College hockey is back and so is the DDC.
As the schedule begins in earnest this week after a round of exhibitions for the NCHC, DDC takes a look at the league and at what to expect in the second year of the conference.
DDC’s Preseason Rankings
4) St. Cloud State
6) Western Michigan
8) Colorado College
UND was tabbed by the NCHC media to take the Penrose Cup as the league’s champion this year, and for DDC, rightfully so. North Dakota is deep in the d-corps and Zane McIntyre could very well be the best goaltender in college hockey. Losing dynamic and diminutive Rocco Grimaldi leaves a void for the Green and White up front, but NHL first-round pick and Nick Schmaltz’s (2A) performance in a 4-0 exhibition win this past Sunday gave UND fans someone to look to for that lost production.
Miami returns a deep and skillful offense with Riley Barber, Sean Kuraly and Austin Czarnik leading the way. Last year’s preseason favorite struggled all year but turned it around late but missed the NCAA’s after falling to Denver in the inaugural NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game. Defense will be the key to this team as scoring doesn’t look to be the problem.
DDC’s preseason darling is the UMD Bulldogs. Justin Crandall, Kyle Osterberg, Alex Iafallo and Tony Cameranesi lead a young and dynamic forward group. If the Dogs can find a netminder in a pair of juniors Matt McNeely and Alex Fons, this could be Penrose darkhorse.
St. Cloud State returns 40 point scorers Jonny Brodzinski and Kalle Kossila but lose stalwart goaltender Ryan Faragher. If the Huskies find a man in the pipes, they will be a tough out this season
The ones to watch
F – Jonny Brodzinski, St. Cloud State
F – Austin Czarnik, Miami
F – Riley Barber, Miami
D – Jordan Schmaltz, UND
D – Joey LaLeggia, DU
G – Zane McIntyre, UND
Honorable Mentions: F – Michael Parks, UND; F – Cameranesi, UMD; D – Jacob Slavin, Colorado College; D – Paul LaDue, UND.
Player of the Year: D – Schmaltz, UND
Schmaltz was left off the media's NCHC preseason favorites, however, DDC thinks big things are in store for the junior defenseman. Schmaltz was arguably the best player down the stretch for a North Dakota team that fell in the NCAA semifinals last season. The 6’2” blue liner has all the skills and his 3-point night (1G, 2A) in UND’s exhibition win puts the rest of the NCHC on notice.
So, that’s it. Time will tell. Let’s hit the ice.