The Greatest

10 greatest WCHA freshman seasons since realignment

greatest WCHA freshman seasons since realignment Austin Cangelosi Boston College Justin Kapelmaster Ferris State
Justin Kapelmaster was the second of two Ferris State freshman goalies who have turned in an outstanding year since the program joined the WCHA in 2013. (Photo by Jenn Hoffman/Pucks and Recreation)

The WCHA has a long and storied history in NCAA hockey. Since the conferences realigned four seasons ago, the member teams have changed, but impressive performances have remained.

Many will point to scoreboards, power rankings and national tournament fields and say the league has taken a step back in competitive quality. But there have been a number of outstanding WCHA freshman seasons in recent years, a sign that the new-look league has a collective foundation for a resurgence.

Of particular note, numerous post-realignment WCHA teams have been backstopped by freshmen. Many of those goaltenders will be back for more in 2017-18. Those who are not returning leave a lofty bar for their successors.

While the WCHA has been around since the 1959-60 season, this list only considers the four seasons since the conferences realigned. As the first freshman classes to enroll after realignment moves on, the incoming fifth classes of this era have the following standards to reach for.

10. Brandon Hawkins, Bowling Green, 2014-15

Hawkins led WCHA rookies and was eighth in the conference overall with 30 points (16 goals and 14 assists). This led his team, and he was named the Falcons MVP for the performance that season. He also earned a spot on the conference all-rookie team.

A third of his points came on the power play, and he also tallied four game-winning goals.

9. Shane Hanna, Michigan Tech, 2013-14

Hanna tied for fifth among scoring by defensemen in the WCHA, first among rookie defensemen with 23 points on four goals and 19 assists. This earned him a spot on the conference all-rookie team.

Hanna was particularly effective in conference play for the Huskies, tallying 22 points in 22 games. This was tops among defensemen and first among rookies.

8. Alex Globke, Lake Superior State, 2013-14

Globke scored 12 goals and had 19 assists for 31 points in 36 games played. This led his team and rookies in the conference. Those numbers also placed him among the nation’s top 10 rookies, and among the top 10 skaters in the conference.

He was named the WCHA rookie of the year and earned a spot on the all-rookie team for his performance.

greatest WCHA freshman seasons since realignment Darren Smith Ferris State

Darren Smith set the bar for Kapelmaster one year in advance by backstopping the Bulldogs to an automatic NCAA tournament bid. (Photo by Jenn Hoffman/Pucks and Recreation)

7. Ian Scheid, Minnesota State, 2016-17

Scheid ranked fifth in the WCHA in scoring by defensemen during his freshman year. He scored eight goals and had 16 helpers for 24 points in 29 games. This also ranked third in the conference among all freshmen. This performance earned him a spot on the conference all-rookie team.

6. Justin Kapelmaster, Ferris State, 2016-17

Kapelmaster stepped in and solidified the goaltending situation for the Bulldogs this past season. He ended up going 10-4-3 with a 2.22 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and two shutouts.

His save percentage ranked fifth in the nation, second among freshmen.

5. Darren Smith, Ferris State, 2015-16

Smith was one of the top rookie netminders in the nation, going 17-10-5 with a 2.33 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and three shutouts. He backstopped the Bulldogs all the way to the regional finals in the NCAA tournament before ultimately coming up short against Denver.

He was the MVP of the conference tournament, going 4-0 with a .948 save percentage and 1.25 goals-against average. College Hockey Hews named him to its all-rookie team as a result of his impressive campaign.

4. Angus Redmond, Michigan Tech, 2016-17

Redmond made his first start on Oct. 28, and pitching a shutout against Northern Michigan. From that point on, he was the starting netminder for the Huskies, and went on to lead freshmen goalies in GAA. He finished 22-10-5 with a 1.85 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in what ended up being his only college season.

Like Smith the year prior, Redmond especially stood out in the conference tournament. He carried the team to the NCAA tournament on the heels of a 36-save performance in a double overtime 3-2 victory in the WCHA championship game.

His impressive campaign earned him an entry-level deal with the Anahiem Ducks.

greatest WCHA freshman seasons since realignment

In 2016-17, Marc Michaelis had the most prolific WCHA freshman season since North Dakota’s Rocco Grimaldi in 2012-13, the final year before realignment. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

3. Marc Michaelis, Minnesota State, 2016-17

Michaelis led all WCHA scorers during his freshman campaign. His 14 goals and 22 assists for 36 points in 39 games played rank second in Maverick history for rookie scoring.

Among his goals were six power-play and two shorthanded tallies. For that output, he was named to the all WCHA first- and rookie-teams and was the rookie of the year.

2.  Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State, 2014-15

Bitzer didn’t take long to make a name for himself at the collegiate level. He started the first game of his freshman season for the Beavers, making 25 saves en route to an incredible 5-1 road upset of then-No. 2 North Dakota.

He continued to play well throughout the season, amassing a 14-11-3 record with a 1.80 GAA and .929 save percentage. This earned him a spot on the conference all-rookie team and he was named the WCHA rookie of the year.

1. Cole Huggins, Minnesota State, 2013-14

Huggins’ best collegiate year was his freshman campaign. He went 21-8-1 with a 1.88 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage and six shutouts. All three of those stats set rookie records for Minnesota State.

Huggins won the WCHA goaltending championship (best GAA in league games) and earned spots on the all-rookie team and second all-star team. He was also named to the CHN all-rookie team.

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Andrew Wisneski

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