UTICA, N.Y. -- Utica occupies the sixth spot in the preseason USCHO.com poll that was released Monday. The Pioneers received one first-place vote.
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Defending champion Wisconsin-Eau Claire remained atop the poll and took 12 of 15 first-place votes. St. Norbert, which also received a pair of first-place votes, placed second in the preseason poll.
Utica is coming off its best season in program history as the Pioneers made their first appearance in the Frozen Four. UC finished the season with a program-best 21-6-1 overall record, including an 11-3-1 mark in the competitive ECAC West, and 14-3 at Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Pioneers also won the ECAC West regular-season title on their way to earning the program's first at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.
The Pioneers return 22 players from last year's record-breaking squad. UC lost six players to graduation, including team captain Evan Chlanda. Head coach Gary Heenan brought in 10 freshmen for the 2013-14 season to help fill the void.
UC returns its top seven leading scorers and 11 of its top 12 from last season. Among them is junior forward Louie Educate (18 goals, 18 assists) who led the Pioneers in scoring last season. Educate was named as an All-American to the USCHO.com, D3hockey.com, and CCM teams. Educate was also voted as the ECAC Men's West Player of the Year last season. The Pioneers return four other ECAC West All-Conference selections from last season in Trever Hertz (13 goals, 13 assists), Jon Gaffney (13 goals,14 assists), Donny Olivieri (five goals, 17 assits), and goalie Nick Therrien (19-5-1). Defensive stalwart Mike Slowikowski (seven goals, eight assists), who was an ECAC West Honorable Mention selection, is back for his senior campaign.
Other key returners include Ridge Garbutt (10 goals, 17 assists), Rob Morton (12 goals, 10 assists), and Adam Graff (11 goals, 11 assists). Seniors Steve Zappia and Jordan Hobaica will serve as the team's captains, alongside Hertz and Gaffney.