Preseason Top 16: #5 Michigan

Last Season

The Wolverines finished in a tie for second in the CCHA and followed that up with a runner up finish in the CCHA tournament. The Wolverines earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament but were upset in the first round by Cornell.

It was the best of times….

Michigan was struggling at the start of CCHA play, but permanently turned their season around with a 9 game unbeaten streak, including 2 nonconference games over Boston College and Michigan State. In all the Wolverines went from 4-6-2 in the league to 8-6-4 in the CCHA.

It was the worst of times…

Immediately preceding that long unbeaten streak, the Wolverines lost 6 of 7 games, being swept by rival Ohio State and also dropping nonconference contests to Northeastern and Union.

The Coach - Red Berenson ('62)

Berenson is one of the most famous and legendary coaches in all of college sports. He has been to the NCAA tournament each of the last 22 years, the longest streak ever in college hockey. In addition his teams have finished first or second in the CCHA in 20 of the last 22 seasons. His 752 wins rank him 5th all time in college hockey history.

Notable Current NHL Alumni

Mike Cammalleri
Andrew Cogliano
Carl Hagelin
Max Pacioretty
Al Montoya

Players to watch

Michigan welcomes back a lot of scoring from last year's team. Although they lost three double digit goal scorers to either graduation or early entry to the professional ranks, the Wolverines bring back three others:

Alex Guptill, a 2010 3rd rounder of the Dallas Stars, had 16 goals as a Freshman to co-lead the Wolverines. He also tied for 4th nationally among rookies in goals.

AJ Treais had 15 goals and 17 assists last year as a Junior. In his Freshman and Sophomore years combined he had just 16 goals and 19 assists.

Sophomore Phil Di Giuseppe had 11 goals and almost made the Canadian WJC team. He then capped off his breakout season by becoming the 38th overall selection in the 2012 NHL draft.

A couple other Michigan players potentially primed for big years are Travis Lynch, who had 6 goals and 15 points as a Freshman, and Kevin Lynch, who has had pedestrian scoring numbers in his time at Michigan but is talented enough that the Blue Jackets (hold your laughter) made him the 56th overall pick in 2009.

Defensively though is where Michigan should stand out from most teams. The headliner is Jon Merrill, who sat out most of last year due to a suspension but is potentially the most talented player in the country. He had 11 points in 19 games last year and was one of the best defensemen for the United States' WJC team last winter despite not playing in the first half of the year.

Michigan also will rely on Lee Moffie for offense from the blueline. The Senior had 7 goals and 32 points last year for the Wolverines, and was ranked the 11th prospect in the Sharks' system by Hockey Prospectus's Corey Pronman.

Michigan has a solid group of more defensive minded defensemen as well, a lot of whom are already drafted by NHL teams. They are led by Junior Mac Bennett, a 2009 3rd round pick of the Canadiens, and Sophomore Brennan Serville, who was taken in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft by the Winnipeg Jets.

Newcomers

Michigan has been hit as hard as anyone by defections to the CHL in recent history, but they were able to secure a big time recruit last year in 2012 Jets first round pick Jacob Trouba. Trouba does not yet have a standout offensive game, but as a '94 there is plenty of time for that to develop. He was probably the best defenseman on the United States WJC team last winter despite being only 17 at the time, and he is big enough to play the body well and is a fantastic skater. He might only spend a couple of seasons in Ann Arbor but he will be a star there.

The other star recruit is Boo Nieves, who was taken in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. Nieves is a great skater who also has size (6'3") and good hands. He has been criticized as being inconsistent, but a lot of that could be due to his insistence on playing high school hockey and not in juniors (though he did play a bit in the USHL). He might be frustrating to watch early, but his ceiling is as high as any recruit's in the country.

Michigan will have to replace Shawn Hunwick, who was as important as any player in the country last year, and to help with that they added Jared Rutledge. Unlike other NTDP goalies Jack Campbell and John Gibson Rutledge has actually made it to campus. He was great in 2010-11 for the NTDP but struggled quite a bit last year, posting just a .892 save percentage. If he struggles, Berenson could go to Steve Racine, a more experienced goalie who had a .938 save percentage in the OJHL, but has struggled in tougher leagues.

Non conference series to watch:

Michigan will meet Cornell the week before Thanksgiving in a matchup between potential Frozen Four teams. What's more, they will meet in Madison Square Garden in what could be the only chance to see high level hockey (or sports. Hi, Knicks fans!) in that building this year.

Season prediction:

It could be argued that it is a reach to put Michigan this high. Replacing Shawn Hunwick will be incredibly difficult, and they will need to replace the defensive presence (and also goal scoring) that Chris Brown brought to the table. But with the stars they have on the blueline making things easier for whomever will be in net and a couple steps forward up front the Wolverines should be in the hunt for the CCHA title.

Preseason Top 16: #6 Cornell


 

Last Season

Cornell pulled an upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament over Michigan, and were a goal away from advancing to the Frozen Four.

It was the best of times….

Cornell had two separate 7 game unbeaten streaks this year, the latter of which featured a tie and a win over eventual ECAC champions Union.

It was the worst of times…

Other than their season ending loss to Ferris State, Cornell's worst stretch was a 5 game winless streak that preceded (and coincided with) their big unbeaten streak. The winless stretch featured the Big Red being swept by Colgate.

The Coach - Mike Schafer (Cornell '86)

Schafer is the 12th head coach in Cornell history, and has been at the school since 1995. he has taken Cornell to 9 NCAA tournaments, and he is the winningest coach in Cornell history. He has won 3 regular season conference titles and 5 ECAC tournament titles at the school.

Notable Current NHL Alumni

Colin Greening
Matt Moulson
Doug Murray
Riley Nash
Ben Scrivens

Players to watch

Junior goalie Andy Iles had a .919 save percentage overall and a .922 mark in ECAC Hockey last year, which ranked 3rd in the league. He had a very impressive career with the NTDP and has continued that at Cornell. Although Union's Tony Grosenick has a higher save percentage, it would not be unfair to call Iles the most talented goalie in the league.

Cornell's big strength lies in its talented defensive corps. Nick D'Agostino had 8 goals and 20 points last year, which put him 6th in ECAC Hockey in defenseman scoring, and his 6 goals in league play were second only to Harvard's Danny Biega.

Joakim Ryan also showed off some impressive offensive skills from the blueline, scoring 7 goal sand adding 10 assists as a Freshman.

Half of Cornell's top 8 scorers were Freshmen last year, the most talented of which was Brian Ferlin. Ferlin had 8 goals and 21 points last season to rank second among ECAC Freshmen in scoring, and also second in goals. He also just narrowly missed inclusion on the United States' WJC team last winter.

Newcomers

As Cornell has grown into more and more of a national power, their recruiting classes have become better and better. This year is no exception: even though it is a small class, the Big Red are big on incoming talent.

Gavin Soick ('94) played for the NTDP last year, actually switching from forward to defense in his time in Ann Arbor. At 6'3", 215 lbs he will bring the physicality that the Big Red defense has become known for.

Christian Hilbrich ('92) will also bring some size, this time up front. He stands 6'6", 216 lbs and with 26 goals in 108 career USHL games he will most likely be depended on to be more of a defensive, physical presence for the Big Red.

Teemu Tiitinen ('92) served as Lincoln's (USHL) captain and also has the best name of any 2012 recruit. He is the first Finnish player in Cornell history and although he is smaller than Hilbrich he has the same type of work ethic and all around skills.

Non conference series to watch:

Cornell hosts Colorado College in the first series of the year, and while the Tigers may be doomed to struggle towards the bottom of the WCHA they still have a pretty experienced and talented lineup for the Big Red to contend with right out of the gate.

Season prediction:

The Big Red have all the tools to be special. They did not lose a lot of talent or production, and were heavily reliant on Freshmen last season. Assuming Andy Iles does not take a big step back for some reason, and assuming most of the youngsters mature into even more dependable players, I will go out on a limb and predict that Cornell will be ECAC Hockey's second straight Frozen Four representative.

Previously:

#6 Cornell

#7 Western Michigan

#8 UMass-Lowell

#9 Union

#10 Ferris State

#11 Wisconsin

#12 Denver

#13 Ohio State

#14 Miami

#15 St. Cloud State

#16 Lake Superior State

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