With the CCHA season finally upon us, The Michigan Daily hockey
beat writers decided to break down the league. Here’s a look
at who is for real:

Alaska-Fairbanks — The only new coach in the CCHA
will coach way up north. Tavis MacMillan, who played with UAF for
four seasons in the early 90s, will try to build on a sixth-place
CCHA finish last season. The team is without any NHL draft picks,
but its freshman class has been labeled the most talented in school
history.

Bowling Green — The Falcons will live and die with
their senior goalie Jordan Sigalet. Last season Sigalet boasted a
2.74 GAA and led the entire nation with 1,140 saves. The Falcons
also return a dozen forwards who could wreak havoc in defensive
zones across the conference. Bowling Green is looking to improve on
its ninth place conference finish last season.

Ferris State — How things have changed in two
years. The CCHA champions of 2002-03 have fallen on hard times of
late. The Bulldogs struggled to a 10th place conference finish last
season and have to deal with the loss of last season’s team
MVP, Brett Smith. Returning to 2002-03 form is not likely.

Lake Superior State — Michigan’s
home-and-home opponents this weekend finished 11th last season in
the CCHA. Size is the name of the game for the Lakers, as they
boast a roster with 23 players who stand six feet or taller. Lake
Superior State will rely on last year’s leading scorer
Dominic Osman to light the lamp again this season.

Miami (Ohio) — Miami has started the 2004-05
campaign on fire. They have risen to No. 6 in the national polls
after starting the season with four straight wins. The team will be
led by CCHA All-Conference defenseman Andy Greene and explosive
sophomore forward Matt Christie. The RedHawks finished only a point
behind the Wolverines in the CCHA last season.

Michigan — Like always, Michigan has high hopes for
this season. The Wolverines return 10 seniors and star junior
goalie Al Montoya from a squad that was a goal away from the Frozen
Four last year. Michigan coach Red Berenson hasn’t finished
lower than second in the CCHA since 1990, and doesn’t expect
to this year. His squad was ranked pre-season No. 1 in the
CCHA.

Michigan State — Currently ranked No. 9 nationally,
Michigan State should be right in the mix for the CCHA crown. The
Spartans return senior forward Jim Slater, who might be the best
player in the conference, and both the media and the coaches voted
the Spartans as the second-best team behind the Wolverines.
Michigan State has eight NHL draft picks on its roster.

Nebraska-Omaha — Things do not look good for last
season’s CCHA doormats. Both the coaches and the media picked
the Mavericks to finish dead last yet again. If it wants to be more
successful, Nebraska-Omaha will have to score more than it did last
season, when it scored a conference-low 60 goals.

Northern Michigan — The coaches of the CCHA know
how dangerous this team is. Even though they finished seventh last
season, the coaches voted the Wildcats to be the third-best team in
the league this year. All seven defenders are back, including
All-CCHA second-teamer Nathan Oystrick. Talent is abundant on the
Wildcats squad, which boasts 10 NHL draft picks on its roster.

Notre Dame — The Irish graduated a trio of stars
that coach Dave Poulin will surely miss. The exodus of forwards
Aaron Gill and Rob Globke, along with defenseman Brett Lebda, has
left holes in the squad that need to be filled. Notre Dame will
look for revenge against Ohio State after losing an overtime
heartbreaker in the CCHA tournament last season.

Ohio State — Last season’s CCHA tournament
champions graduated two key contributors. Paul Caponigri’s 39
points and Doug Andress’ 27 assists will surely be missed.
Still, if the Buckeyes can put together a postseason run, they
could be favorites to win the national title because the Frozen
Four is in Columbus this season.

Western Michigan — Hopefully sixth-year coach Jim
Culhane addressed the defensive issues from last season, when the
Broncos allowed a conference-high 101 goals. Offensively, two-time
team MVP Dana Lattery returns along with key defenseman Mike
Jarmuth. The Broncos hope to improve on their eighth-place
conference finish last season.

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