October 3, 2004
INCH Preseason Power Rankings: The Great 58

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Last year's final rankings
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We know nobody's perfect, and we're not afraid to admit it. We know our INCH Preseason Power Rankings – The Great 58 – isn't exactly how every college hockey team will stack up by the end of the year, but it's how we see things shaking out.

Each team in college hockey has its imperfections as well. As the Inside College Hockey editors and staff ranked the nation's top teams, we took a look at what might keep each team from reaching their potential.

No. Team

The Challenge

1. Michigan All the pieces for a national championship run are in place, but the Wolverines have to play to their potential and not beat themselves.
2. Minnesota Duluth No one player can replace Hobey Baker winner Junior Lessard, but can Evan Schwabe, Tim Stapleton and others make up for the offensive output he provided?
3. Boston College Patrick Eaves, Ryan Shannon and friends can make up for the loss of Ben Eaves' offense. But will the Eagles be the same without his leadership?
4. Wisconsin The Badgers' roster includes 18 freshmen and sophomores. Last year's rookies matured quickly, and this year's must do the same. Senior goalie Bernd Brückler will help buy some time.
5. Maine With their best pure goal scorers lost to graduation, the Black Bears need to manage the goal or two a game that Jimmy Howard will need to win.
6. Colorado College Turning the trainer's workload into that of a Maytag repairman would be a good place to start. The Tigers were constantly dinged last season.
7. North Dakota Don't worry about the guys who left during the off-season, Sioux fans. The ones you still have are a pretty formidable group.
8. Michigan State Remember the Spartans' NCAA Tournament loss to UMD last season? Rick Comley may use that game as an example as his team strives for consistency this year.
9. UMass Lowell Talent is one reason the BCs, Maines and UNHs are always atop Hockey East. Knowing how to win is another, and that's something the skilled River Hawks will need to pick up.
10. Minnesota Outside of replacing the top four scorers from last year, filling the leadership void left by the graduation of Grant Potulny and getting consistency from goalie Kellen Briggs, the Gophers don't have much work to do.
11. Dartmouth The Big Green can't rely completely on Lee Stempniak's top line, and some skilled freshmen will be counted on for offense.
12. Denver Winning a national championship makes recruiting a lot easier, but replacing locker room leaders like Adam Berkhoel, Ryan Caldwell and Connor James is anything but.
13. Miami Derek Edwardson, Greg Hogeboom and Mike Kompon combined to score 135 points last season. They're gone now, and sophomores Matt Christie (35 points) and Marty Guerin (33 points) can't fill the void by themselves.
14. New Hampshire Goaltending gets the attention, but a young defensive corps could make or break the Wildcats season.
15. Colgate The Raiders behaved nicely for the substitute teacher. Can they keep it up with Don Vaughan back to lead the class?
16. Northern Michigan Last year in this space, we said the Wildcats needed to be less streaky. That didn't really change much in 2003-04, so we'll stand by our statement until it does.
17. Ohio State The Buckeyes had more seniors last season than the Del Boca Vista and they won the CCHA playoff championship. With just seven upperclassmen on the roster, the kids (19 freshmen and sophs) better be alright.
18. Clarkson When Matt Nickerson wasn't in the penalty box, he was on the ice an awful lot. He's gone and the defense, again, is very young.
19. Harvard Great players can make great coaches: just look at the man who was behind the bench when Ted Donato played in Cambridge. But they can also end up hosting "The Magic Hour."
20. Cornell Offense is an obvious need, but developing another Stephen Bâby-type would be huge (literally). Rookie Ray Sawada could fit that mold.
21. Boston University The freshmen are skilled, and the new rink is beautiful. But the Terriers will only see significant improvement if last year's holdovers step up their game.
22. Niagara It may not have been his best year, but Joe Tallari still scored 16 goals. With Tallari and two others who had at least 11 goals gone, the pressure will be on to support superstar Barret Ehgoetz.
23. Notre Dame Morgan Cey and David Brown might be the best goaltending tandem in the country. That's good, because the Irish are breaking in a bevy of rookie defensemen.
24. Mercyhurst Getting off to a good start will be a tough task for the Lakers. Their only home game before Dec. 10 is against Robert Morris, and trips to Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Colgate loom large.
25. Bemidji State With the bulk of the offense returning from last year, the Beavers can likely survive the suspension of Riley Riddell. Whether they can overcome the graduation of goaltender Grady Hunt is a question Layne Sedevie must answer.
26. Massachusetts The Minutemen have been building to something the past few years, but enter this season with fewer pieces in place.
27. Quinnipiac Achieving success within the league was a challenge a year ago, and now the Bobcats have to do it as lame ducks.
28. Yale The Bulldogs can skate and score with anybody, but a little more work on the defensive side would help in the close-checking ECACHL.
29. Bowling Green With Jordan Sigalet in goal, the Falcons have a chance to win every night. Unless they can't score, which happened all too often last season. If they can get three a game, they'll win more than they lose.
30. Northeastern The Huskies have a chance to not only escape the cellar in Hockey East, but maybe even sneak in a Beanpot title or a playoff series win. First challenge: let's not get ahead of ourselves.
31. Holy Cross The strength of the team shifts from seniors up front to Tony Quesada in net. Can the new-look Crusaders live up to last year's standards?
32. Ferris State The post CCHA-title, NCAA Tournament-appearance hangover has worn off, and some of the guys from that team are still in place. Outside of Matt York, however, none of them are defensemen.
33. Union Homesickness and an offseason injury cost the Dutchmen two defensemen (Skyler Berman and Adam Wood, respectively), making depth on the blue line a big concern.
34. Rensselaer The graduation of goaltender Nathan Marsters, who played nearly 90 percent of the team's minutes last year, places early question marks squarely in the crease.
35. Michigan Tech As good as Chris Conner is (especially when he's skating with Colin Murphy and Taggart Desmet), he can't stop the puck. With a combined save percentage of .880 last season, neither could the Huskies' goalies.
36. Providence For the second year in a row, the Friars lost three of their top four scorers to graduation. Toughest part is, they need that scoring more than ever without Bobby Goepfert in net.
37. Nebraska-Omaha All you need is just a little patience, sang Axl Rose. With 75 percent of the team's 28-player roster comprised of freshmen and sophomores, Maverick fans will need at least one more year of patience.
38. Alaska-Fairbanks The Nanooks are always tough in Fairbanks, but if they were a college football team, they'd be everyone's homecoming opponent. Maybe the 11 freshmen on the roster don't know they're not supposed to win on the road.
39. Western Michigan The Broncos are the equivalent of a knuckleball pitcher. When they're on, you'll lose 8-0. When they're not, you'll win 8-0. One of the team's three goalies needs to prove they're Phil Niekro.
40. Brown Replacing a Hobey finalist goaltender like Yann Danis can be done, but you'd like to do it when you have fewer than three freshmen defensemen in the lineup.
41. Alabama-Huntsville The Chargers have one of the nation's most dynamic players in Jared Ross. Until they can find a complement to their hidden gem, they'll remain behind Niagara and Bemidji State in the CHA standings
42. Minnesota State, Mankato The Mavs' top returning netminder, Jon Volp, had a 4.35 GAA and a .878 save pct. See a theme developing in the nether regions of this list?
43. St. Cloud State The Huskies were 18-9-4 on Feb. 20 before losing seven in a row and missing the NCAA Tournament. With one of the nation's toughest schedules, more L's could be on the horizon.
44. Merrimack If the Warriors can play as well at even strength as they did on special teams last year, they'll be fine.
45. Vermont The Kevin Sneddon era began 0-11-2. The Catamounts don't need to be great right away, but a few wins before fall exams would help.
46. St. Lawrence The only non-NCAA Tournament team St. Lawrence sees in October is its first opponent, St. Cloud State. Not that there's any extra pressure to get a win in the opener.
47. Connecticut The Huskies need to see some growth from the 15 sophomores on their roster. Not Tim Olsen-like growth, mind you, although that would be welcome.
48. Sacred Heart A 10-3-2 finish to last year could signal better times ahead for the Pioneers, as long as they can avoid another 4-14-3 start.
49. Wayne State The good news is the Warriors return eight of their top 10 scorers from last season. The bad news is that may not be good enough. WSU averaged 2.3 goals per game in '03-04
50. Alaska Anchorage The challenge? Please. This outfit needs challenges like Ben Affleck needs a dating service. Any return to normalcy following a bizarre off-season would suffice.
51. Lake Superior State When your goaltenders combine for a 2.77 GAA and a .913 save percentage, it's pretty apparent where you need help. The Lakers scored 72 goals last year, or 40 more than Junior Lessard.
52. Canisius Significant improvement on a league-worst 75.3 percent penalty kill would help Canisius break .500 in the conference.
53. Bentley Bentley needs improvement on its 11.3 percent power play, and more offensive support all around for Simon St. Pierre.
54. Army There are lots of new faces, and a new head coach. Hopefully there are some offensive answers, because none of the returning players scored more than six goals last year.
55. Princeton New head coach Guy Gadowsky is starting from scratch, and there are no shortages of challenges at Baker Rink.
56. Air Force Goalie Peter Foster played admirably (6-7-0, .897 sv%) in a limited role last season and the Falcons bring back their top four defensemen. Replacing leading scorers Spanky Leonard and Shane Saum is the top priority.
57. American International Scoring leader Guillaume Caron has graduated, but could it be that an offense-by-committee approach might work better for the Yellowjackets?
58. Robert Morris The Colonials enter their first year of Division I competition. Doesn't that pretty much make everything a challenge?

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