NCHC preview: Western Michigan
In 2016-17, Western Michigan finally reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the NCHC era.
Last season the Broncos regressed to four games under .500, posting their second-lowest winning percentage under coach Andy Murray.
But WMU could surprise, as the team returns its top eight points-producers and a talented eight-man freshman class that includes the Broncos’ second-highest NHL draft pick ever.
NCAA titles: 0.
COACH: Andy Murray (9th season, 118-116-34, .504).
2017-18 RECORDS: 15-19-2 (10-13-1 NCHC, 7th place).
POSTSEASON: Swept at Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.
RINK (capacity): Lawson Arena (3,667).
MIAMI VS. WESTERN MICHIGAN LAST SEASON: 2-2.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 68-63-11.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Jan. 11-12 – at Western Michigan; March 8-9 – at Miami.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Dawson DiPietro, F Wade Allison, F Hugh McGing, D Cam Lee, D Corey Schueneman, G Ben Blacker.
KEY NEW FACES: D Matthias Samuelsson, F Paul Cotter, D Jared Kucharek.
KEY LOSSES: D Paul Stoykewych, D Neal Goff.
NOTES: All three of Western Michigan’s 30-point skaters were sophomores last season, and with its top eight points leaders back again this fall, the Broncos’ offense looks formidable.
Dawson DiPietro dressed just once his freshman year but led WMU in assists (22) and points (35) in 2017-18. Wade Allison led the team in goals with 15 and notched 30 points.
Hugh McGing racked up 21 helpers and 30 points overall.
Colt Conrad was another key contributor up front, finishing 9-18-27, and Austin Rueschhoff notched 10 goals as a freshman.
Paul Cotter enters his freshman season after being selected by Las Vegas in the fourth round of this summer’s NHL draft. He was named to the USHL’s all-rookie team in 2017-18 following a 39-point campaign.
Three of the Broncos’ returning defenseman tallied at least 15 points last season, led by Corey Scheuneman’s 26. He scored five times – all on the power play.
Cam Lee picked up six goals and 18 assists, and Luke Bafia racked up 15 assists in addition to his lone goal, which was a game winner.
Mathias Samuelsson, son of former Pittsburgh Penguin Kjell Samuelsson, is expected to make an immediate impact on the blue line. He was drafted by Buffalo with the opening pick of the second round this June, the second earliest any Bronco has ever been selected.
He has played 105 games for the U.S. National Team.
Another newcomer for Western Michigan is Mike Joyaux, the youngest of the three Joyaux brothers. Both Chris and Matt played for Miami.
Following a stellar freshman season, goalie Blacker struggled in 2017-18, going 12-13-2 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .893 save percentage. Neither backup impressed in limited action.
Like many NCHC teams, Western Michigan scored plenty but also gave up its share of markers. The Broncos were No. 11 in the NCAA in goals per game but fourth last in average goals allowed.
NOTE: BoB previewed each opposing NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the seventh and final installment.
Here are the links for the remaining snapshots: