it done.

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