Preview: A look at the men’s WCHA season

Gophers vs. UBC

3-1

Oct. 10, 2008 Exhibition game

Matt Mead

Gophers vs. UBC 3-1 Oct. 10, 2008 Exhibition game

In honor of the menâÄôs Western Collegiate Hockey Association openers this weekend, the Daily breaks down the conference team by team. Rankings are based off WCHA preseason rankings. No. 9 Michigan Tech at No. 1 Colorado College: The Tigers were the unanimous pick among conference coaches and media to repeat as the WCHAâÄôs top team this season. They also had two players receive votes for the WCHA Preseason Player of the Year; sophomore goalie Richard Bachman earned the coachesâÄô nods while senior forward Chad Rau was named by the media. The Tigers will get back a lot of their talent from last season when the program finished first in the regular season. âÄúI think the strength for us is going to be in our quality depth at forward. We also have five of the six guys who played regularly for us on defense back and all three goalies,âÄù coach Scott Owens said in a WCHA release. âÄúI think everyone is excited to get back at it. It’s an older team with good leadership.âÄù No. 4 Wisconsin at No. 3 Denver: This game is likely to be the top WCHA matchup of the weekend. How will the defending WCHA Final Five champions adjust to life after goalie Peter Mannino , who led the team to the 2008 WCHA Final Five title? And can the Badgers bounce back after taking two hard losses against nationally ranked Boston College and New Hampshire last weekend? âÄúOur task this week, the message to our players as we returned home yesterday, âÄòLetâÄôs come back with our work hats on, strap them on and get on the ice and start from the place of strengths again,âÄô âÄù Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. No. 2 North Dakota at No. 7 Minnesota State Sooner or later one of the conferenceâÄôs historically second-tier teams will make a serious push towards the top. Minnesota State pushed the limit last season, taking Minnesota to three games in the WCHA playoffs and nearly earning their second-ever NCAA tournament bid. Is this the MavericksâÄô year? North Dakota lost forward T.J. Oshie to the NHL, but still has senior forward and 2007 Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan Duncan, who surprisingly didnâÄôt receive a single vote in the preseason polls, on its roster. The Sioux dropped a pair of games last weekend at the IceBreaker Invitational. No. 10 Alaska Anchorage: The Seawolves are one of two WCHA teams in nonconference action this weekend, playing in the Alaska Gold Rush in Fairbanks, Ala. The WCHA perennial cellar dweller takes on Maine on Friday and Mercyhurst on Saturday. A positive note for the Seawolves? Coach Dave Shyiak signed a contract extension last month that will keep him with the program through 2012-2013. âÄúWith Coach Shyiak at the helm, I know the future of Seawolf Hockey will be bright,âÄù Alaska Anchorage Athletic Director Steve Cobb said in a statement. No. 8 Minnesota-Duluth The Bulldogs host Western Michigan this weekend after capturing their second-straight Superior Cup title last weekend in Michigan. Junior net minder Alex Stalock, who received votes for WCHA Preseason Player of the Year, earned the conferenceâÄôs first Defensive Player of the Week this season after turning away 53-of-55 shots and posting a shutout over the weekend. Minnesota this weekend For a preview of the home and home series between No. 4 Minnesota and No. 6 St. Cloud State, see FridayâÄôs Daily.