Western College Hockey's first Roundtable Discussion
was a huge success, but since not every team was covered, I thought I'd go through and say a quick few words about all the teams at the midway point in the season.
Alaska-Fairbanks: They got off to a great start, but really cooled down. The schedule gets much tougher for them in the second half of the season, but I think they have the talent to play up to the level they exhibited earlier in the season.
Alaska-Anchorage: Dave Shyiak is finding out that there's a lot more rebuilding that needs to be done in Anchorage. They'll be lucky to beat out Michigan Tech for the last place in the WCHA.
Bowling Green: Life after Sigalet has been much tougher than the Falcons expected. This season is pretty much a wash until Jimmy Spratt gets a little more experience or Josh Unice joins the team in 2007-2008.
Colorado College: More of the same from CC. Sertich, Sterling, and Salcido are all spectacular, but CC still has trouble winning big games and beating rival Denver.
Ferris State: They're performing much better than expected this season. The players they've needed to step up have. Losing Dan Reidel to mono will really hurt them in the second half.
Denver: Sometimes they look awful, like against Mankato or Anchorage, and sometimes they look like the past and future national champions. They're tied for third right now, but I have a tough time believing they'll stay that high with their lack of depth.
Lake Superior: The Cinderella Story of college hockey this season. They're on pace to finish at the top of the CCHA and make the NCAA tournament as a high seed. With all the Lakers seniors and Jeff Jakaitis in goal, I think they'll keep that pace.
Michigan Tech: They're improving slowly, but they're still Tech. They may steal points from time to time, but not enough to make a run up the WCHA standings.
Miami: Life is good in Oxford. They're in great position to win the CCHA title, they've got a great new arena on the way, and recruiting is going well. Simply put, Miami has become everything that Ohio State was supposed to be.
Minnesota: Despite what coach Don Lucia said, Minnesota got off to a disappointing start this season, but they had too much talent to stay that way. They've gotten things back on track and will be tough to beat in the second half if they can play with effort and desire every night.
Michigan: Michigan's great start to the season made everyone forget their modest predictions for Michigan's season. But tough games against Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Miami made them look like a team playing 10 freshmen. Still, they'll likely finish second in the CCHA and make the NCAA tournament, which is pretty impressive given their youth.
Minnesota State, Mankato: The schedule opens up for Mankato, as they're done playing the top three teams in the league, but unless they start scoring goals and stop giving away points when they outplay opponents, it won't really matter.
Michigan State: For as bad as they played during times, they're not completely out of things. If Michigan doesn't make the NCAA tournament though, this could be Rick Comley's last season with MSU.
Minnesota-Duluth: The Bulldogs have been very opportunistic so far this season, and freshmen Matt Niskanen and Mason Raymond have definitely lived up to the hype.
Nebraska-Omaha: Scott Parse is starting to get the attention he deserves, but unless their goalies play better in big games, they're going to have a tough time finising towards the top of the CCHA.
North Dakota: They haven't gotten off to a great start, but it's unquestionable that the talent is there. Jonathan Toews is going to be a great player. T.J. Oshie is showing why he was such a high draft pick.
Northern Michigan: Despite giving up more goals than they've scored in league play, they're still tied for 4th place in the league. Replacing goalie Tuomas Tarkki has been difficult. After they travel to Miami, they have a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way and a good chance to make the NCAA tournament.
St. Cloud: A new coach has really rejuvenated the program, as has goalie Bobby Goepfert. Joe Jensen is having a great year offensively, which is something the Huskies desperately need.
Notre Dame: The Irish look a little better under new coach Jeff Jackson, but it's going to take a few years to see the effect of his influence.
Wisconsin: Clearly the best team in the country with the Hobey Baker front-runner in goal. They could clinch the WCHA title very early, meaning it will be hard for them to keep their focus in the stretch run, which could cost them in the tournament.
Ohio State: A very disappointing start to the season, but they were able to turn things around with a very soft schedule. They'll have to stop playing to the level of their competition, but Ohio State still has the potential to be a dangerous team.
Western Michigan: They haven't won on the road yet, but they're playing good at home and are tied with Fairbanks and Omaha for 8th place. This season had the potential to be a disaster for them, and they've turned it into something less than that.