Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Season Preview: Western Michigan

Head Coach Jim Culhane says:
"We had a great off-season at Western Michigan. I thought our players did a great job in the weight room improving on their athleticism and their strength. In addition to that, I'm very proud that we did a great job last semester and last year in the classroom with a roster of 27 student-athletes. I think at times we can put this on the back burner, but our team grade-point average was a 3.30 with three guys with 4.0 and graduating five student-athletes on time where these young men are competing over four years and not red shirting like some of the other intercollegiate sports at the Division I level and guys walking out with their degrees in four years. We are very proud of that at Western Michigan. We are looking forward to the challenges of the upcoming season. Some key losses for us were the early signing to Mark Letestu, who signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the loss to graduation of Ryan Szczechura and Ryan Mahrle. We feel we have a good core group returning led by our netminder Riley Gill, who was also on the All-Rookie team. On the blue line, I feel we have some depth there with senior Nathan Ansell, Jonathan Lupa, a couple of juniors in Steve Silver and Chris Frank and sophomore Tyler Ludwig. Up front, looking at key contributors in the upcoming season, Jeff LoVecchio, Jeff Pierce, Brian Bicek, I think will be key contributors for us. Someone we expect to have a real big year for us is Patrick Galivan with some sprinkling in from our freshmen class with a couple guys that were drafted this past June in Max Campbell, a Ranger draft, and Ryan Watson, who was a Florida draft. We are excited about the upcoming season and looking forward to the challenges."

WCH says:

Western Michigan surprised everyone last year. They were almost universally picked to finish near the bottom of the league, and somehow, quietly snuck into 6th place by the end of the season. Interestingly, Western Michigan somehow managed to finish conference play with a winning record despite giving up more goals than they scored.

There were two main keys to the Broncos success last season. The first was the scoring punch provided by CCHA freshman of the year Mark Letestu and senior Paul Szczechura, and the second was the emergence of freshman goalie Riley Gill.

Gill is back for his sophomore season, and should have an experienced defense playing in front of him. For many years, the Broncos biggest problem has been keeping the puck out of the net, but that looks like it will be an area of strength this year.

The big question will come on offense. Szczechrua graduated, and Letestu signed a contract with the Pittsburgh, leaving a little bit of a hole on the top line. Wings Jeff LoVecchio and Jeff Pierce each scored over 30 points last year, and return, but the biggest Broncos offense will rely on the impact of some of their newcomers.

Freshman Max Campbell joins the Broncos after a record-setting performance in the Western Ontario Jr. B league, and has a chance to be a huge contributor. He was drafted in the 5th round of the NHL draft by the New York Rangers. He looks like he could have a huge impact playing between some of Western's more experienced wings. I wouldn't be surprised if Western had the CCHA rookie of the year for a second straight year.