The Bemidji State Beavers have been made the preseason favorites to capture the College Hockey America crown. A vote of CHA coaches earlier this week gave the 2003-04 champs 24 of 25 points in the poll, including four of a possible five first-place votes (coaches cannot vote for their own team).
Niagara, which defeated Bemidji State in the CHA tournament last season, picked up the remaining two first place votes and 22 points overall. Alabama-Huntsville (17), Wayne State (12), Air Force (9) and Robert Morris (6) rounded out the poll.
Bemidji, which captured 20 wins for the first time in its short Division I life last year, won its first ever CHA crown in 2003-04 with a 16-3-1 mark for 33 points, edging Niagara’s total of 28 (14-6-0). The Beavers won a league record 16 conference games last season, and would make history this year if they were to win the regular-season championship, as no team has successfully defended its crown in the league’s five previous seasons.
Alabama-Huntsville’s Jared Ross, who led the nation with a 1.61 points per game average last season, was selected as the CHA preseason player of the year. The senior forward paced the Chargers with 50 points (19-31) in 31 games overall last year, and led the CHA with 35 points (15-20) in 20 league games.
Ross was joined on the All-CHA Preseason Team by UAH junior defenseman Jeremy Schreiber, who led all defenders with 18 points (8-10) in conference play last year.
Niagara placed three players on the team. Senior forward Barrett Ehgoetz was named Co-CHA Player of the Year with Ross last season, after posting 52 points (25-27) in 39 games overall. Ehgoetz finished second in conference scoring with 32 points, but led all scorers with 19 goals in 20 CHA contests.
Andrew Lackner was named to the CHA Second Team last year after leading the Purple Eagle defense with 15 points (2-13). Jeff VanNynatten took home First-Team honors at season’s end after posting 18 victories and a 2.81 goals against average overall.
Senior forward Andrew Murray was the only member of the favorite Beavers to be selected to the preseason team. The Bemidji State captain missed 11 games to injury last year, but still managed to record 20 points (6-14) in 25 games with the regular-season champs.