Thursday, October 06, 2005

WCHA Preview - 3. Colorado College Tigers

For CC, we solicited the participation of dedicated Colorado College fan Jeremy Landis. He was kind enough to help out with info on one of the participants in last year's WCHA Frozen Four.

Last year:
31-9-3, 19-7-2 WCHA (T-1st). Lost to Denver in NCAA semifinal.
Coach: Scott Owens, seventh season (153-76-18)
Top returnees
Marty Sertich, Senior (27-37-64); Brett Sterling, Senior (34-29-63)
Defensemen: Brian Salcido, Junior (7-23-30); Lee Sweatt, Junior (3-25-28)
Goalies: Matt Zaba, Junior (10-5-2, 2.46 GAA, .922 SV%)
Top newcomers: D Cody Lampl; F Andreas Vlassopoulos; C Chad Rau; G Drew O’Connell
Biggest losses: G Curtis McElhinney (21-4-2, 2.24 GAA, .922 SV%); D Mark Stuart (5-14-19, 94 PIM); D Richard Petiot (3-5-8)

Assess your team’s 2004-2005 season. What went right and what went wrong?:
After winning a share of the MacNaughton Cup and making it to the Frozen Four, it is hard to say that much went wrong for CC in 04-05. It can be summed up with one name: Denver Goaltender Peter Mannino, who was dominant in his starts against the Tigers.

The goaltending tandem of Curtis McElhinney and Matt Zaba was superb, the D corps was deep and Brett Sterling and Marty Sertich lead a strong offensive attack. This was a team who consistently outworked their opponents, so they could never be counted out of a game. The biggest highlight of the season was beating Michigan near their own home in a dramatic comeback from 3-0 down, to advance to the Frozen Four.

Assess your team’s overall strengths:
Their top 8 scorers from 04-05 return, including Sterling and Sertich who are as good as any two forwards in the nation. (Both were Hobey Baker finalists in 04-05, with Sertich winning.) Goaltender Matt Zaba has shown flashes of brilliance and should be very good. CC should still be strong on defense, even after losing key blue liners Mark Stuart and Richard Petiot. They have good team speed, so they should be as dangerous as ever on the big ice sheet at World Arena.

Assess your team’s overall weaknesses:
There shouldn’t be many weaknesses. CC’s scoring depth after Sterling and Sertich should be better than 04-05, but is still a question mark going into the new season. They may be undersized, especially on defense.

What is the best-case scenario for your team this year?:
This team has the potential to make the Frozen Four again and compete for a championship if they play up to their potential and stay healthy.

Put your cowbell down and stop yelling at that poor goalie. Be as objective as you can possibly stand to be. Where will your team finish in the WCHA and why?:
As usual, the WCHA is loaded this season. There are too many “what ifs?” to give an exact prediction on CC. They should finish between second and fifth in the WCHA, depending on how well their young players pan out, how well Zaba handles being the #1 goaltender, and whether Sertich and Sterling can come close to duplicating their performances of last year. Even in the worst case, this team is talented enough for a top 5 finish, but if things fall properly into place for the Tigers and if they work as hard as they did in 04-05, the sky is the limit for how good they can be.

Bruce's analysis:
While the sky may be the limit, there are some issues on this team. There are young players on defense that have to prove themselves, and there is the issue, as Jeremy mentions, of how Zaba will handle the job of being the top goaltender. It's one thing to platoon and then sit on the bench while the team competes in the tournaments. It's another to be the go-to goaltender in all the big games. Zaba unquestionably has the talent. Sertich and Sterling, along with guys like Aaron Slattengren, will do their thing, and the Tigers will score goals-a-plenty. But I think the defense will be a bit leakier than last year, and that will relegate CC to a third-place finish, which should be plenty good enough for an NCAA bid. If Zaba comes into form, the Tigers will threaten another trip to the Frozen Four.

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