Preseason Top 16: #16 Northern Michigan
Howdy, folks. It’s that time of year again. Every so often The College Hockey Blog will be unveiling our Preseason top 16 teams, one by one. If you want to see the top 16 in order, and links to each individual preview, click the tab at the top of the page. Today’s team is #16 Northern Michigan
Last year Northern Michigan went just 19-17-5 in the regular season, which could be considered a disappointment due to the high hopes they had at the beginning of the season, but they turned it on in the postseason, beating Miami in a CCHA playoff series and taking 3rd in the CCHA Tournament. The Wildcats were middle of the pack both in scoring (tied for 6th) and defense (tied for 5th) and look to take another leap forward with a talented and experienced roster.Last year Junior goalie Brian Stewart took his GAA down about .3 and his save percentage up from .918 to .925. The Wildcats are going to see if they can get yet more improvement out of the goalie. If not, Sophomore Devan Hartigan will be there and willing to take his spot between the pipes. Up front, Northern returns their top 6 goal scorers, and defenseman Erik Gustafsson who put up a 34 point season, even though he only had 4 goals. A pair of Juniors, Mark Oliver and Gregor Hanson, will be back to lead the offense. Oliver, from Marquette, led the team in goals and points with 16 and 35.
Northern Michigan doesn’t have a ton of defensive depth (although they do have Gustafsson and his 30 assists), but I was impressed by Ben Lindemulder, who had a very good Freshman season and has a lot of potential to build on. The Wildcats have some interesting recruits coming in, but many of the best ones are in 2010. Austin Handley should be this year’s version of Lindemulder however, a solid defenseman with some potential to develop.
Northern Michigan should see an uptick of about 5 wins or so, and I think they’ll get to 20-23 wins and depending on the strength of the CCHA could sneak into the tournament.