The Colorado College Tigers have the opportunity to prove doubters wrong during their inaugural season in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Judging from the two exhibitions, the Tigers, 18-19-5 last season, can rely on a strong defense and a deep group of forwards, both bolstered by freshmen, top the predicted seventh-place finish by the eight-team league's media.
"The bottom line is, no one really knows," Tigers coach Scott Owens said. "(The freshman) are so far ahead of the other freshman classes we have had over the years."
Senior goalie Josh Thorimbert will get the start Friday after freshman Tyler Marble suffered an upper-body injury Saturday. The Detroit native is out this weekend and will be re-evaluated next week.
While that injury was bad news, the other freshmen benefited from the exhibitions.
"They got the nerves out, picked up a point or two and they gained confidence," Owens said. "That's good because we play meaningful games right away."
Senior Alexander Krushelnyski (43 points, 28 assists last season) looks to finish his college career strong while sophomores Cody Bradley (13 points, nine assists) and Hunter Fejes (14, eight goals) could have breakout seasons.
Others likely to contribute more include seniors Archie Skalbeck (23, 12 goals) and Jeff Collett (10, seven assists) and junior Charlie Taft (18, 10 assists).
The defensive corps should be solid with senior Eamonn McDermott (23, 20 assists) and juniors Aaron Harstad, Peter Stoykewych and Ian Young back.
That group got better with the arrival of Gustav Olofsson and Jaccob Slavin, both NHL draft picks, like Harstad and Stoykewych.
"Just their presence upgrades our D corps," Owens said.
The experience of reaching the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship game last season could pay dividends this season.
"We learned the right way to win, not by winning 6-5 but 2-1 with good team defense," Stoykewych said. "The sooner we apply those lessons this year, the better off we will be."
"We cannot afford to wait until the last month to play that way," McDermott said. "We are far from perfect and have a ways to go at this point, but the guys have bought into playing better (team) defense this season."
Now it is finally time for the season.
"It's a new league but it's the same game," sophomore Jared Hanson said. "It's shaping up to be a pretty good season. We have a lot of potential but now we have to perform."