BEMIDJI, Minn. — For the fourth consecutive year, Mercyhurst is the choice of College Hockey America head coaches in the league’s preseason poll.
The Lakers, who received all three possible first-place votes (coaches did not vote for their own teams) recorded nine points in the poll. Mercyhurst, which opens the season fifth in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll, has won the regular-season and tournament titles in each of the past three seasons.
Wayne State and Niagara both earned six points in the poll to tie for second. The Warriors earned the remaining first-place vote while Niagara was picked second on all three ballots. League newcomer Robert Morris rounded out the voting with three points.
Mercyhurst is led this season by senior captain Samantha Shirley, who has been chosen by league head coaches as the CHA’s preseason player of the year. The top returning scorer in the league from 2004-05 and a second-team All-CHA pick last season, Shirley notched 18 goals and 37 points last season, helping to lead the Lakers to their first NCAA Championship appearance.
She’s joined at forward on the preseason All-CHA team by junior teammate Stefanie Bourbeau, who also scored 18 goals, while totalling 30 points, last season. She tied for second in the league in both power-play goals (6) and short-handed goals (2).
The third forward is Wayne State junior Laura Monk, a second team All-CHA and all-rookie team member as a freshman in 2003-04. She led the Warriors with 13 goals last season and was sixth in the CHA in scoring with 28 points.
On defense, Mercyhurst junior Ashley Pendleton is the only unanimous choice on the All-CHA preseason squad. A first-team All-CHA selection last season, Pendleton led league blueliners with 14 assists and was second in scoring with 19 points, scoring 10 points on the power play and two on the penalty kill.
Wayne State senior Sarah Campbell tied Pendleton for the league lead among blueliners with 14 assists, a total which was third on the team and 10th in the league. She earned second-team All-CHA honors a year ago.
Rounding out the team is Niagara junior goalie Allison Rutledge. Last season, she posted a 9-6-2 overall record, second best in the league, to go with a 2.21 goals against average and .929 save percentage. Rutledge was named to the league’s all-rookie team in 2004.
The 2005-06 CHA composite schedule features 109 regular-season games, including 24 league contests,for the four conference members, leading up to the 2006 CHA Championship, slated for March 9 and 12, at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum in Detroit, Mich.
The regular-season schedule gets underway this weekend, with three of the CHA’s four teams getting underway with regular-season games. Mercyhurst, which skated to a 2-2 tie in its exhibition opener Saturday with the Durham Lightning, hosts Minnesota State, Friday and Saturday, at 7 and 2 p.m. EDT. Wayne State opens its season on the road with a pair of games at Bemidji State, Friday and Saturday, at 7:07 and 2:07 p.m. CDT. Robert Morris kicks off its inaugural season on the road with Saturday and Sunday contests at Maine. The opener is slated for 4 p.m. EDT with the series finale scheduled for 1 p.m.