Mark Smith, Justin Bourne, Charlie Kronschnabel, Chad Anderson and Nick Lowe are the Senior Class this coming year. It's significant. Seniors bring leadership and experience. Take a look at the top 3 teams in the WCHA for the last few years and you see some interesting names amongst the seniors. Interesting because a lot of them are names that I wouldn't classify as household. These are guys that stepped up their game in their last season. They're players that made their last season into their best season. Guys like Luke Fulghum at DU in 04-05 who scored 9 more goals as a senior than he did his junior year. Or his teammate that season Jeff Drummond who scored 39 points as a senior versus 28 as a junior. And from the same squad Kevin Ulanski made his senior year his best. No doubt the vastly talented other three classes had a lot to do with DU winning it all that year ... but if those three guys didn't step up their play? The coolest thing about that example though is that none of those guys moved on to NHL careers. Why is that cool? Well not cool for them but cool to me because it says a lot about experience versus talent. It says that those guys learned during their four year career how to improve their contribution to the teams bottom line. They weren't freshman superstar primadonna's waiting for their big payday. They were dedicated and hardworking guys giving it their all night in and night out. They were leaders.
So will Smith, Bourne, Kronschnabel, Anderson and Lowe be able to provide the same sort of contribution or leadership this season? I don't know is the only rational answer that comes to me; I'm no Kreskin. But I can make one more example of a senior that succeeded in a massive way. Martin Stuchlik scored NO goals as a freshman in 16 games. In 40 games over the next two years he amassed a grand total of 4. Then he went out as a senior and just blew up. Ok yeah ... 12 goals isn't exactly earth shattering but to go from a part-timer filling in for injured players to 12 goals in the WCHA? Experience means a lot. Of course each of UAA's seniors this year will have to find a way to put their experience to use. Will Kronschnabel score more than 9 goals this year? He only scored 4 last year but 9 in both of his first 2 years. Bourne lit the lamp 5 times last year after putting in 12 as a sophmore. Will he score more than 12 this year? Smith got back on track last year with 6 goals after a total scoring drought the year before. Can he improve on the 21 points he scored as a freshman? Last season saw Anderson drop from 15 points as a sophmore to 6 as a junior. What will his contribution be this year? Lowe has 9 career goals which all came in his first two seasons. I don't even know if Nick will be playing defense or forward this year so I sure don't know what he'll contribute.
If UAA is going to improve on it's lackluster record from last season then the answer to all those questions will need to be a yes. And just marginal improvements across the board from last season won't be enough. If UAA's 5 seniors can't manage at least a 50 percent improvement in goal output it will likely be another long season; 100 percent improvement across the board would be quite nice. OR ... if even just one of these guys "blows up" like "Stoo-Leek" did; then who knows? Success can sometimes be contagious. It'd be unreasonable to expect that Chad or Nick will provide much scoring. So the task of banging in 100 percent more goals than they did as juniors falls primarily to Charlie, Justin and Mark. But 36 goals between the 5 of them doesn't seem impossible to me.