The final unit to be ranked in this year's WCHA preview is arguably the most important: the goalies. Here is how I ranked them:
1. North Dakota
2. Bemidji State
3. Colorado College
7. St. Cloud State
10. Minnesota State
12. Michigan Tech
Explanations comes after the jump.
1. North Dakota- After Brad Eidsness faltered at the beginning of last season, Aaron Dell stepped up and had a sensational year, which earned him some attention as an NHL free agent prospect. He's the early front-runner for first team all-WCHA this year.
2. Bemidji State- Bemidji State has a pretty surprising track record with goalies, and Bakala may be the best they've had in a while. He won't get much offensive support, but he should allow his team to stay close in games, and given them a chance at points nearly every night.
3. Colorado College- Starting goalie Joe Howe is a bit of an enigma. When he's playing well, he's nearly unbeatable, but when the wheels fall off, they really fall off. Now in his third year, Howe should be more consistent and the talented goalie that is great at taking away the bottom half of the net should show up more often.
4. Denver- The Pioneers would have fought it out with North Dakota for the top spot if they had Sam Brittain for the full year, George Gwozdecky's "'Tis merely a scratch!" attitude towards injuries means Adam Murray will end up seeing more ice time. It's an opportunity for Murray, but one he's received multiple times in his career and never done anything with. It's a definite weak point in the Pioneer lineup until Brittain can return.
5. Minnesota- Kent Patterson returns in goal and will get the opportunity to be the full-time start this year with the graduation of Alex Kangas. Patterson is good enough to cover up some of the mistakes his defense will make.
6. Nebraska-Omaha- John Faulkner was solid last year and returns while newcomer Ryan Massa should push him for playing time. Both should be very solid performers that will give their team a chance to win every night.
7. St. Cloud State- Mike Lee had a bit of a disappoiting year last year. It's tough to tell how much of that was Lee, and how much was playing on a team where making it past the red line is considered a strong backcheck. At his best, Lee is nearly unbeatable, but the situation he is in makes it difficult for him to really excel.
8. Minnesota-Duluth- Kenny Reiter is the only goalie with a national title already under his belt, and Aaron Crandall proved that he can play if needed last year. It's a solid duo, but one that isn't going lose games for a good team, not necessarily a tandem that will win games for an average team.
9. Wisconsin- Who knows what Wisconsin will have in goal, since they don't have any goalies with NCAA experience. Freshman Joel Rumpel will likely see almost all of the minutes for the Badgers. It's a scary proposition, but freshmen goalies have come in and had success in the WCHA. Rumpel's success will likely be the difference in the Badgers competing for home ice and finishing deep in the bottom half of the league.
10. Minnesota State- At this point, the duo of Phil Cook and Austin Lee pretty much is what it is. They may mix in the occasional great or poor game, but ultimately they'll likely finish with a save percentage around .905 and not be able to steal enough games for their team.
11.Alaska-Anchorage- Same as Minnesota State, except mentally subtract .005 off their save percentage.
12. Michigan Tech- Same as Alaska-Anchorage, except mentally subtract .005 off their save percentage.