Opinion: What Reinstatement of the Seawolves Hockey Program means to College Hockey

Look at the Northeast Generals 2020-2021 2000 born players who needed to find a college hockey home. All of them did, with multiple players in that group earning Division Three Comittments after the 20-21 season ended. Multiple players who went to superb Division Three institutions, would have, in most other years, earned a Division One spot. In two years , players with their same stat lines may once again have another Division One chance because of the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves return to the Division One ranks in Men’s Ice Hockey.

Why are we bringing this up?

Well, as Head Coach of the Generals Bryan Erikson has noted, the suspension of multiple programs for the upcoming season has made his job tougher to find worthy players Division One homes. The Generals are not all all unique in having talents worthy of Division One spots not having room to play at Division One.

The Seawolves coming back, while not getting the men’s game back to where it was in terms of active teams before their suspension at the hands of the Board of Regents, gets us a little closer to the ideal of every Division One player having a spot to play at this level. It also opens up more spots for players at the Division Three and ACHA levels as there will be more upward mobility in the sport than there is now.

In addition, the administration has shown the werewithal to put together a long term plan in conjunction with Save Seawolf Hockey that is flexible enough to not require a conference membership. While of couse the Seawolves want a conference home, their supporters found a way to make independence work. Perhaps other schools looking at joining or looking at coming off suspension should strongly consider what independence would look like and giving their stakeholders a seat at the table in that choice where apt. Newer teams may need to be independent for more than a few years until this sport finds enough parties willing to form a seventh conference.

All of the positive news from Anchorage has provided a ray of sunlight amidst program suspensions. Hopefully one day ths sport will be big enough to expand to scale for all schools that want it. We already know of the intentions of Lindenwood, Augustana University, and have heard rumors of more schools looking to join. The news that you can, with an administration’s support, work to raise enough money and create a sustainable path to play hockey as an independent in Anchorage means that, for those in the lower 48, they now have a road map on how to start or save a program. It of course relies on raising a lot of money, and creating a foundation of support, but the news of the Seawolves’ reinstatement is one that will help in two ways. First, it will ensure a storied program is able to reboot itself and play college hockey, which means 25 more players than this season will have a chance to play this great sport at the Division One level. It also means that, for the first time in the past few seasons, supporters have a clear example of how to start or save their program.

Hopefully the blueprint that Katie Bethard and her group have put in place can serve as a guide moving forward. For now, the fact that 25 more deserving players have a chance at the Division One level next season than this year is a good thing. Think about the leading returning goal scorer, Colin Bilek, of Army West Point. He had one offer at the top level of this game. If not for Bryan Erikson and the Generals promoting him at the right time, in the right way, he may not be at West Point right now.

Now think about all of the Robert Morris players who were only offered by RMU, and so on, how many one offer only players, like Bilek was, have been affected by program suspensions since the Seawolves were suspended?

The news of the Seawolves return in two years is great, and hopefully we hear of more returns and new programs joining soon. For many reasons, this sport needs it.

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Young and McCanney to the NAHL Top Prospects Game: Read more

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

Every year, the NAHL holds a showcase for its top uncommitted prospects, and top prospects as asked for by NHL Central Scouting in conjunction with the Robertson Cup. This year the team will see two players, Jonathan Young and Liam McCanney suit up for their division as two uncommitted players ready to showcase to the NCAA why they both deserve Division One offers in a year that has been even more tough for them to be secured. Both are high energy, and effort players who can defend in their own end, with potential scoring upside in the future.

From Head Coach Bryan Eriskon, he commented on the even at large:

“It’s unfortunate that we only got 2 non goalie selections but that is a by product of not having a successful season as far as wins and losses go. But Liam and Jonathan are so deserving (as we thought a lot of players were). We are deep in the process with both and I think for anyone without a D1 commitment at this point it will be very hard. But all we can do is keep making the calls and seeing where schools are at.”

On Liam and Young’s next steps he said ” And then Liam and Younger need to go out and perform at a high level in front of all of the Coaches that will be there as we expect every school to have a representative in the building. I am happy for them both and happy that they will get the chance to perform in front of D1 schools finally. The Portal, Covid, the 5th year of eligibility,… (programs like RMU shutting down and UAH suspending their play). Now that they can see Liam and Younger in person we hope they can find a fit.”

On Anton Castro playing for the NHL Central Scouting team, Erikson added

” And Anton Castro will be representing us as well as a selection by Central Scouting. Hugo Haas was also selected but he is unable to get back into the country for the games. But we are thrilled for Anton and really looking forward to seeing him showcase his skills in front of NHL teams. ”

This weekend, although the Generals team will not be playing in Blaine, multiple players of theirs will be, all of them looking to prove they have what it takes to earn and offer, or in Castro’s situation, be selected by an NHL team next month.

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Tyler Cooper to St. Olaf: More from the Generals

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

Bryan Erikson, Head Coach of the Northeast Generals always talks about having players of character who can also play the game well. Tyler Cooper fits that bill. The speedy forward put up numbers of a two way player, but Erikson expects that he will score even more for the Oles of St. Olaf. In addition, Erikson discussed the process for Cooper, able to find a home in the first of five recruiting classes effected directly by the extra year afforded to all players who played in the 2020-2021 campaign, marred by the Covid-19 pandemic. For Mules fans wondering about Cooper, look at some of his game tape from the past season, his effort from shift to shift is consistent, and he brings a high level of drive to his game. In a cycle not marred by the pandemic and its ramifications, Cooper may have had some more looks from Division One schools.

As Erikson said of the English national team player

” The entire process is frustrating this year with the 5th year and the portal being crazy but it is what it is. We always prepare all of our players to be grateful to be able to play hockey anywhere at the next level. St. Olaf is an outstanding school and hockey program that will be a great fit for Coop. He is a great kid that can fill the net. He is tough the play against, works hard and is a great great kid on and off the ice. I think it’s going to be a great fit for everyone involved. Really proud of Tyler.”

Of the process still ongoing for his uncommitted players Erikson added

“We are still working on all our other 2000’s. They all have amazing D3 opportunities awaiting them but I am still pushing for something to happen at the D1 level. None of our players will end up at anything less than a great school and hockey program no matter the level. Each will have the opportunity to play after college as long as they perform like we think they can. But hoping something shakes free with Young and a few others. Tough process but also tough for the schools in the mix.”

The reality of finding a Division One home for all uncommitted 2000 born players is the toughest of any class over the next five seasons. To their credit, the Generals have remained focused on finding the best fit for the player as composed to the best fit to burnish the legacy of their team.

One thing that made life tougher for Erikson’s uncommitted players is the closure of the Robert Morris program. On the impact of the decision he said ” It really hurt. Just when some kids were getting some looks 20 + kids became available.” Coaches across the game now have even more players in the crowded transfer portal to consider against the uncommitted players looking for a home. The timing of the decision made things even worse.

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Generals add size: More on Bryce Cooper

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

One consistent that the 2020-2021 Northeast Generals had on their backend was skilled size. Players like Alex Tertyshny showed the ability to play a cerebral game, defend well, and allow the speedy forwards the group had to operate. With Tertyshny heading to AIC, Head Coach Bryan Erikson and General Manager Matt Dibble have been working to update the rear guard of the Generals with more talent.

Enter, among their other defensive tenders, Bryce Cooper. His game plays similar in terms of efficient use of size to Terythsny. Cooper comes from the Colorado Rampage, a Tier One U18 team, where he utilized his six feet six inch tall frame to lead his team from the back end. As Erikson said of Cooper

” He moves very well laterally and plays with a great edge to his game.  He makes a great first pass and is quick to jump up in the play and is great with the puck on his stick.  He has a heavy shot and a great release.  Loved his compete level and the fact that he has finished all of his checks.  He is a real force out on the ice in all 3 zones and we feel he will be a huge addition to our rebuilt blueline.”

In addition, Erikson added

” Bryce is a monster at 6’6 but is a very good skater. Very physical. Hard to play against and has a lot of offensive ability to add. We think he will slide into our top 4 next year and be able to play in all phases of our game. He has a lot of D1 potential and we expect him to get a lot of attention by Hockey East and other programs in our area almost immediately.”

In terms of finding an impact ready player who will eat a lot of minutes, through the tender system, it seems like Erikson got one of the many players he is looking for. If Cooper can increase the offensive celling to his game, then more than just Hockey East Schools will be interested in him. It is his job to get better with the tools Erikson and his staff will give him. In the long run, if he can play anything like Tertyshny, more people at the next level will know his name very quickly.

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Three reasons why UAH is better through the first eight games

(Photo Credit: LSSU Athletics)

From last year, the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville have improved quite a lot to say the least. Quantifying some of this improvement can lend context to where Lance West’s team sits as they hopefully can get back on the ice soon after their quarantine due to Covid-19 ends. As of now, the next series is scheduled to take place one week from Friday at home against Michigan Tech in non conference play.

Going into that game, and given the improvement of this team, we felt it prudnent do differentiate between this group and last year’s in some numbers not shown in the top line of most scores. That is, these stats better quantify the difference in the two groups, while providing some more context about what this team is, and where it is going.

Shooting Percentage

First, shooting percentage is one of the most noticeable improvements in the first eight games for this team. One year ago, the Chargers had five players with a double digit shooting percentage and shot a mere 6.5 percent as a team. Neither of those statistics are something worth shouting about, to say the least. This year’s group is significantly better. They are shooting 9.3 percent as a team this year. While that is not what this team wants to have as a top line number, the underlying facts of it are a bit better. So far, nine players have a double digit shooting percentage, as the team is generating better scoring chances than they did through this time last season. If the Chargers keep finding their game on offense, as they did on the Friday night game against Ferris State, one thinks that number would rise, and soon. This team shows it is able to do a lot with some opportunities, with more, the sky is the limit for them.

Plus Minus

Again, while not perfectly indicative of this groups sucess, it is a lot better than at this point last year. In the previous campaign, these Chargers were a combined -104 through eight games. This season, they are -10 through eight games. This is probably the best indication of the improved team defense this team has. While not perfectly indicative of how this team is playing, it shows a bit better how they play when at even strength, which was one of their downfalls from last year. This team is, just at even strength, 90.3 percent better as shown through defense at even strength. Karlis Zirnis’ penalty kill mentality of outworking the opponent has made its way to the rest of the team .

Goals scored

As a team, the Chargers have 17 goals through their eight games this season. While everyone wants that number to be higher, in context compared to last year its an improvement overall. Through that amount of games last year, they had 10 goals scored through their first eight games. While this team has some more things to work on to rise up the standings, these improvements are another sign of the delete the past mentality. All of these statistics should not be taken as a pure guide to UAH’s improvement, but sign that this team is doing things the right way and is looking to improve from a better base than it had through eight games a year ago.

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UAH Hockey: Read beyond the shots on net conceded

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography )

Last week, the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville got outshot 42-18 and won the series finale against Ferris State 2-0. While the difference is obviously concerning, there were some positives out of that game to take into the next weekend against Northern Michigan at the Von Braun Center.

First off, we will stipulate that no team wants to give up that many shots in the game. ever. Teams usually give up that difference in a big defeat.

What went right on Saturday?

Well, as we know, Karlis Zirnis runs the penalty kill in his role as an Associate Head Coach for the Chargers. In addition, he works with the team through breaking down video for them, with advice. While they conceded no power play goals on the weekend, the coaching staff, Karlis, and most fans at the Von Braun Center, did scout the Bulldogs well enough to know that netminder David Fessenden faced too many grade-a looks on Friday night. Through adjustments made through the staff’s continuous video work, UAH’s penalty killers actually did even better on Saturday given the tough circumstances they faced.

The team took penalties nearly back-to-back at least once, and had to adjust. Fessenden did see more shots on Saturday, but more than a few of them from Ferris State were not grade-a looks. The Bulldogs, to win, had to score more long looks against a compact team with speed. They were unable to do so. On both nights, UAH did a good enough job boxing out, for the most part, and working together cohesively to get the puck going away from their own end.

A simple shots on net count did not do that series justice, and does not showcase where this team is. While they are still getting outshot on most nights, the differences are a bit less, and the team’s ability to clear second and third looks has dramatically increased their ability to have sucess in the long run.

Take a look at the Chargers’ next scheduled opponent, Northern Michigan. Despite losing 5-1 to a strong Bowling Green team, they had one more shot attempt than the Falcons did. In addition, they forced Eric Dop to make 35 saves off 52 shot attempts. If you saw shots on net first, you could get a misleading thought on the game.

The same is true for these Chargers, credit the staff, lead by Zirnis, for working to adjust where shots on net where being allowed more than the amount. This staff knows what David Fessenden brings for them in net, and is crafting a system to match. To compare this correctly we could look to football. What the Chargers are doing in making this system is like what a team does to build an offense around their quarterback. Of course the underlying numbers need to be better, but they do not tell the whole story. What these Chargers do with this reality ultimately will.

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The Fighting Hawks Win the Pod: What’s Next?

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Over the past three weeks, the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota have done quite well for themselves in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod, valuting into first place as we head into the second of half of an always competitive conference. These past few weeks have shown a lot about this team, with the good far outweighing the things that need working on to ensure a long postseason run, should one be played. Let’s look at the good and areas to improve on in the second half here.

The Good

This team has two capable goaltenders that can stymie the opposition. While Adam Scheel stole the show in the Pod, getting the majority of the reps, Fighting Hawks fans saw what happened last year. Peter Thome took Scheel’s job down the stretch, and given the weeks of having three games in three days this year, we think that Thome’s time in net is only just beginning. His “worst” game in the Pod was the loss to the Huskies of St. Cloud State, where the team in front of him did not do much. Both can start at any time, and for now Scheel is the number one. With that said, Thome has played well enough over his time at UND to get some reps in the second half, and should see it.

The depth of this team is even better than a year ago. Missing two defenders to the World Juniors Tournament, in Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven, we have seen Ethan Frisch elevate his game into a Tucker Poolman-esque two way star that can contribute offensively. If Frisch can maintain this level of play this season, the NHL may be on his radar for some development camp invites soon, and perhaps a contract. He is smooth-skating, and seems less out of position than some of UND’s more offensively gifted defenders.

With that said, this team has a lot of good to it this year, and we will close with the most intriguing forward on this team. Riese Gaber has been the most electric player for the Fighting Hawks in this pod. He is in a three way tie for first in goals scored nationally, and yet, 31 teams passed on drafting him over 400 times when you include the drafts he has been eligible for selection in. Gaber is wearing Tyson Jost’s number that he wore as a Fighting Hawk, and has a better release than Jost ever had or will have. For a team built around puck possession and grinding a team down, Gaber off the rush is an extra arrow in their quiver that last year’s NCHC Champions did not possess. His shot alters how teams can attack the Fighting Hawks, and how conservative they have to be in defending the top line of UND. Last year, this group lost games where it turned pucks over and gave up a lot of fast break looks. That has happened this year, and will happen in the future, but Gaber on this roster has kept the team in more of those games and helped them win some more in the second half.

What to watch for

With all that good said, these improvements need to happen. This team seems to be turning the puck over a bit more in its own end, which have given teams a lot of grade-a looks. Those turnovers have a cascading effect as they lead into another area of improvement for this team, taking less penalties. The Fighting Hawks average 11.96 penalty minutes per game played, second behind St. Cloud State for most penalty minutes per game. That is another number that needs to come down a bit. While five minute majors and misconducts do affect that, this team can afford to take neither of those in this conference. Eventually, something of this team will regress a little bit as film and scouting over a more series-driven second half, and if the team keeps giving up six power plays per game or so, the penalty kill seems a logical pick.

With all of this said, if not for Boston College’s pedigree and Minnesota’s results, this team would be ranked number one in the nation after a grueling three week stretch of games. There is still work to do for this group, but this team does so from a good vantage point.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

David Fessenden-Dedicated to Getting Better

(Photo Credit: UAH Athletics)

David Fessenden is the incumbent netminder for University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) Chargers this season as a sophomore netminder. He is six feet and six inches tall and uses all of his frame in his game to his advantage. He was perfect in two periods to open the Chargers’ season against Robert Morris before leaving with an injury sustained in warmups. The barrage that the Colonials threw at him was impressive, but Fessenden played every shot the right way and worked to limit rebounds, not an easy task for any goalie let alone one playing in a season opener with 13 freshmen on the roster.

With that said, there is more to Fessenden then what fans saw on that sheet of ice in Pennsylvania.

The Parker, Colorado native is an incredibly loyal competitor as Charger fans and Northeast Generals Fans know. This quote from the time he comitted to the Chargers sums up a lot of what we have seen from him las year and this year, along with a hope for the future.

Head Coach and General Manager of the Generals Bryan Erixson had the following to say on Fessenden’s commitment:

“David has been with us almost since the beginning. He had to endure a lot being the goalie on a 4-win team two years ago, but never wavered in his love of the Generals. He bought in 100% on Day 1 and shared the organization’s vision of building towards the future. He is one of the main reasons for our dramatic improvement this past year. This commitment is a testament to all the hard work he has put in on and off the ice. He is a truly amazing young man.”

Like every returner on this team, Fessenden chose to stay and could have pursued their college hockey craft elsewhere given the sudden cutting of the program. Instead, he stayed and cemented himself as part of the legacy of the next chapter of college hockey in the south.

Moving back to the team Fessenden is backstopping this year, he had some interesting notes on the skaters he faces everyday that has somewhat been borne out through on ice performance.

When asked about his teammates who have the most deceptive shot, he noted how good all of the skaters on this team are, but on that specific trait, he noted junior forward Bauer Neudecker who is tied for the team lead for two goals, and freshman Frank Vitucci. He currently leads the Chargers with seven shots on goal in the first two games of their season.

As to what goalie Fessenden models his game after, he noted two goalies for their calm style and ability to stay composed under pressure. Both goalies Robin Lehner, and Andrei Vasilevskiy use their size and positioning to stay calm in net and control the game in their own end. Fessenden wants to do the same thing and harness that ability to stay cool under pressure moving forward. For him, developing includes things like honing the start to his game, among other things.

Why did Fessenden play goalie? Well he was simply drawn to it from the beginning of his time playing hockey. As he said he noted when he was younger “I want to try the guy with the pads.” He also thought the sliding around goalies get to do looked cool when he first decided to play the position. Fessenden has always been well liked throughout his life and has a number

Finally, when asked about what to expect from the Chargers this year, Fessenden said plainly “we are going to prove some people wrong.”

Look for more features on this unique roster as the Chargers persevere through a unique year, and as Fessenden said look to “prove some people wrong.”

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

WCHA Preview 2020-2021

Oliver Francies, Kelsey Sagvold

Photo Credits: Kelsey Sagvold-Violet Turtle Photography

Unlike the NCHC, you will not find as many drafted players here. The WCHA is heading into its final year in its current form before all schools not from Alaska or Alabama resurrect the CCHA with new Division One School, St. Thomas, joining the fray next season. With that said, this league, this year will be fun to watch. It presents a more defensive style across the board, save one or two teams, and gives a lot of undrafted free agents a chance to make a name for themselves. Nonconference play starts on November 20. Most teams will simply play some conference-mates for an extra few games that do not count towards their conference record. With all of this said, we have our predicted order of finish with some players to keep an eye on for each team as we move forward this year.

  1. Minnesota State Mankato

The Mavericks last season achieved a rare feat They were one of only three teams to defeat a Fighting Hawks’ squad stocked with NHL ready talent and did so with the best team in this conference. Like many teams in this conference, they play defense well, but unlike teams further down these rankings, they have scoring up front that should have them competing for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament whenever this season starts. Dryden McKay is a stalwart netminder that will lead them from the back end, and up front, players like Julian Napravnik look to continue the strong offensive game that alum Marc Michaelis (Vancouver) brought to bear.


For this team, it has to be Dryden McKay. The reigning WCHA Goaltender of the Year plays bigger than his 5’ 11” frame. His lateral movement and calm positioning make him tough to beat when the squad in front of him is rolling, as they often are. Look for him to get some NHL offers after this season, especially if the Mavericks reach their goal.

Top Drafted Prospect

For a team with this pedigree to have only one drafted prospect speaks to both the market inefficiencies of the NHL draft overlooking players that may need more time to develop, and the strong development pedigree of Head Coach Mike Hastings and his staff. Anyway, the only drafted prospect on this team is Winnipeg Jets’ prospect Nathan Smith. The 6’0” forward had one of his best weekends against the Fighting Hawks, adding four points on the weekend where his team did not lose (tie, win). For Smith to take the next step, he will have to help replace the contribution of Michaelis. He finished his rookie season with 27 points (9G,18A) to his credit, and often sets up as a past first player who can win draws when needed (finished last season with only 52 shots on net).

2. Bemidji State

Zach Driscoll is back in net for the Beavers, if not for McKay slightly overshadowing him, Driscoll would be the best goalie in this league. Like many teams in this league, when they score first they are hard to beat. When they come from behind life gets a bit more tough for them. Head Coach Tom Serratore has a veteran group with only six freshman coming in. This large group of upper classman will be asked to lead the way for the only complete team that can challenge the Mavericks. Defensively, the Beavers play a more trap-style game through the neutral zone and focus on quality shots to win most off their games. This team does not need to dominate possession to win, just frustrate the skilled players they are facing through the neutral zone.


Zach Driscoll in net should get some looks at the next level. He plays a relatively calm game and benefits from playing behind a structurally sound defense. Tom Serratore’s system has elevated Driscoll to one of the better netminders in the nation, this year Driscoll will have one more chance to show why he deserves a look at the next level. If Bemidji State goes far on their relatively low amount of goals scored per game, he will have a contract from an NHL team next spring with a team needing a strong third goalie who can step up if needed.

No drafted prospects

3. Michigan Tech

Pictured is transfer goalie, Mark Sinclair who should contend for the starting job with Michigan Tech

The team with one of the best cheering sections in the country, Mitch’s Misfits, should have a lot to cheer about this year. Alabama Huntsville netminder Mark Sinclair transferred to Houghton after the Chargers faced an uncertain fate. Thankfully the program was saved this year and Sinclair should be the starter for a Huskies team that likes to play a bit faster than some of its competitors in this league, but still employs the same annoying defensive structure to earn looks.


Mark Sinclair, from our time covering multiple Huntsville games last year, like many Huntsville goalies before him, had to face high shot volumes nearly every single night. He shined in the Chargers’ series loss to the Fighting Hawks with his athleticism and ability to remain calm despite facing 74 shots in two games. Sinclair’s ability to stay calm and fight off rebounds should serve him well on a Michigan Tech side that projects to do a little bit better at shot suppression than his former side. For a pro potential projection, he plays a similar style to former Charger, Cam Talbot, calm and steady in net with the ability to perform the high-wire save as needed

Top Drafted Prospect

Carson Bantle (Arizona) taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft is the only drafted prospect on this team. In two years for the Madison Capitals in the USHL, Bantle put up 69 points in 111 games. He is a quick forward with a 6’4” frame and an ability to create his own offense on a dime. That said, how Bantle is used by Head Coach, Joe Shawhan, should be interesting to keep an eye on. In those same two years he was -34. While plus minus is not the holy grail for a forward, we expect Bantle to get a little bit better in his own end playing in Tech’s system.

4. Bowling Green

The Falcons play a style of hockey similar to the Mavericks, lacking some of the Mavericks’ shot suppressing skill in their own end. That said, this team is always interesting to watch. Every year the Falcons utilize arguably a faster lineup than the Mavericks, and do well, yet, recently every year seem to come short of their ultimate goal. Senior Eric Dop will lead the way for this team in net. The senior netminder will start the majority of games for a Falcons squad looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament.


Eric Dop will determine how far this team goes. The 5’10” netminder came onto the scene strong in his junior season last year. In his first year of full time starting work he went 19-11-3 with a .902 save percentage in his first full year of starting. While those stats could be built on, Dop looks to build on his game. His athleticism is his biggest strength, and having time to develop the mental side of his game for two full years before taking the net should help him out this season. If Dop can improve on his 2019-2020 campaign he could get a look from a team willing to take a chance on a developing goalie. As Dop’s season went on, he grew into the role, and we expect a further progression this season.

Top Drafted Prospect

Brandon Kruse (Vegas) is the player to watch for this team. A senior leader who has put up 108 points in 120 games for the Falcons, Kruse will play a lot of the big minutes for a group looking to get to the next level once again. Kruse is a 5’9” winger who plays in all situations for his head coach, Ty Egner. If Kruse keeps his pace up, either the Golden Knights will sign him, or he will start in the top six in the AHL next season.

5. Lake Superior State

Pictured is Mareks Mitens, senior netminder for the Lakers

The Lakers are a speedy team. Up front they will need to replace the scoring contributions of graduated forward Max Humitz and a big senior class that left the Upper Peninsula. The Lakers are a Jekyll and Hyde squad. When this team is rolling, they are able to minimize high danger chances and clear pucks to their fast forwards to maximize high danger looks. When it is not, well, the other team can and often takes up residence in the Lakers’ own end. For evidence of how up and down this team can be, watch the returning players’ play in their first round loss to Bemidji State. When this team can score first, as they did in their Saturday win, their speed builds and makes it hard for a lot of the defense-first teams in this league  to adjust. In their Friday and Sunday loses, they got scored on first and had to catch up. It is a cliché to say that scoring first in hockey makes life easier, but this team under coach Damon Whitten is emblematic of that.


Mareks Mitens, Yuki Miura

These two have developed every year and in Mitens’ case has had some looks at the next level with two stints in development camps (Islanders,Blackhawks). Miura has gone from a healthy scratch to a defensive stalwart for the Lakers and has some of the best speed and skating ability in the WCHA. Miura has blossomed into a key contributor in all phases for this team, and should get a look at least in the ECHL, if not the AHL next season. Both can get to the next level with some time in the minors and both are going to be leaders for this team this season. If Miura can add a few more goals to his tally, especially first goals, than Mitens’ job will be easier.  For Mitens, if he has to see a few less pucks this year, we expect scouts to take note of his skill moving side to side and stopping more of them. Its’ easier to scout a goalie when they face an average amount of shots per game, compared to the wildly inflated shot totals Mitens has faced in his time with the Lakers so far.

Top drafted prospect

Arvid Henrikson (Montreal)

The Habs’ draft pick has some more work to do on the back end. He will be called on to play a bigger role for the team this year as he will play an important role in the needed shot suppression this team needs to have in order to rise above their station. The 6’5” defender also needs to increase his two points In 37 games to get a look from any NHL squad in any form. Henrikson has to chip in some offense to compliment the physically brusing game he brings in his own end.

6. Northern Michigan

The Wildcats have a lot of unknowns coming into this season. A team that finished third in this conference last year, lead by a lot of senior leaders, has to find replacements for them, and fast. This team has only three seniors, and one of them, Joseph Nardi, has been with the program for four years. The other two are transfers looking for new homes after coming from different schools. Can the Wildcats finish in the top half of this league again? Sure, but they have a lot of leadership to replace to do so.


If the Wildcats want to do anything of note this year, Griffin Loughran has to continue his success up front for this team. He is a 5’7” forward who plays with a bit of snarl to his game to compliment his offensive skill. In two years, he has 53 points in 72 games played, a respectable number for the West Seneca, New York Native. If he wants to make it to the NHL, he needs to chanel his snarl more productively, as in those same 72 games, he has 163 penalty minutes, which works out to him spending at least four minutes in the box on average for most of those games. A team in need of leaders, cannot have one of them frequenting the penalty box. If Loughran can hem that PIM number in a bit, the Wildcats will get more out of one of their key players.

No drafted prospect

7. Alaska Fairbanks  

The Nanooks have an interesting team to watch this year, if you can stay up late enough to see their games. Mitens’ platoon mate at the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championships, Gustavs Grigals is a good goalie in his own rite and the Nanooks seem to have a way with developing players over the years to reach the next level, as Colton Parayko and his development path would indicate. While the Nanooks need to find a new conference situation after this season, this year could set up quite well for them if Grigals can handle the net, and if we see development in the large junior class that they have.


Grigals needs to take the next step and own the net, similar to what Mitens did for the Lakers in his first year of starting, for the Nanooks to have a chance to succeed. While we expect Mads Emil Gransoe, to get some work this year, the net is Grigals’ to lose heading into this campaign. Grigals is a 6’2” goalie with a flexibility in his game similar to Mitens. Grigals frame allows him to play a more conservative style than some of his peers in this conference, but Grigals confidence in net regardless of score is a big asset. Assuming there are development camps next summer, he will get a chance to show his stuff to a few NHL teams this next summer if he can command the net this season.

No drafted prospect

8. Alabama Huntsville

Pictured is Lucas Bahn, sophomore defender for the Chargers

Like their Alaska breatheren, the Chargers need to find a new conference after this season. With that said, the Chargers have had themselves an offseason with a lot more activity than one would normally want. First, right before Memorial Day, their program was discontinued, before being allowed to raise over 700,000 dollars to reinstate it for this year as they look to find a new conference. In all of this, only one of the original recruits from the class now departed head coach Mike Corbett signed stayed with the program (Ayo Adinye), and new head coach and program alum, Lance West had to sign a vast recruiting class pretty quickly. This team also lost its starting goalie, and a few of its top players to other programs as well. With all of that being said all of those players that West has brought in, combined with returners, have some promise to establish Charger Hockey this fall.

Top UDFA to watch

Connor Wood is a senior leader for this team who will need to step up to provide a bit more offense than he as in previous years. He is defensively the best forward the Chargers have coming into this season and needs to improve offensively. That being said, we expect him to earn a minor league deal to try and work his way up the ladder.

9. Ferris State

The Bulldogs are a young team, like the Chargers, and like Alabama Huntsville, have a lot of questions to answer coming into this season. Roni Salmenkangas leads this team in net, and will have to face a lot of high shot games to have a chance to get the Bulldogs into the postseason.


Salmenkangas is another good goalie in this league, and could set himself up to earn a development camp look this upcoming summer. While looking at his stats from the past year, keep in mind that like Sinclair and others, he had to face high volume games with regularity and did not have much help in his own end. His style and frame, combined with his high hockey sense make him a developmental prospect to watch if he can help the Bulldogs rise up the standings this year.

No drafted prospect

10. Alaska Anchorage

The Seawolves are currently trying to save their program beyond this season, and facing a similar lack of funding issue that the Chargers did. With that said, the Seawolves finished last in the conference last season, and will have some work to do.


Joe Sofo will be a key piece for this team. Like Wood with Alabama-Huntsville, Sofo is a defensively sound forward and a senior leader. If the Seawolves want to move up the standings, he will have to chip in more offense than he has in previous seasons for that to have a chance.

No Drafted prospect

Fighting Hawks limit grade a looks en route to 3-1 win over Western Michigan: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into their final regular season series at home, this Fighting Hawks team had some questions to answer. Chief among those was how it would respond after only taking one point in a series for just the second time of the season.  As we saw tonight, St. Cloud State is roaring back into the top half of the league and is earning the respect they demanded after winning against the Fighting Hawks on Saturday.

Back to the Fighting Hawks, this Men’s Hockey team actually had to win a game while getting hemmed in their own end for a large portion of the deciding period in the third. To their credit, they bent but did not break. Adam Scheel made a triumphant return to the net saving 26 of the 27 shots he faced and earning third star in the process. Judd Caulfield potted his third marker against Western Michigan, and fourth of the season to open the UND scoring ledger 9:52 into the second. After that, Matt Kiersted wired home a scintillating seeing-eye point shot past Western Michigan goalie Brandon Bussi to provide the game winning goal.

For the Broncos, Dawson DiPietro slammed home a rebound to the far side of Scheel to provide the only blemish on his otherwise spotless night 4:35 into the third period. To close the evening, Westin Michaud tipped home a nice looking Gabe Bast point shot to provide the insurance marker against Ben Blacker, who replaced Bussi after he left due to injury caused by a disallowed UND goal. Collin Adams made just enough contact with Bussi in the crease to merit the goal being waved off on video review. It was, to put it nicely, a call not liked by the home fans. Later on in the game, Ronnie Attard walloped the head of Shane Pinto with 1:16 left in the affair and was sent to the dressing room a bit early. That was the lowlight of a fracas-filled third period, to say the least.

What does this mean for Saturday

North Dakota

This game had all of the hallmarks of a first round NCAA Tournament game. The playoff intensity vibe really turned up in the third period after DiPietro made it a one goal game. To UND’s credit, the Fighting Hawks hung tough playing without Cole Smith and having to juggle lines around again. When 66 percent of your defensive specialist line (Cole Smith and Gavin Hain) both are out, others have to step up, and Casey Johnson played one his most complete games of his UND career seeing some of the most ice he has since coming to UND. We could see Smith back in Saturday as he was recovering from a minor practice injury and informed the coaches he needed the night of rest to get back to his normal self. Credit to the coaches for not pushing Smith through his injury to play extra.

If Smith is still out tomorrow, one potential option for this team should be moving Jasper Weatherby to his own line to center things. Western Michigan played UND almost even in the faceoff dot, losing one more draw than they won (30-31). Weatherby with Pinto and Michaud down the stretch of a game when benches are shortened to fit the needs of the team is one thing and a good deployment of his skills. Weatherby only won two of the six draws he took, and one of them lead to the Kiersted tally.

In net, Adam Scheel played his best game of the year in terms of the quality of shots faced throughout the game and being able to hold a team in the game against a desperate opponent. His defense limited shot quality in the third, where Western Michigan got 15 shots on net to UND’s seven. There were a few points throughout this one where Scheel needed to be sharp to hang on for the win and he did. This team has two brilliant goalies who can win against any type of team they face, and will most likely use both Scheel and Peter Thome throughout the rest of the season and should UND win its first round matchup in the NCAA Tournament, we could see the other goalie play the next night. Since we have started covering this team, Scheel and Thome are the best tandem we have seen in net, and credit to this coaching staff for using both of them when needed.

Western Michigan 

Other than the third period, the Broncos did not do enough to make Scheel work much throughout the night. The Fighting Hawks kept the majority of the first 40 minutes’worth of shot attempts to the outside for the Broncos and it shows on the shot chart. If you are a fan of the Broncos, you want to bottle up the good effort from the third, remove the dirty hits that Attard brought on Pinto which ended any hope of a comeback, and try to get to the middle of the ice a bit more. This team has to play with a little more speed to have a chance against UND. The Fighting Hawks are so good at playing a compact zone defense that in order to earn goals, you almost have to not worry about zone time. Teams that play through the neutral zone and avoid the pinching UND defenders are the only ones that have beaten or come close to beating this team this year.

Whatever the result, the finale on Saturday night should be a fun one at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

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