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Bemidji State beat writer for the Bemidji Pioneer. Appreciator of books, beer, baseball and rock'n'roll.

Weekend recap: Beavers take second in North Star Cup

A little late with this, but by now you probably know that the Beavers beat Minnesota on Saturday before falling to St. Cloud State in Sunday’s North Star College Cup final.

I’ll spare you the recap since it’s old news by now, but it was a fun weekend of hockey at the X — every game was good save the title game and the fans who did show up were loud and had a good time.

I’ll have a column about my thoughts on the North Star Cup in Wednesday’s Pioneer, I’ll post it here when it’s online. Overall, I think the tournament could turn into a destination thing like Boston’s Beanpot and the Great Lakes Invitational in Michigan. It will never be at the caliber of the Final Five, but as a showcase for hockey in the state it has an opportunity to turn into a “family reunion” of sorts for the 5 Division I programs in the state.

Anyway, look for that later.

Special teams success

A weird stat that I wasn’t really able to fit into my game story, but, somehow BSU managed to hold St. Cloud State off the scoreboard entirely on the power play this weekend.

OK, small sample size — the Beavers had two penalties, one of which was a 5-minute major with less than two minutes left in a blowout — but it’s still an accomplishment, considering the Huskies had scored on three of five power plays in their win over Mankato on Saturday. St. Cloud is second in the country on the man-advantage with 33 goals in 104 tries (31.7 percent).

There were actually only three penalties in the entire game, and the Beavers happened to score on their only power play. Which basically means BSU went 3-for-3 on combined special teams.

Which, yeah, no big deal — it obviously didn’t matter since St. Cloud absolutely dominated even-strength play.

I just think it’s interesting just how well the Beavers’ special teams have been as a whole this year. They’ve given up just 10 goals while on the penalty kill — which is third in the country. Not bad for a .500 team.

Beaver women fall to Minnesota

Although the BSU women played very well against Minnesota in both games this weekend, they still came up empty. The Beavers lost a pair of 2-1 games — in both  instances, the Gophers scored a late goal to win.

That means the Beavers are a combined 0-8 against Wisconsin and Minnesota, the top two teams in the WCHA. They’re 12-1-1 against everyone else in the conference.

Still, they’re in pretty good shape right now: With just six games to go in the regular season, the Beavers are in fourth place (aka, a home-ice advantage slot) and are 10 points ahead of fifth-place St. Cloud State. A sweep essentially clinches fourth for BSU, which would be its first-ever WCHA home playoff series.

BSU is just two points back of North Dakota and could take third.

No matter where the Beavers end up — and they have a way more favorable end-of-season schedule than UND, which still has to play Minnesota — they’ll still be playing either St. Cloud or Minnesota Duluth. My guess is they’d prefer to play St. Cloud, but if the Huskies get three or more points this weekend that may be less favorable for BSU.

My poll

In case you were curious, here’s who I voted for this week. I had St. Cloud as my top team before the weekend, and after watching them beat MSU and BSU this weekend that hasn’t changed:

1. St. Cloud
2. Quinnipiac
3. North Dakota
4. Boston College
5. Michigan
6. Harvard
7. Lowell
8. Boston U
9. Denver
10. Providence
11. Michigan Tech
12. Minnesota State
13. Omaha
14. Robert Morris
15. Bowling Green
16. Notre Dame
17. Yale
18. Penn State
19. RPI
20. Cornell

PREGAME WARMUP: ‘Dogs are in the house

Ferris State is in the house this weekend, as the Beavers and Bulldogs begin a two-game WCHA series.

Here’s your abbreviated primer on the Bulldogs: They’re 10-9-5 overall and 8-7-3 in the league. They have yet to sweep anyone and have yet to be swept this season; likewise, their longest winning or losing streak is two games.

That’s some remarkable consistency for college hockey, but it’s not going to get you any national recognition. The Bulldogs have been, to sum it up in a word, steady.

Freshman Darren Smith is in the nets tonight for Ferris. He’s 7-4-4 with a 2.20 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Not bad, for a rookie. CJ Motte started literally every game for the Bulldogs last season, and goaltending was the big question mark for the Bulldogs coming into the season. Looks like they’ve got a good one.

Here’s my game story from today’s Pioneer highlighting the rivalry between the two teams. Also, here’s video of both head coach Tom Serratore and sophomore forward (and scoring leader) Gerry Fitzgerald.

Lines are below. Of note, Myles Fitzgerald is again out of the lineup. He played in all four games on the Alaska trip but missed both Arizona State games last week. Jordan Heller slides into his place on the triplet line. Jay Dickman will move to the fourth line with Marinaccio and Arentz.

Also, no suspension or anything for junior D Ruslan Pedan, who was called for a five-minute major and game misconduct last week at the end of last Saturday’s game against Arizona State. I didn’t think the hit was that bad but it’s hard to tell what the league is going to do sometimes…

Bemidji State Lines
Charlie O’Connor – Cory Ward – Brendan Harms
Markus Gerbrandt – Kyle Bauman – John Parker
Leo Fitzgerald – Gerry Fitzgerald – Jordan Heller
Phillip Marinaccio – Nate Arentz – Jay Dickman

Justin Baudry – Graeme McCormack
Dillon Eichstadt – Brett Beauvais
Ruslan Pedan – Dan Billett

Michael Bitzer
Reid Mimmack
Jesse Wilkins

Opponent Lines
Kyle Schempp – Jared VanWormer – Gerald Mayhew
Jacob Hetz – Trevor Recktenwald – Andrew Mayer
Corey Mackin – Andrew Dorantes – Tyler Andrew
Mitch Maloney – Matt Robertson – Chad McDonald

Sean O’Rourke – Simon Denis
Brandon Anselmini – Ryan Lowney
Zach Dorer – Tyler Dorantes

Darren Smith
Charles William

PREGAME WARMUP: BSU doubleheader vs. Wisconsin, Arizona State

Big series for both Bemidji State hockey teams this weekend at the Sanford Center.

The women host No. 2 Wisconsin while the men play their first-ever series against Arizona State.

See after the jump, but I have some leftover bits from earlier this week, about the Beaver women’s team’s fourth line and Arizona State’s potential conference destination (not breaking any news here, but some interesting comments from ASU coach Greg Powers).

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WCHA sweater power rankings

Hey gang.

Sorry for no blog updates, but it’s been busy around here with a the Pioneer’s sports department in transition (Kris Lodes left in October and Austin Monteith started at the end of November).

Anyway, needless to say it’s been busy enough getting a daily paper out so the blog updates haven’t been coming.

That said, I’ll try and do that more after the new year (yes, I understand I’ve said that before).

I’ll do a more conventional update tomorrow, but until then, something interesting: The WCHA recently announced in a press release two weeks ago that the league would be switching from white sweaters at home to dark sweaters for the second half of the year.

I’m not actually sure if the Beavers will be wearing green or white this weekend, since the rule only applies for league games and Arizona State is in town (who, by the way, has tremendous black jerseys).

Anyway, I asked BSU forward John Parker before the team left for Alaska his thoughts on the switch. He wasn’t against it, but also said he liked the Beavers’ white sweaters a little better:

The WCHA and the NCHC are both going to do this, which gives fans a chance to see both of their home team’s jerseys in one season.

All of this jersey talk got me thinking: Which WCHA teams have the best sweaters?

I almost feel like I have to do two different versions of this (dark sweaters and light sweaters). Because, for example, Michigan Tech’s cream colored throwbacks are hands-down the best lights in the league, but their blacks are just “meh”.

Likewise, I really like Huntsville’s blue jerseys (but not the greys).

This is a 100% unscientific and opinionated, but here’s my list.

LIGHT SWEATERS
1. Michigan Tech (they also have yellow ones which I don’t like as much)
2. Bemidji State (bonus points for using the throwback 80s ones. The cream ones are just meh. Decent idea, boring execution.)
3. Northern Michigan (can’t explain why but I really like the look)
4. Ferris State (the yellows here are also sharp)
5. Bowling Green (I like cream, but the whites are decent too)
6. Alaska Anchorage (I think they have yellow ones too, that I can’t find)
7. Alaska (yellow ones look great too)
8. Lake Superior State (also kinda meh)
9. Alabama-Huntsville (nothing special)
10.  Minnesota State (Mavericks use too much black and not enough purple)

DARK SWEATERS
1. Bowling Green (the orange ones really pop, and the browns are OK)
2. Lake Superior State (I really like this look, much better than Alaska. Maybe the gold trim is better used.)
3. Alabama Huntsville (they also have black and grey but the blues look best with black trim. Sharp)
4. Bemidji State (I like the simplicity of these, but sometimes they seem a little dull with all-green… the whites are good because of the contrast in pants and helmets)
5. Alaska Anchorage (normally I hate teams using black that don’t have black in their color scheme, but I like this one. Not sure why. They used to have green, which I also liked.)
6. Alaska (these are OK. Like BSU, just too much of one color)
7. Northern Michigan (basically the same concept as the light ones, but in reverse. No reason for me not liking it other than I like the white ones better.)
8. Michigan Tech (these aren’t bad, per say, but it’s a bland Bruins knockoff. Too busy. I liked these babies better. Especially the UP shoulder patch.)
9. Ferris State (did somebody say McDonald’s?)
10. Minnesota State (These are awful. Boring design, too much black, almost no purple or gold to be found. Not sure why the men’s hockey team does this because every other Mankato team uses some kind of purple in their uniforms. At least MSU’s women’s team gets it right.)

PREGAME WARMUP: Halloween edition

It took me far too long to find some appropriate Halloween music for this week’s blog post, so instead you should just listen to the “Zombie” by the Cranberries on repeat, just because.

The Beaver men’s team is in Marquette, Mich., tonight to take on Northern Michigan. BSU is looking for its first WCHA win of the season after being swept by Minnesota State.

The women are back home after being swept by Wisconsin on the road last weekend. They host St. Cloud State, which picked up its first win last week against North Dakota. The Beavers will miss senior forward Stephanie Anderson for one game this weekend and all of the next series at Ohio State, as she will be competing for Team USA in the Four Nations Cup in Sweden.

BSU remains No. 6 in the country in the USCHO.com poll.

The main feature in the story today is on Kyle Bauman, a Florida native who nearly quit playing hockey before his freshman season. But a last-minute call from head coach Tom Serratore in the summer brought him on board. Now, the sophomore is one of BSU’s most reliable players.

The Beavers are on their first real road trip of the season after playing four of their first five games at home. The Wildcats, meanwhile, have their first two-game home series of the year after a road series at Wisconsin and a pair of home and homes against UP rivals Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State.

Shane Frederick and I made our WCHA picks this weekend on USCHO (FWIW, I picked BSU and NMU to split) and also wrote a column on the league earlier this week.

Also: If you want to watch me be awkward on camera, we’ve started a new video series called “Beaver Banter” where I talk to various BSU athletes about things that aren’t necessarily sports. Most recently, Beavers’ goaltender Jesse Wilkins showed us what was on his mask. I’m a big fan for the green Paul Bunyan on the side.

Finally, because I forgot to do it on Monday, here’s my ballot for the USCHO men’s poll. I dropped the Beavers out after they were swept by MSU. Northern Michigan at 2-2-2 appeared on my ballot, however.

1. Boston College (4-1-0)
2. North Dakota (4-0-2)
3. Harvard (0-0-0)
4. Denver (3-1-0)
5. Bowling Green (3-1-1)
6. Omaha (6-0-0)
7. Providence (4-0-1)
8. Boston U (2-1-0)
9. Quinnipiac (6-0-0)
10. Merrimack (2-0-2)
11. Duluth (2-1-2)
12. Michigan Tech (2-2-0)
13. Lowell (3-0-2)
14. Yale (0-0-0)
15. St. Cloud (4-2-0)
16. St. Lawrence (4-2-0)
17. Miami (3-2-1)
18. Clarkson (5-1-0)
19. Northern Michigan (2-2-2)
20. Michigan (3-0-1)

Monday recap: Poll position

Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer

Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer

I had intended on posting on the blog Sunday, but I got back from Grand Forks and got tired.

Luckily, though, my neglect to post means I can write this Monday blog post on the release of the national polls.

Both the Beaver women and the Beaver men are getting some national love, although the women more than the men.

Let’s start with the Beaver women. Jim Scanlan’s squad remained unbeaten this weekend with their 0-0 tie of North Dakota on Friday in Bemidji followed by their comeback overtime victory over UND on Saturday in Grand Forks.

The national pollsters took notice. The Beavers jumped from No. 8 to No. 6, leapfrogging North Dakota in the process. It’s the highest-ranking in program history for any BSU women’s team.

Check the full poll here. BSU will get a chance to further prove their credentials this weekend when they head to Madison to take on No. 3 Wisconsin. The Badgers are 6-0-0 and have outscored opponents 35-2, so it should be a fun to see BSU’s defense — which has given up just five even strength goals this season.

The men, meanwhile, aren’t unbeaten anymore — they lost to North Dakota 5-2 on Saturday in Grand Forks after rallying to tie 4-4 on Friday in Bemidji.

And although the Beavers have received some votes, they’re currently on the outside looking in for USCHO’s most recent men’s poll. They’re unofficially No. 21, with 59 points.

Ahead of them? Minnesota. Yes, Minnesota, the team that is 0-3 and has scored a total of one (1) goal in those three games.

Yes, Minnesota, a team that was swept by Minnesota Duluth — the same team Bemidji State already beat.

The Beavers, in fact, scored three times as many goals in one game against the Bulldogs as the Gophers did in two.

Look, I know it’s early and polls don’t ACTUALLY mean anything, but polls are valuable in letting people know what the college hockey world thinks about this team or that team. The fact that people are still voting for Minnesota despite an 0-3-0 start (as opposed to the 1-1-1 Beavers) just tells you how much having a logo on the front of the sweater means as opposed to what the team actually does.

How many voters that picked Minnesota actually looked at them and said, “Hey, wait a minute! Bemidji beat Duluth and the Gophers lost! Twice!” I’m guessing not many. And they’re probably the same people who continued to vote for Wisconsin at the start of the season (and last week). Thankfully the 0-2-2 Badgers aren’t on the poll anymore.

Anyway, I think the Beavers are worthy of being a top-20 team for now. They’re certainly as deserving as Minnesota (or Minnesota State, which is 0-4-0 and just behind BSU after dropping out of the poll).

I voted the Beavers as No. 13. Maybe this is high. I don’t care. (FWIW, the Beavers are No. 17 in the pairwise, which doesn’t mean much until teams have played more games. But still….)

Here’s my ballot. I don’t think it’s unreasonable. And you’ll notice I dropped out both the Gophers and the Mavericks. If you’re 0-3-0 (or 0-4-0) after two weeks, you’re not a top-20 team (for now… this could change, obviously). Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think.

1. Boston College
2. North Dakota
3. Harvard
4. Denver
5. Bowling Green
6. Duluth
7. Omaha
8. Providence
9. Boston U
10. Michigan Tech
11. Lowell
12. Yale
13. Bemidji State
14. St. Cloud
15. Quinnipiac
16. St. Lawrence
17. Michigan
18. Colgate
19. Clarkson
20. Union

Finally, unrelated to BSU but since the Beavers were in NoDak Nation on Saturday (This is the actual name of UND’s student section. They had a giant banner with that name on it. Is the UND administration doubling down on that one and just putting all its eggs in that “NoDak” basket?), I thought it would be worth mentioning that North Dakota’s nickname vote starts today. Which means that the next time BSU and UND play, both teams will have a nickname (well, maybe… this is North Dakota we’re talking about….)

The options are: NoDaks, sUNDogs, Fighting Hawks, Roughriders and North Stars.

Will they actually pick one or will this go back to court for five more years? STAY TUNED!

PREGAME WARMUP: UND/BSU, home and home doubleheader edition

Not a lot of time to blog, so I’ll be brief:

It’s a big weekend for both Beaver hockey teams (as you know). And with both teams’ good starts (the women 5-1-0 and the men with the smaller-sample-size 1-0), they’re hosting the (Sundogs/Hawks/NoDaks/Roughriders/North Stars) at the opportune time with some opportunity to pick up some momentum.

The women will once again rely on All-American goaltender Brittni Mowat to keep them in it against a UND team that has a pair of solid goaltenders. Mowat has a 0.60 GAA and has allowed just one even strength goal.

I also chatted with Mowat about her mask in a new video series we’re doing. (It was fun, but there’s a reason why I am a print journalist so please go easy on me.)

As for the Beaver men, they have a knack for early-season wins against top ranked teams like North Dakota. (Remember last season in Grand Forks? Yeah, as if BSU fans could forget….)

I also talked with John Parker, also on video.

Finally, over on USCHO.com Shane Frederick and I wrote about the Beavers’ big win over UMD as well as Minnesota State’s tough losses, and did our weekly predictions.

Anyway, the women’s game starts at 2:07 today in Bemidji, so I’ve got to get ready for that. Stay tuned for more.

Poll roundup: Beaver women, men moving on up

Was crazy busy on Monday so didn’t have time to update the blog, but both Bemidji State women’s and men’s teams have moved up in the rankings following their weekend games against Minnesota Duluth.

The women, after sweeping UMD, moved up from No. 9 to No. 8 in the USCHO.com poll. UMD dropped out. This week’s opponent, North Dakota, remained at No. 6. Both the Beavers and the (INSERT NAME HERE, TO BE VOTED ON THIS MONTH) are undefeated.

USCHO.com Division I Women’s Poll
Team (First Place) Record Pts LW
1. Minnesota (15) 4-0-0 150 1
T2. Boston College 3 0-0 128 2
T2. Wisconsin 4-0-0 128 3
4. Clarkson 5-0-0 99 5
5. Harvard 0-0-0 89 4
6. North Dakota 4-0-0 74 6
7. Quinnipiac 3-0-1 55 8
8. Bemidji State 5-0-1 50 9
9. Boston University 3-1-0 23 7
10. Cornell 0-0-0 20 10
Others receiving votes: Mercyhurst 6, Northeastern 2, Lindenwood 1.

On the men’s side, the Beavers received four points in the preseason poll but moved way up and got 60 points after upsetting Minnesota Duluth on Saturday. That puts them (unofficially) at No. 22, behind Michigan State (with 61 points). The Bulldogs, conversely, dropped from No. 2 to No. 7 after the loss.

USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll
Team (First Place) Record Pts LW
1. North Dakota (18) 1-0-1 922 4
2. Providence (13) 1-0-1 870 7
3. Nebraska-Omaha (8) 2-0-0 842 10
4. Boston College (7) 1-1-0 832 1
5. Denver 1-1-0 652 5
6. Boston University 0-1-0 647 3
7. Minnesota-Duluth 0-1-0 645 2
8. Harvard (2) 0-0-0 629 8
9. Massachusetts-Lowell (2) 1-0-0 555 14
10. Bowling Green 2-0-0 521 16
11. Michigan 0-0-0 415 13
12. St. Cloud State 2-0-0 412 17
13. Yale 0-0-0 377 12
14. Minnesota State 0-2-0 316 6
15. Minnesota 0-1-0 304 9
16. Michigan Tech 0-0-0 288 15
17. Quinnipiac 2-0-0 284 18
18. Miami 0-1-1 234 11
19. St. Lawrence 2-0-0 211 19
20. Vermont 1-0-0 128 NR
Others receiving votes: Michigan State 61, Bemidji State 60, Union 54, Northeastern 40, Notre Dame 40, Clarkson 24, Penn State 24, Princeton 19, New Hampshire 18, Robert Morris 17, Rensselaer 15, Colgate 10, Mercyhurst 7, Northern Michigan 6, Cornell 5, Maine 5, Massachusetts 5, Ferris State 3, Wisconsin 2, Brown 1.

It’s worth mentioning that North Dakota is No. 1 again in the poll. To that end, here’s my ballot. I didn’t vote UND No. 1 because honestly, I don’t think the (NODAKS/SUNDOGS/ROUGHRIDERS/FIGHTING HAWKS/NORTH STARS) are that much better than Minnesota Duluth. Unlike last year, there’s no clear No. 1 right now (like UND was for much of the season).

1. Boston College
2. North Dakota
3. Harvard
4. Denver
5. Michigan Tech
6. Omaha
7. Bowling Green
8. Boston U
9. Providence
10. Yale
11. Bemidji State
12. Lowell
13. St. Cloud
14. Minnesota State
15. Quinnipiac
16. St. Lawrence
17. Minnesota
18. Colgate
19. Robert Morris
20. Vermont

As you can see: Yeah, I moved the Beavers way up. But honestly, BSU has a pretty good track record against most of the teams ahead of them in the actual poll in each of the past two seasons. And considering Duluth and UND both lost very little from last season, there’s no reason to think the Beavers — who have played very well against both of those teams — can’t hang with them this season too. They at least deserve to be in the discussion. I mean, it’s still early because maybe the Beavers will lose their next eight games and we’ll know they don’t. Maybe they’ll keep winning. Obviously, it’s early this season so there’s still a lot to be worked out.

PREGAME WARMUP: Beaver teams host Duluth as Dog Days of fall begin

The Bemidji State men’s hockey team couldn’t ask for a better (or more difficult) way to open up the season: a home-and-home with No. 2 Minnesota Duluth, with the first leg tonight in Bulldog country before returning to Beaver nation Saturday at the Sanford Center.

It will be a fun weekend of Beaver/Bulldogs madness all around, too, as the No. 9 BSU women’s team hosts UMD Friday and Saturday — meaning Saturday will be a doubleheader featuring a pair of green-vs.-maroon matchups.

The men will be playing for this Babe the Blue Ox Trophy, which is currently in their possession:

In Thursday’s paper I wrote about the women’s team, specifically captain Whitney Wivoda and how her long-tenured presence in Bemidji makes her a very valuable player for Jim Scanlan’s squad.

In today’s edition, I wrote about the men’s team and how BSU’s three veteran defenders — Graeme McCormack, Ruslan Pedan and Brett Beauvais — will have to step into new roles this season.

Matt Wellens of the Duluth News Tribune also has previews for both teams. He wrote about the UMD women’s team’s quest to return to national prominence with new head coach Maura Crowell. And he wrote about the UMD men’s team captain Andy Welinski as well as offering a general overview of where he thinks the Bulldogs are at this season.

One interesting storyline for both the men’s and the women’s team is that both UMD teams are going to want to exact some measure of revenge on BSU. The Beaver women ended UMD’s season with a playoff series win last season and in turn ended the career of former head coach Shannon Miller.

Scanlan said he didn’t think the Bulldogs would necessarily hold a grudge from last year aside from the general rivalry that the two teams are starting to develop.

“It’s a new season. They have new faces and a new coach. They’re just like us, they want to get off to a good start.

“We know the competition level is going to increase quite a bit. I think everybody realizes how important every conference game we play is. Duluth’s got a very good team. We ended their season last year and we’ll turn right around and our first conference series is them. They have some really high end talent up front, Black is one of the better goalies in the league. It’s going to be a challenge every time but for us to start at home is a plus.”

As for the men, the Beavers have played very well against the Bulldogs in the recent past. They’re 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, including a 4-0 shutout last season in the semifinals of the North Star College Cup. For whatever reason the Beavers have historically given the Bulldogs (and their fans) fits. This season the Beavers are probably as deep as they’ve been since the Matt Read era up front, so expect more of the same.

McCormack said UMD will be hungry to take one from the Beavers.

“We zinged them last year in the North Star Cup. I think they’re a little bitter from that. We’re coming in with a little bit of swagger because we’ve got their number. And we’ve got the Babe trophy in the locker room. We know they’re going to be remembering last year and they’re going to be coming in hot for us.”

So there you go. Expect some fireworks in both games. I’m not going to Duluth, but I’ll be Tweeting and following the game on webstream. Ryan Pietruszewski is covering the women’s games this weekend, so be sure to pick up a copy of the paper this weekend for all the coverage.

2015-16 media poll: How I voted

Now that I have a little bit of time this afternoon, I’d like to share with you my vote in the Bemidji Pioneer Preseason Media Poll with some commentary/reasonings on why I voted.

1. Michigan Tech
I went against the grain a little with this pick, but my reason mostly stems from the fact that the Huskies return Jamie Phillips and basically their entire D-corps. But I still think this is a coin flip.

2. Minnesota State
Again, this still seems 50/50. However, the Mavs are without Stephon Williams so I picked the Huskies (although Cole Huggins is a very capable goaltender as well).

3. Bowling Green
The Falcons have everyone back, essentially, and I think they will be a top 10 team. Not sure they’ll be better than Tech or MSU.

4. Bemidji State
The big question mark is which defensemen will step up the hole to fill left by Prapavessis, Windle and Rendle, but they returning Bitzer in goal and 80 percent of their scoring up front.

5. Ferris State
A lot of my votes, it turns out, are goaltending-related. Ferris will miss CJ Motte for sure. The question will now be if they can score.

6. Alaska
They’re going to miss Colton Parayko but have one of the best forwards in the league in Tyler Morley.

7. Northern Michigan
This team was decimated by injuries last season. If they can  rally from that and get everyone healthy I think they’ll finish better than seventh.

8. Alabama Huntsville
Everyone knows about goalie Carmine Guerriero, but expect deeper forward group and more scoring for a more experienced club now.

9. Alaska Anchorage
Last season was really disappointing for the Seawolves after they made the Final Five in 2013-14. If they can sustain their early-season success, maybe they can bounce back.

10. Lake Superior State
Another team with a good goaltender last season, the Lakers were better in the second half of the season. They should be better overall but I don’t think it will be enough to get out of the cellar.

Player of the Year: Alex Petan, Michigan Tech
Pretty tough competition between Petan, MSU’s Bryce Gervais and Alaska’s Tyler Morley for this award. In the end I picked Petan, who could be a legit Hobey Baker candidate. But I picked all three as my All-WCHA forward team (which you can see below).

Newcomer of the Year: Dillon Eichstadt, Bemidji State
This award is always difficult to pick, mostly because I’m not usually familiar with newcomers on other teams. So I picked a BSU freshman that should see a lot of playing time on defense (and a Bemidji native).

All-WCHA Team
G-Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State
D-Casey Nelson, MSU
D-Shane Hanna, Tech
F-Tyler Morley, UAF
F-Alex Petan, Tech
F-Bryce Gervais, MSU
I talked about the forwards above. As for the three others: Bitzer might seem like a homer pick, and maybe it is, but I think he’s up there as one of the top 10 goaltenders in the country.  If anything, the WCHA is stupid with goalie depth. A lot of his performance will depend on his D-men, but I still think he’s going to be solid.