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College hockey: Washington Huskies 2015-2016 season preview

We take a look at the upcoming season for the "Ice Dawgs."

Purple and gold on ice
Purple and gold on ice
University of Washington Ice Hockey via Facebook)

After barely reaching the Pacific-8 Conference tournament thanks to then-conference member Arizona State University Sun Devils taking themselves out of the conference's six-team tournament due to internal disciplinary issues within the program, the University of Washington Huskies found themselves as the #5 seed.  The "Ice Dawgs" closed out its home schedule with a sweep of the University of California Golden Bears with a miraculous comeback putting up all seven of its goals in the third period after entering the final period down 2-0.

Washington would then beat the UCLA Bruins in the first round before ending the season with a loss to the eventual outright conference champion University of Utah Utes in the semifinals.

And now the long awaited hockey season has arrived for the Huskies Hockey.  Many fresh new faces took the Olympicview Arena earlier last week at their three-day training camp and the players are anxious to get the season started.

Coaching Staff

Matt Cleeton enters his second season as the Huskies head coach, fourth overall season behind the bench.  He took over last season after serving as an assistant coach under David Kell, who retired following the 2013-2014 season.  C.J. Fisher returns to the bench with Cleeton as they welcome Dane Jordan and Amanda Hardwick to the coaching staff this season.

Forwards

Bradyn Kawcak, considered by many to be the team's vocal leader, earned his captain ‘C' on his jersey this summer.  Kawcak totaled up 19 points (10 goals, 9 assists) in 23 games.  But the Fort Collins, Colorado native's goal is not about shattering individual records like Ryan Minkoff did the past four years here.  As a new on-ice leader, he would like to see the team improve the 12-13-1-1 overall record they had last season.

Alex Black, another Colorado native (Boulder), will be the man looking to fill in those skate boots that Minkoff carried when he was smashing every single Husky scoring record you could think of.  Black scored 51 points last season (29 goals, 22 assists) and will be one of Kawcak's assistant captains, which means both players will more than likely be on the top line together.

Tyler Jennings, Keenan Smith, Cory Tung, and JD White, who combined 43 points last season, round out the veteran corps up front with Tung being tabbed as the second alternate captain amongst the forwards. Smith is the most physical player that opponents will have a tough time with as he provides added scoring and strength.   White will aim at doubling up his 11 points from the previous year and is one of those players that can play in any position even on the blueline if need be.  He, like Black, scored two game-winning goals during the season.  Tung will be getting a chance at having more scoring opportunities especially screen goaltenders and be able to tap in the puck while on power plays.

Defensemen

Troy Gasser, considered to be one of the top scoring blueliners throughout the conference, was named assistant captain entering his junior season.  The Sammamish resident notched up 20 points (6 goals, 14 assists) in 22 games.  He is a great set up player that can read the rink and know his open teammate will be on the ice before crossing into the attacking zone.

Returning on defense with Gasser and Josh McGrew.  Despite his size (5'6"), McGrew can make clean hits along the boards and does very well at clearing the puck out of the defensive zone.  He is one of a few players that will be seeking his first career goal this season.  Joe Kinkopf and Simon Machalek (both 5'11") are the other returnees on the blue line with Machalek seeking for his first goal as a Husky as all of his 12 points from last season were assists.

Goaltenders

Jacob Gilmore (graduation) and Thatcher Givens (commitment to U.S. Naval Academy) were two huge losses during the off-season in regards to goaltending.  James Feldman played very little as a backup to both Gilmore and Givens.  Now a graduate student at the UW, Feldman could lend a hand to two freshmen in Jeffrey Miles, the San Diego-area native who played high school hockey at Carlsbad High School where he played for the Lancers in the San Diego District Hockey League.

Debbie Chen will also jump in to get some time in between the pipes.  With her height at only 5'3", it could give the opposing teams some difficulty at screening her in front of the net during 5-on-4 (or 3) situations as she showed at training camp that she has a keen eye at the puck from short and long range shots from all parts of the ice.

Newcomers

A total of 15 newcomers will be donning the Purple & Gold jersey this season.  Other than Miles and Chen, seven more freshman will be getting their first taste of collegiate play.  Christian Cinderella, who amassed 169 points while playing midget-level hockey in both the Seattle Junior Hockey Association and Team Seattle, will be providing a big boost to a talented veteran lineup that will see him light up the goal light often throughout the season.  Cinderella has already warmed up his legs thus far the past two weeks getting in a few games with the Seattle Totems in the Western States Hockey League.

Mason Friedman is another freshman forward that will be looking to join in with the scoring posse.  Like Miles, he also played high school hockey in California playing for the San Ramon Grizzlies of the Tri-Valley Minor Hockey Association.  Another Bay Area product joining the Ice Dawgs this season is Lucas Semkiw, who recently played with the San Jose Jr. Sharks.

Ryan Jaromin is one of the local players (Arlington) that will be on this years Huskies team.  He recently played local junior youth hockey in the Everett area.  Meanwhile, Devin Garg hopes to get back out onto the ice soon after sustaining an injury towards the end of training camp.  The Kent-native was a member of the Faribault, Minnesota-based Shattuck St. Mary's Midget AAA team that won the Northern Lakes Hockey League title in 2013-2014 before the league suspended league operations for the following season.

Tavin Jackson and Steven Chiu round out the new freshman signees with Chiu one of two Taiwanese players on the team (Chen the other).

The upper classmen making their Husky debuts this season will include Tyler Haugen, who played youth and high school hockey in Wisconsin.  Eli Dingels spent time playing youth hockey in Bremerton, while Graham Gustafson comes across the Cascades after spending time with the Spokane Jr. Chiefs.  Lawrence Taicz joined the club right before training camp, he once played high school hockey for Bothell High School.  And Anthony Mantz, one of the original recruit signees by the club this past spring, returns home after playing high school hockey in Massachusetts.