Earlier today, I took a look at how my preseason NCHC predictions stacked up against how the league actually shook out. I thought I'd do the same thing with the WCHA, and see how my preseason media poll ballot compared to how the league actually ended up.
Overall, I wasn't perfect, but I think I did a decent job of identifying the ways in which certain teams would be grouped in the standings. There wasn't really a big surprise story in the league this year, as things went pretty much as expected.
1. Bowling Green
2. Michigan Tech
3. Minnesota State
4. Bemidji State
5. Ferris State
6. Northern Michigan
9. Lake Superior State
1. Michigan Tech
2. Minnesota State
3. Bowling Green
4. Ferris State
5. Northern Michigan
6. Bemidji State
7. Lake Superior State
What I got right:
-I missed the final order, but I was at least correct that the WCHA was a three-team race this year between Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, and Bowling Green. Tech and Minnesota State finished tied for the league title while Bowling Green was just a single game back. I did predict all three would make the NCAA Tournament and it's looking like a best-case scenario is two getting in if one of Minnesota State or Bowling Green upsets Michigan Tech in the Final Five championship and the Huskies get a little help. Part of that is because the rest of the conference was so much worse than expected in non-conference play.
-I had Bemidji State, Ferris State, and Northern Michigan as clearly in the middle tier, though once again I didn't get the exact order right. Close enough though. They were all pretty much the same bad, very boring team anyway.
-I was right about Alabama-Huntsville finishing in the cellar again. The Chargers increased their win total from two to eight the season prior, and there was some thought they could maybe continue that upward trend. But last season, the Chargers were consistently outshot by a wide margin, but were able to scrape out some wins thanks to good goaltending and the world's most boring style of play. This year, they managed the cut their shot differential significantly--at least in the first half of the season, they were equally as bad as last year in the second half--but were still outshot significantly on average, so there wasn't much room for them to go up beyond stealing the occasional game.
-I differentiated from the norm a bit when I picked Michigan Tech's Alex Petan as preseason player of the year over Minnesota State's Bryce Gervais, who was the consensus pick. Gervais struggled this year with the absence of Matt Leitner. His shooting percentage dropped from above 20% last year to around 10% this year. Petan ended up leading the league in scoring.
What I got wrong:
-I was pleasantly incorrect about Lake Superior State. I liked the freshman class brought in by Damon Whitten, but thought it would take a little more time to start to turn things around. It was a rough start--being swept at home by Arizona State was a low point for the team, and the conference as a whole--but the Lakers climbed their way into the middle of the pack in the WCHA, which is still pretty bad, but at least the ship appears to be headed in the right direction.
-Both Alaska schools were a bit of a disappointment this year. I fully expected Fairbanks to drop a bit after losing Colton Parayko, and to a lesser extent, Trevor Campbell, but they were bad this year. Alaska-Anchorage seems to be stuck spinning their wheels too. The future at both programs, especially as budget decisions in the state government loom, does not look especially bright at the moment.
-I took a stab in the dark by picking Lake Superior's Anthony Nellis as rookie of the year. He finished in a multi-way tie for 4th in league scoring. The coaches got this one right by tabbing leading scorer Corey Mackin as preseason rookie of the year, which makes sense as they're the only ones that pay attention to the leagues where most WCHA teams are getting players.