2014-15 OFFSEASON UPDATE

It seems like the seasons have changed for good and spring is finally here.

The college hockey season is also officially over, as Providence beat Boston University on Saturday night in the Frozen Four for an improbably national title.

That means we can start looking ahead to the 2015-16 Beaver hockey seasons. The BSU women start Sept. 28 at home against Robert Morris, while the men will play in early October.

I think both teams are poised to keep improving next season.

The women will have a tough task ahead of them after a 20-win season. They’re not going to be the underdogs anymore, and I think they’ll be expected to finish in the top half of the WCHA and beat the Minnesotas, Wisconsins and North Dakotas of the world on a regular basis.

They’ve got mostly everyone back, including All-American goaltender Brittni Mowat, gold-medalist Stephanie Anderson, top D-pairing of Ivana Bilic and Alexis Joyce and top scorer Kaitlyn Tougas. If there’s any team that’s ready to take the next step and make its first-ever NCAA tournament, it’s this one.

(Speaking of Anderson, check out my feature on her gold-medal winning tournament here if you missed it on Sunday.)

The men are also poised to improve next season but have some holes to fill without their top three defensemen (Matt Prapavessis, Sam Windle and Sazm Rendle). The Beavers lost three others to graduation (also forwards Phil Brewer and Mitch Cain and goalie Andrew Walsh) but the three D-men will be a blog blow.

Prapavessis (who had his first pro point with the Rochester Americans of the AHL last week — check the video of the assist here, starts around 1:14, heck of a centering pass) and Brewer (who has caught on with Tulsa of the ECHL and has played well) will also be missed from a leadership standpoint in the locker room.

But the Beavers have Michael Bitzer back in net and a ton of solid scoring (Brendan Harms, Nate Arentz, Charlie O’Connor, the Fitzgerald triplets, etc.) so it will be interesting to see how they develop.

I’m not sure exactly when the 2015 season starts but Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported BSU and North Dakota are playing another home-and-home series in mid-October.

I’ve also heard that the nonconference schedule includes a home-and-home with Minnesota Duluth and a home series against Division I newcomer Arizona State. They’ll also be back in the North Star College Cup to defend their title.

The Beavers are scheduled to go to Alaska twice this season, so they have the option of scheduling 38 games this year. Not sure if they’ll use all 38 or get an extra bye going to Alaska, but the schedule should be out in the next week or so and I’ll know more.

And finally: I’m sure you heard about the Beaver baseball team’s record-setting game against Minnesota State on Saturday. If you didn’t, please take the time to read Pioneer reporter Ryan Pietruszewski’s game story. It includes all the glorious details, including the CAR FIRE DELAY in the fifth inning.

Check back here later this month for more. I plan on doing some updates on the incoming recruiting classes for the men and the women as well as something on the football team’s spring practices.

Poll Position

Just a final FYI, here’s my final USCHO poll of the 2014-15 season. Providence is No. 1 since they won the whole damn thing. I picked Bowling Green as No. 17 — as the last team out of the tournament they really needed one result to go their way and they, and not Providence, might have been in. Funny how college hockey works sometimes, isn’t it?

Here’s the full poll. Not sure who picked Boston U.

1. Providence

2. Boston
3. North Dakota
4. Omaha
5. Minnesota State
6. Denver
7. Duluth
8. St. Cloud
9. Michigan Tech
10. RIT
11. Harvard
12. Yale
13. Minnesota
14. Quinnipiac
15. Boston College
16. Miami
17. Bowling Green
18. Michigan
19. Colgate
20. Vermont