Building the Perfect Beast
It was a conversation
that sustained the Inside College Hockey staff this summer. At that
point in the year when college hockey seemed to be at its apogee,
we started to kick around the idea of building a Dream Team.
Notice we called
it a Dream Team, and not an all-star team. Instead of lumping the
top dozen leading scorers of a year ago on the list, we wanted to
plug in players who win faceoffs, kill penalties, block shots and
exhibit leadership. Our third line would be an actual checking line,
a bit more skilled than the average third line, perhaps, but not
all that unrealistic. Our backup goaltender would be an actual backup,
someone who played sparingly but performed abmirably when summoned.
With that in
mind, INCH is pleased to unveil its first-ever Dream Team, which
we feel represents the nation's best players in their various roles.
what you'd want in a top unit – a dangerous offensive
trio that won't shirk responsibilities in their own end. We
don't expect Kessel to be a force defensively, but that's not
why he's on the team, and that's why he's skating with Gauthier
and Moulson, who are two of the best (if not the best) all-around
players in the game today. It doesn't hurt that Moulson is a
rugged 6-1, 205 pounds and Gauthier checks in at a stout 5-9,
185. Plenty of people will scoff at our choice of Kessel to
center the top line. Will he be as good as advertised? Maybe
not, but you can't leave a kid who has the ability to be a once-in-a-generation
talent off this team.
Sr., Colorado College
may be on the second line, but Sterling’s here to anchor
our top power play unit. Eighteen of his 34 goals last season
came with the man advantage. Besides, the 5-8, 185-pound wing
is easily one of the prickliest players in the college game
– think of Yosemite Sam on skates. On the other wing is
Smyth, a player with good size and skills who thrives in every
situation as evidenced by 17 goals, 17 assists, six power play
goals, six game winners and two shorties last season. Ebbett
is the perfect guy to play between the two snipers. Of his 101
career points, 77 are assists. His game isn’t limited
to setting up others, however. He’s also a valuable special
teams performer and one of the CCHA’s top faceoff men.
Sr., Boston College
Sr., Bemidji State
Jr., Michigan State
line is so versatile Ron Popeil should be hawking them on a
2 a.m. infomercial. Although they don’t slice or dice,
they play smart, skate, score and have the ability to shut down
the other team’s top unit. If an award for the most improved
college player existed, Miller may have won it last season.
His 33 points marked a 23-point gain from the previous year;
his penalty killing and leadership skills are immeasurable.
Gionta, while not as explosive offensively as his older brother,
Brian, is like duct tape – he’s got a million uses.
Why Huddy? Well, for starters, it’d be pretty cool to
see his dad, former Oiler Charlie Huddy, at the home rink. And
while he’s average defensively, his heady play, steady
improvement and ability to pitch in offensively earns him a
Jr., Northern Michigan
may be wondering, how does one pick a dream fourth line?
In this case, we filled specific needs while adding flexibility.
For example, Sertich can both play defense, so if one
or more of our blueliners get dinged, we’ve got
an insurance policies. Sertich is also pretty good on
draws and can kill penalties, and the latter is a strength
of Lehtinen's. He's not too big, but has good wheels.
Incidentally, size is where Powell fits in – we’ve
brought along the 6-2, 235-pounder for those occasions
we need a little extra beef.
dream team carries six defensemen, but given the way Carle and
(especially) Greene eat minutes, we could get away with dressing
four or five. You don’t see much of Greene because he’s
tucked away in bucolic Oxford, Ohio, but he’s the nation’s
best blueliner. His game has no holes. Carle’s no slouch
defensively, but he’s at his best when he has the puck.
Just ask the approximately 15 North Dakota players he slalomed
through en route to setting up teammate Paul Stastny’s
goal in the third period of last season’s NCAA title match.
comes highly recommended for both his ability and his leadership
skills, which is why he’s the pick to wear the “C”
for the dream team. At 5-11, 210 pounds, he’s been compared
to former Michigan State standout and two-time All-American
Mike Weaver, another smallish rearguard with exemplary defensive
capabilities. He’s the perfect complement to Cashman,
who led Atlantic Hockey in scoring last season with 45 points
in 37 games. Naysayers will point to the Bobcats’ level
of competition as a reason for Cashman’s success, but
when you lead your conference in scoring – whether it’s
the NHL or the house mite league – from the blue line,
you’re doing something right.
Jr., Boston University
couldn’t round out our defensive corps without adding
a couple stay-at-home types. It’s merely coincidence that
we opted for two guys who within a two-line pass of each other.
The 6-5, 200-pound Hafner, who’ll captain the Crimson
this season, has the wingspan of velociraptor – perfect
for poking pucks away from onrushing forwards – and manages
his size well, amassing just 30 penalty minutes last season.
Schaeffer’s not quite as big, but at 6-1, 190 pounds,
he’s not a midget, either. He’ll score a little
bit (31 points in 79 career games) and adds durability to the
are probably college hockey fans who think McKee’s first
name is Yeah But. That's because when they review his numbers
from last season – a 27-5-3 record, a 1.24 goals against
average and a .947 save percentage – they’ll say,
“Yeah, but McKee plays in a weak conference” or
"Yeah, but McKee doesn’t face any shots.” Cornell’s
schedule and style of play might help McKee’s numbers
a tiny bit, but he proved his worth at last season’s NCAA
West Regional in Minneapolis where he made 34 saves in a win
against Ohio State and 37 stops in a 2-1 overtime loss to Minnesota.
behind workhorse Al Montoya the past three seasons, Halley’s
Comet made more frequent appearances than Ruden. When pressed
into action, however, he’s been pretty good. In 18 career
appearances, Ruden is 2-3-0 with a 2.15 GAA and a .917 save
percentage. Think of him as the hockey equivalent of the situational
lefty – Ruden may only enter the game occasionally,
but when he does, he’s capable of getting the out.
Coach: George Gwozdecky, Denver
back-to-back national championships will get you named to plenty
of Dream Teams, but it's the manner in which he won them that
has us so impressed with George Gwozdecky. In neither case were
his Pioneers considered the most talented team entering the
season, but he can clearly identify and recruit talent. Once
they're on campus, his players develop and play a disciplined
group is hand-picked, but if we want an assistant who makes
a living out of beating the bushes in order to find overlooked
or undiscovered talent, Standbrook’s the guy. His methods
may raise the hackles of a few people – we, of course,
frown on skullduggery – but the results are undeniable.
spends so much time on the road, he could probably reel off
the list of restaurants found in the food courts of major
North American airports. The globetrotting Jones has helped
build a roster that features 26 players representing 14 U.S.
states and Canadian provinces. Keeping Ohioans like Tom Fritsche
in-state also helps.
this to a friend
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