October 9, 2007
INCH Power Rankings: The Great 58+1

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Last year's final rankings
USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll

Another season is upon us and we won't limit our attention to those teams that some have anointed as the top 15 or top 20 teams in the nation. Whether it is near the top or near the bottom, each program faces unique circumstances.

There are plenty of challenges that lie ahead as we enter the 2006-07 season. 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 its potential.

No. Team

Of Note

1. North Dakota The Fighting Sioux were the last team to leave the ice after winning the West Regional in Denver last March. They’re our pick to take the victory lap around the Pepsi Center in April.
2. Boston College Had Cory Schneider stayed for his senior season, the Eagles would likely hold the top spot in our preseason rankings. So, hey, no pressure on you freshmen bidding to replace him.
3. Miami The Redhawks are loaded with veterans up and down the lineup, and are led by Nathan Davis, one of the nation’s most exciting players and an early Hobey favorite.
4. Michigan State The Spartans lost just six contributors from last year's national championship team. Replacing the talent that departed shouldn't be an issue; filling the leadership void left by Chris Lawrence and Co. could be.
5. Clarkson Clarkson has the talent, but needs to bring a strong work ethic every game, something they learned again in a season-opening loss to St. Lawrence.
6. Notre Dame Jeff Jackson once again showed his coaching genius by leading the Fighting Irish to CCHA regular-season and playoff titles. Expect him to demand — and receive — a similar level of excellence this season.
7. New Hampshire Factoid that may interest only us: The Wildcats’ nine rookies represent eight different states (California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.)
8. Minnesota The Gophers don't rebuild, you say, but reload. That may be true, but the losses of Mike Vannelli, Alex Goligoski, and Erik Johnson leave howitzer-sized holes on the blue line.
9. Boston University Goalie John Curry was a polarizing figure among non-BU fans, some of whom questioned his value to the Terriers. Guess we’ll find out the answer to that question once and for all this season, eh?
10. Denver With just four seniors and four juniors on the roster, the Pioneers might be a year away. Then again, with Rakhshani, Ruegsegger, Trotter, Ostrow, and Bozak in the lineup, maybe not.
11. Colorado College With Matt Zaba gone, the burden of stopping pucks falls on junior Drew O'Connell and/or freshman Richard Bachman. More goals from a lineup that returns virtually intact from a year ago is a must.
12. Michigan The Wolverines lost tons of talent, sending two players straight to the NHL and a few more right on the cusp. As the defense matures and new recruits add a spark to the offense, goalie Billy Sauer will determine how high U-M can climb — or how low they can fall.
13. Quinnipiac The Bobcats can't replace Reid Cashman, but they'll need to find the right players to fit into specific roles on defense to help alleviate his absence.
14. Maine One of the INCH Commandments is, never write off the Black Bears. With seven of the team’s top 10 scorers gone from a year ago, we’re tempted to scribble “not this year” next to Maine. Of course, we typically work in pencil.
15. Wisconsin The Badgers allowed only 2.02 goals per game with Brian Elliott in goal. That number will probably rise, but so should the team's offensive output – Bucky scored a meager 2.27 goals per game last season.
16. Cornell If Cornell's relatively inexperienced defense and goaltender Troy Davenport can hold up through the first two months of the season, the return of Brendon Nash will make them a contender in the league.
17. Massachusetts Four experienced seniors and standout goalie Jon Quick are gone following last year’s breakout season. A return trip to the NCAA Tournament isn’t out of the question, but either Dan Meyers or Paul Dainton will have to fill the void in goal … and fast.
18. St. Cloud State The Huskies have a little retooling to do, especially now that goalie Bobby Goepfert has departed. A favorable early-season schedule (Canisius, at Minnesota Duluth, Bemidji State, Alaska Anchorage) should help.
19. Ohio State Look for the Buckeyes to turn a few heads in the CCHA with a high-octane offense powered primarily by senior forwards Tom Fritsche and Tom Goebel.
20. St. Lawrence The Saints can skate and they won't be out-worked, but can they turn that speed and effort into goals?
21. Harvard The honeymoon is over for Ted Donato. As an alum, he knows that a second-straight losing season is unacceptable. Better goaltending will help the Crimson's win total.
22. Michigan Tech Rob Nolan and Michael-Lee Teslak may be the nation's best goaltending tandem. They should get more goal support from a lineup that returns all but three players from last season's 18-17-5 squad.
23. Dartmouth Four of last year's key contributors started this season on AHL rosters and a fifth is in the Western Hockey League. The veterans that remain on the roster will need to pick up the slack.
24. Nebraska-Omaha Coach Mike Kemp has pulled a few surprises out of the hat in his day, but it will be tough for the Mavericks to make a jump in the CCHA after losing the talented Scott Parse.
25. Vermont Entering their third year in the conference, the Catamounts are looking for their first top-four finish in Hockey East and a home playoff series. "The Gut" is a tough place to play in the regular season. Just imagine how it would be in March.
26. Northeastern We'll get an early look at how good Northeastern is when they play five consecutive games against North Dakota, Maine (2), and New Hampshire (2).
27. RIT RIT won't sneak up on anyone this year after last year's banner season in Atlantic Hockey. We'll see how they respond to being the hunted instead of the hunter.
28. Colgate The Raiders have four legitimate candidates for First Team All-League recognition, but they'll need to play like that consistently throughout the season.
29. Western Michigan The Broncos return a solid netminder and strong blueliners led by Chris Frank, but will likely struggle offensively against defensive-minded opponents without the opportunistic Mark Letestu.
30. Niagara Two questions surround Niagara: who fills the void left by 2007 CHA Player of the Year Sean Bentivoglio, and can the Purps three-peat as league regular season champs?
31. Lake Superior State The loss of Jeff Jakaitis, one of the nation’s great goaltenders last year, is one that will be hard to overcome. But with a few extra home games against top-tier CCHA opponents, look for the Lakers to pull off a few upsets.
32. Princeton The Tigers have changed their mindset from a defensive-oriented team to an offensive-oriented team under coach Guy Gadowsky. Now they need to see results.
33. Rensselaer RPI's strong start to last season was a distant memory after mid-season doldrums set in. Maintaining a high level throughout the year is a high priority in Troy.
34. Providence The Friars face a tough start to the season with road games at Clarkson and St. Lawrence — two NCAA Tournament teams last spring.
35. Minnesota Duluth The Bulldogs finished eight games below .500 last season, and that was with two players (Matt Niskanen and Mason Raymond) who stepped into NHL lineups on opening night this season.
36. Minnesota State Only five teams in the country allowed more goals than the Mavericks last season. Goalie Dan Tormey needs to play like he did as a freshman (14-13-4 record, .902 save percentage) and leave a dismal sophomore season (3-8-0, .869) behind.
37. Air Force Goalie Andrew Volkening won the starting job late last year in his rookie campaign. We'll see if he's the real deal and avoids a step back as as sophomore.
38. Robert Morris The Colonials, now in Year Four, boast 14 seniors; the apprenticeship is over, and it's time to produce results.
39. Ferris State The good news is that the Bulldogs have a reliable defense and strong goaltending. The bad news is you can’t win games without scoring goals.
40. Bemidji State Early success could help keep talk of a new arena on the front burner, but only two of the Beavers' first eight CHA games are at home.
41. Northern Michigan Expect a lot of names you don’t recognize suiting up in Wildcat green this year. The squad boasts 12 freshmen and a number of upperclassmen who haven’t logged a great deal of ice time.
42. Alaska Anchorage Keep an eye on sophomore Paul Crowder, a 6-3, 203-pound power forward who scored 11 goals and 24 points for the Seawolves last season, the best scoring total by a UAA rookie since 1992-93.
43. UMass Lowell With just one senior and two juniors on the roster, younger players will need to make an impact at Tsongas Arena.
44. Alaska New coach Doc DelCastillo hopes to build a juggernaut in Fairbanks, and Tavis MacMillan left him a good foundation. The future is bright in the far north, but this will be a building year.
45. Brown The Bears have been on the losing side of several close games over the last two years. Finding a way to win the tight ones will vault Brown up the standings.
46. Yale A pair of freshmen led Yale in scoring last year during so-so seasons from established veterans who were playing for a new head coach. Greater contributions from a strong group of seniors are needed.
47. Army Last year's improved record for Army included five wins by one goal and a .500 record in road games.
48. Mercyhurst Former Maine goalie Matt Lundin will vie for the starting job at Mercyhurst after spending last season in the USHL.
49. Union T.J. Fox's departure hurts the offense, and Justin Mrazek needs to show some consistency in goal.
50. Sacred Heart Sacred Heart is the only team in Atlantic Hockey to finish in the top four in the league standings for each of the last two seasons.
51. Holy Cross Two of the Crusaders' top-three scorers were lost to graduation, including James Sixsmith who had 47 points in 35 games last year.
52. Bowling Green The Falcons weren’t able to develop great team chemistry last year. With many of the same players returning, they will likely remain in the CCHA basement in 2007-08.
53. Connecticut UConn lost 10 seniors from last year's team who accounted for 275 games, 57 goals, and 91 assists in the 2006-07 campaign.
54. Bentley The Falcons had the second-worst team goals-against average in the country last year. Only AIC was worse.
55. Wayne State Will "Win One for Wilkie" be the Warriors' rally cry? Players buying into the team concept during this swan-song season will be a key coaching issue.
56. Canisius Sophomores Josh Heidinger (from 19 to 12) and Jason Weeks (from 18 to 16) will wear new uniform numbers this year, but the Griffs hope they post the same (or better) stats numbers after finishing atop the scoring charts as freshmen last year.
57. Alabama-Huntsville The Chargers have been here (last in the CHA standings last year), overcome that (emerged as league playoff champs.). New coach Danton Cole, however, has only two seniors this time around.
58. American International It's a matter of fixing everything, as AIC ranked 55th nationally in scoring and 59th in team defense one year ago.
59. Merrimack The Warriors need to score some goals after lighting the lamp just 37 times in 34 games last year.