The Puck Drops Here
Oct. 7, 2010
Division I Men's Ice Hockey Conference News & Notes
Although Michigan and Mercyhurst faced off last weekend in the regular season opener, the puck drops in earnest on the Division I men's ice hockey regular season this weekend. As hockey fans prepare for another exciting season on the road to the Frozen Four, NCAA.com takes a quick look at news and notes from around the country.
Last season, Rochester Institute of Technology reached the Frozen Four, marking the first time in league history a conference member has reached that point of the tournament. This season, the Tigers are heavy favorites to repeat as conference champions as they received eight of the 12 first-place votes of the league coaches. Mercyhurst was selected second, while Air Force was third and Niagara and Robert Morris were tied for fourth.
"We're excited for a new year and know we have to prove ourselves all over again," said RIT Head Coach Wayne Wilson. "We know we will have a target on our back, but also appreciate the respect our program has received from the coaches in our league to be preseason favorite."
The conference will have a new look this season as Niagara and Robert Morris will be league members for the first time this season.
"We are proud of what we have accomplished in our history as a hockey program," said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder. "And if we can come in and help this league continue to grow that would be a great thing. I think we have a lot to offer."
The Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) is celebrating its 40th season and welcoming three new head coaches to the conference this year--Bowling Green's Chris Bergeron, Ohio State's Mark Osiecki and Western Michigan's Jeff Blashill. After falling to Miami (Ohio) in double overtime in the second round of last year's NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship, Michigan returns to the ice ranked No. 1 in the coaches preseason poll. The Wolverines opened the season on Oct. 2 with a 4-4 tie against Mercyhurst. Michigan's next win will be head coach Red Berenson's 700th--the Wolverines' next opportunity will be against Bowling Green on Friday.
On Dec. 11 Michigan will host Michigan State in The Big Chill in the Big House, an outdoor game in Ann Arbor that is expected to break the current outdoor hockey attendance record of 74,544.
"I know there'll be a lot more distractions playing here at the Big House, but it'll be great for college hockey, it'll be a memorable experience for every player, every fan, and every coach," Berenson said.
Hot on the heels of the Wolverines are the RedHawks of Miami (Ohio), ranked second in the coaches preseason poll, first in the media preseason poll, and third in the nation in the USA TODAY/USA Hockey men's preseason poll.
"Our team has worked extremely hard over the summer," head coach Enrico Blasi said. "Our guys look in great shape. They know what it takes to play at a high level and they know what it takes to prepare every day to not only play in a tough league but also to be successful in a tough league."
The CCHA is the home of three of the top ten active career scorers in college hockey entering the season: Miami's Carter Camper, currently second overall with 126 points, Michigan's Louie Caporusso with 114 points and fellow Wolverine Carl Hagelin with 103 points. The CCHA championship will celebrate its 30th anniversary at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in 2011.
ECAC Hockey will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. During its history, ECAC Hockey has been home to seven NCAA championships, nearly 300 All-Americans and three Hobey Baker Award winners. ECAC Hockey will also be hosting its conference tournament in Atlantic City for the first time this winter.
In the preseason coaches poll, Yale was selected as the favorite, with Cornell second, Union (N.Y.) third and Rensselaer was fourth. In the media poll, Yale was again the preseason favorite with the Big Red second, Union third and Colgate fourth. In addition to top conference honors, the Bulldogs of Yale are ranked No. 5 in the USA Today/USA Hockey magazine preseason poll.
The media also selected its preseason all-league team with Union goaltender Keith Kinkaid being tabbed as the preseason favorite for the league's Ken Dryden Award as the top netminder with Cornell's Nick D'Agostino and Dartmouth's Evan Stephens being honored as the top defensemen. Up front, Rensselaer's Chase Polacek, Yale's Broc Little and Colgate's Austin Smith earned the three forward spots.
The defending national champion Boston College Eagles are the unanimous No. 1 pick in the coaches preseason poll with 17 letterwinners returning from last year's national championship team. The Eagles are also ranked No. 1 nationally in the USA Today/USA Hockey men's preseason poll.
"I'm very excited," said Boston College head coach Jerry York. "Every August my adrenaline starts going and we get to October, we're very, very excited. We've got an excellent team coming back, which maybe heightens my awareness of this coming season."
Maine, which finished last season in the Hockey East Finals, was ranked second in the coaches preseason poll and will see 20 letterwinners return to the ice this season.
"We're real excited up in Maine to get going," said head coach Tim Whitehead. "We came so close last year to getting back in that national tournament and getting another Hockey East title but it didn't happen, so we're a little itchy to get going here. We know it's going to be a challenge, but we know where we want to go and now we just have to step up and do it."
The coaches preseason poll also saw the University of New Hampshire Wildcats ranked third and the Boston University Terriers ranked fourth.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) becomes a 12-member conference in its 59th season with the addition of the Bemidji State Beavers and the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. The Fighting Sioux of North Dakota have been ranked No. 1 in the conference in both coaches and media preseason polls and are returning 22 letterwinners to the ice this season, including second-time captain Chay Genoway.
"We're going to face a bit of adversity, I'm sure," Genoway said. "It's time to come together, and come together fast."
St. Cloud State was ranked second in this year's WCHA preseason coaches poll and third in the media preseason poll. Minnesota-Duluth was ranked third by coaches and second by the media.
"We've got a great returning group, and I know we've got depth in our positions," said St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko. "We've got chemistry in there, they're focused, they know what they want to try to accomplish this year."
Colorado College is the home of the media and coaches preseason Rookie of the Year pick, Jaden Schwartz, a forward who joins seven other Tiger freshmen on the 2010-11 squad. Both Bemidji State and Minnesota-Duluth will open new arenas this season. Minnesota-Duluth has played at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) since 1966 and will open its new AMSOIL Arena on December 30. Bemidji State will host its inaugural game in the new Bemidji Regional Event Center on October 15 against preseason favorite North Dakota. With the addition of two new teams to the conference, the WCHA Final Five conference championship will feature a new format whereby 6 first-round winners will advance to the Final Five at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul March 17-19. Michigan Tech will host the 2011 NCAA Midwest Regional in Green Bay, and Minnesota will host the 2011 NCAA Men's Frozen Four April 7-9 at the Xcel Energy Center.