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Season Preview: Minnesota-Duluth

My pick for sixth place is Minnesota-Duluth.

Projected Depth Chart

LW Michael Gergen C Matt McKnight RW Mason Raymond
LW Andrew Carroll C MacGregor Sharp RW Nick Kemp
LW Mike Curry C Jordan Fulton RW Bryan McGregor
LW Matt Greer C Jeff McFarland RW Mitch Ryan
LD Matt Niskanen RD Ryan Geris G Nate Ziegelmann
LD Jason Garrison RD Trent Palm G Alex Stalock
LD Chase Ryan RD Josh Meyers


Strengths:

They’re talented freshmen from last season are now a year older and are ready to be more competitive with the rest of the WCHA. They’ve got a lot of players who have a nice mix of toughness and skill. Between goalies Alex Stalock and Nate Ziegelmann, the Dogs should have pretty good goaltending, with Stalock seeing the majority of the time in net.

Weaknesses:

They don’t have as much depth as the top teams. They’re still relying on very young guys to carry the team.

Question Marks:

Can Alex Stalock step in and earn the starting goalie job? Nate Ziegelmann performed well at the end of last year, but Stalock is the future of the Bulldogs and a lot of UMD’s success will depend on how well he adapts. Will the Bulldogs special teams be better? Games are won and lost on the powerplay, and the Bulldogs special teams net last season was an abysmal -19 goals.

Overall:


The Bulldogs are back….sorta. With an extra year of maturity, they should look more like the UMD team at the beginning of last season that was in the middle of the pack in the WCHA as opposed to the team at the end of the year that just imploded. In a year or two, this should be a very good hockey team.


Key Player:
Ryan Geris. Geris returns to the Bulldogs after missing close to two full seasons due to concussion problems. Geris’ return to the lineup should provide an emotional lift to the Bulldogs, as well as bringing experience and maturity to the young Bulldogs blueline.

Breakout Player: Michael Gergen. There’s any number of young players you could pick here for the Bulldogs. Gergen tied for the team lead in goals last year with 14, despite not scoring a single goal on the powerplay. I think he’ll improve on those numbers this season and become one of the WCHA’s biggest scoring threats.

Bellwether: The season opening series at the DECC against UMass-Lowell will be critical. Last season, the Bulldogs were a pathetic 4-13-1 at home. Lowell is a beatable team, and starting the season off with two wins would give this young team a huge boost of confidence. The other key will be how they start off the second half of the season. Last season, they got swept at home by Michigan Tech to start off the second half, and never recovered. They only won one WCHA regular season game after that.

Did You Know?

Duluth had the worst penalty kill in the WCHA last season, giving up a goal every four powerplay opportunities.

At 2300 miles, Duluth is the farthest away from the ocean of any deep water port in the world.

Duluth fielded an NFL football team from 1923-1927.

The guy that does the voiceover for most movie trailers("In a world…"), Don LaFontaine, was born in Duluth.

If You Go There:


You Have to Eat At: Grandma’s Sports Garden, which specializes in good thin-crust pizza.

You Have to Stop At: The Aerial Lift Bridge is one of the more unique bridges in the United State. Duluth is one of the most scenic cities in the WCHA, so any of the areas around the lakefront should be beautiful, if not windy.