I had the chance to watch each of the WCRHL D1 teams play this past weekend, and I have to say the level of competition is very strong. Any of the top 5 teams could beat each other on any given day. Arizona State had fallen a bit behind during the first half because some of their top players such as Will Heinze, Dan Anderson and Clay Taylor are finishing up with ice and and will be joining leader Alex Dodt to make up a very good team. They definately should not be counted out. Cal Poly SLO looks as good or better than last year with a solid core of players and solid goaltending again with Erik Long. Their two looses this weekend (while both being very close games) could be attributed to a short bench and not having their top D man Mike Chaloupka in the line up. Newens, Costello, Middlekauff and Kumata are all tremendous players that will surely help them make another run at Nationals this year. UNLV as always was very fast and tough to play against as both Long Beach and SLO can attest. Nick Robone still shows why he has been one of the best players in the West for many years and with the addition of talented Andrew Tamura (the younger brother of Adam) and the tremendous goaltending of incoming freshman standout Travis Barendt they will surely be a threat at Nationals as well. UCSB, what can you say, they have hands down the best player in the nation in Travis Noe. There is nothing he can't do. His supporting cast is not near as strong as the other teams, but they seem to be improving due to the unselfishness and leadership of Noe. He just makes everyone around him better. They also will be tough to beat moving forward. As for Long Beach, they also look very strong. With solid returning goaltender Corey Jones and top notch scoring from Anderson, Doyle, Tanaka and new comer Taylor Abramson as well as the returning solid defense corp of Skyler Hoar, Yamamoto, Huezo and Benson they should be primed to defend their D1 National Championship in Salt Lake City.
One final note. Arizona while not having won any games this year has a lot of talent and shows a lot of promise. I believe that entering the league in D1 will only help to make them more competitive in the near future. I have no doubt that there are many high level players out there that are only looking to go to schools with D1 teams, which has definitely been the case for Long Beach State in building our program.
Anyhow, Good Luck to the WCRHL and all their teams both at Regionals and Nationals. I'm sure they will again show the Nation why the West is no doubt the strongest division in the NCRHA.
(Former Coach Long Beach State)
2011 NCRHA D1 Champions