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September 9, 2013 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

The CHN Preseason Top 10

by Joseph Edwards/CHN Writer

UMass-Lowell coach Norrm Bazin leads his club into a new season with the greatest of expectations. (photo: Josh Gibney)

UMass-Lowell coach Norrm Bazin leads his club into a new season with the greatest of expectations. (photo: Josh Gibney)

When the 2012-13 season began, Yale wasn't on the College Hockey News Top 10, let alone anyone else's. As the season went on, the Bulldogs were good, if not under the radar, en route to the 15th seed in the NCAA tournament — barely making the postseason cut. That's when they did the unthinkable, scoring four straight wins against higher-ranked teams, running the gamut to bring their first national championship back to New Haven and shocking the college hockey universe.

Rankings, especially in the preseason, are nothing more than comparisons and expectations of how things look on paper. When the skates hit the ice, there's no way to tell exactly what will happen when the final buzzer sounds, but it is awfully fun to guess and think about. With that in mind, here's how we see things coming into the 2013-14 season:

1. Massachusetts-Lowell (28-11-2/16-9-2 Hockey East)

The River Hawks started out slow last season, en route to a strong finish that saw them take the Hockey East regular-season and tournament championships, as well as a Frozen Four berth. Expect the same results this time around, but without the hiccups. Connor Hellebucyk emerged as a top-notch starter in his first season, though a sophomore slump could be mitigated by the man he beat out for the job, senior Doug Carr. Defensivee leader Chad Ruhwedel and team captain Riley Wetmore are gone, but a talented group are ready to pick up the slack. Up front, junior Scott Wilson, senior Joseph Pendenza and senior Derek Arnold will be the go-to scorers. Defensively, sophomore Christian Folin is back after flirting with the idea of going pro.

2. Miami (25-12-5/17-7-4-4 CCHA)

A strong freshman class was a catalyst for the RedHawks last season, and as sophomores, they're poised for bigger and better. Ryan McKay and Jay Williams pushed each other in the crease, and there's no indication their second campaign together will be any different. Riley Barber's first year of college hockey established him as a legitimate scoring threat; he and juniors Austin Czarnik and Jimmy Mullin will lead the front lines while Sean Kuraly hopes to break out in his second season. Undersized freshman Anthony Louis will add speed and creativity to the front lines, while sophomore defenseman Matt Caito is an offensive force that will lead a young crew of blueliners.

3. Wisconsin (22-12-7/13-8-7 WCHA)

Nic Kerdiles' roller-coaster freshman season ended with a tear that saw him post 19 points in 12 games for the Badgers — a showcase of the talent he'll bring this season with no distractions. Adding to the offensive depth is the senior trio of Mark Zengerle, Michael Mersch and Tyler Barnes, proven scorers who will pile up the points. Junior defenseman Jake McCabe showed some offensive flair, and senior Frankie Simonelli will be a stabilizing force in front of junior netminder Joel Rumpel. In his second go-round, Rumpel improved upon his first-year numbers, and doing so again will be lift Wisconsin even higher. Junior Landon Peterson shared a portion of the duties a year ago and should continue to push Rumpel for time.

4. Boston College (22-12-4/15-9-3 Hockey East)

As always the Eagles refuse to rebuild, and instead will reload — only this time they'll do so with one of the top freshman classes in the country. Up front, Chris Calnan and Ryan Fitzgerald will contribute to an offense that already includes a Hobey hopeful in junior Johnny Gaudreau, as well as big, menacing seniors Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold. Defensively, Ian McCoshen and Steve Santini will challenge to add to an already deep defensive crew that features sophomores Michael Matheson and Teddy Doherty, and senior Isaac MacLeod. Highly-touted freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko will have every opportunity to seize the starting job for BC, though he'll have to fight off junior Brian Billett.

5. North Dakota (22-13-7/14-7-7 WCHA)

The rich just got a little richer, as Dave Hakstol's recruiting class is among the best in the nation. Defensemen Paul LaDue, Keaton Thompson and Gage Ausmus will immediately jockey for playing time with a set of blue line regulars that includes senior Dillon Simpson, junior Nick Mattson and sophomore Jordan Schmaltz. Offensively, junior Mark MacMillan and redshirt sophomore Rocco Grimaldi will set the tone for first-year skaters like Wade Murphy, Adam Tambellini and Luke Johnson, while Drake Caggiula will take a big step forward in his second season. Replacing talented seniors Corban Knight, Danny Kristo and Carter Rowney will be a big task for the returning and new forwards. The creases in Grand Forks will be tended to by sophomore Zane Gothberg, who took the job from Clarke Saunders, a senior who can, and will seize the opportunity at his first chance.

6. Minnesota (26-9-5/16-7-5 WCHA)

Despite the loss of big-name players like Erik Haula, Mark Alt, Nate Schmidt, Nick Bjugstad and Zach Budish, consider the Gophers a strong contender. They boast an incredibly deep, albeit inexperienced, back end led by sophomores Brady Skjei and Mike Reilly, while freshman Jake Bischoff will challenge for time immediately as a capable offensive quarterback. In net, Adam Wilcox is back and looks to build off a first season that saw him rank among the national leaders in every major category. Kyle Rau and Nate Condon will lead the campaign up front, though the junior trio of Sam Warning, Travis Boyd and Seth Ambroz should help fans forget some of the lost firepower. Expect to see a lot of Hudson Fasching's name on scoresheets this season, as the 6-foot-3 power forward is built to dominate.

7. Notre Dame (25-13-3/17-18-3-2 CCHA)

Hockey East has been waiting for the Irish for a few seasons now, and they won't disappoint. Senior T.J. Tynan has developed into a top-notch playmaker who can also display a deft scoring touch. Classmates Bryan Rust and Jeff Costello stepped up their game as juniors and will be counted upon to show sophomores Mario Lucia, Thomas DiPauli and Steven Fogarty to do the same. Freshman Vince Hinostroza is the small, skilled forward that tends to succeed in Hockey East, and should add to the mix quickly. Defensively, Notre Dame returns a deep set of big, punishing shutdown defensemen that includes seniors Stephen Johns and Kevin Lind, as well as classmate Shayne Taker, who will continue to develop his offensive game. Netminder Steven Summerhays impressed in his first go as a full-time starter, and he'll get a push from 6-foot-4 freshman Chad Katunar.

8. Michigan (18-19-3/10-15-3-3 CCHA)

The Wolverines lost some star power from an underachieving team last season, though they're poised for better this season. Steve Racine's found a high-level of consistency down the stretch, and will be continue his maturation as a sophomore. It will help that senior Mac Bennett returns to lead a young, deep set of blueliners that should see a bigger contribution from junior Brennan Serville. Freshmen defensemen Mike Downing and Nolan De Jong are big, developing talents that could challenge for minutes immediately. Their first-year classmates J.T. Compher and Tyler Motte will add to an offensive unit that features juniors Phil Di Giuseppe and Alex Guptill, as well as sophomore Cristoval Nieves, both of whom are primed to take the reins and lead the frontlines.

9. Providence (17-14-7/13-8-6 Hockey East)

The Friars showed flashes of potential dominance as the 2012-13 season came to an end, and Nate Leaman's squad is primed for bigger and better this time around. Jon Gillies was plainly dominant in net as a freshman, while seniors Kevin Hart and Steven Shamanski as sophomore John Gilmour will lead a young, hungry set of defensemen. Up front, junior Ross Mauermann and senior Derek Army will provide steady offense, while Mark Jankowski and Nick Saracino will look to break out after solid first seasons. Sophomore Trevor Mingoia will add a spark to the forwards as a transfer from Union.

10. Minnesota State (24-13-3/16-11-1 WCHA)

Mike Hastings first year in Mankato proved a resounding success with the Mavericks competing in the WCHA and advancing to the NCAA tournament. The loss of senior and leading goal-scorer Eriah Hayes must be addressed, but a gifted group of forwards is primed to take advantage. Sophomore goaltender Stephon Williams emerged as one of the nation's best a year ago behind a team that remains mostly unchanged. Hastings will need to find a replacement for steady senior defenseman Tyler Elbrecht. Moving into the new WCHA brings a host of new opponents for the Mavericks, but Hastings' group is the clear favorite in the new-look league.

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