The NCHC rankings with an order of finish based on preseason predictions of The World-Herald’s Rob White. As published in The World-Herald on Oct. 11.
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Preseason rankings: No. 2/No. 2
2012-13 record: 25-12-5, 17-7-4 (1st CCHA)
The RedHawks lost in regional final to St. Cloud State last year in seventh straight trip to the NCAA tournament, despite a lineup of 12 freshmen. They are a contender to make their third Frozen Four trip in six seasons behind Hobey Baker Award finalists Austin Czarnik, a forward who had 14 goals and 26 assists for 40 points last season, and four key sophomores — forward Riley Barber (18-21-39), defenseman Matthew Caito (5-16-21) and goalies Ryan McKay (1.39 goals-against average, .946 save percentage) and Jay Williams (1.94 GAA and .924 save percentage).
ST. CLOUD STATE
Preseason rankings: No. 9/No. 9
2012-13 record: 25-16-1, 18-9-1 (tied 1st WCHA)
The Huskies' MacNaughton Cup (WCHA regular-season title) and Frozen Four season had much to do with the play of Hobey Baker Award winner Drew LeBlanc (13-37-50), forward Ben Hanowski (17-14-31) and defenseman Nick Jensen (4-27-31), who signed with Detroit after his junior season — but just about everybody else is back to play in a renovated arena. The list of key returnees includes forwards Nic Dowd (14-25-39), Jonny Brodzinski (22-11-33) and Kalle Kossila (15-18-33) and goalie Ryan Faragher (24-14-1, 2.28 GAA, .914 save percentage).
Preseason rankings: No. 7/No. 7
2012-13 record: 22-13-7, 14-9-5 (3rd WCHA)
Despite the contributions of star forwards Danny Kristo (26-26-52) and Corban Knight (16-33-49) — both seniors — North Dakota failed to win either the WCHA regular-season or playoff title or reach the Frozen Four for the first time in 11 seasons. But don't fret for North Dakota, despite losing a high-scoring class of six seniors this is still another highly talented group. In addition to forward Rocco Grimaldi (13-23-36) and goalies Clarke Saunders and Zane Gothberg, North Dakota has added another impressive recruiting class with six NHL draft picks.
Preseason rankings: No. 17/unranked
2012-13 record: 20-14-5, 14-9-5 (tied 4th WCHA)
Always enigmatic, the Pioneers made a late-season surge, lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, fired coach George Gwozdecky, then lost forward Nick Shore and goalie Juho Olkinoura early to the pros. Still, expectations are high for first-year coach Jim Montgomery, and goalie Sam Brittain, an NHL draft pick who was eventually beaten out by Olkinoura, is a big reason why. So, too, are defensemen Joey LaLeggia and David Makowski. But then the Pioneers lost their exhibition game to New Brunswick, so go figure.
Preseason rankings: No. 18/unranked
2012-13 record: 19-11-8, 15-7-6 (3rd CCHA)
The Broncos didn't score much to begin with, but then they lost co-scoring leader Dane Walters (12-13-25) to graduation, defenseman Danny DeKeyser a year early to the Red Wings and incoming first-round draft pick Mike McCarron to the Canadiens. But they do have goalie Frank Slubowski, who was 19-11-9 with a 2.00 GAA and .918 save percentage, and their five highest scorers other than Walters. And only a late-season slide — 1-5-3 in its last nine games — prevented Western from a third trip to the NCAA tournament in four seasons.
Preseason rankings: none
2012-13 record: 14-19-15, 10-13-5 (9th WCHA)
No need to tell UNO how much Bulldogs improved as last year progressed — after sweeping them in Omaha by a combined 9-5 in November, the Mavericks were thumped 9-4 in Duluth on the final weekend of the regular season, when UNO had home ice to play for and UMD was shooting for ninth place. Three years removed from their national title, the Bulldogs have some key pieces in place, led by sophomores Austin Farley (16-18-34) and Tony Cameranesi (14-20-34). The five highest scorers other than power-play sniper Mike Seidel (17-17-34) are in tow.
Preseason rankings: none
2012-13 record: 19-18-2, 14-12-2 (7th WCHA)
Another offseason departure, this time from dismissed high-scoring forward Matt White, has the Mavs seemingly looking for that one missing piece again. Losing defenseman Andrej Sustr a year early to the NHL doesn't sting as much, only because it was expected. Still, if forward Ryan Walters makes another Hobey Baker bid, Josh Archibald and Dominic Zombo can duplicate their sophomore successes and center Jake Guentzel is as good as advertised, there should be plenty of offense. Blue line isn't as deep as last year, and goalie Ryan Massa comes back after playing only briefly last year.
Preseason rankings: none
2012-13 record: 18-19-5, 11-13-4 (8th WCHA)
CC's stunning late-season turnaround included a playoff series win at Denver, then stunning upsets in the Final Five of North Dakota and Minnesota before the Tigers were beaten in the WCHA championship. But it will be hard to build on that with four of the top five scorers and their top goaltender having departed. Alexander Krushelnyski (15-28-43) leads the list of returners, and the blue line could be better with the addition of two NHL draft picks. Goalie Josh Thorimbert was All-WCHA as a sophomore.