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College Hockey Preview

Oct. 07, 2002
Oct. 07, 2002

Table of Contents
Oct. 7, 2002

College Hockey Preview

Gopher Two
If youthful Minnesota can finish with a flourish again, it could
be the first repeat champ in 30 years

This is an article from the Oct. 7, 2002 issue

Nobody thinks twice when a college hockey team only wins once.
The last school to repeat as national champion was Boston
University in 1972--when Mike Eruzione was a high school junior.
Since then 14 schools have won the Frozen Four, including four
from Michigan (the Wolverines, who won twice, Michigan State,
Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan). Repeat after us, Minnesota:
It's time.

The reigning champion Gophers won't have it easy. Any one of at
least eight teams could win the title this season, including one
of the four best schools in Hockey East: New Hampshire, BU,
Boston College and Maine. The NCAA tournament has expanded from
12 to 16 teams, eliminating first-round byes but granting
automatic berths to each of the six hockey conferences. Metro
Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champion Quinnipiac, which
had to sweat an at-large berth to reach the NCAA tournament last
spring, is guaranteed a spot if it wins the conference again.
Don't adjust your sets if you see Wayne State in the tournament;
now the College Hockey America champion automatically qualifies
too. Still, the leading contenders have familiar names. Here's
how we rate them.

1. MINNESOTA
(32-8-4 in 2001-02, won national championship; 19 returning
lettermen)

The first time the Gophers were ranked No. 1 last season was
after they won the NCAA tournament--and that same scenario could
unfold again. They open the season with five road games, and the
roster is stocked with underclassmen. Minnesota lost seven
regulars, including goaltender Adam Hauser (23-6-4) and its top
three scorers: John Pohl (NCAA-best 79 points), Jeff Taffe (58)
and Jordan Leopold (48). Only three seniors are on the roster,
and the new team captain is a junior, forward Grant Potulny.
Defensemen Paul Martin, a junior, and Keith Ballard, a sophomore,
return to lead a power-play unit that scored 69 goals, second
most in the country. Sophomores Justin Johnson and Travis Weber
will split time in goal. Forward Thomas Vanek, from Austria,
leads an excellent freshman class.

2. MICHIGAN
(28-11-5, lost in semifinals; 18 returning lettermen)

Coach Red Berenson spent the summer fuming about underclassmen
who leave school early to join the pros--like junior forward
Mike Cammalleri, who led the team with 23 goals, and sophomore
Mike Komisarek, the best defensive backliner in the Central
Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). Berenson said he felt
abandoned and labeled the players greedy and selfish. With that
pair the Wolverines would have been heavy favorites to win the
championship, but even without them Michigan is a serious
threat. Slick-passing senior forward John Shouneyia had more
assists last year (40) than any other returning player in the
nation. Sophomore forward Eric Nystrom scored 18 goals and was a
first-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames. The wild card is
rangy 17-year-old freshman Alvaro Montoya, whom Berenson has
tabbed to be the youngest starting goalie in the nation.

3. NEW HAMPSHIRE
(30-7-3, lost in semifinals; 21 returning lettermen)

This is the most successful program that has never won a national
title. The Wildcats topped the rankings for much of last season,
winning the regular-season and tournament titles in Hockey East,
the nation's toughest conference. Senior Colin Hemingway
(33-33-66), a first-team All-America, is the most talented
forward in the country, but he'll miss having 76-point man Darren
Haydar around to take the pressure off. New Hampshire's entire
defense returns, though playmaking senior Garrett Stafford is
academically ineligible until late December. Junior goaltender
Mike Ayers (14-3-1, .915) will be in the net full time after
alternating with Matt Carney in 2001-02.

4. DENVER
(32-8-1, lost in quarterfinals; 17 returning lettermen)

In senior Wade Dubielewicz and junior Adam Berkhoel, the
Pioneers boast the best goaltending tandem in the country. They
alternated until the Western Collegiate Hockey Association
tournament, when coach George Gwozdecky decided to stick with
Dubielewicz, who led the nation in save percentage (.943) and
was second in goals-against average (1.72). Because he lost
three key defensemen, Gwozdecky will have to rely heavily on
senior captain Aaron MacKenzie and junior Ryan Caldwell, whose
stamina will be tested. Ten of the team's top 12 forwards are
back, including the No. 1 line of Connor James, Kevin Doell and
Greg Barber, who combined for 120 points.

5. BOSTON UNIVERSITY
(25-10-3, lost in quarterfinals; 19 returning lettermen)

The Terriers are the best team in the country--in the defensive
end of the rink. Junior goalie Sean Fields is coming off a solid
season (22-7-3, 2.73) and has six defensemen back to help him,
including sophomore Ryan Whitney, who was drafted fifth overall
last June, by the Pittsburgh Penguins. But the school that
produced NHL stars Tony Amonte, Chris Drury and Keith Tkachuk
lacks a sniper. The top-scoring returnees are Brian McConnell and
Slovakian native Frantisek Skladany, who had 26 points each.
Massachusetts-born Danny Spang, the San Jose Sharks' second-round
pick in June, heads a strong class of freshmen who should help
punch up the offense.

6. BOSTON COLLEGE
(18-18-2, did not qualify for NCAAs; 19 returning lettermen)
Last season the Eagles lost eight lettermen to graduation or
eligibility, and then recurring rib injuries slowed scoring
sensation Ben Eaves. As a result BC crash-landed, becoming the
first defending champion since Maine in 1993 to miss the NCAA
tournament the following year. This season, with a healthy Eaves
plus junior forward Tony Voce, both of whom are 5'8" and roughly
185 pounds, the Eagles boast the best one-two scoring tandem in
the country. All the defensive regulars return, presumably less
prone to giving up the breakaways and odd-man rushes that burned
BC last year. Senior Tim Kelleher will split time in net with
Finnish sophomore Matti Kaltiainen. If they can stop the puck,
there may be no stopping the Eagles.

7. CORNELL
(25-8-2, lost in quarterfinals; 14 returning lettermen)

The Big Red ran away with the Eastern College Athletic
Conference regular-season title (17-3-2), only to lose in double
overtime to Harvard in the conference tournament final.
Cornell's best player, 6'3", 240-pound senior Doug Murray, is
the rare intimidating Swedish-born defenseman. Murray, one of
five Cornell players who scored at least 30 points--all of whom
return--was the seventh-highest-scoring defenseman in the
country with 32 points. Also back are senior Sam Paolini, who
had a team-high 15 goals, and senior Stephen Baby, who led the
Big Red in assists, with 23. Sophomore Dave LeNeveu takes over
as the No. 1 goaltender, after putting together an 11-2-1 record
and a tiny 1.50 goals-against average.

8. MAINE
(26-11-7, lost in championship game; 19 returning lettermen)

For a team that came within a goal of winning the Frozen Four
last season, the Black Bears got off on the wrong foot this year.
Senior forward Chris Heisten, who received the team's Most
Inspirational Player Award and was named captain for 2002-03, was
suspended for the opening game by coach Tim Whitehead for an
unspecified team rules violation. Though its top two scorers,
Niko Dimitrakos and Peter Metcalf, are gone, Maine still has
depth on the forward lines, where junior Colin Shields (29 goals)
and senior Martin Kariya (28 assists) are as good a combination
as any in the country. The departure of goaltender Mike Morrison
(20-3-4, 2.19, .921) leaves sophomore Frank Doyle and freshman
Jimmy Howard to fight for the No. 1 spot.

9. MICHIGAN STATE
(27-9-5, lost in West Regional qualifier; 16 returning lettermen)

The rebuilding of the Spartans starts at the top: Former Northern
Michigan coach Rick Comley takes over for Ron Mason, who became
the school's athletic director after amassing an NCAA-record 924
wins over 23 seasons. Comley promises a more offensive-minded
team than the one that led the nation in penalty killing in
2001-02 and relied heavily on Ryan Miller, the 2001 Hobey Baker
winner and the NCAA's career leader in shutouts (26). With Miller
gone to the Buffalo Sabres, Comley turns to Matt Migliaccio, who
faced just 20 shots as a freshman last year, and Justin Tobe, a
17-year-old freshman. Senior Brian Maloney, with 17 goals last
year, is the only returning forward who had more than 11. Senior
defenseman John-Michael Liles returns after leading the Spartans
in scoring with 35 points.

10. ST. CLOUD (MINN.) STATE
(29-11-2; lost in West regional qualifier; 16 returning lettermen)

Craig Dahl, the team's only coach since it gained Division I
status in 1987, has produced the nation's second-best record
(83-34-6) over the last three seasons combined; only Michigan
State's was better. Eleven of the Huskies' top 13 scorers are
back from a team that had the best power play in the nation and
scored a school-record 179 goals. But none of them can replace
Mark Hartigan (37-38-75), the brilliant two-way center who was
+33 and won 60% of his face-offs. Senior forward Ryan Malone, a
6'4", 210-pound Penguins draft choice, should improve on his
24-goal season, and expect big things from sophomore forwards
Peter Szabo (26 assists) and Mike Doyle (17 goals, 32 points),
who were named to the WCHA's All-Rookie squad last spring.
Senior Jake Moreland (12-8-0 over three seasons) gets his first
chance to be a No. 1 goalie.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO ONE GOAL Despite losing Taffe (22) and Hauser, the Gophers are determined to hold off Shouneyia and Michigan.COLOR PHOTO: JOSH GIBNEY (HEMINGWAY) LATEST CHAPTER Hemingway, a first-team All-America last season with 33 goals, keeps New Hampshire formidable. COLOR PHOTO: DAVID SILVERMAN Dominic MooreCOLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO (NYSTROM) ERIC NYSTROMCOLOR PHOTO: J. QUACKENBOS HAPPY DAYS Eaves (left), who was plagued by injuries last year, is healthy and hopes to celebrate often for BC.

SI's Top 10
1. Minnesota
2. Michigan
3. New Hampshire
4. Denver
5. Boston University
6. Boston College
7. Cornell
8. Maine
9. Michigan State
10. St. Cloud State

Hobey Hopefuls
SI's top 10 candidates for the Hobey Baker Award, hockey's
version of the Heisman.

Pos. Player School Class Skinny

F Colin Hemingway New Hampshire Sr. Speedster led nation
with 10 game-winning
goals last season
G Wade Dubielewicz Denver Sr. Extremely agile and
aggressive, but
rarely out of
position
F Ben Eaves Boston College Jr. Excellent vision and
playmaking skills;
dad Mike played in NHL
F Dominic Moore Harvard Sr. Crafty skater with
good speed; led team
with 12 goals as
freshman
D Doug Murray Cornell Sr. Clears crease as well
as any defenseman;
seven PP goals last
year
F Peter Sejna Colorado College Jr. Knack for finding
openings in a defense;
108 points in 84 games
F Ryan Malone St. Cloud State Sr. Twelve of his 24 goals
lastseason came on
power play
D Ryan Whitney Boston University Soph. At 6'4", moves the
puckbetter than other
big defensemen
F Tony Voce Boston College Jr. Feisty player scored
many of his 26 goals
around crease
D Paul Martin Minnesota Jr. Patient and smart; 30
assists tops among
returning backliners

The NHL Is Watching You
These are the five college players with the best chance of
making an impact in the pros, as ranked by SI special
contributor Pierre McGuire.

Pos. Player School Class Skinny
D Ryan Whitney Boston U Soph. Moves puck smartly; excellent
one-on-one defender
F Chris Higgins Yale Soph. Good on-ice vision; quick
release on shot; works hard
every shift
F Eric Nystrom Michigan Soph. Physical player and strong on
his skates; wins one-on-one
battles
D Keith Ballard Minnesota Soph. Adept at moving puck; superb
power-play quarterback
F Thomas Vanek Minnesota Fr. Pure scoring winger with
outstanding hands and accurate
shot