October 1, 2009
INCH Power Rankings: The Great 58

Related Links
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 among the top 15 or top 20 in the nation. Whether near the top or near the bottom, each program is unique.

There are plenty of challenges that lie ahead as we enter the 2009-10 season. As the Inside College Hockey editors and staff ranked the nation's top teams, we also highlight a reason each teams should be optimistic heading into the year.

No. Team

Reason for Optimism

1. Denver How deep are the Pioneers? Sophomore forward Luke Salazar, who scored 15 goals as a rookie, could conceivably be a third-liner. Yikes.
2. Notre Dame Now that Jordan Pearce is gone, the goaltending is a question mark. But the defensemen, led by Ian Cole and Kyle Lawson, rates an exclamation point.
3. Miami Forget about April. The Redhawks' top six forwards are as good as any half dozen in the country, and they've got a formidable one-two punch in goal with Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard.
4. Boston University Don’t think of the players lost, think of the players returning—Bonino, MIllan, Shattenkirk, Cohen, etc.
5. Michigan The S.S. Wolverine will sail to another top-three showing in the CCHA standings thanks to a balanced attack led by 24-goal scorer Louie Caporusso and an underappreciated group of defensemen.
6. North Dakota With just three seniors (Chay Genoway, Chris VandeVelde, and Darcy Zajac) on the roster, the Fighting Sioux might be a year away ... but still have a pretty good shot at making a run to the Frozen Four this year.
7. Cornell Most of the team’s key players return from a team that was one bad period away from the Frozen Four.
8. Princeton ECAC Hockey is a goalie’s league and the Tigers might have the circuit’s best in Zane Kalemba.
9. UMass Lowell Having one legitimate first team all-league defenseman is a good start, but even better for the River Hawks is that they have two in Nick Schaus and Maury Edwards.
10. Minnesota The incoming freshmen are highly touted, and forward Jordan Schroeder and all but three contributors from last year are back. Now, if the guys who are a year older are also a year better ...
11. Yale The Bulldogs took some people by surprise last year. The surprise this year would be if they’re not back in the NCAA Tournament.
12. St. Cloud State All indications are that freshman goaltender Michael Lee is the real deal. The Huskies' nucleus of forwards Ryan Lasch and Garrett Roe and defenseman Garrett Raboin is solid.
13. Wisconsin The star-studded Badger blue line gets yet another marquee name in British Columbia Hockey League standout.Justin Schultz. Don't overlook a productive group of senior forwards led by Blake Geoffrion.
14. Air Force Goaltender Andrew Volkening will be the key for the Falcons if they are able to back up last year’s impressive run through Atlantic Hockey and into the NCAA Tournament’s second round.
15. Vermont Rob Madore took over the starting goaltending job in the second half last year and led the Catamounts to the Frozen Four with a .912 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average.
16. Boston College After three straight trips to the championship game, BC didn’t even make the tournament. The optimism? Absences aren’t common for the Eagles. They’ll be back.
17. Ohio State The Buckeyes, a surprise NCAA Tournament entrant in 2009, had nine players score 20-plus points last season. Eight of them return—and none are seniors.
18. New Hampshire Mike Sislo went from three goals as a freshman to 19 as a sophomore. He’s got the talent and ability to improve on that mark this year as a junior.
19. Northern Michigan Seven of the team's top eight scorers from a year ago are back, led by terrific junior forward Mark Olver, who's scored 73 points in 79 career games, and classmate Erik Gustafsson, a defenseman with 61 career points.
20. Bemidji State The Beavers can look forward to a new arena and a new conference in the near future, but also to the opportunity in front of them now to build on last year’s success.
21. Harvard Louis Leblanc is the new name that everyone’s talking about, but goalie Kyle Richter returns after a one-year hiatus and that’s even more important for the Crimson.
22. Minnesota Duluth If a promising group of freshmen can emulate the success the young Connollys (Jack and Mike, who combined for 71 points) had last season, the 'Dogs could be in line for a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
23. Mercyhurst Ryan Zapolski emerged as one of the league’s top goalies and the Lakers will always score lots of goals. Steve Cameron and Scott Pitt are back after combining for 95 points last year.
24. Nebraska-Omaha Dean Blais can coach up hockey players a little bit. You won't find another program in the country with more optimism heading into the season.
25. Minnesota State Not only does forward Kael Mouillierat boast one of college hockey's great names, he's also a pretty good player. He and defenseman Kurt Davis are a dangerous one-two punch.
26. Northeastern The Huskies will need to find a goalie, but the likes of Wade MacLeod, Steve Quailer, and Alex Tuckerman should provide enough offense to carry NU in the early going.
27. Union We think Union will learn from last year’s close losses and turn them into wins, and a strong corps of veteran forwards matches up favorably with every other group in the league.
28. Massachusetts James Marcou has averaged more than a point per game through his first two seasons and had 47 points last year. Look for big things in his junior campaign.
29. Colorado College Lots of question marks in Tiger country; the team's strength is its defensive corps, led by Gabe Guentzel, and Nate Prosser.
30. Alaska The Nanooks found a formula last season that led them to the CCHA semifinals. Departed goalie Chad Johnson was a big part of said formula, but returnee Scott Greenham showed promise in limited duty.
31. RIT The Tigers pushed Air Force to the bitter end last year but came up just short. Still, the 23-win season was its best as a Division I team and something to build on.
32. Dartmouth Where the Big Green had questions at this time last year – goaltending – they have an answer now in Jody O’Neill.
33. Niagara Seniors Chris Moran and Egor Mironov will lead the offense and both will likely surpass the 100-career point mark to cap their excellent Purple Eagles careers.
34. Maine Super sophomores Gustav Nyquist, Scott Darling, and Brian Flynn will lead the way for an improving Maine team.
35. Colgate A player like David McIntyre gives Colgate something to hang its hat on every night. Hat, as in hat tricks, which he might accomplish regularly.
36. Ferris State The Bulldogs struggled to score goals a year ago. Good thing their top returnees are a defenseman (junior Zach Redmond) and a goalie (sophomore Taylor Nelson).
37. Rensselaer We’ve touted Rensselaer’s recruiting classes for three years in a row. Talent is no longer the problem in Troy.
38. Alaska Anchorage The forward trio of Kevin Clark, Tommy Grant, and Josh Lunden return. The three combined to score 42 goals last season.
39. Michigan State Everything can't go wrong for the Spartans like it did last season, can it? Speedy forward Daultan Leveille is a year older and, more importantly, a year stronger. He could be poised for a breakout this year.
40. Clarkson A disappointing campaign caused some positive changes in attitude at Clarkson and the Golden Knights are poised for a bounce-back year.
41. Canisius The Griffs return 12 of their 13 leading scorers from last year and finished in the top half of the Atlantic Hockey standings. Look for a repeat of that this year.
42. Michigan Tech Tthe Huskies were 1-6-7 in WCHA games decided by a goal or less. Forwards Jordan Baker and Brett Olson and defensemen Deron Cousens and Drew Dobson provide a solid foundation.
43. St. Lawrence Despite all of the losses to graduation on the blueline, leading scorer Mike McKenzie is back, along with starting goalie Alex Petizian.
44. Quinnipiac The Bobcats’ top two scorers are gone, but they still return three players that scored 11 goals or more in Jean-Marc Beaudoin, Eric Lampe and Scott Zurevinski.
45. Providence Both of the team’s 10-goal scorers last year – Matt Berglund and John Cavanagh – are back with the Friars this year.
46. Lake Superior State The Lakers were two games under .500 on Feb. 1 of last season before running out of gas and losing nine of their last 11. Senior forwards Zac MacVoy and Nathan Perkovich won't let that happen this time around.
47. Merrimack The Warriors graduated two seniors who played a combined total of 16 games last year. Returning players have a better understanding of what it takes to compete in one of the nation’s most difficult conferences.
48. Western Michigan Riley Gill gave Western Michigan its best goaltending in years last season. Forwards Max Campbell and Greg Squires should approach the 35-point mark this year, and rookie defenseman Luke Witkowski is highly touted.
49. Holy Cross Just one senior played regularly in the Crusaders’ lineup last year. Another year of experience and four returning players that scored at least 11 goals give fans something to look forward to.
50. Robert Morris Chris Margott graduated but the next three leading scorers on the team are returning juniors, led by standout forward Nathan Longpre.
51. Brown New coach Brendan Whittet was a former player at Brown and had success there and as an assistant at Dartmouth. They won’t be pushovers anymore.
52. Army Senior Owen Meyer had 19 goals last year and junior Cody Omilusik scored 13. That’s a decent support system for returning goalie Jay Clark (.914 sv pct, 2.98 GAA).
53. Bowling Green There's still a team at Bowling Green—based on the chatter during the off-season, that wasn't always a foregone conclusion. A plan to revive the program and a new coach in Dennis Williams should spark optimism.
54. Bentley The Falcons went 13-7-1 down the stretch last year and finished fourth in the league, ending the year with a winning record. It was the best season in program history.
55. Sacred Heart Senior Erik Boisvert had a breakout year with 15 goals and 14 assists. He and classmate Dave Jarman (11-18–29) will be a key to the Pioneers’ offense.
56. Connecticut A very young UConn team lost just four seniors to graduation and returning experience could help the Huskies increase their win total this year.
57. American International Senior captain Chris Campanale led the team in points last year and the Yellow Jackets return four of their top five scorers.
58. Alabama-Huntsville It seems like nothing’s going right for the Chargers, but junior goalie Cameron Talbot is arguably the league’s best and that’s a good foundation to start building from.