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Pacific-8 hockey: 2015-16 season preview

We take a look at how the Pacific-8 Conference hockey season might unfold.

Note - Not all rosters from the Pac-8 schools have yet to be finalized according to their respective websites.

The Pacific-8 Hockey Conference is now the Pac-7.

Not exactly true...it's still called the Pac-8.

The 2015-2016 American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 2 season began earlier this month, but the majority of the Pac-8 schools will start the season tonight with only seven teams thanks to the departure of the Arizona State University Sun Devils, who moved over to the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference and are now called ASU ‘Maroon' after their Elite squad moved out of the ACHA and became an NCAA Division I program.  And with the possibility of Oregon State University joining the Pac-8 in 2016-2017, the signs of a new beginning could lead the conference into becoming a powerhouse conference and possibly - just possibly - following ASU's footsteps one day by having the entire conference belong into the hands of the NCAA.

As mentioned earlier, seven teams will play in the conference this season but not all teams will not play against each other (i.e. Washington does not have USC nor Utah on its schedule).  And it will be interesting to see if the Utah Utes are the team to beat once again in the Pac-8.  So before we preview the University of Washington Huskies season (full preview exclusively to them next week), let us take a brief look of the other six club teams that will be playing this fall and winter.

University of California (Berkeley) Golden Bears

Head Coach:  Jeff Slusarz

Assistant Coach:  Mark Arneson

Home Rink:  Oakland Ice Center

Record (2014-2015):  4-11 overall (3-9, lost in Pac-8 first-round)

California would love to forget about last season and focus on the current team led by defenseman C.J. Geering.  The forward combinations will feature Troy Skinner and Nic Kawasaki leading the way up front.  Kyle McAllister will do everything possible to protect the net in goal for the Golden Bears, who would like to help him cut down his goals-against average well below the 7.33 he had last season.  UC Berkeley will have eight new players coming onto this season's squad.

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University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins

Head Coach:  Mark Francis

Home Rink:  Los Angeles Kings Valley Ice Center, Los Angeles (Panorama City)

Record (2014-2015):  6-14 (5-10, lost in Pac-8 first-round)

The Bruins had three players each earn 20-plus points with both Nick Katzaroff and Ryan Smith each having 22 points with Katzaroff the team leader in goals with 14, while Smith had the most assists with 13; David Giroux earned 21 points as he and Wes Barnes each earned two game-winning goals.  It will be interesting to see who returns to the club and see if Katzaroff still remains to be a main threat on the UCLA club.

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University of Oregon Ducks

Head Coach:  Rich Salahor

Assistant Coach:  Justin Lacasse

Home Rink:  The Rink Exchange (Lane County Events Center), Eugene

Record (2014-2015):  14-10 (6-4, lost in Pac-8 Championship Game)

One of the heavier favorites and a possible Top 10 West Regional team, the Ducks will seek to take over the conference standings despite the loss of their goaltender Danny Cockriel to graduation.  A possible replacement to fill in Cockriel's spot in the net is Seattle-native Ty Anderton, who may challenge Trevor Peterson for the #1 spot.

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University of Southern California Trojans

Head Coach:  Mark Wilbur

Assistant Coach:  Brian Bronk

Home Rinks:  The Rinks - Anaheim ICE & Lakewood ICE; KHS [Katella High School] Ice Arena, Anaheim

Record (2014-2015):  13-9 [overall regulation], 0-1 [overtime]; 10-5 (lost in Pac-8 semifinals)

The Trojans showed poise and confidence throughout last season by finishing a respectable third place in the conference.  USC graduate defenseman Phil Foster will wear the Captain's ‘C', while Cory Newman will don the ‘A' as the assistant captain.  Newman led the club last season in all three scoring categories in 24 games played (16 goals, 23 assists, 39 points).  Senior goaltenders Nathan Urquhart and David Chang will share the starting roles, while Russian sophomore Anthony Klachin will seek for his first minute of ice time in goal this season.

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University of Utah Utes

Head Coach:  Brett Huras

Assistant Coach:  Kevin Labatte

Defensive Coach:  Wade Bennet

Home Rink:  Salt Lake City Sports Complex

Record (2014-2015):  29-13-2 [overall], 1-0 [overtime]; 9-1 [Pac-8 Champions]; 2-1 [ACHA D2 Nationals - tournament hosts]

Brett Huras moves up the coaching ranks from assistant coach to head coach replacing Jon Bertagnolli, who retired just one month after the ACHA Nationals tournament.  Jon, whose sons Beau and Shaymus also played on the team together with their dad under the helm, amassed 151 wins before handing the reins over to Huras.  Another loss to the team this time to graduation was Ben Seastrand, who produced 37 points in 38 games.  Despite a strong roster depth including goaltenders Devan Betts and Chris Komma, top scoring machines Josh Dangel and Chase McDonald, plus a vicious set of blueliners in David Barnes (6 feet, 215 lbs.), Travis Koury (6 feet, 210 lbs.), and Erik Soderlund (6'4", 235 lbs.), the Utes conference schedule is not very favorable as only eight games will be played this season with only the L.A. schools coming to Salt Lake City for Pac-8 action.

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Washington State University Cougars

Head Coach:  Chris Soriano

Home Rink:  To be announced

Record (2014-2015):  0-9 [overall]; 0-6 [did not make Pac-8 Tournament]

The Cougars let their schedule beat them more than their opponents last season as game cancellations (including a Halloween weekend series vs. Washington at Olympicview Arena) was the majority reason of not being eligible to play in the Pac-8 Tournament.  A lack of playing time on the ice will continue to haunt the boys from the Palouse if their schedule continues to be light.

*Washington State vs. USC (KHS Ice Center, Anaheim), 10:15 pm