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Colorado College 2014-2015 Season Preview

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It could be a rough transition year for the Tigers

Jaccob Slavin will have to carry Colorado College this year.
Jaccob Slavin will have to carry Colorado College this year.
Matt Christians

There will be a new face behind the Colorado College bench for the first time in 15 years after long-time coach Scott Owens was forced to resign this past summer. Taking over for Owens is former NHL assistant coach Mike Haviland, who will certainly have his work cut out for him in his first season. Armed with a lineup significantly weaker than the rest of their league, it would be an impressive feat if Colorado College was able to even match last year's seventh-place finish in the NCHC.

Projected Line-Up

Colorado College
LW C RW
Scott Wamsganz, SR Sam Rothstein, SO Charlie Taft, SR
Hunter Fejes, JR Cody Bradley, JR Alex Roos, SO
Jared Hanson, JR Dan Labosky, FR Peter Maric, JR
Christian Heil, SO Jordan Berger, FR Luc Gerdes, SO
Extras Jordan DiGiando, SR Matt Hansen, SO Zach Aman, SO
D
Jaccob Slavin, SO Peter Stoykewych, SR
Teemu Kivihalme, FR Aaron Harstad, SR
Garrett Cecere, FR Ian Young, SR
Extras Duggie Lugrone, FR Michael King, JR
G
Tyler Marble, rFR Chase Perry, FR Courntney Lockwood, SR Derek Shatzer, SO

NHL Draft picks: Slavin(CAR), Stoykewych(WPG), Fejes(ARI), Kivihalme(NSH), Harstad(WPG), Perry(DET)

Potential Free Agent targets: Wamsganz, Marble

Forward

The Tigers had the worst scoring offense in the NCHC last season, scoring just 74 goals in 37 games. To put that in perspective, their 2.00 goals per game was more than a half-goal worse per game than the next worst team in that category(Western Michigan's 2.58). They also only scored on 7.1% of their shots on goals, a shooting percentage that ranked 56th in the country, above just Merrimack, Penn State, and Alabama-Huntsville.

They'll have to replace three outgoing seniors from last year's forward group. Alex Krushelnyski struggled in his final year with less of a supporting cast around him, but still managed 24 points and scored nearly 15% of the team's goals. Archie Skalbeck and Jeff Collett are also gone after tallying 15 and 10 points respectively, which aren't huge numbers, but are fairly significant when a team only scores 74 times.

Replacing those two will be a pair of small, but potentially electric young freshmen in Dan Labosky and Jordan Berger. Labosky is a grade-A pest with slick hands. Berger is a bit of an unknown, coming from the same Notre Dame Prep academy that produced the Schwartz brothers(albeit without the same ridiculous statistics the Schwartzes produced), and could potentially develop into a goal scorer.

If the Tigers are going to improve offensively this year, it will likely have to come from Sam Rothstein and Alex Roos, who both showed promise as freshmen last season, and could potentially make a big jump in their second season.  It's not that Colorado College is completely bereft of talent at forward. There's a number of players that would not look out of place on the second or third line of any team in the country. But there's really no one you can point to as a legitimate top line scoring threat. If a Rothstein or Roos can develop into that type of player, this team could surprise some people, but that is a very tall order to expect.

Defense

If there was an area of strength on this team last year, it was on the blue line. The Tigers suffered a huge blow when Gustav Olofsson turned pro over the summer after being encouraged by the Minnesota Wild that he might be better-served playing with a stronger team.

But they do return one of last season's most pleasant freshman surprises in Jaccob Slavin. Slavin came out of nowhere to earn a spot on the US World Junior team and played an excellent tournament, and eventually finished the year as Colorado College's leading scorer with a 5-20-25 scoring line. He'll once again anchor the Colorado College power play, and should help drive the offense from the back end. The Tigers may not have many elite players, but Slavin is one.

There's a good mix of playing styles among the rest of the defense as well. Peter Stoykewych and Aaron Harstad are a bit underrated because they play a quiet, defensive-minded game. They should provide enough stability to let their quicker-moving defensive counterparts be more aggressive offensively.

Freshman Teemu Kivihalme was a high draft choice in the 2013 NHL Draft, but had a very difficult season last year playing on an over-matched Fargo team in the USHL. Kivhalme is a beautiful skater that should flourish on the big ice at World Arena, but may struggle physically and on the defensive side of the puck. He'll be joined by another talented freshman in Garrett Cecere. Cecere hasn't drawn as much attention because he committed to Colorado College at a very young age, and his size kept him from drawing much attention from the NHL, but should be a solid contributor.

The Tigers were last in the NCHC in defensive scoring last year, but this is a better group than their numbers suggest. It's tough not to think about how good this group would look if Olofsson was still around, but it's still an above-average group as it is.

Goalie

If there was one story in college hockey that didn't get as much attention as it should have last season, it was Colorado College goalie Tyler Marble injuring his shoulder in the team's exhibition game against the NTDP, and eventually requiring season-ending surgery before he could play in an official game. Marble was coming off a dominant season in the NAHL, and was expected to be the starter for the Tigers. In his stead, Josh Thorimbert and walk-on Courtney Lockwood combined for a .892 save percentage.

There is a certain chicken-or-egg debate to whether the Tigers were a bad team because they had below-average goaltending, or if they had below-average goaltending because they were a bad team. They did allow eighty more shots on goal than they took on the season, which is rarely a recipe for success. But it does seem safe to say that Marble stands to be an upgrade in goal, and that could be huge for a team that will have to rely on their defense to grind out low-scoring victories.

Competing with Marble will be incoming freshman Chase Perry. Perry is big and talented and was selected by the Detroit Red Wings this past summer in the NHL Draft. There's high upside for the future, but goaltending is a position dominated by age, and Perry likely needs a few years before he's developed the consistency needed to be a starting goalie at the NCAA level.

Prediction

Teams usually perform better the year after hiring a new coach. And Mike Haviland has an excellent reputation for getting the most out of his players. But boy, it would take a huge turnaround after how bad Colorado College was last year.

The Tigers open up their season hosting Alabama-Huntsville for two games, so they've got a good chance to improve on last year's single non-conference win, but after that, their non-conference schedule is pretty tough(@BC, @UNH, WIS, @AF, two @PC, @UConn). In all likelihood, those games won't have NCAA tournament implications for them, but could for the rest of their conference. CC's 1-11-1 record--among other poor non-conference performances in the league--tanked the NCHC's RPI and put the conference on the verge of only getting one at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. If the Tigers pick off a couple of those tough road games, that would be a huge boost to the conference as a whole.

In the league, there's the possibility that they hold steady and steal the occasional game here and there while somebody absolutely implodes like Miami did in the regular season last year, and the Tigers don't finish in last place. But they just don't have the horses to make a run at home ice in the playoffs. Somebody has to finish in eighth place and Colorado College looks like the safest bet.