Defending regular-season champ Boston College is tabbed to repeat that feat this season, that according to the Hockey East coaches’ poll announced Thursday at the annual media day held at the FleetCenter.
Boston College received five first-place votes and 68 total points, edging out second-place Maine, which received three first-place votes and totaled 66 points. Both teams (Maine at No. 2 and BC at No. 3) were highly-touted in the preseason USCHO/CSTV Men’s Division I poll.
“[Predicting success in the league] is a dangerous game to play,” quipped Boston College head coach Jerry York of his preseason fate. Though the Eagles lost two of their top scorers in Ben Eaves and Tony Voce, as well as stalwart defenseman J.D. Forrest to graduation, they return a talented crew up front paced by Patrick Eaves and Ryan Shannon, Andrew Alberts on defense and three-year veteran Matti Kaltiainen in goal.
The Black Bears return arguably the best goaltender in the country in Jimmy Howard. They’ll look to his ability in goal to carry them to the top of the league.
Last year’s eighth-place club, Boston University, made the biggest surge in the poll, finishing third with 52 points and one first-place vote. The Terriers look to improve upon a tough campaign and will do so with players like David van der Gulik pacing the offense.
New Hampshire finished fourth in the poll, just one point behind BU. UNH’s biggest question mark rests in goal, where Michael Ayers turns the duty over to Jeff Pietrasiak. UNH will also look to replace the offense lost by the departure of Steve Saviano.
Massachusetts-Lowell, a team that graduated only one senior last year, could be this year’s upstart. The River Hawks were picked fifth in the poll with 45 points, three points behind sister school Massachusetts, which is coming off the program’s most successful year, having lost in the championship game to Maine.
Another team returning a solid nucleus is seventh pick Northeastern. The Huskies lost only one key player in Eric Ortlip and will look to Keni Gibson in the goal to pace the club to a solid season.
The Providence Friars were picked eighth with 26 points, two points behind NU. The Friars suffered some key losses but still should be solid up front with players like Chris Chaput and Colin McDonald.
“Providence might have been overlooked here,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “But I guess you have to vote every team somewhere. But they’re a team that I think will finish a lot higher than eighth.”
Merrimack rounded out the poll in ninth despite head coach Chris Serino’s comments that this might be the deepest and most talented team he’s coached in Andover. The Warriors finished seventh last year and will look to prove the pundits wrong as they challenge to move up the Hockey East ladder.
Also announced at media day was this year’s recipient of the Joe Concannon Media Award, Rob Rudnick. Rudnick has served as the voice of Northeastern hockey for the past 25 years and is the driving force behind Huskies Radio. The award is voted annually by a committee comprised of league administrators, coaches and sports information directors.
The award, originally named the Hockey East Media Award, is titled in honor of the late Joe Concannon, a longtime college sports writer for the Boston Globe who passed away in the summer of 2000.
This season, the 21st for the league, marks the final time that nine clubs will comprise the league. Next season Vermont, now a member of the ECAC, will join the league as the tenth member. Because of that, each team’s total league games will increase from 24 to 27, as each club will face opponents three times. There will be an imbalanced number of home vs. road games for each team that will alternate year to year.
Maine will open play for Hockey East clubs this Sunday, traveling to Vermont for a non-league contest. League play will begin October 15 when Merrimack travels to Providence.