clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Season Preview: Western Michigan

My choice for 12th in the CCHA is Western Michigan.

Projected Depth Chart

LW Jeff LoVecchio C Paul Szczechura RW Mark Letestu
LW Dave Krisky C Jason Moul RW Cam Watson
LW Mike Lesperance C Brian Bicek RW Matt Clackson
LW Sean Weaver C Brett John RW Kevin Labatte
LD Chris Frank RD Ryan Mahrle G Riley Gill
LD Jonathan Lupa RD Tyler Ludwig G Daniel Bellissimo
LD Jordan Collins RD Nathan Ansell

Strengths:

Goalie Daniel Bellissimo made the most saves of any goalie in college hockey last season. His 89% save percentage may not look particularly impressive, but given the number and quality of shots he was facing, isn’t that bad. Freshmen Riley Gill should provide decent back-up to take some of the heat off of Bellissimo. Senior Paul Szczechura has scored a lot of points in his career, and should be a leader for this team.

There’s some new faces for the Broncos this year that could hopefully the team out. Mark Letestu scored a lot of points in the AJHL as a 20 year old. Defenseman Tyler Ludwig was one of the better defenseman in the NAHL last season.

Weaknesses:

Numerous. The Broncos’ biggest problem, even in the two winning seasons posted by head coach Jim Culhane, has been defensive play. Western plays an uptempo style, which leads to them scoring a decent number of goals, but also giving up way more goals. They don’t have the talent to run and gun with the best teams in the CCHA.


Overall:

Western Michigan narrowly avoided the cellar last season, but it looks like this could be the year that they hit rock bottom. They lost their leading scorer Brent Walton, who was one of the few reasons to watch Western Michigan to graduation, and the team is left with a bunch of unheralded players.

Coach Jim Culhane has been on the hotseat for the past couple of years, and this could be the season that ultimately gets Culhane replaced as head coach.


Question Marks:

Can Paul Szczechura still be productive now that Brent Walton has graduated? Will this be Jim Culhane’s last season behind the bench?

Key Player: Mark Letestu. Letestu comes in as an older freshmen, and will be asked to contribute right away for the Broncos. He showed a scoring touch in juniors and could be an effective partner for Paul Szczechura.

Breakout Player: Ryan Mahrle. Mahrle is the Broncos’ top offensive defenseman. He’s scored about 18 points per season in his first three seasons, and could improve on those numbers this season.

Bellwether: The Broncos were the most penalized team in the CCHA last season, and only killed 80% of their penalties. One reason they took so many penalties is because they just weren’t as fast as their opponents, but they could still cut down on the number of penalties they take.

Did You Know?

Kalamazoo was originally called Bronson, Michigan, after the town’s first white settler, Titus Bronson. The name was later changed when the less-than-popular Bronson was fined for stealing a cherry tree, before eventually being run out of town.

The children of Kalamazoo residents are eligible for free college tuition in the state of Michigan, thanks to an anonymous donation last year.

ABC Sports’ John Saunders briefly played hockey at Western Michigan

Former NHL General Manager Neil Smith also played hockey at Western Michigan.

Abraham Lincoln’s only public address in the state of Michigan was in Kalamazoo.

If You Go There:

You Have to Drink At:
Bell’s Brewery. Kalamazoo isn’t much for unique dining experiences. They do have a couple of popular breweries though, including Bell’s Brewery. The Eccentric Café allows visitors to sample the wide variety of beer produced by Bell’s.

You Have to Visit:
Kellogg’s cereal factory and the Cereal City, USA museum/tour is 30 minutes up the road from Kalamazoo in Battle Creek, Michigan.