College Hockey Season Kicks Off

Just like the National Hockey League last season, the NCAA kicked off their hockey season last weekend. Teams are set to play 35+ games as they traverse through the season on the road to the NCAA Frozen Four in sunny Tampa, Florida in April 2012. Entering the season, Notre Dame was the top team in the poll. The Fighting Irish split their opening weekend series against defending champion Minnesota-Duluth to fall to No. 2 in this weeks poll. Taking the top spot is Boston College as they won both contests in the Icebreaker Tournament against Michigan State and North Dakota. Boston College, as well as a couple others could be dangerous teams to play against when it comes to tournament time. Here are my three teams to watch over the course of the season.

CCHA: Miami

Take your pick between Michigan, Notre Dame and Miami. All three teams have reached the Frozen Four in the last five seasons but have yet to take the title home. Don’t be surprised if any of the three will be making travel arrangements to Tampa the final week of March. If I were to pick a team, I would pick the Miami Redhawks. This group of seniors reached the national title game in 2009 and the Frozen Four in 2010. After steamrolling the competition en route to the CCHA tournament title in 2011, they fell flat in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Head coach Enrico Blasi will have some big shoes to fill as 45 percent of their goal production is lost due to the graduation of Andy Miele, Carter Camper, Justin Vaive and Pat Cannone. Miele also won the Hobey Baker Award last season.

Just like they have done over the last few years, they will look to reload with experienced veteran players to make up the lost goal production. There seems to be a different player stepping up every year, and it shouldn’t be any different this year. And you can’t forget they are solid in goal with the tandem of Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard.

Hockey East: Boston College

One thing I can count on is a team with Boston in its name playing for a national title. Last year was the first year since 2005 that Boston College or Boston University failed to appear in the national championship game. In that span, Boston College was 2-2 while Boston University was 1-0. The B.C. Eagles are among the top teams in the nation, as they are currently the top team in the nation in the USA Today and polls.

Last season, the Eagles swept the Hockey East regular season and tournament championships, but were upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament when they lost to Colorado College. Legendary bench boss Jerry York still has high expectations for his squad, but they will have to do it with a new No. 1 between the pipes. Junior Parker Milner is the new guy in goal, having the fill the shoes of the graduated (and two-time national champion) John Muse. Miler did win 13 games in his first two seasons as a backup, so he has the experience and confidence necessary for the role. There are two rookies behind him so it’s all-or-nothing should he succeed or struggle. The Eagles won 30 games last season, and it will be quite the feat should they return to the 30-win plateau this season.

2010 first round pick (14th overall) Jaden Schwartz of Colorado College/St. Louis Blues.

WCHA: Colorado College

Just like the CCHA, the WCHA is stacked deep with talented teams. The standings will become a game of musical chairs and the music won’t stop until the final night of the regular season. I have the feeling that North Dakota, Colorado College, and Minnesota could contend for the national championship. As well as Denver looks on paper, I can’t overlook the fact their top goalie Sam Brittain won’t be back until January due to knee surgery.  Despite North Dakota having one of the best goalies in the nation in 30-game winner Aaron Dell , they have to find a way to replace 128 of 177 goals scored last season. For those keeping score at home, that’s 72 percent. Despite finishing sixth in the conference last season, look for the WCHA champion to come from Colorado Springs.

While everyone but Wisconsin is returning their starting goalie, the most complete team on paper is Colorado College. The Tigers should have a healthy Jaden Schartz, who was putting up Sidney Crosby-type numbers (47 points in 30 games) before suffering an ankle injury while playing for Canada in the World Junior Championships. He missed all of January and returned mid-February. Should the sophomore and St. Louis draftee continue on the same tear, he has to be a contender for the Hobey Baker Award. His linemate and brother Rylan, isn’t too bad himself as he had 10 goals and 28 assists in 41 games.

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