Monday, October 1, 2007

2007-08 Team Preview – Minnesota

Official Roster
Full Schedule
2006-07 Team Statistics

Top 5 Returning Scorers

1. F – Jay Barriball – Sophomore – 20 G, 23 A – 43 points
2. F – Kyle Okposo – Sophomore – 19 G, 21 A – 40 points
3. F – Blake Wheeler – Junior – 18 G, 20 A – 38 points
4. F – Ben Gordon – Senior – 12 G, 19 A – 31 points
5. F – Ryan Stoa – Junior – 12 G, 12 A – 24 points

Key Losses From Last Season

D – Mike Vannelli – 10 G, 29 A – 39 points
D – Alex Goligoski – 9 G, 30 A – 39 points
D – Erik Johnson – 4 G, 20 A – 24 points
G – Kellen Briggs – 17-7-2, .917 save percentage, 2.13 GAA

2006-07 Scoring By Class

Senior 14 8.70%
Junior 41 25.47%
Sophomore 34 21.12%
Freshman 72 44.72%

Non-Conference Schedule

1 vs. Rensselaer – Oct. 12 – IceBreaker Tournament, St. Paul, MN
1 vs. Boston College or Michigan – Oct. 13 – IceBreaker Tournament, St. Paul, MN
2 vs. Ohio State – Oct. 25-26
1 at Michigan State – Nov. 23 – College Hockey Showcase
1 at Michigan – Nov. 24 – College Hockey Showcase
1 vs. RIT – Dec. 29 – Dodge Holiday Classic
1 vs. Air Force or Boston College – Dodge Holiday Classic
2 vs. Wayne State – Jan. 4-5

Incoming Freshmen

F – Drew Fisher (Sioux Falls – USHL) / 20
F – Patrick White (Grand Rapids High School) / 18
F – Mike Hoeffel (USNTDP) / 18
D – Stu Bickel (Sioux Falls – USHL) / 21
D – Cade Fairchild (USNTDP) / 18
D – Kevin Wehrs (Cedar Rapids – USHL) / 19
G – Alex Kangas (Indiana – USHL) / 20

Average Freshman Age: 19.14

U.S. High Schools: 1

Breakdown of Current Roster

Freshmen – 8
Sophomores – 7
Juniors – 5
Seniors – 6

NHL Draftees

G – Jeff Frazee – Junior – NJ
D – Derek Peltier – Senior – COL
D – RJ Anderson – Junior – PHI
F – Kyle Okposo – Sophomore – NYI
F – Tony Lucia – Sophomore – SJ
F – Mike Carman – Sophomore – COL
F – Blake Wheeler – Junior – PHO
D – David Fischer – Sophomore – MON
F – Ryan Flynn – Sophomore – NSH
F – Jay Barriball – Sophomore – SJ (rights traded to STL)
F – Ryan Stoa – Junior - COL
F – Patrick White – Freshman – VAN
F – Mike Hoeffel – Freshman – NJ
D – Cade Fairchild – Freshman – STL
G – Alex Kangas – Freshman – ATL

2006 Season Recap

Going into last season, many onlookers thought the Gophers may stumble out of the gate because of their youth. However, after an opening-night loss to Maine, the team went on a 19-0-3 run to essentially capture their second-straight MacNaughton Cup.

However, near the end of that run, senior wing Tyler Hirsch was dismissed from the team, and after the loss of Hirsch – who, at the time had 22 points in 15 games – Minnesota’s offense suffered.

The team went just 14-9-0 after January 1, but that stretch included being swept at home by North Dakota in a pair of lopsided games, and losing both games of a home-and-home series to St. Cloud State in a similar fashion. In the first round of the WCHA playoffs, the Gophers were pushed to three games by the last-place Alaska Anchorage Seawolves, but managed to win the third game and advance to St. Paul for the WCHA Final Five.

Minnesota fans were not sure what to expect in St. Paul, but their team didn’t disappoint. They dispatched the Wisconsin Badgers on Friday night by a 4-2 score to advance to the title game, and of course upended North Dakota 3-2 in overtime to capture the Broadmoor Trophy, thanks to Blake Wheeler’s tremendous overtime game-winner.

Just one year after the Holy Cross disaster, the Gophers were almost dealt a similar fate at the hands of Air Force. The Gophers found themselves down 3-1 midway through the third period in their game against the Falcons in the West Regional, but stormed back to win 4-3. The next night though, they lost to the Fighting Sioux by a 3-2 score in overtime to end their season.

2007 Season Preview

As usual, the Gophers bring in a great freshman class to supplement a deep and talented returning core. Only Colorado College and Michigan Tech bring back a larger percentage of goals scored than Minnesota. All the forwards that were on the ice at the end of last season return, and newcomers Patrick White and Mike Hoeffel should add even more punch.

Defensively, the Gophers will be talented but unproven. Mike Vannelli graduated last year, and Alex Goligoski and Erik Johnson elected to sign pro contracts. Senior Derek Peltier will be looked to as a leader, while junior RJ Anderson and sophomore David Fischer will need to step up their production. Freshmen Cade Fairchild and Kevin Wehrs should see ample icetime in all situations.

The WCHA career wins leader Kellen Briggs is now gone, but he is replaced by freshman Alex Kangas, who is considered by many to be one of the top freshmen netminders in the country. He’ll get his chances this year, but junior Jeff Frazee should see a majority of the action. Frazee played very well late last year, particularly in the final two games against North Dakota. A second round draft pick of New Jersey, Frazee could be looking to turn pro after this season, so that could be an additionally motivator.

Key Question

No team lost more on defense than Minnesota, so will the current (and young) Gopher defensive core be able to hold their own as the season goes on? There’s no doubt Minnesota will be able to score plenty of goals, but keeping them out of their own net could be an issue, especially early in the season. There could be some serious fireworks if Minnesota and Boston College meet-up in the IceBreaker title game during both team’s opening weekend.

WCHA Blog Prediction:

Second Place

Previous Team Previews
Alaska Anchorage
Colorado College
Michigan Tech