The two-time defending NCAA champions from Minnesota Duluth debuted at No. 3 in the USCHO.com Division I men’s hockey poll released Monday after picking up three first-place votes.
While delayed from its typical late September release date due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Monday’s preseason USCHO poll comes out with just one league, Atlantic Hockey, having released a 2020-21 schedule. Long Island University — a first-year program that has a scheduling agreement with AHA this year — drops the puck on Nov. 14 at Army in the first game scheduled thus for 2020-21.
The NCHC has set a Dec. 1 start date for its eight teams in a pod in Omaha, Nebraska, while the Big Ten — with Arizona State — previously announced it would begin play on Nov. 13 “or soon after.” Neither league has put out a schedule yet.
The Bulldogs are coming off a shortened 2019-20 season that saw their shot at a historic three-peat spoiled by the pandemic. They finished second in the NCHC regular season standings behind North Dakota. UMD, which was on track to make a sixth-consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, was 22-10-2 overall going into the NCHC postseason when 2019-20 was halted.
Bulldogs debut at No. 3 in the @USCHO preseason poll, garnering three first place votes.— Matt Wellens (@mattwellens) October 26, 2020
My top 5 mirror the poll’s top 5:
1. North Dakota
2. Boston College
3. Minnesota Duluth
4. Minnesota State
5. Denver https://t.co/cynqhIP5Dx
While reloading on the back end after losing four defensemen — Jarod Hilderman, Nick Wolff, Dylan Samberg and Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner Scott Perunovich — and starting goaltender Hunter Shepard, UMD does return 10 of its 12 forwards. Among that group are four of the team’s five leading goal scorers from last season in juniors Cole Koepke (16) and Noah Cates (14), and seniors Kobe Roth (13) and Nick Swaney (12).
The Fighting Hawks, with Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist Jordan Kawaguchi back for his senior year, took the top spot in the preseason poll with 28 of the 40 first-place votes. Boston College was second with four first-place votes. Minnesota State-Mankato was fourth and Denver rounded out the top five.