October 7, 2004
INCH Preseason Faceoff

Conference Previews: CCHA | CHA | ECACHL | Hockey East | WCHA
Building Features: BGSU | Clarkson | UMass Lowell | Robert Morris
Recruiting Rankings | Preseason All-Americans | The Great 58

After writing more than 70 preview articles, from our A to Z profiles to the Great 58, the staff members at Inside College Hockey found ourselves with some downtime this week. So to pass the time until the pucks drop in more than one game, we got together and did what we enjoy most – talked college hockey. The four participants wrote the INCH conference previews for the CCHA, ECACHL, Hockey East and WCHA; here's what we had to say (James Jahnke, our Atlantic/CHA correspondent, couldn't make it).

Nate Ewell: Here's a starter: where would you rather be this weekend – watching two games at Maine or four games at a tournament?

Joe Gladziszewski: Weren't we just in Boston?

Mike Eidelbes: It depends on whether the tournament I'm attending features the debut of Chris Bourque.

Jess Myers: Maine sounds like a blast. NoDak's offense versus Jimmy Howard, plus fall in New England. Nice stuff.

Gladziszewski: I think, early in the season, it's great to see as many teams as possible. I'll go for quantity ... besides, there will be plenty of chances to see Maine and North Dakota this year.

Ewell: Like Columbus, Gladdy.

Gladziszewski: Exactly.

Ewell: Isn't it unfortunate that the Lefty McFadden's not a true tournament this year?

Eidelbes: I agree, but at the same time, I don't think either Miami or Michigan would be real keen on the prospect of facing each other in Dayton if they don't have to.

Ewell: Instead they get the 8th and 9th place Hockey East teams. I don't blame them although those teams will both be better this year.

A Look Back
Here's what we had to say in last season's INCH Preseason Faceoff.

Gladziszewski: The holiday-time tournaments are my favorite. By that time, teams have had a chance to establish an identity and the non-conference matchups are a nice change of pace from the early conference grind.

Myers: True. You can't do much better than the GLI.

Eidelbes: Hey, don't knock the Lefty. If you're going to bag on a tournament, make it the Maverick Stampede in Omaha. Last year, UNO invited Minnesota, Maine and Wisconsin. This year, it's Connecticut, Merrimack and Rensselaer. What gives?

Ewell: I can guess what gives. Have you seen UNO's lineup? Moving beyond this weekend who's one guy who could change the face of your conference's race?

Myers: The WCHA has several great players to watch. They're all in the AHL, but still...

Eidelbes: If the referees call games as they've been instructed, you might only have one player to watch at a time.

Myers: Either of Denver's goalies could change the face of the WCHA race. Gwozdecky can tailor a system around a good goalie and win a NCAA title with it.

Eidelbes: Talking with CCHA coaches last week, they said it comes down to goaltending. Predictable answer, but one coach told me, "You know the teams that have good goaltending, and the ones that have not-so-good goaltending."

Ewell: On that theme, all eyes will be on BU's goaltending in Hockey East. UNH, too, but the Wildcats have a little more talent elsewhere, and their goalies are a little more known quantities than BU's are.

Gladziszewski: In the ECACHL, the goaltending is pretty strong across eight or nine teams. If someone can step up like Steve Silverthorn at Colgate last year, that team will be in the mix for the championship.

Eidelbes: Heck, if someone can step up like Adam Berkhoel for two weeks, they'll be in the mix for a championship.

Gladziszewski: I don't think Berkhoel was the sole reason for Denver's title last year.

Myers: Agreed, Gladdy. Anyone who says he was a one-man show forgets Denver's 5-3 win over UMD in the semis.

Gladziszewski: And their chemistry, leadership, coaching ... it was a mix of things.

Eidelbes: No, he wasn't the sole reason. But he's a major reason. Without him, Denver doesn't get past North Dakota in the regional.

Ewell: Is there a senior-dominated team with great coaching and goaltending that could be this year's Denver? I suppose that's one reason why we ranked Michigan No. 1.

Myers: In the "most overused stat of the preseason" category we have UMD with 11 seniors and 20 letterwinners returning.

Eidelbes: Michigan's seniors have to play up to their potential. No more sleepwalking through long stretches of the season.

Gladziszewski: One thing I look forward to from Michigan is seeing how Jeff Tambellini performs. Michigan had several guys like him who were expected to do big things and were rather quiet. Any other bounce-back players worth mentioning? This year's Ryan Whitney, perhaps?

Ewell: Noah Welch at Harvard like Whitney, a Penguins prospect, and a similar player in a lot of ways.

Myers: One very good forward who was forgotten about last year was Peter Szabo at St. Cloud State. It'll be interesting to see if he can have a bounce-back senior year.

Gladziszewski: Maybe Hugh Jessiman fits in this category too. He's been good, but a lot of people want to see him dominate.

Ewell: Matt Anderson was hurt all of last year for UMass, so he might not fit here. But they need him to get back to his freshman year level if they want to contend for a top-four spot in Hockey East.

Eidelbes: I think Tambellini will be fine for Michigan. Eric Nystrom is the guy in the spotlight. For a player of his pedigree, he's been underwhelming for two straight seasons. He's the Wolverines' captain this year. Maybe that's the spark.

Myers: Mike, how about Michigan State. After one of the worst NCAA no-shows in recent memory, is there a step-up player in East Lansing?

Gladziszewski: Michigan State blanking out in the NCAAs? Really?

Ewell: If it wasn't for the bad taste of that game, people would be expecting to hear the Spartan Fight Song in Columbus and not just by Goofus.

Eidelbes: Well, Jim Slater is the only Hobey Baker finalist from last season who's back for a final run. If there was ever someone called a smashmouth hockey player, it's Slater. And David Booth bounces back this year. He was bothered by injury early on last season, and then he was off to Europe for the World Junior Championship, so he never really got into a flow with the Spartans. He'll be fine.

Gladziszewski: OK, we've mentioned it again ... let's talk about Columbus. Throw your way-too-early predictions out there for the Frozen participants.

Myers: Four for central Ohio in April: Michigan, Boston College, Maine and (in a bit of an upset) Colorado College.

Ewell: My Frozen Four prediction: Michigan, BC, UMD and ... I can't just pick our top four, so give me MSU. Secondary prediction: Kirk Herbstreit shows up at the INCH party.

Eidelbes: I couldn't pick the correct Frozen Four participants last season after the tournament field was named. Nevertheless, I'll take Michigan, Boston College, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

Gladziszewski: I'll go with Minnesota Duluth and Maine, and I'll also throw Boston College in there, and I'll take a shot with Wisconsin ... Bruckler really impressed me last year in Albany at the regional.

Myers: When Bemidji State upsets BC in the first round, won't WE all be embarassed?

Ewell: Happy Columbus Day, by the way. We'll see who's happy in Columbus in six months.

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