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How was your summer? Quiet?

So much to talk about in the world of college hockey in the coming weeks and months, including the impending — and sad — demise of the CCHA.

In the meantime, however, there is hockey to be played and within the next five days, two CCHA teams are playing hockey that counts.

Hockey that counts. I’m going to be thinking about that all season long and right on through until the end of the 2012-13 season. This is still CCHA hockey, and it’s still hockey that counts. It starts with nonconference and exhibition play Saturday night.

Lake Superior at Alabama-Huntsville

The Lakers travel to Huntsville for two games this weekend, a Saturday-Sunday nonconference series to begin the 2011-12 season. LSSU finished the 2010-11 season eighth in the CCHA with an overall record of 13-17-9. Gone is Rick Schofield, the Lakers’ lead scorer from a season ago responsible for 17 of LSSU’s 93 goals. Returning, however, is sophomore goaltender Kevin Kapalka, whose .924 freshman save percentage earned him a spot on the CCHA 2010-11 All-Rookie Team.

The Chargers finished last season with a record of 4-26-2 and remain the lone independent team in D-I men’s ice hockey. I’m just happy that they remain at all. The prognosis for the program is not optimistic. Here’s the latest about the program from John Turner at the Huntsville Times. Turner has done a great job of keeping up with everything that affects UAH hockey — including the lukewarm commitment to the program by the university itself.

UAH adds 10 freshmen to its roster this season while losing its two top scorers from a year ago. Last year, senior defenseman Matt Baxter led the Chargers with nine goals and 13 assists. Second-leading scorer, Keenan Desemet (8-10–18), left to play for the Arizona Sundogs (CHL) after his sophomore year. The Chargers return three goaltenders; sophomore Clarke Saunders (3.80 GAA, .898 SV%) and junior John Griggs (3.95, .883) split time in the net last season.

Picks: LSSU 4-3, 3-2 It’s a homer pick, I admit, but I’m banking on Kapalka’s abilities in net to prevail over the rookie enthusiasm of the Charger team.

Niagara at Michigan

Atlantic Hockey’s Purple Eagles visit the Wolverines Tuesday, Oct. 4, for one nonconference game. Last year, Niagara finished fourth in the AHA with an overall record of 18-13-4. In 2010-11, they were led in scoring by seniors Paul Zanette and Bryan Haczyk, who contributed 57 of the Chargers’ 124 overall goals. Sophomores Ryan Rashid (13-13–26) and Scott Arnold (16-6–22) are the two returning 10-plus goal scorers from a year ago. Four goalies saw action for Niagara last season; three of them return.

Every CCHA fan knows what the Wolverines did last season. Their remarkable second half resulted in their regular-season conference title and an appearance in the NCAA championship game. Seniors from a season ago who comprised four of UM’s top five scorers — Louie Caporusso, Carl Hagelin, Matt Rust, Scooter Vaughan — are gone, but the Wolverines return David Wohlberg and Kevin Lynch, two double-digit goal scorers, and the excellent, entertaining goaltender Shawn Hunwick (2.21 GAA, .925 SV%) — as well as their most potent weapon, coach Red Berenson.

Pick: Michigan 4-2 This is less league homerism as it is common sense. The Wolverines have proven me wrong in the past, but I’m not picking against this team until they give me a reason to.

Exhibition Games

Oct. 1-2

Ontario IT at Michigan, Bowling Green
Toronto at Western Michigan, Ferris State
Windsor at Ohio State, Miami

Oct. 1

Northern Alberta IT at Alaska

Oct. 2-3

Western Ontario at Notre Dame, Michigan State

Oct. 3

US Under-18 Team at Michigan

Picks: For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that the NCAA prevails in every game.

Preseason CCHA Poll

Here’s how I picked the league this season.

1. Notre Dame
2. Miami
3. Michigan
4. Western Michigan
5. Alaska
6. Northern Michigan
7. Ferris State
8. Michigan State
9. Ohio State
10. Lake Superior
11. Bowling Green

USCHO.com Poll

Here’s my first ballot of the season.

1. Notre Dame
2. North Dakota
3. Boston College
4. Miami
5. Michigan
6. Denver
7. Minnesota-Duluth
8. Nebraska-Omaha
9. Boston University
10. Western Michigan
11. New Hampshire
12. Colorado College
13. Yale
14. Union
15. Merrimack
16. Minnesota
17. Maine
18. RPI
19. Alaska

Next Week

USCHO rolls out the conference season previews next week, including mine on Wednesday. I may have something to say in the blog about the early action of this weekend, and I’ll definitely have picks on Friday.

Follow me on the Twitters (paulacweston), you kids.

  • Hockey Genius

    I hate pre-season polls.  It would add so much more drama if no polls existed for the first month.  See how teams really perform.  Let the young rascals do their thing, and see how it all shakes out….nothing worse than seeing a top ten team go down early, and their confidence shot, because the media told them how good they are supposed to be…etc…. 

  • Paula Weston

    Hockey Genius, I agree with you — and not just because I’m so often wrong in my picks.  I don’t see much point in them, either, but so many people like them and they generate discussion…like this one.  

  • BigDog

    Paula….What do you think about BGSU, UAH, and a few of the Atlantic teams getting together for a “new” CCHA….possible? Okay with you?

    • Paula Weston

      Well, I’m not sure this is being discussed seriously.  There was some speculation earlier about a few AHA teams leaving and joining the pared-down CCHA, but I haven’t heard that those AHA teams are interested in re-inventing the entire CCHA league.  I just hope that UAH lands somewhere.  I fear the Chargers’ demise.

  • Big Al

    I like your picks but MI and North Dakota seem to be rated a little high.  Wolverines will have to win low scoring games unless they have multiple forwards stepping up.  Sioux are also great in and around net but I guess they always reload up front.  Maybe AK will suprise this year. 

  • ed_crumbpacker

    I agree, more or less, with you ballot with the exception of North Dakota.  I am always amazed how these minimum-skilled mouth-breathing net-crashers have been able to fool the entire press corp into believing they anything other than a knuckle dragging cheap shot goon squad who closely resemble the Johnstown Chiefs of “Slapshot” fame.  You should really select your team based on hockey skills rather than a season padded with Michigan Tech wins, who they seem to play every other weekend.

    • Paula Weston

      Ed, I don’t share your opinion about NoDak — but you made me laugh this morning.

    • anon

      Start by saying I do not enjoy defending Paula, and putting Michigan at 5 is a joke, but, the other major polls all have NoDak in the top handful as well.  I do agree with your gripes on them, but they’ll still stay near the top of the polls all season.

      Seriously Michigan at #5 is brutal

  • Learnthegamepaula

    Naturally your lack of intelligence rears its ugly head. Really thought we would get past week 1 for our sanity sake but I was wrong…..

    One of a small number of positives of Miami leaving the ccha is not having to read your crap anymore…

    • Paula Weston

      Well, “Learnthegamepaula,” I’m glad to be able to provide something for you to gripe about for at least two more seasons of Miami hockey.  Thanks for reading!

  • Anonymous

    Uh, UNO will also enjoy the return of their head coach, Josh (I missed my penalty shot) Archibald not withstanding.

  • bronxbomberz41

    where’s BBear94 (or whatever) complaining about firing tim whitehead?  Oh wait….

    • BBear94

      Nice try, David Hendrickson. 

      This blog is terrible, as always.  Why don’t you come over to the bangordailynews, bronxbomerz41, and we can really get into it with, I don’t know, 30-40 other regular bloggers who all say:  FIRE TIM WHITEHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • HuskyHockey1986

        YESSSSSS…. Let the Hate flow, 

        “Strike me down with all your hatred… Then your journey to the dark side shall be complete.” 

        • BBear94

          We’ll trade ya one Time Whitehead for one Jim Madigan.  See how you like it…

          • After Further Review

            We’ll throw in a Dick Umile too!

      • Anonymous

        Keep it up…along with others as you and the rest see the REAL Maine Hockey Team and Program…Whitehead has ruined Maine Hockey and needs to be shown the door when the season ends so the NEW COACH can start the rebuilding process…and bring back the Old Time Maine Hockey Attitude.

  • Bob49

    you guys don’t know nothing about the XX and OO of hockey.  nobody that does would think the maine win over new hampshire was a good one and maine is playign well.  reality check: 1.  giving up a shorthanded goal on a 5-3 advantage; they got 2 soft goals including the winner,. 2.  4 straigth wins?  ok over let’s see clarkson massachusetts vermont new hampshire. all teams not even in the top 38 pairwise.  beating other bottom feeders means nothing. this team stinks

    • GoBlue

      Anyone that knows anything (or nothing as you put it) about the X’s and O’s of hockey wouldn’t have ECAC teams ranked ever.  But lookie there..Colgate, Cornell, and Yale all in the last poll – so even the ‘experts’ get things wrong.

      You can discount Maine’s opponents all you want, but Mass is hot right now…just beat the well ranked yale and cornell teams and Maine put them in their place at the FCC. 

      • Bob49

        not sure what you mean there Goblue when first you say ecac teams no good, but then you congratulate maine for beating umass team that has just 3 wins in last 9 games, 2 over ecac teams. 

        my point of last post being these writers here just really not knowledgable about hockey.  they focus on the score, polls, blah blah blah.  watch that maine team on the ice yikes they sure need some work.  won’t get no softies against next 6 games no way jose

    • After Further Review

      At least they are wins.  As a UNH fan, I am completely disgusted with losses to Brown, Harvard, Northeastern (before they were playing well), and Maine.  Oh yeah and a tie with the doormat, Vermont!  I’m sure I have missed some quality losses, but it’s absolutely horrible watching this team play.

    • Stefan Rowe5

      apparently you don’t know a whole lot about hockey. You mention a couple of the goals scored by maine to be soft, yes they were but how do you think teams win? look for instance at game 7 of the stanley cup finals shorthanded patrice bergeron scored an extremely soft goal on luongo, game 5 brad marchand does the same scored a soft goal. Thats how teams win you work hard, you fight to get those chances and if the goalie lets in a soft goal the team deserved it cause of the work they did. The ot winner by flynn was a result of extreme hard work by that line, so to say they don’t deserve that goal or that it was soft is just numb, because every team in hockey whether it be the ahl, nhl, college hockey, qhl, wqhl, and so on… has scored and won games because of so called soft goals. Yes the teams they have beaten lately have been on the weaker side, but that is how teams build momentum, and gain confidence. They are playing very well rightnow. You apparently don’t know squat about hockey.

  • 18secondsbeforesunrise

    Dave, thanks for the article. You’ve given the UMaine “faithful” something to good (and accurate; no over-generalizations or chest-thumping) to read/cheer about, and you’ve given the nay-sayers something more to complain about (not that they need an excuse to *itch).

    Please keep up the good work.

    • Dave Hendrickson

      Thank you.

  • Jgross280

    I know people feel very nostalgic about outdoor hockey but I don’t share their enthusiasm. I went  to the BU-BC game at Fenway two years ago and the truth is you don’t get a very good view of the game from most of the seats. I am glad I went once for the experience. But given the poor sight lines, once was plenty.

    • After Further Review

      I agree.  I didn’t go to Fenway to see UNH/Maine for that very reason.  I hit the Frozen Fours every year and was at Ford Field a couple years ago.  Not quite Fenway, also not outside, but horrible for watching hockey.  We got “great” seats as we go every year, 7 rows up on the blue line in the bleachers they brought in just for the hockey games.  Problem was, they were not steep enough, so every time the puck went over center ice, I had to watch it on the big screen.  I might as well have stayed home and watched ESPN.  Hockey needs to stay in arenas made for hockey, other wise there are very few good seats.  It’s kind of tough looking through the boards!

  • 94eagle

    Not interested in any game at fenway.  sightlines are terrible.  I still can’t believe BC let MC back into that game on Sunday.  I think BC blew at least 34 scoring opps

  • Smeline

    Hey Dave; Boston University is BU not bc

    • Dave Hendrickson

      I caught it when reading over Jim’s picks this morning, but thanks for the heads-up. In my defense, I made the typo when it was one in the morning…

  • Paul Gentile

    Wow, Dave…what a week for you with this “Maine Love-fest” stuff. You must think the Warriors are done for the year … tsk, tsk …. I’ll be surprised to see Maine get a point on the weekend.

  • Idontknow87

    How many games does BC have to lose for people to pick against them? They are 5-6-1 in their last 12 games and everyone still has them on top of their list. NU is 7-1-1 in their last 9, including wins against Michigan, Notre Dame, and UML (all teams BC lost to recently). BC will lose at Fenway…again. 

    • JG

      The one loss in a scrimmage hardly counts and they won the tie in a shootout so basically 8-0

      • Idontknow87

        Didn’t realize the loss was a scrimmage. My question is how are they doing this all the sudden?

  • Guest

    Maybe it’s time for UAF and UAA to play an outdoor game.  40 below zero hockey.  Who wouldn’t love it?

  • NUHockey

    Couldn’t agree more with this article on so many levels.  NU fan here.  People were complaining after the first announcement that NU remained out of consideration for a Fenway game yet again, but frankly, I was happy they weren’t playing an outdoor game.  People don’t seem to realize that you sacrifice so much for the POTENTIAL of creating an atmospheric once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I’d much rather have the players play in the same conditions they normally do, and be able to watch a game comfortably.  These games are losing their luster due to the sheer saturation of outdoor games. 

  • E. L. Dyceo

    Wow, an entire paragraph devoted to maligning the various organizations that irreparably sullied the event through their selfish desire to have a once in a lifetime experience, and you STILL managed not to acknowledge the existence of Division III.  You guys are nothing if not consistent.

  • Candace Horgan

    Interesting. Who do you think suffered more from the poor refereeing? 

  • Jmm410

    When i look at SOS for D-1 i see WCHA teams are the first 8 teams. How does Cornell keep getting so much love???? If you play the hardest schedule consistantly that has to be worth more than just racking up wins against sub .500 teams????