College Hockey Report
It's the Dawning of a New Era
by James Clippinger, Correspondent
The rinks have been flooded. The Zamboni blades have been
sharpened. The flasks have been filled. The ultimate offensive
phrase that rhymes with "Prestifilippo" has been coined.
Ah yes, the Division I college hockey season is upon us.
It's been a fairly normal off-season, with only a few coaching
changes (with the oddest being Union head coach Stan Moore
resigning to retake his assistant's post at Colgate) and the
usual plethora of talented players leaving for the pro ranks.
This included such notables as Boston College's Marty Reasoner,
whose 69 points led the nation last season, and North Dakota's
Aaron Schweitzer, who was demoted to the second string after
having backstopped the Sioux to the 1997 NCAA title.
Ah, but there's still plenty of action out on the rinks, so I'll
still have to prognosticate. Here's my top 10 for the upcoming
1. NORTH DAKOTA
The Fighting Sioux lost only four players in the off-season.
Yes, one was Schweitzer, but NoDak still has the best goaltender
in the nation in sophomore Karl Goehring. Yes, WCHA Player of
the Year Curtis Murphy has graduated, but the Sioux still come at
opponents with the finest, fastest and most balanced forward
attack in the nation, featuring Jason Blake, David Hoogsteen, Jay
Panzer and Adam Calder, any one of whom would be a huge,
team-defining star at nearly any other school. Another team
might take the NCAA title, but there's little doubt that North
Dakota's squad is one of the finest of the decade.
2. OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes are my sleeper out of the CCHA this year. Put a
strong offense led by Hobey Baker candidate Hugo Boisvert and
clutch scorer extraordinaire Chris Richards together with the
terrific goaltending tandem of Ray Aho and Jeff Maund and you've
got magic. Ohio State will also get a mid-season boost from
opening the brand-spankin'-new Schottenstein Center, which will
replace a decrepit OSU Ice Rink and perhaps give the squad some
much-needed self-respect. The Buckeyes will not dominate, nor
will they be flashy, but this team may end up as consistent
Against all odds, the Wolverines walked away with the NCAA title
last year, with then-frosh Josh Langfeld putting away Boston
College. In overtime. In Boston. Although Red Berenson's squad
loses two-time national champion goaltender Marty Turco and
uberforwards Bill Muckalt and Matt Herr, they return much of the
same young team that swiped the title from a better-on-paper BC
side last year. Blue-chip prospect Josh Blackburn replaces Turco
in nets, and if he pans out the Maize and Blue could dominate.
4. BOSTON COLLEGE
Everyone's picking BC to win it all this year, but (probably
dooming myself to be wrong here), I just don't see it. Yes, they
return sophomore wunderkind Brian Gionta and a stellar scoring
defensive corps, but this team ain't going nowhere with Scott
Clemmensen in net. With defensemen pinching in constantly to
keep a now Reasonerless offense on track, Clemmensen will be the
weak link in what could be a very streaky team. The good news
for the Eagles: Hockey East is weak as hell this year.
Once again this year, the ECAC is completely up for grabs.
Harvard returns the Craig Adams/Steve Moore/Chris Bala line that
could be the best in the East if Adams regains his form from last
year's season-ending shoulder injury and sophomores Moore and
Bala continue their development. Add a strong defense headed by
Ben Storey and J.R. Prestifilippo's smooth-as-Shaft goaltending
and Harvard could contend for the national title if everything
goes just right.
6. MICHIGAN STATE
The Spartans are defensive all-stars, but with the exception of
Mike York there ain't much scoring. The graduation of Hobey
runner-up Chad Alban in net dooms this team, since sophomore Joe
Blackburn (no relation to archrival Michigan's new netminder) can
only hope to match Alban's stopping skills, and not his
extraordinary puckhandling. Alban drove this team for the past
couple of years, and now it's time to pay.
7. COLORADO COLLEGE
The all-everything line of Brain Swanson/Darren Clark/Toby
Peterson does not a team make. Don Lucia overplayed these guys
last year, and he'll have to keep at it since a shaky defense and
outmatched goaltender Colin Zulianello won't keep the Tigers
close against quality opposition. This team is the Mighty Ducks
of elite college hockey.
8. NORTHERN MICHIGAN
They'll crack some heads and score enough to do well in the CCHA,
but their real forte will be the NCAAs. Probably the only team
hoping to be sent to the opposite regional, since the Wildcats'
huge, clean hits will decimate nearly any Eastern team.
The Black Bears have the best recruiting class in the country,
but it includes a bunch of transfers and former junior players.
It might take the Downeasters a while to gel, but watch for a
strong second half once they do.
The Catamounts are probably a first-half team that will take
people by surprise. The real question is whether Mike Gilligan
can actually coach a pretty talented team into contention. Since
he couldn't do it with an astoundingly talented team a few years
back, I kinda doubt it, but some gritty scorers and a packed
Gutterson Field House could do it.
PRINCETON: Too much of a question in goal.
UNH: Too little returning scoring.
CLARKSON: It's time for an off year.
RPI: Losing top forward Matt Garver to Division III RIT cannot be
a good sign for an already inconsistent team. Coach Dan Fridgen
is on the bubble.
MINNESOTA: They'd be great if NHL teams stopped signing their
WISCONSIN: Solid team in need of goaltender. Does Jim Carey have
any eligibility left?
YALE: Alex Westlund does not a team make.
BOSTON U.: Rebuilding, but still a threat.
COLGATE: If they find a finisher, my alma mater could contend in