WCHA Coaches Pick Duluth For Top Spot

Minnesota-Duluth is the coaches’ preseason pick to win the WCHA, while Wisconsin goaltender Bernd Brückler topped voting for preseason player of the year honors.

The coaches poll, conducted by the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, put the Bulldogs atop the rankings for the first time. UMD, which returns 73.5 percent of its scoring from last year’s Frozen Four team, got seven first-place votes.

The other first-place votes in the poll, in which coaches do not rank their team, went to North Dakota, Wisconsin and Colorado College, which finished second, third and fourth in the poll, respectively.

Minnesota rounded out the top five, while defending national champion Denver was picked for sixth. St. Cloud State, Minnesota State, Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage were the bottom four.

Brückler, the only West Region first-team all-American and first-team all-league player returning to the WCHA, got five votes from the 10 league coaches as the preseason top player. The senior set Wisconsin single-season records for goals against average (2.09) and save percentage (.924) a year ago.

Michigan Tech junior forward Chris Conner, who scored 25 goals a year ago, got four votes to rank second, while Colorado College junior forward Brett Sterling claimed one vote.

The coaches selected North Dakota forward Travis Zajac as the preseason rookie of the year. Zajac, a first-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2004 NHL entry draft, had 43 goals and 112 points in 59 games last season for Salmon Arm in the British Columbia Hockey League.

Zajac got eight votes, while Minnesota forward Kris Chucko got the other two.