Man, what a great year. Never expected the McNaughton Cup, making it that much sweeter. Bummed about the Broadmoor, but stuff happens in a single elimination tournament. NCAA's went pretty much as I thought they would. The game I was most unsure about was the BU game, I KNEW they'd beat the Whiox and was ecstatic when we got placed in the same regional as them. They had to be one of the more overrated #1 seeds in a long time. As much as I was hoping they'd find a way past BC, they just looked like they were peaking at the right time and were going to be very difficult to beat. That being said, I was proud of how well the boys played in that game until BC managed to convert and open the floodgates. The Gophers convert on a couple of those early opportunities and it is a completely different game... Nice to see them lose Kreider and Doumalin, otherwise it would have been tough to see anybody get by them next year. They'll still be tough, glad they aren't in our conference. It will be interesting to see if Milner is really that good, or if he just got hot at the end of the year.
Huge optimism for next year! Regardless of what happens with Bjugstad, they are going to have an awesome defensive corps and still plenty of firepower at forward, especially now that we know Haula is staying. Can't imagine what it will be like if Bjugstad stays and we keep that first line intact. I just can't get over how blessed we are at defense. Unless there is an unexpected early departure, we will have the same starting 6 defenseman that we had this year and it turned out to be a strength for us. Give them all a year of experience and they will be formidable. NOW, throw in a couple of elite recruits and you'll create competition for ice time and force everybody to work harder for ice time. Our defense should be among the top corp in the NCAA's next year.
Goaltending seems to be the only real question mark, and I am not that concerned about it, especially since our D should be so stacked. Patterson was obviously pretty solid, but I'll go on record as saying that I don't think he was as elite as people made him out to be. He threw a bunch of shutouts early in the year, and his overall numbers were obviously pretty good, but he didn't exactly steal any games for us either, and in two of the biggest games of the year (Whioux in Final Five and BC in FF) he didn't really do much to keep us in the game. I'm not suggesting that he let in a bunch of goals that he shouldn't have, but after watching Milner you realized that there was a whole other level of play that was absent from Patterson's game. Again, not a knock on him, because he was solid, but in those big games at the end of the year you sometimes need your goaltender to go above and beyond and I don't think he was able to do that. I think he may have gotten burned out. If you take away those first couple of months where he threw a bunch of shutouts against Sacred Heart, Vermont, Alaska Anchorage, I think his numbers for the rest of the season were good, but not great. With an even better and more experienced D corps next year, I think that we will rely less on our goaltender. Wish we had him back, but unless Shibrowski and Wilcox both turn out to be busts, I think we'll be OK.
Tough part about next year is that anything less than a McNaughton, Boradmoor, and NCAA Championship game will probably be a disappointment, unless we get hit with a bunch of unexpected departures or injuries. Gonna be a LONG summer.... I haven't been this optimistic in years!