April 21, 2004
10 for '05: The Teams

We're only two weeks removed from the 2004 national championship game, but here at Inside College Hockey we can't resist casting our gaze towards the future. A lot can change between now and the drop of the puck in October, but that doesn't stop us from kicking off our 10 for '05 feature. Today we take an early look at the top 10 teams headed into next season; in the coming days we'll offer our thoughts on 10 top players and 10 big questions headed into next season.

No. Team

Of Note

1. Michigan 2003-04 record: 27-14-2
Players returning/lost: 22/3
Key returnees: F T.J. Hensick; G Al Montoya; F Jeff Tambellini
Key losses: D Andy Burnes
Higher if: The American Hockey League takes a cue from English soccer and relegates the Albany River Rats to the CCHA in favor of the Wolverines.
Lower if: Michigan adopts the old Boston Red Sox “25 players, 25 cabs” approach for a second straight season. They also can’t afford to lose Montoya to the pros or injury.
2. North Dakota 2003-04 record: 30-8-3
Players returning/lost: 22/4
Key returnees: F Brandon Bochenski; F Brady Murray; F Drew Stafford
Key losses: F Ryan Hale; F David Lundbohm; F Zach Parise
Higher if: Brandon Bochenski is intent on proving that his success wasn’t directly tied to his former linemate and the goaltending tandem of Jake Brandt and Jordan Parise continues to gain more confidence.
Lower if: A bad outing or two convinces Dean Blais to overhaul his goaltending situation. It’s not that the Sioux haven’t had talented goalies in the past, but Blais’ tinkering has ruined the psyche of more than one backstop.
3. Minnesota Duluth 2003-04 record: 28-13-4
Players returning/lost: 22/4
Key returnees: G Isaac Reichmuth; F Evan Schwabe; F Tim Stapleton
Key losses: D Beau Geisler; D Jay Hardwick; F Junior Lessard
Higher if: The returning forwards can make up for Lessard’s point production, Tim Hambly and/or Neil Petruic can adequately replace Geisler and Reichmuth plays with more consistency.
Lower if: Reichmuth’s up-and-down tendencies skew more toward the latter or guys like Schwabe, Stapleton and Tyler Brosz struggle to fill the void left by the 2004 Hobey Baker Award winner.
4. Maine 2003-04 record: 33-8-3
Players returning/lost: 22/6
Key returnees: F Derek Damon; G Jim Howard; F Michel Léveillé
Key losses: F Todd Jackson; D Prestin Ryan; F Colin Shields
Higher if: They can get some consistent goal scoring from the likes of Damon, Greg Moore, Mike Hamilton and Dustin Penner. The Black Bears’ biggest weakness this year was an inability to finish around the net, and they lose their best two goal scorers in Jackson and Shields.
Lower if: Jim Howard doesn’t play as well without Frank Doyle alongside him. But the thinking here is that Howard will be even better.
5. Wisconsin 2003-04 record: 22-13-8
Players returning/lost: 24/5
Key returnees: G Bernd Bruckler; F Robbie Earl; D Ryan Suter
Key losses: D Dan Boeser; F Rene Bourque
Higher if: Everybody matures by one year and the returnees aren’t satisfied by the surprising success they enjoyed in 2003-04. It’s important for Mike Eaves to figure out a way to keep all the talented players on his roster happy – there may not be enough pucks to go around.
Lower if: The youngsters decide to rest on their laurels, too many good young players causes behind-the-scenes bickering and Bruckler can’t build upon his breakthrough junior season.
6. Boston College 2003-04 record: 29-9-4
Players returning/lost: 20/6
Key returnees: F Patrick Eaves; G Matti Kaltiainen; F Ryan Shannon
Key losses: F Ben Eaves; D J.D. Forrest; F Tony Voce
Higher if: The sophomore class, especially Adam Pineault and Brian Boyle, makes strides towards becoming the highly touted group they were billed as. They’ll have their chance now after seeing limited ice time in 2003-04.
Lower if: The Eagles are racked by pro defections the way the 2001 title team was. In addition to the seniors, it’s conceivable that Patrick Eaves and Andrew Alberts could sign, which would leave a thin supporting cast around Ryan Shannon.
7. Minnesota 2003-04 record: 27-14-3
Players returning/lost: 21/5
Key returnees: D Keith Ballard; F Gino Guyer; F Thomas Vanek
Key losses: F Matt Koalska; F Grant Potulny; F Troy Riddle
Higher if: The flashes Vanek displays change from isolated thunderstorms to a full-fledged flood. He’s probably the most talented player in the college game, but hasn’t shown that he can be the most dominant for more than a two-game stretch (if that).
Lower if: The Gophers struggle to replace the heart-and-soul qualities of Potulny or the consistent offensive threat that Riddle gave them. Even if things settle down up front, will Kellen Briggs be a consistent answer in goal?
8. Michigan State 2003-04 record: 24-16-2
Players returning/lost: 23/2
Key returnees: F Jim Slater; D A.J. Thelen; G Dominic Vicari
Key losses: D Joe Markusen
Higher if: Is this the year the Spartans finally fit Rick Comley’s system? The coach wants more offense, and led by Slater, they may be ready to provide it.
Lower if: Slater signs with Atlanta, because no single player in this top 10 – besides Jim Howard at Maine – means as much to his team. The good news for MSU: the Thrashers seem content to let him finish his college career.
9. Dartmouth 2003-04 record: 14-11-9
Players returning/lost: 22/4
Key returnees: F Hugh Jessiman; D Grant Lewis; F Lee Stempniak
Key losses: F Mike Turner; D Brian Van Abel
Higher if: Jessiman returns to school and fulfills his vast potential. The Rangers pick saw his production slip last year, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t be a force every night.
Lower if: The loss of Van Abel is as big as it might be. The Big Green overcame the graduation of Trevor Byrne two years ago – can they lose defensive leaders in back-to-back seasons and still contend for an ECAC title? BC transfer Ben Lovejoy could help.
10. Colgate 2003-04 record: 22-15-5
Players returning/lost: 20/5
Key returnees: F Adam Mitchell; G Steve Silverthorn; F Jon Smyth
Key losses: D Rob Brown; F Kyle Doyle
Higher if: Jon Smyth and others can continue the kind of improvement they saw in 2003-04. Offensive boosts would be especially helpful – the Raiders scored one goal or less in nine of their 12 losses.
Lower if: This past season was a product of Stan Moore magic. Of course, the interim head coach will still be behind the bench, as an assistant.
Sleepers: UMass Lowell; Northern Michigan

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