Weight of Expectation

mtu_a_petan-1009Michigan Tech Eyes New Heights After Last Year’s Success

Originally published by College Hockey News on Oct. 9, 2015

College hockey is coming and there is a palpable buzz in Houghton, Mich. It has not always been that way, but, after last season, Michigan Tech is dealing with something new: high expectations.

A 29-win season and the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since the early days of the Reagan administration will do that. With much of that team back this season, fans have visions of the Huskies breaking their 40-year league championship drought.

“It’s a smaller town, but a big hockey community,” senior goaltender Jamie Phillips said. “We see people around town and they wish us good luck and tell us how excited they are to see us play again.”

“When the whole town and the whole school is behind us, that gives us a little extra motivation and energy.”

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Badger Bits: Wisconsin shows its mettle against Northern Michigan; Boston trip up next

wisconsin hockey tunnel

Luke Kunin and the power play impressed in the Badgers pair of ties against the Wildcats.

Originally published by SB Nation College Hockey on Oct. 12, 2015

They may not have put one into the win column, but there was a lot to like about the Badgers men’s hockey team’s opening weekend series against Northern Michigan. Wisconsin showed impressive resilience, battling back from two third period deficits to earn a pair of ties against the Wildcats, 2-2 on Friday and 3-3 on Saturday.

UW went unbeaten in a series only once last season and scored five or more goals just twice.

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2015-16 WCHA Watch List

nmu_b_maschmeyer-1008Originally published by College Hockey News on Oct. 8, 2015

Last season was another big step forward for the WCHA, which put two teams—Minnesota State and Michigan Tech—in the national tournament and narrowly missed a third. The league also boasted three of the top 10 winning percentages in the country a year ago.

The Mavericks and Huskies were both knocked out in the NCAA’s first round, though, so there is still plenty of room for the WCHA to continue growing its presence on the national stage.

5 Things to Watch

Can Minnesota State three-peat?

The Mavericks are the two-time reigning Broadmoor Trophy champions, but come into this season having to replace a number of key pieces. Gone are All-Americans Matt Leitner and Zach Palmquist and goaltender Stephon Williams.

Still, there is plenty of talent left in Mankato, led by the media’s Preseason WCHA Player of the Year, and the league’s top returning goal-scorer, senior forward Bryce Gervais. He, as well as young offensive talent like senior Teddy Blueger, sophomores C.J. Franklins and Brad McClure, and junior defenseman Casey Nelson should ensure the Mavericks high-powered offense doesn’t miss a beat. They will miss Dylan Margonari from the lineup for about five weeks because of an injury.

“With the offensive guys that have left, we need other guys to pick up the scoring supply,” MSU head coach Mike Hastings said.

Both the conference’s media and coaches have picked Minnesota State to win its third straight WCHA title, but it won’t be smooth sailing. The regular season title has been decided by a single point in each of the past two seasons and this season should be no less competitive with talented Michigan Tech and Bowling Green teams nipping at the Mavericks’ heels.

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2015-16 WCHA Team Preview Capsules

bgs_s_walker-1008Originally published by College Hockey News on Oct. 8, 2015

A look at the 10 members of the WCHA heading into the 2015-16 campaign (in order of their predicted finish, based on the preseason media poll):

Minnesota State

Head Coach: Mike Hastings
2014-15 Record: 29-8-3, 21-4-3 WCHA

Changes: The two-time defending conference champions lose a lot of key parts from last season’s MacNaughton Cup-winning team. The Mavericks have the task of replacing over 100 points of offense and All-WCHA players Matt Leitner, Zach Palmquist, and Stephon Williams.

Strengths: What made the Mavericks great last year was their depth and they are hoping those players step up to replace lost production. Senior forward Bryce Gervais, the WCHA’s leading goal scorer last season, is the go-to guy now, but will have to show he can survive without Leitner to feed him the puck. Forwards Teddy Blueger, C.J. Franklin, and Brad McClure all have the potential to step up their offensive output as well. Senior Dylan Margonari, a 14-goal scorer last year, will miss some time early on, however, recovering from an injury.

Weaknesses: MSU head coach Mike Hastings called his team’s goaltending situation “wide open” after Williams’ departure. Junior Cole Huggins steps in and will have to rebound from a putrid season. He struggled in nine games, putting up a .864 save percentage, before losing his starting job. The Mavericks hope he regains his freshman form, when Huggins had a sterling .926 save percentage and 1.88 goals against average, but that remains to be seen.

2015-16 Outlook: Despite its losses, Minnesota State still has as much talent as anyone in this league. They have some big roles to fill, but that shouldn’t stop the Mavericks from challenging for their third straight league crown and returning to the NCAA tournament.

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Badger Bits: Wisconsin Opens Against Northern Michigan

wisconsin hockey fans

With 23 underclassmen on the roster, there are plenty of questions the Badgers still need to answer.

Originally published by SB Nation College Hockey on Oct. 5, 2015

Ater an offseason of change that saw two new assistant coaches, a new Director of Hockey Operations, and 10 new freshmen join the program, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team is ready to begin anew and try to put the bitter memories from last season’s four-win campaign behind it.

That journey begins this weekend when the Badgers host Northern Michigan at the Kohl Center for a two-game set to open the season.

“We don’t talk about (last season),” head coach Mike Eaves said. “The focus is on what we’re doing this year and the types of things we want to put into place, systems-wise.”

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