With the start of a college hockey season comes all the predictions from all the pundits. The coaches, the media, and now the HighHorse…among many other outlets. The staff at the HighHorse each made their own rankings which was followed by discussion and a final ranking. The process of finding the final rankings was difficult as all teams change from year to year. We made general ranges of where we thought each team would fall in the end and honed in from there. It is all new in the expanded WCHA, but much of it also looks the same as usual.
1. North Dakota
North Dakota under the direction of Dave Hakstol is always a strong team whether it is with seasoned upper classmen or the use of freshman talents. With a strong goaltender returning in Eidsness along with key defesmen coming back, the Sioux, or whatever they are now, will be a formidable force in the new WCHA.
2. University of Minnesota – Duluth
Overselling? We think not. Even with a slight question mark in net with late season standout Kenny Reiter, the scoring machine up front including the Connollys and Fontaine should produce enough goals to take many wins. The loss of Bordson will hurt, but with the disparity between hid two seasons with UMD, it could have just been a flash in the pan, especially with the added attention he would have received this year.
3. Saint Cloud State University
It just comes down to this…SCSU was an at par team with UMD last year when you look at players and talent. The difference maker was the streaks of wins and positive finishes that the Huskies came a way with. Although the Huskies may have goaltending with enough talent to push higher, the scoring losses seem too great. A lot of pressure will be on Garrett Roe to lead the team. This will leave the lesser-names a great chance to pull through for this team, or it may be a frustrating season.
4. Denver University
Departures highlight the Pioneers offseason. It will be a question of will the bit players stepping up this year to fill shoes. As always, this team will be well coached and that can be a difference in the game of WCHA hockey. Biggest area of concern will be in goal where the mighty Marc Cheverie will be absent this year.
5. University of Wisconsin
See capsule for Denver. Exception, biggest are of concern for Bucky will be defense where four starters left after last season.
6. Colorado College
Strong goaltending will be the biggest strength. Can enough goals be scored for the Tigers?
7. University of Minnesota
Upheaval of a storied program is an understatement. We will likely have ranked the Gophers the lowest of any site that ranks these teams, but we feel it is deserving. Unlike other teams up the rankings that saw many player departures (Denver and Wisconsin), the Gophers are coming off of two poor seasons. Couple those seasons with a coach who is being publicly questioned about “how much he has left in the tank” and you get the final collapse for UMTC. Defense will be challenged and scoring will be at a premium.
8. Bemidji State University
Inaugural season in the WCHA, so what can you expect? That is a great question, but they have been plugging away for the last few years in the vast wasteland of the CHA and doing well in the NCAAs, so looking past them is a mistake. We will put them at 8.
9. University of Nebraska – Omaha
Another inaugural team that brings strong goaltending just like CC. New this year is the coaching legend Blais. Can he work his coaching magic? Can he do it in one year?
10. Michigan Technological University
11. Alaska – Anchorage
12. Minnesota State University – Mankato
The order of the last three is very debatable. We see MTU as a program getting better, UAA as a stagnant program, and MSUM in the lowest part of rebuilding.