Boston University, which finished last year tied for second in Hockey East with a league record of 15-6-3, has been selected as the preseason No. 1 team by the Hockey East coaches. The Terriers garnered six of the eight possible first place votes. Each coach does not vote for his own team.
The Terriers feature a whopping 13 NHL draftees, including defenseman Ryan Whitney. But Boston University will have to find some way of making up for the loss of the top two scorers on the team as well as the top two defensemen, Chris Dyment and Pat Aufiero.
Last year’s regular season champion, New Hampshire, was selected second with two first-place votes and 53 points overall. After a brilliant season that saw the Wildcats heading to the Frozen Four in St. Paul, the season ended on somewhat of a sour note, with a 7-2 loss to conference foe and heated rival Maine in the NCAA semifinals. Despite the loss of Hobey Baker finalist Darren Haydar, the Wildcats return three 40-point scorers in Colin Hemingway, Sean Collins and Lanny Gare.
Boston College finished in third without any first-place votes, proving that most voters rated the Eagles consistently high on the ballot but never in the top spot. After an uncharacteristic 18-18-2 overall record and sixth place Hockey East finish to the 2001-02 season, Boston College will look to return to the upper half of the league standings, relying on contributions from juniors Ben Eaves, Tony Voce and J.D. Forrest.
Last year’s NCAA runner-up Maine, which lost a heartbreaking overtime game to Minnesota in the final game last year, received one first-place vote and finished fourth in the poll standings. Second year coach Tim Whitehead, rewarded for his run to the NCAA title game with a contract extension, will have to find a way to replace 51-point scorer Niko Dimitrakos, as well as top defenders Peter Metcalf (50 points) and Michael Schutte (31).
Providence was last season’s biggest disappointment; the Friars were selected first in the pre-season coaches’ poll but then ended the season in seventh place. They look to rebound, as they return the top three scorers from last season, in triumvirate Jon DiSalvatore, Peter Fregoe and Devin Rask. Providence was picked to finish fifth.
Northeastern, tabbed to finish sixth this season, may have suffered the biggest single loss of any Hockey East team in the off-season in defenseman Jim Fahey, who led the team in scoring with 46 points and was a two-year Huskies captain.
Preseason No. 7 pick, the Mass.-Lowell River Hawks, lose two of their top two scorers, as well as the entirety of the goaltending corps from last year. Eighth place Massachusetts is looking to become a contender in Hockey East, but most agree Don Cahoon’s squad is a season or two from that goal. Merrimack finished ninth in the always-tight voting, losing standout forward Anthony Aquino (44 points).