The very interesting dynamic in Division II has presented an equally interesting regular and post-season over the past few years. There is little doubt that will change in 2012-13.
Much like in DI, a conference championship is always preferable for any team simply to ensure a high regional ranking. However, the regional tournament format has proven capable of producing a number of surprises and dark horse candidates for the National Title.
Now that the season is in full swing, there are plenty of annual favorites to keep an eye on as the season progresses towards completion and the crowning of a new National Champion.
Conference Confidence: As is true for every school at every level of the ACHA, a conference championship is at the top of nearly every team’s set of goals for the season. Seen by most as a key to reaching Regionals, every team across the country knows the need to end the season at the top of their respective conferences.
Defense First: In additional to the typical need for tremendous goaltending, many clubs have pointed to their blueline as a pivotal piece to their success for the season. For example, Carl Trosien notes his All-American candidate, Evan Weber as a player who will play a major role for Northern Michigan this season.
Key Experience: Youthful teams always have a higher learning curve compared to teams like Michigan State or GVSU who seemingly find themselves in the thick of the national conversation each season. Whether you look at perennial powers or team that may fly under the radar, experienced play has been pointed to as a key to any form of success.
There is Something About Michigan: Some of the best hockey in the ACHA seems to be played in the hotbed state of Michigan. MSU, GVSU and many other clubs are proving on a yearly basis that they are the teams to beat throughout DII. Heading into this season, a chic dark horse pick is Northern Michigan, adding to the competition throughout the state.
Great Expecations: Every team’s goal is to win their conference, get to regionals and succeed at Nationals. However, the specific goal of earning a regional berth seems to be what everyone is looking for. It is almost as if the attitude is to earn a regional berth because anything can happen once a team is in.
Road to Nationals:
- Plenty of buzzwords were tossed around teams with their eye on nationals. Chemistry, depth and goaltending were likely the most popular. Although, every team identified their own specific expectations and needs.
- In order for [us] to get to nationals we must create an identity as a team. What I mean by that is that last year’s team came together so well and the team understood that we were a gritty, hard-nosed squad. With the season just beginning this year it is up to the players to come together and recognize their talents and use them in a way that will be successful. – Bill Manning (Robert Williams)
- I think [the key for nationals] is off-ice. The increased media before you leave and the 4 days in hotels and meals out. We as coaches need to make sure we keep our players in their regular routines and try and manage the excitement and emotions of a first [National Tournament].