In its continuing committment to excellence, Illegal Curve has enlisted the aid of Eric Burton of the Goon’s World blog. A blog we consider to be the definitive source for WCHA and Fighting Sioux news.
1. Is Colorado College as good as advertised?
I do believe that C.C. is the class of the WCHA and they should be as good as they were advertised to be. The C.C. Tigers return a nice of experienced forwards are lead up front by Chad Rau, Scott McCulloch and Bill Sweat.
While the C.C. Tigers are a strong team; there also has to be some questions that will need to be answered. This was the same team that was beaten three games in a row during the league and NCAA playoffs to end the 2007-2008 season. The Tigers were also beaten in the North West Regional against the defending NCAA champion the Michigan State Spartans in the Tigers OWN building.
In goal Richard Bachman went 25-9-1 as a rookie with a .931 save percentage with a goals against average of 1.85. One question will be if he Richard Bachman can keep up the pace that he set last season. I think the Tigers are the consensus pick to win the MacNaughten Cup a second year in a row. Also, starting off the season the C.C. Tigers could realistically go 7-0 in October because they have a relatively light schedule, until they meet the pesky Denver Pioneers on October 31st and November 1st. This might sounds silly but check out this schedule; the Tigers start off their season with CHA bottom feeder Alabama Huntsville, them play Michigan Tech, followed by Clarkson before meeting their cross state rival in Denver University.
While C.C. might be the class of the league I believe that UND and DU aren’t far behind them either and they Tigers will have to earn every win they get. In the WCHA there are no give me games anymore.
2. Is the WCHA so deep this year that it was merited that Ryan Duncan did not receive a single vote for pre-season player of the year? Who would your top 3 candidates be for the award?
My top three candidates for that award are Chad Rau C.C. 28g-14a-42pts, Ryan Duncan UND 12g-18a-40pts and Garrett Roe SCSU 18g-27a-45pts. In my opinion I believe that they are the top three players in the WCHA. If you break the numbers down further you will see that Duncan top returning point getter for players in the WCHA; comparing the two seniors you can see that Duncan has 65g-68a-133pts as compared to Chad Rau who has 55g48a-103pts, Duncan has 10 more goals and 20 more assists. The numbers are what they are, I have heard a lot of fans of other WCHA teams say that Duncan is one of the most overrated in the WCHA and has great career stats because he played on the same line as Jonathan Toews and T.J. Oshie. I guess this season we will see if those claims are true.
3. How good do you think David Toews can be for the Fighting Sioux this season?
Dave Toews seems to be flying under the radar and not getting a lot of attention, he certainly doesn’t have the hype of his brother and frankly I think that is a good thing. I have not yet seen him play as of yet because he was injured before the exhibition game against the Manitoba Bison. I know he was impressive when he was at Shattuck St Mary’s he played in 51 games scoring 44 goals 56 assist for 100 points I think that is a pretty good season not Zach Parise numbers but impressive. Some have said that he wasn’t even the best player on his team but Sioux fans are happy to have him… Incidentally Toews will not travel to Boston this week for the games against the University of Massachusetts or Boston University because of an injury.
4. Just how good is the young talent the Golden Gophers having coming through the door this season?
The new players for the Gophers are going to have to pick up the slack on a team that was challenged in the goal scoring department. The Gophers lost the following players to graduation/NHL signings Forwards: Blake Wheeler (NHL — 15-20-35 1st) Ben Gordon (15-14-29 2nd), Mike Howe (7-14-21 3rd), Evan Kaufmann (9-10-19 5th) and Tom Pohl (1-5-6) and defenseman Derek Peltier (4-17-21 5th). That means the Gophers have one player from last years team that was in the top 5 scoring returning to the line up Jay Barriball (6-15-21). There are 13 freshman players that are going to have to step up and make a contribution or the Gophers could face another season sitting in the bottom of the standings in the WCHA. It will be interesting to see who steps up from the freshman class that is lead by my choice for Rookie of the Year in the WCHA; Aaron Ness selected 40th overall in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders. Included in that freshman class is Jordan Schroeder considered one of the top players eligible for the 2009 NHL Draft according to the Hockeys Future.
5. Any chance that Minnesota State can surprise people again like they did last season?
The Mavericks are going to surprise anyone because they are threat to finish in the top 5 and make the NCAA tourney. I believe last year the Mavericks should have been in the NCAA tourney and would have been if they had beaten the UNO Mavericks just once. The Mavericks have one of the best goalies in Senior Mike Zacharias 18-13-4 2.08 gaa and a .924 save percentage who is one of the best goaltenders in the WCHA and a potential All American in my opinion.
Contrary to what some MSU-M fans think; Troy Jutting is a solid coach that gets the most out of his players. Jutting?s teams are hard nosed and play a very physical brand of hockey. The Mavericks are a team that should not be over looked and will beat you up physically. Offensively the Mavericks are lead by senior captain Mick Berge and junior Trevor Bruess both players are skilled offensive players.
6. Is Denver netminder Marc Cheverie as good as advertised?
I have never had the chance to see Marc Cheverie play in person or on television. In looking at Cheverie on paper he has respectable numbers, and was highly regarded before he got to Denver. From last season the Cheverie line is: 5 games played record 1-0-0, 1.70 gaa and a .925 save percentage. DU like UND has an untested starting goaltender and both teams will be in a world of hurt if they don’t get consistent play in the net. The jury is still out on March Cheverie, it will be interesting to see how he ranks against the other goalies in the league.
7. Do you think the new rules will have an immediate impact?
This is really the elephant in the room, the 64,000.00 question. The WCHA officials are not known for their consistent officiating, and had a number of serious gaffs last season directly involving the out comes of two games, the same official Randy Schmidt was involved in both games. It will be interesting to see if Schmidt has been fired by the league or if he will resurface again.
I think any improvement in the calling of obstruction will be welcomed by the fans. The WCHA has become the Western Obstruction League, where teams clutch and grab each other up and down the ice leading to low scoring and boring games. The NHL has gotten it right and NCAA hockey can as well.
It will be interesting to see if the officials in the WCHA can call the games more closely like they claim they will. Personally, I don?t think there are enough qualified officials in the WCHA to properly officiate the game like they say they are going to. I have heard fans saw they expect the games to be called more closely then revert back to the old ways of calling the games.
8. Can you give us a surprise team and a disappointing team?
I think that MSU-M is going to the team that no one wants to play and gains home ice for the WCHA playoffs. I have seen Wisconsin picked as low as 6th or 7th in a poll or two and if that happens they would qualify as being a disappointment.
9. Who do you see as winning the Final 5?
I see DU, C.C., Minnesota State University Mankato, SCSU and UND making the Final Five with DU or UND winning it all.