UMass-Dartmouth, RIT and Middlebury have been tabbed the preseason favorites by coaches in their ECAC leagues in polling released by the league office.
UMass-Dartmouth took the inaugural coaches’ preseason poll in the revamped Northeast, earning 13 of 18 first-place votes and amassing 318 points. Rival Fitchburg State finished second, earning 306 points and four first-place votes.
The two-time defending ECAC tournament champion, UMass-Dartmouth finished second in the ECAC Central last season to St. Michael’s, but rebounded to win the tournament with a 4-2 decision over the Ice Knights.
“We are excited about the selection, although we have never won a championship at the start of the season,” said Corsairs coach John Rolli. “I think the coaches voted for us as a reflection of winning the North-South-Central three of the last four years.”
Either UMass-Dartmouth or Fitchburg State has won the ECAC crown in each of the last six years.
RIT was selected as the preseason favorite in the ECAC West coaches poll. The Tigers received three of the four first-place votes to edge out Mercyhurst, which received the other first-place vote, by one point.
This marks the fourth straight year that the Tigers have earned top billing in the West preseason poll. RIT finished second to now-Division I independent Niagara in last year’s regular season. The Purple Eagles also knocked off the Tigers in the West championship game 5-2.
“Over the course of the hockey season, you have many opportunities to feel good about your program, whether it be invitational tournaments, post-season championships, or preseason rankings,” RIT coach Eric Hoffberg said.
The ECAC East coaches tabbed four-time defending national champion and six-time ECAC regular-season champion Middlebury as the preseason favorite. The Panthers earned 14 first-place votes and 319 points, while last year’s tournament champion, Hamilton, received one first-place vote and 271 points, finishing third behind Williams, which earned two first-place votes and amassed 294 points.
“We lost some real high-quality players and leaders in Mark Spence and Ryan Goldman and our two All-American goaltenders,” Middlebury head coach Bill Beaney said. “I think, if we can fill those voids, we will be in the thick of it. I think the league will show a lot of parity in the top 12 teams. Anything can happen; that’s what makes it exciting.”