Minnesota Claims Preseason No. 1

Minnesota, last year’s NCAA Champion, was selected first in the Preseason USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll with 22 of a possible 40 first-place votes.

Minnesota will attempt to overcome the losses of seniors like Hobey Baker winner Jordan Leopold on defense and goaltender Adam Hauser, as well as underclassmen like Jeff Taffe, who left school to sign with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes. Captain of this year’s Gopher squad is last spring’s NCAA Tournament Most Valuable Player, Grant Potulny.

Denver finished second in the poll with 12 first place votes. The Pioneers return nine of the top 10 scorers and a top goaltending tandem from last year’s squad that won the WCHA regular season and post-season titles.

Other teams that captured first-place votes included Michigan, which finished third, fourth-place New Hampshire, and fifth-place Boston University. Last year’s NCAA runner-up, the Black Bears of Maine, finished in sixth place. Michigan State, at seventh, will try to cope with the twin losses of head coach Ron Mason and Hobey Baker-winning goaltender Ryan Miller.

Cornell, which finished eighth, was the highest ranking school from the ECAC. Harvard, also from the ECAC, finished 14th. Two teams that were unrated at the end of last season were in the top 15 teams of this poll.

Boston College, which won the 2001 NCAA title but finished with just a 0.500 record at 18-18-2 last season, was selected ninth. North Dakota, which captured the 2000 NCAA title by downing the Eagles, finished last season at 16-19-2 but was selected 13th for this season. A total of 28 teams from all six Division I conferences earned votes.

The USCHO.com Poll is compiled by U.S. College Hockey Online, and consists of 40 voters, including 28 coaches from the Division I conferences and 12 beat writers from across the country. The poll is published weekly by the Associated Press.