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Depth in net absent from WCHA

Your favorite goaltender is gone and you're concerned. You should be. Some of the greats in Western Collegiate Hockey Association history were seniors last season -- six in all -- who combined to play in 568 games with 295 wins and 53 shutouts. T...

Your favorite goaltender is gone and you're concerned. You should be.

Some of the greats in Western Collegiate Hockey Association history were seniors last season -- six in all -- who combined to play in 568 games with 295 wins and 53 shutouts. Two were on NCAA championship teams.

Kellen Briggs of Minnesota, Brian Elliott of Wisconsin, Bobby Goepfert of St. Cloud State, Matt Zaba of Colorado College, Glenn Fisher of Denver and Josh Johnson of Minnesota Duluth were the marquee names.

"The depth in goaltending last year was probably as good as it's been in our league,'' Minnesota coach Don Lucia said.

Not-so-recognizable players got to state their cases last weekend as the 2007-08 regular season opened. Four recorded shutouts, including Minnesota Duluth sophomore Alex Stalock and St. Cloud State sophomore Jase Weslosky, who face each other Friday at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center as the league season opens.

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Stalock, however, is something of a veteran, having played in 23 games as a freshman. Weslosky, from St. Albert, Alberta, appeared in three games last season and will be a key player this winter in St. Cloud State's bid to return to the NCAA tournament. Can he replace Goepfert?

"Jase looked really good [in a 7-0 season-opening win] against Canisius, but he's part of a young team,'' said St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko, in his third year. "We were a team that succeeded last year because of upperclassmen. This season will be more turbulent. We'll be up and down like a yo-yo and the question is, 'How quickly can we stop the bouncing?' ''

Other teams with new goalies are asking the same question.

Elliott left Wisconsin with a fistful of school, league and NCAA Division I records. Briggs left Minnesota with the most wins in WCHA history (84). Zaba was Colorado College's MVP last season.

Twelve WCHA players with eligibility remaining also were lost to professional hockey, including UMD sophomores Matt Niskanen and Mason Raymond.

But the reigning Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner, junior forward Ryan Duncan of North Dakota, has returned and the WCHA got the season off to a good start last weekend with a 10-2-3 record, all in nonconference games.

While the WCHA's string of five straight Division I titles was broken in April, top-ranked North Dakota regained some of the league's prestige by beating defending NCAA champion Michigan State 6-0 in Saturday's U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game in Grand Forks, N.D.

The 2008 NCAA tournament will have a distinct WCHA flavor. Two regional tournaments are in WCHA rinks -- West in Colorado Springs and Midwest in Madison -- and the Frozen Four will be at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

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A look at the WCHA

( In order of the 2007 regular-season finish)

1. Minnesota (2-0 this season, 31-10-3 last season)

2007 finish: Lost in West Regional final to North Dakota

Good: Gophers still have three No. 1 NHL draft picks

Bad: Defensemen Alex Goligoski, Erik Johnson and Mike Vannelli are gone

Notable: Northland freshmen Patrick White and Cade Fairchild played opening weekend

2. St. Cloud State (1-0-1 this season, 22-11-7 last season)

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2007 finish: Lost in East Regional semifinal to Maine

Good: Tiny Ryan Lasch already has four assists

Bad: No Goepfert

Notable: Bulldog-killer Dan Kronick has left the building

3. North Dakota (1-0 this season, 24-14-5 last season)

2007 finish: Lost in NCAA semifinals to Boston College

Good: Offense, offense, offense

Bad: Not much

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Notable: Ryan Duncan and friends have made a pact ... to keep winning

4. Denver (2-0 this season, 21-15-4 last season)

2007 finish: Lost in WCHA's first round to Wisconsin

Good: Stellar sophomores Rhett Rakhshani, Tyler Ruegsegger, Brock Trotter

Bad: Pressure to make Frozen Four in Denver

Notable: A gigantic freshmen class is talented

5. Colorado College (0-0 this season, 18-17-4 last season)

2007 finish: Lost in WCHA's first round to Michigan Tech

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Good: No early player defections

Bad: No Zaba

Notable: Freshman forward Tyler Johnson of Cloquet has been slowed by sore hip

6. Michigan Tech (1-1 this season, 18-17-5 last season)

2007 finish: Lost in WCHA quarterfinal to Wisconsin

Good: Lots of defense led by goalies Rob Nolan and Michael-Lee Teslak

Bad: Questionable offense

Notable: Four of six goals opening weekend were on power plays

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7. Wisconsin (1-1 this season, 19-18-4 last season)

2007 finish: Beat St. Cloud State in WCHA third-place game

Good: Forward Kyle Turris is ranked as the top rookie in Division I

Bad: Goalie Brian Elliott's eligibility expired

Notable: Thirteen freshmen and sophomores mean question marks

8. Minnesota State-Mankato (0-0 this season, 13-19-6 last season)

2007 finish: Lost in WCHA's first round at North Dakota

Good: Coach Troy Jutting signed a two-year contract in March

Bad: Travis Morin and Steve Wagner are no longer Mavericks

Notable: Mankato has some snappy new uniforms

9. Minnesota Duluth (1-0-1 this season, 13-21-5 last season)

2007 finish: Lost in WCHA's first round at St. Cloud State

Good: Mobile defensemen are UMD's strength

Bad: Active career goal-scoring leader has 19

Notable: In last six home games, UMD has three shutouts and allowed seven goals

10. Alaska Anchorage (1-0-1 this season, 13-21-5 last season)

2007 finish: Lost in WCHA's first round at Minnesota

Good: Seawolves challenged Minnesota in the 2007 WCHA playoffs

Bad: Seawolves were still 3-13-1 the final 17 games last season

Notable: A rally to tie No. 9 Boston University last Saturday could help

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