It's one thing to have to rebuild.
After UMD made the 2004 NCAA Frozen Four, UMD was never able to put it together in the 2004-2005 season. A slew of freshmen -- 11 of them -- came on board for the 05-06 campaign, one that saw only 11 wins as UMD tried to rebuild its talent base.
Three years later, UMD was back in the NCAA hunt. The WCHA playoff champions rode the hot stick of senior center MacGregor Sharp and the goaltending of Alex Stalock to a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2005, UMD was rebuilding.
In 2010, UMD was able to reload. Yeah, Evan Oberg left early, and Sharp graduated, and Stalock was long gone, but the Bulldogs brought in freshmen named JT Brown and Justin Faulk, and used the leadership of guys who were around when the team was struggling -- captain Mike Montgomery, for example -- to catapult the program to its first national championship.
Now, Brown is gone, as are star forwards Jack Connolly and Travis Oleksuk, and defenseman Brady Lamb. Goalie Kenny Reiter and his 52 wins are headed to Fort Wayne of the ECHL.
It's time for another reload.
Or, at least that's the plan.
It all starts Friday with Ohio State, another team in flux. The Buckeyes and Bulldogs combine for 32 freshmen and sophomores, and many of those youngsters are expected to make an impact.
Both teams lose leading scorers from last year. Connolly had 60 points at UMD, while Chris Crane led Ohio State with 24. Co-leader Ryan Dzingel returns, and guys like Max McCormick, Curtis Gedig, Darik Angeli, and Tanner Fritz should be better-positioned to do good things and be consistent in the tOSU lineup.
Despite the Columbus location of campus, Ohio State should have a notable cheering section tonight. Seven Buckeyes hail from Minnesota, including former UMD goalie Brady Hjelle and Duluth East graduate Al McLean, a defenseman.
UMD relies on sophomore Caleb Herbert (33 points) and senior Mike Seidel (17 goals) to carry their production over from last season. Herbert will get a chance to center Seidel and sophomore Justin Crandall, who was Herbert's wingman for the first part of last season, before Herbert moved permanently to wing in November.
Freshmen Tony Camaranesi and Austin Farley should make their presence felt up front early, as will young defenseman Andy Welinski, a Duluth native who has two years of USHL experience under his belt after he left high school a year early.
The fact that we're talking about reloading with this program is -- by itself -- a win. UMD won nearly 100 games over the last four years, and with that has come a bit of respect for the program. Despite the uncertainty, UMD is solidly in the top six of the WCHA in the preseason polls, and national rankings list UMD in the top 15.
The lines should look a bit like this Friday (the five skaters not likely to play Friday are marked with an asterisk for their groups):
Justin Crandall - Caleb Herbert - Mike Seidel
Austin Farley - Tony Camaranesi - Joe Basaraba
Cody Danberg - Jake Hendrickson - Keegan Flaherty
Dan DeLisle - Max Tardy - Adam Krause
Charlie Sampair - Cal Decowski - Austyn Young*
Wade Bergman - Chris Casto
Drew Olson - Andy Welinski
Luke McManus - Tim Smith
Willie Corrin - Derik Johnson*
Aaron Crandall - Matt McNeely - Alex Fons
You can find coverage of this weekend's games on 94X, 94.1 FM in the Twin Ports, and 104.3 FM in the surrounding area. Listeners in northeast Minnesota can hear the games on KQ 105.5 FM out of Deer River, or KQ 106.7 FM in Babbitt/Ely.
Online, the games can be found at www.94xrocks.com or this page.
More UMD coverage:
Season preview: Goalies
Season preview: Defensemen
Season preview: Forwards