to “American Idol”, college hockey-style.
Beyonce, Ashanti and Shakira of the CCHA – namely,
Cammalleri, Komisarek and Miller – have departed for
the professional ranks, leaving a serious dent in the conference’s
Q Rating. Remaining are 12 teams, each with its share of
question marks and unknown quantities. So which team will
turn out to be the league’s Kelly Clarkson? And which
squad will end up being Simon Cowell-ed to a lower-division
ask the league’s coaches. They don’t have any
found it tough to pick who’s going to win the CCHA
this year,” said Miami bench boss Enrico Blasi on
filling out his ballot for the league’s preseason
changed four times who to pick for first place,” added
Michigan’s Red Berenson.
think if you voted a month from now,” said new Michigan
State mentor Rick Comley, “the poll would change.
It’s going to be a dogfight…a great race and
a great league.”
is really sure who will emerge as the CCHA’s top team
or top player. So what do we know heading into the 2002-03
are six or seven teams that can win it,” said John
Markell of Ohio State. “It’s going to be a great
year for the fans.”
the past couple seasons, Northern Michigan
has been the CCHA’s version of actor Steve Buscemi:
balancing outstanding performances like “Reservoir
Dogs” and “Fargo” with clunkers like “Spy
Kids 2” and “Ghost World”. For example,
last season NMU jumps out to a 3-0-1 start after sweeping
Michigan in Ann Arbor, then follows by giving up five goals
in a loss to visiting Notre Dame. Or the ’Cats back
up a season-high, six-game winning streak – a stretch
that included a sweep at Alaska Fairbanks – by dropping
three straight to middle-of-the-pack Ferris State and Western
coach Walt Kyle, however, lost just five contributors from
last year’s unit, which finished with a 26-12-2 overall
mark. Among the returnees are high-scoring seniors Bryce
Cockburn (20 goals and 19 assists for 39 points in 2001-02),
Chris Gobert (19-19—38) and Mike Stutzel (16-17—33),
arguably the best forward trio in the conference. Alan Swanson
scored 11 goals as a freshman, while senior Terry Harrison
(6-9—15 in 25 games last season) should approach the
25-point plateau if he can stay healthy.
Jimmy Jackson is one of the CCHA’s top rearguards,
but needs to approach the 31 points he scored as a sophomore
rather than the 15 he tallied last season. He leads a talented
group of letterwinning defensemen that includes Peter Michelutti
(1-17—18) and Jesse Baraniuk (0-11—11). Junior
goaltender Craig Kowalski can be shaky at times –
witness his four goals allowed on 19 shots in a loss to
Michigan State or four goals on 21 shots in a defeat against
Ferris State – but became more consistent last season,
posting a 24-11-2 record and a 2.35 goals against average.
FOR A FALL
which was knocked out of the CCHA playoffs by Notre Dame
in the first round last season, are in a period of transition.
Coach Mike Kemp welcomes two new assistants in Doc DelCastillo
and Mark Strobel. Eight freshmen are also in the fold for
UNO this season, making for Kemp’s youngest team since
his first year with the Mavs in 1997-98.
struggled to score at times last season, failing to score
more than two goals in eight of its last 13 contests, and
there are question marks up front. Senior David Brisson
(9-23—32) and junior Andrew Wong (11-29—40)
are known quantities, but veterans Aaron Smith (9-10—19)
and Scotty Turner (4-6—10) are both returning from
knee injuries and Gus Groslie (5-3—8) is out indefinitely
with post-concussion syndrome. He’s slated to return
in November. The Mavericks need immediate contributions
from freshmen Mike Lefley and Micah Sanford, a Las Vegas
native and roller hockey refugee who’s been skating
on ice for only five years. Another top forward recruit,
Kaleb Betts, is academically ineligible.
of the burden for the Mavericks’ success falls on
goaltender Dan Ellis. The junior, who was named to the 2002
All-CCHA second team, made more saves (1,098) than any goalie
in college hockey last season and finished the year with
a 20-15-4 record and a 2.42 goals against average.
UNO defense needs to minimize the amount of rubber Ellis
sees. Two-time All-American Greg Zanon is back for his senior
campaign. He’s joined by junior Mike Gabinet, another
player returning from injury last season, and sophomores
Chris Claffey and Brett Davis. Bryce Lampman, who would’ve
been a sophomore this season, left Omaha for the pro ranks.
Fairbanks’ Guy Gadowsky deservedly earned 2002 CCHA
Coach of the Year honors, but a strong case could’ve
been made for Michigan's Red Berenson.
For the second straight year, the Wolverines lost a pair
of key underclassmen – forward Andy Hilbert and defenseman
Jeff Jillson – to professional hockey during the summer,
and played nearly half of the season without top scorer
Mike Cammalleri, who had a bout with mononucleosis. All
Berenson did was lead Michigan to the league’s regular-season
and playoff titles and a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four.
faces similar challenges this season. Gone are Cammalleri,
who joined the Los Angeles Kings, and defenseman Mike Komisarek,
who bolted for the Montreal Canadiens. The projected starter
in goal, 17-year-old freshman Alvaro Montoya, sounds more
like a middle infielder than a hockey player, but he helped
the U.S. team to a first-place finish at the 2002 World
nucleus returns, however, led by the heart and soul of the
Wolverines – senior forwards Jed Ortmeyer and John
Shouneyia. Feisty sophomore Eric Nystrom has the ability
to be the CCHA’s best forward, and classmates Milan
Gajic, Dwight Helminen and Jason Ryznar will continue to
develop. Steady defensemen Andy Burnes and Eric Werner also
are back. Add to the mix heralded newcomers Brandon Kaleniecki
(2002 North American Hockey League MVP), Jeff Tambellini
(last year’s Canadian Junior A player of the year)
and Danny Richmond (2002 United States Hockey League Rookie
of the Year). Berenson’s squad, which opens the year
at the Xerox College Hockey Showcase at HSBC Arena in Buffalo,
could very well find themselves in the same arena at the
end of the season.
ON THE HOT SEAT
are we putting Notre Dame's Dave Poulin
on the hot seat? Well, the Fighting Irish lost just two
key players – forwards David Inman and Jon Maruk –
from last year’s team that finished seventh in the
CCHA but closed the year by winning seven of its last nine
games and advancing to the CCHA “Super Six”
Tournament. Besides, the long-time NHLer spent a combined
11 seasons in Philadelphia and Boston, so he’s used
to the pressure.
calls this year’s squad “the deepest and most
experienced team that we’ve had in my eight years
in Notre Dame.” The Irish are loaded on the blue line
with seven letterwinners, including juniors Tom Galvin (4-19—23),
Neil Komadoski (2-9—11) and Brett Lebda (6-8—14)
and senior Evan Nielsen (7-13—20), returning. Notre
Dame also welcomes back Morgan Cey, who set the school’s
single-season saves percentage record as a freshman last
season, stopping 91 percent of the shots he faced while
posting a 15-14-3 record and a 2.72 goals against average.
collection of talent up front includes center Connor Dunlop,
the fourth-leading scorer in the CCHA last season with 9-36—45.
He’s joined by a trio of giant wingers – senior
Michael Chin (6-3, 210 lbs., 13-8—21), junior Rob
Globke (6-4, 214 lbs., 11-11—22) and senior John Wroblewski
(6-1, 196 lbs., 10-11—21). Junior center Aaron Gill
(8-14—22) and sophomore winger Yan Stasny (6-11—17)
ACT TO FOLLOW
State’s Ryan Miller won the 2001 Hobey Baker Award,
was a two-time All-American and posted a career 73-18-12
record, a 1.53 goals against average and an NCAA-record
26 shutouts. Michigan’s Josh Blackburn, meanwhile,
had a 92-36-20 career mark, a 2.29 goals against average
and made two trips to the NCAA Frozen Four.
goaltenders replacing these two standouts – State’s
Matt Migliaccio and Justin Tobe
and the Wolverines’ aforementioned Al Montoya
– have combined for three collegiate appearances and
one start. Furthermone, Tobe and Montoya are both 17-year-old
goalie at Michigan State is like playing quarterback at
Florida State – it’s a glamour position. For
every Charlie Ward, however, there’s a Thad Busby.
Tobe, who helped Compuware to the U.S. Junior A championship
last season, won’t have to go it alone to start, as
coach Rick Comley has indicated he will split time with
sophomore Migliaccio to start. Montoya, on the other hand,
has been handed the starting job by Berenson.
CCHA has been dominated by goaltenders in recent years.
This year is no different. Without Dan Ellis,
the Mavericks are probably no better than ninth in the league
this season. With him, they’ll challenge for home
ice in the first round of the conference playoffs and a
berth in the “Super Six” Championship. The second-round
draft pick of the Dallas Stars is a technically sound goalie
and in great physical condition – he boasts a 29-inch
vertical jump and 4 percent body fat.
Mavericks, who were consistently outshot by their opponents
and struggled to score at times (two or fewer in 20 of 40
games) last season, still forged a fifth-place finish thanks
to the efforts of their goaltender. Ellis gave up two or
fewer goals in 15 of UNO’s 21 wins last season. More
remarkably, he allowed two or fewer goals in five of the
team’s 16 losses and three of the Mavericks’
four ties. During an incredible 10-game unbeaten streak
last January and February, he let in a total of nine goals,
and the stretch included a shutout streak of 244:15.
State was bounced from postseason play March 22 with a loss
to Colorado College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
But the Spartans' season effectively ended March 8, when
wing Brian Maloney hit a rut in the Munn
Arena ice during a CCHA first-round playoff game vs. Bowling
Green. He slammed into the boards, lacerating his kidney
and breaking two ribs and missed State’s last four
forward – he’s led the Spartans in penalty minutes
in each of his three seasons in East Lansing – Maloney
is the CCHA’s hardest hitter. He’s also a big-time
scorer, with three straight seasons of 30 or more points
and a career plus-minus rating of +45. With 18 career power-play
goals, Maloney is a major factor in the team’s power-play
unit that is consistently among the nation’s best
and he’s the Spartans’ top penalty-killer among
forwards. He’s also the consummate leader. Denver
goaltender Wade Dubielewicz and MSU forward Kevin Estrada,
both teammates of Maloney in Chilliwack of the British Columbia
Junior Hockey League, say he’s the best captain they’ve
freshman Jeff Tambellini comes to Ann Arbor with more accolades,
but Danny Richmond will make an immediate
impact. At 6-feet, 172 pounds, he’s built a lot like
Michigan State rearguard Duncan Keith. And while he may
not skate like Keith, he is an offensive defenseman with
creative flair, great hands and hockey sense and Wolverine
coaches vow to let him play to his strengths this season.
Richmond should see plenty of action on the power play as
a rookie and combines with Eric Werner to give Michigan
a lethal one-two scoring punch from the blue line. Defensively,
he’s is technically sound and doesn’t shy away
from contact – he racked up 129 penalty minutes with
the USHL’s Chicago Freeze last season.
IT DOWN – Six things you can take to the bank in the
CCHA this season:
the first time in six years, a team other than Michigan
or Michigan State will win the CCHA regular season title.
We’ll take Northern Michigan in a tight race.
six teams advancing to the CCHA “Super Six”
Tournament at the Joe will be Michigan, Michigan State,
Northern Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Alaska Fairbanks.
The Wolverines will triumph for the second straight year.
State junior R.J. Umberger will emerge as the league’s
top forward and lead the CCHA in scoring.
Umberger and Nystrom will be the league’s Hobey Baker
sellout streak at Civic Auditorium will come to an end this
season. The Mavericks leave the venerable barn for the 14,500-seat
Mecca Arena in downtown Omaha for the start of the 2003-04
hockey fans attending the inaugural Lefty McFadden Invitational
Oct. 4-5 at the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio, will not
only feel good about seeing the first regular-season action
of the year. All the proceeds from the event, which features
host Miami, Bowling Green, Air Force and Niagara, will go
to the Children’s Hospital in Dayton.
YOU AT TOURNEY TIME
Michigan State, Northern Michigan, Notre Dame