USA Today published its preseason poll, and there are two teams that were voted in as #1 in the nation in terms of rankings. I was surprised at this, but there are very good reasons why these two teams could be left standing when the dust settles this year. Here are your rankings:
|School||Rank||Record Last Year||Rank Last Year|
|Boston College|| |
|North Dakota|| |
|Union College|| |
|Notre Dame|| |
|Western Michigan|| |
|Boston U.|| |
|Ferris State|| |
Boston College comes into this season as the defending National Champions, so there's no denying that they deserve a top ranking. Boston College received 20 first-place votes after capturing their third National Championship in five years, so having them as #1 should be a no-brainer. 19 players from last season’s squad return for Boston this season including Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player Parker Milner in goal and Hockey East Tournament MVP Johnny Gaudreau.
Minnesota was more of a surprise until you realize that six of their top seven scorers from last season will play for the Gophers again this year. Minnesota looks like a deep team with ample scoring, and should be a favorite to win the WCHA this season. While their goaltending may prove to be their Achilles' heel, the Golden Gophers should roll into the Frozen Four tournament at the end of the season.
The question as to who the "real #1 team" is should be answered near Christmas. Boston College will play the Gophers in one of the first-day games of the Mariucci Classic which is held during the holidays. The winner of that game may set the stage for the rest of the season.
Michigan has a strong crop of freshmen to help them this season, but will be anchored by Winnipeg Jets' draft pick Jacob Trouba on the blueline. Jon Merrill, Mac Bennett, and Lee Moffie give Michigan one of the best defensive corps seen in some time, and they will log a ton of minutes. Expect to see at least one of those names on an NCAA all-star list this season. Michigan will be seen as the CCHA's best squad thanks to their depth at forward and the studs they have playing along the blueline.
North Dakota's lofty ranking should plummet early as the number of players suspended for underage drinking continues to grow. As it stands, seven players are currently suspended for the violations, and four have been charged in the incident.
Seven players will miss the season opener against Alaska Fairbanks, and Danny Kristo will miss the entire opening weekend with a two-game suspension stemming from the incident. With a large portion of the team unable to participate in games early in the season, UND will be forced to battle uphill to keep pace in their conference.
There's your quick primer on the top-four teams in the NCAA for the upcoming season. I'm trying to find more info on how a lot of these games can be streamed via the internet or over the airwaves to TV, but it seems as though Canadians can't catch these games. Maybe NBC could pick up the college games as a national broadcast? I can only hope.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!