October 4, 2006
INCH Power Rankings: The Great 58+1

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Last year's final rankings
USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll

Another season is upon us and we won't limit our attention to those teams that some have anointed as the top 15 or top 20 teams in the nation. Whether it is near the top or near the bottom, each program faces unique circumstances.

There are plenty of challenges that lie ahead as we enter the 2006-07 season. As the Inside College Hockey editors and staff ranked the nation's top teams, we took a look at what might keep each team from reaching its potential.

No. Team

The Challenge

1. Boston College There’s only one way to improve on being the second best team in the country.
2. North Dakota Tons of offense and veteran defense make the Fighting Sioux very dangerous. Solid, consistent goaltending could make them champions.
3. Minnesota The young talent is exciting, but even with Erik Johnson and Alex Goligoski on the blue line, the goaltending is key. And having your No. 1 goalie suspended for the first two weeks is a bad start.
4. Michigan State Diminuitive stopper Jeff Lerg sparked MSU's 17-4-3 second-half showing. Now that erstwhile starter Dominic Vicari has bolted East Lansing, an injury to Lerg would be a severe blow.
5. Boston University The locker room leadership lost by last year’s first line may have been more important than its on-ice production.
6. Michigan One could argue that the Wolverines are the nation's most talented team — on paper. Of couse, last year's club was similarly loaded but never jelled.
7. Wisconsin Nothing puts a target on your back in October and beyond like hoisting a trophy the previous April. Badger fans know that’s a good problem to have.
8. Miami The pieces are in place for the RedHawks to make another CCHA title run and advance to the NCAA Tournament. Stringing together strong back-to-back seasons, however, hasn't been the team's M.O.
9. Denver Can Ryan Dingle duplicate his sophomore season heroics? If the Pioneers are going to get back to the NCAA tourney, he might need to.
10. Maine Who knows how long Ben Bishop will play for free? The offense needs to step up without Greg Moore ASAP.
11. Dartmouth Regular-season losses to teams it should've beaten have kept Dartmouth out of the NCAA Tournament for the last two years. Consistency might get them there this year.
12. Colgate No longer the "easy" end of the travel-partner arrangement with Cornell, Colgate will get a team's best effort every weekend.
13. St. Cloud State Bobby Goepfert is a unique talent, but even finely-tuned machines break down from overuse. Goepfert will be sharper in February if rookie goalie Jase Weslosky can give him a few nights off in November and December.
14. New Hampshire On paper, the defense looks very good. Will that translate to the ice?
15. Nebraska-Omaha Scott Parse and Co. have the ability to score goals in bunches. The biggest issue is whether the Mavericks' goaltenders can show some consistency.
16. Clarkson

The Golden Knights had no trouble winning at home, but need to learn how to get points on the road, where they were 3-15-0 last year.

17. Harvard Goaltending questions linger, as John Daigneau emerged as a suitable one-year servant, but is now gone.
18. Providence Tim Army needs to make sure goalie Tyler Sims doesn’t wear down at the end of the season.
19. Vermont The offense needs to repay Joe Fallon and bail him out for once.
20. Northern Michigan Had the Wildcats played .500 hockey last November instead of losing six of eight, they likely would've made the NCAA Tournament.
21. Quinnipiac The Bobcats won't be able to sneak up on anyone in the ECACHL this year.
22. Bemidji State The Beavers have made the NCAA Tournament the last two years and other teams in CHA want to end that streak.
23. Cornell Who was Cornell's best player last year, Matt Moulson, Dave McKee, or Ryan O'Byrne? Doesn't matter. All three are gone.
24. Minnesota Duluth Last year’s highly-touted freshman class couldn’t overcome inconsistent defense. Their sophomore campaign may be “put up or shut up” time at the DECC.
25. St. Lawrence The Saints lost two All-ECACHL players in T.J.Trevelyan and Mike Madill, and other seniors played key roles. Other players must step up.
26. Colorado College There’s a 188-point hole in the lineup with Sterling, Sertich, Crabb, and Salcido gone. And the newcomer they’re talking most about (Billy Sweatt) was a roller hockey star.
27. Ohio State With goalie Dave Caruso graduated and leading scorer Tom Fritsche out indefinitely with ulcerative colitis, who becomes the go-to guy in Columbus?
28. Notre Dame In Jeff Jackson's first season the Irish improved markedly, especially on offense. Similar growth
and balance this season could propel the team into the top half of the CCHA standings.
29. Sacred Heart The Pioneers' first line finished 1-2-3 in team scoring. The next-highest returning point producer had just 13 points last year.
30. Ferris State Nearly everyone from last year's 17-15-8 team returns. Putting that additional experience to use could make the Bulldogs an NCAA Tournament darkhorse.
31. Mercyhurst Mercyhurst was 2-5-1 against Holy Cross and Sacred Heart last year, their primary competition for Atlantic Hockey hardware.
32. Alaska Picking up where they left off last year ... the Nanooks closed the year with an 8-4-1 run and a first-round playoff sweep at Notre Dame.
33. Holy Cross The Crusaders made a name for themselves last spring, and other teams will look to do the same against them.
34. Massachusetts The Minutemen lost last season’s top-two scorers and haven’t scared anyone offensively for three years.
35. Lake Superior State The Lakers were the CCHA's surprise team a year ago. Can they achieve a similar result this time around now that everyone knows they're no longer dormats?
36. Niagara Can Scott Mollison and/or Juliano Pagliaro adequately replace a four-year starter in goal?
37. Minnesota State With an answer in goal and plenty of questions elsewhere, the Mavs need to find new and reliable sources of offense to help Travis Morin.
38. Union Kris Mayotte left Union as a record-holder in many goaltending categories. Justin Mrazek and two freshmen will look to fill the void.
39. Michigan Tech Despite plenty of on-ice struggles, the school and the community are crazy about Husky hockey. Mitch’s Misfits need to be given more reasons to cheer.
40. Rensselaer Seth Appert intends to play an up-tempo, aggressive style. Time will tell if he has the personnel to succeed with that strategy.
41. Northeastern It’s time for the Huskies to turn their grit into goals.
42. Princeton The Tigers have improved depth, and those players on the second and third lines will need to perform better to move up the standings.
43. UMass Lowell

These aren't your father’s River Hawks. Actually, after losing 14 players from last year’s team, these aren't even your River Hawks.

44. Bowling Green After a season that ended miserably due in part to a fractious locker room, the Falcons need to realize they've got a better chance at succeeding if they all get along.
45. Robert Morris The Colonials are picked by some to move into the top three in CHA in their third year as a Division I program. Is it too soon?
46. Bentley What sophomore slump? Three freshmen finished atop the Bentley scoring charts last season and will draw more attention this year.
47. Alabama-Huntsville Scott Munroe was one of the best goalies in the conference. Can Marc Narduzzi or Jordan Erickson handle being the No. 1?
48. Connecticut The Huskies need to avoid the mid-season slump that derailed last year's efforts.
49. Western Michigan Finding some help for overworked goaltender Daniel Bellissimo and the unheralded Paul
Szczechura is imperative. Whether it's realistic is another story.
50. Air Force Entering a new league brings lots of lessons. Gaining familiarity with the opponents, officials, and venues is especially important.
51. Yale Three of Yale's top-four point producers from last season are gone, and the leading returning scorer had just 23 points.
52. Merrimack The challenges start with overcoming the season-long suspension of leading scorer and Hockey East All-Rookie Teamer Rob Ricci.
53. Alaska Anchorage Last year a new head coach. This year, new assistant coaches. Stability is the first step for young Seawolves still looking for team, and program, identity.
54. Army Brad Roberts commendably played 97.2 percent of the time in goal for Army's games last year. The two returning goalies combined to play two and a half periods.
55. Brown The Bears didn't win a single overtime game last year, but they're hoping that experience gained in those close games will lead to wins this year.
56. RIT NFL coach Herman Edwards says, "You play to win the game." That is also RIT's motivation, because they're ineligible for the playoffs.
57. Canisius Off-ice problems over the last couple of years need to be straightened out to make way for on-ice successes.
58. American International The Yellow Jackets power-play units might have been wearing straight jackets. They were last in the nation at 9.8 percent last year.
59. Wayne State For the Warriors to improve, they'll have to do a better job of staying out of the trainer's room than they did last season.