Some interesting reads from around the world in college hockey...
The great Nate Wells undertook the mission of previewing all 60 of men’s college hockey’s D-1 teams before the start of the season. A great way to learn a little bit about everybody.
One of our former writers, Mary Clarke, is now lead NHL editor for FanSide, if you’re interested in the pro game.
Nicole Haase wrote about Holy Cross for USCHO. The Crusaders are still transitioning to being members of Hockey East, but really surprised some people on the opening weekend of the season when they earned a pair of ties against a pretty decent Penn State team. Some of the shine got taken away when they got blasted by Boston College on Thursday night, but they still seem to be moving in the right direction. Looking at their roster, they managed to pull freshmen Carly Beniek and Kailey Langefels out of Minnesota, who are both definitely Hockey East-caliber players. Both made big contributions in the ties against Penn State. There’s still work to do, but they might surprise some teams this team.
Brad Schlossman posted his preseason Top 20 poll vote. First off, it’s great to see someone not just reflexively vote for whoever wins the silly little tournament at the end of the year as #1. Sadly, he was the only voter out of 50 to do so. But there’s a lot of other good stuff in there that I agree with. It’s worth a full read.
Matt Wellens of the Duluth News-Tribune got some interesting quotes on the debate over penalty-free transfers, with transfer-friendly Clarkson coming to Duluth this weekend. While the major men’s D-1 sports(and hockey) are slowly moving towards not forcing transfers to sit out a year, that has been the rule in women’s college hockey for some time(with the exception of the WCHA imposing their own rule that intra-conference transfers have to sit out a year.) In the past two summers, Clarkson has managed to add arguably the nation’s top goalie—Kassidy Sauve last year—and arguably the nation’s top forward—Caitrin Lonergan this summer—to their roster. Meanwhile, Wisconsin added a former Patty Kazmaier winner in Daryl Watts this year.
It’s a difficult issue. On one hand, it does hurt overall competitive balance if the top programs can patch over some holes with what are basically free agent signings. But the top priority at the college level should be the student-athlete, and if they want to go to school somewhere else, they probably shouldn’t face unnecessary restrictions.
Goalie Jack Lafontaine is back in college hockey at Minnesota after leaving Michigan and returning to junior hockey for a season. It’s pretty rare to see come into college so young that they can play for two years, and still have junior eligibility remaining. Of course, the reason it is so rare is because it is almost universally a terrible idea, as it was in the case of Lafontaine. Lafontaine showed flashes of great play during his time at Michigan, but at a position where doing your job 92.5% of the time is good, and 91% of the time is horrible, it takes a lot of experience and maturity to be a successful goalie in college hockey. Lafontaine didn’t have that his first time around, but then again, most good college hockey goalies couldn’t have done it at that age either.
Goaltending is an unknown for Minnesota heading into the season after Mat Robson left for the pros. But between an older Lafontaine and a very talented goalie in Jared Moe, I’m not sure either goalie is a sure-bet for the Gophers, but they’re two pretty good bets, and one would have to think at least one of them pays off.
The more pressing concern for Minnesota as they head into the season might be where the goals are going to come from. Minnesota needs to replace their entire top power play unit, including an All-American in Rem Pitlick. They brought in some offensive skill on the blue line, which might make everyone else a little more effective offensively, but going down the roster, it’s hard to project where they make up the difference with Pitlick’s 21 goals last year.