Hockey - Men's - News
A FEW MINUTES WITH ... SCOTT SANDELIN
Thursday, October 4, 2012
The University of Minnesota Duluth awaits the 2012-13 season ready to usher in a somewhat new era of Bulldog hockey. When preseason practice opens Saturday morning, head coach Scott Sandelin will get his first official look at his youngest roster in recent memory. UMD brings in a crop of talented newcomers, but will be tasked with replacing one of the most decorated classes in program history. About to embark on his 13th season behind the UMD bench, Sandelin spent a couple minutes with UMDBulldogs.com to help forecast what the upcoming season might have in store.
What do you see as one of the strong points in your lineup?
Our strength is in our upperclassmen, our returning guys. They've won a lot of games and have built a lot of character. They’re going to epitomize the kind of team we’re going to be.
On the other end of the spectrum, what concerns do you have about your club?
I think it’s like every year. There’s some uncertainties. We have a lot of young guys. We lost scoring and a goaltender who won a national championship. We've got those two areas to solidify. It starts for me in goal, where three guys are battling for a spot. Aaron Crandall is the returning guy who has played. The other two are certainly very capable of competing for playing time. Goal scoring was a concern going into the season last year, but we scored more five-on-five goals than I thought we would. In saying that, it’s going to take some time and we’re going to need some different guys to step up. It’s tough to say how the young guys are going to fare right away but I think there’s a couple that can contribute. Power play and special teams are going to be critical, especially early on.
Is there anyone you see primed for a breakout season based on what you've seen both last year and during the offseason?
I hope Caleb Herbert can build off what he did last year, and I think he’s capable of doing that. Mike Seidel is our top returning goal scorer. Those two come to mind after proving what they can do last year – the last three years in Mike’s case. After that it’s going to be a little bit more by committee. There’s certain individuals that right now, based on what we've seen, are probably trying to do more than they should. That’s always the fear when you lose guys and others want to step up, and it may take away from the effectiveness of what they’ve done up to this point. We need to get everyone to understand what type of player they are and what’s made them successful, and it’s not always just offense. Jake Hendrickson is a great example of that. He’s become a very good two-way center and a key guy for us. He wants to do more offensively, but at the same time, I don’t want that to take away from what he’s done for us in the past. Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley have good offensive abilities and will feel their way through it.
Defensively you return a lot more experience than you do up front. Tell us about what you expect to see on the blue line this winter.
We bring back several players who played and gave us a lot of good minutes on the blue line with Wade Bergman and Drew Olson returning, as well as Chris Casto -- who had a great freshman year. Derik Johnson, Tim Smith and Luke McManus all got minutes and we know they can play at this level. Then you throw in Andy Welinski, who is going to see plenty of playing time and will probably be running our power play. Willie Corrin is another big body. We’ve got good depth throughout our team, we just have a lot of inexperience at this level.
Are there any rookies you could see potentially making an immediate impact?
Cameranesi and Farley, who I talked about previously. Cal Decowski has played a couple years and looked good. Actually, they’ve all looked good. It’s just a matter of translating that to the next level. We know there is going to be ups and downs with that group. The consistency needs to come from our juniors and seniors, as well as some sophomores like Adam Krause and Justin Crandall who played pretty well last year. We need them to keep getting better.
Looking at the pecking order in the WCHA, most pundits seem to place Minnesota as the league favorite. Do you agree with that assessment, and who else do you see being threats to win the conference in 2012-13?
Yes. They return pretty much everybody except for losing Kent Patterson. Then they add a kid like Mike Reilly, who is a dynamic defenseman. They were pretty young at forward last year, and you saw what they did with that team. They’re now a year older and for them it’s solidifying that goaltender position and I think they’re going to have enough fire power up front to maybe carry them until that happens. They’re probably the most experienced. After Minnesota, next is probably North Dakota. Those two have set themselves apart for me. There’s a big group of teams after that. Wisconsin was young last year, and they’ll be better. Denver and St. Cloud -- with Drew LeBlanc coming back and Ben Hanowski. Omaha returns pretty much all of their defensemen and they lost some key forwards, but their defensive corps is solid. Mankato, with their recruiting class as well as a new coach and all the enthusiasm that comes with that. There’s a lot of teams that are in that same boat after the two at the top.
You've been involved with the WCHA as a player and coach for a quite a long time. Can you reflect on the memories you have and what do you hope to accomplish in UMD's last season as a league member?
I’m looking forward to hopefully winning the McNaughton cup. It’s a bittersweet thing, there’s no question. For all of us who have played and coached in the league, to see it kind of dissolve will bring out some emotions in different buildings throughout the year – especially teams that aren’t joining the new league. That will add to the intensity of the games. It’s going to be a very competitive year. It’s a great league. I have a lot of good memories playing and coaching in the WCHA. So on one hand it’s exciting, and on the other hand it’s sad to see it dissolve.
What most excites you about the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which your club will join next year?
The fact that we’re going to be able to see more quality teams in our building on a regular basis. I think that’s what got lost a bit when our league went to 12 teams. You lose some of those rivalries when you go a year to a year and a half without playing some league opponents at home. I'm excited to be able to play North Dakota and St. Cloud four times a year. As well as Denver, teams like that. Competition-wise it’s going to be extremely difficult, much like the WCHA is now. Then adding two very good programs in Miami and Westerm Michigan. We had a great series with Western last year, and Miami is obviously one of the top programs in the nation. Top to bottom it’s going to be more difficult, but our league right now is and always has been extremely tough no matter who you’re playing. That’s just how college hockey is. Some teams in the new league aren’t going to make it to the tournament.
How does carrying an inexperienced roster change your approach as a coach at the beginning of a season?
You’ve got to have more patience. But I think that feeling is the same every year. Each season is a different challenge. You lose some guys to graduation. Lately it’s been both graduation and early departures. I think you kind of go back to assuming they know nothing and implement our strategies as we go. You’ve got to allow those kids to make some mistakes. The consistency level needs to come from our older guys; they can’t be up and down. Obviously we need to find a goaltender because it’s starts there. This is probably one of the younger teams we've had. Three of our freshmen are true freshmen. Charlie Sampair is coming out of high school. Farley is coming off a year and a half of junior, Austyn Young played two years of juniors. But they’re all true freshmen, and not 19, 20, or 21-year-old newcomers.
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