Speculation reigned supreme among coaches at the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Media Day, held Tuesday at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
Among the topics of interest was the early departure of several prolific players from the CCHA to the National Hockey League. Ryan Miller, all-American goaltender from Michigan State is the most recent signing but others paved the way this summer.
Miller headed to the Buffalo Sabres. Michigan leading scorer Mike Cammalleri left for the Los Angeles Kings and teammate Mike Komisarek signed with the Montreal Canadiens.
The situation hit closer to home as well as UNO defenseman Bryce Lampman skated away to the New York Rangers organization after just one season with the Mavericks.
Michigan Head Coach Red Berenson, who has been very outspoken against early departure, said: “It’s sad to see so many top players leaving early.”
In an earlier interview, Berenson said: “People are forgetting about development. If [the pro teams] would call the college coaches, the coach would tell them whether or not the player needs more development. There’s not a lot of communication between the pro teams and college coaches.”
Still, Berenson keeps the tunnel vision that has driven the Wolverines to such success in recent years.
“I think every year, your team has a different look to it,” Berenson said, “and Michigan will have a different look without Cammalleri — our key player. But Michigan’s style will not change. I don’t see our team changing.”
Rick Comley faces more than just an all-American goalie departure. He also has to fill the shoes left by legend Ron Mason. Comley joins the Spartan staff after a long career at Northern Michigan.
“You would think after 30 years, this would be old hat, but I’m still getting used to it,” Comley said. “We’re going to miss him (Mason) – his way of doing things. He did so much for college hockey.
“I can’t tell you much about MSU hockey. Until you get out there, you really don’t feel like the coach. I’m anxious to get on the ice.”
And who will fill the open net left by Ryan Miller? Possibly just a wet-nosed pup. Along with sophomore Matt Migliaccio, 17-year-old freshman Justin Tobe might also be called on as a successor.
Walt Kyle, who was a New York Rangers assistant coach the past two seasons, replaces Compley after 26 years. Kyle is also still learning the role.
“I’m going to defer my two minutes to Rick, he knows more about the team than I do,” Kyle joked at the press conference. “I don’t plan on changing much that Rick did.”
UNO also has shuffle cramps to work out. Lampman bailed and two new assistant coaches appeared. Outside that, Head Coach Mike Kemp said this is his youngest team since the inaugural season.
“Our strength will still be our goaltending,” Kemp said. “As Dan Ellis goes, so do the Mavericks. They (the new assistants) both bring a great deal of enthusiasm and that will have an affect on the players.”
Some serious anatomy repair has been done to the team as well. UNO players underwent a collective seven surgeries, including two major knee operations, in the off-season.
Much like every year for about the past decade, Michigan and Michigan State were both voted No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, by the media and the coaches.
Does this mean we are to expect the result? Ferris State Head Coach Bob Daniels said, “There is some opportunity, this could be a season you see someone else at the top spot.”
Daniels isn’t the only one with those sentiments. Bowling Green Head Coach Scott Paluch said: “Once you get past the aura those two teams have, it’s possible to finish ahead. If a team jumps out and makes them play catch up, that’s the way you get first here.”
The Mavericks pulled a No. 5 rank in both polls, which have been inaccurate with respects to middle-of-the-pack dwellers. Alaska-Fairbanks came in to last season picked last and pulled into the offseason with the No. 11 rank in the country, fourth in the league.
UNO’s season starts with an exhibition against Manitoba Oct. 6 before hosting the season-opening Maverick Stampede the following weekend.
1. Michigan (8) 117
2. Michigan State (2) 109
3. Northern Michigan (1) 89
4. Ohio State (1) 88
5. Nebraska-Omaha 87
6. Alaska Fairbanks 74
7. Notre Dame 70
8. Western Michigan 49
9. Ferris State 45
10. Miami 27
11. Bowling Green State 21
12. Lake Superior State 16
1. Michigan (39) 817
2. Michigan State (22) 771
3. Northern Michigan (7) 630
4. Ohio State (3) 586
5. Nebraska-Omaha (1) 561
6. Alaska Fairbanks 542
7. Notre Dame 440
8. Western Michigan 421
9. Ferris State 312
10. Miami 230
11. Bowling Green State 176
12. Lake Superior State 130