MSU, Miami Split Atop CCHA Polls

For the second straight year, the coaches and media disagree over who should hold down the No. 1 position in the CCHA’s annual preseason polls. The conference’s 12 head coaches ranked Miami first while the media voted for defending NCAA champion Michigan State. Defending regular-season and playoff champion Notre Dame placed third in each category.

The RedHawks edged out the Spartans for top honors in the coaches poll despite finishing with one fewer first-place vote (five) compared to Michigan State (six). The Irish are the only other team picked by a coach to finish on top. For the second consecutive year, the Spartans garnered the most first-place votes in both rankings as they are also the top choice of 25 media members. Notre Dame attracted 13 first-place votes in media balloting with Michigan rounding out selections with the remaining four.

The RedHawks, guided by three-time CCHA Coach of the Year Enrico Blasi, have 20 players returning, including both starting goaltenders, all eight defensemen who suited up last season for the team with the third-best defensive numbers in the conference, and impact senior forwards Ryan Jones and Nathan Davis. Jones, a 2004 draft pick of the Minnesota Wild, is the league’s top returning goalscorer after having notched 18 in conference action and 29 overall last season. Davis, selected by Chicago in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, was one of just nine players in the nation in 2006-07 to reach the 50-point plateau (21-29–50).

The Spartans also bring back 20 players from a squad that captured the school’s third national championship, the eighth won by a CCHA member, on April 7 in St. Louis. Michigan State is backstopped by junior goaltender Jeff Lerg, who is 5-1-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in NCAA tournament play, and led offensively by the potent all-junior combination of leading scorer Tim Kennedy (18-25–43), Frozen Four winning goal-scorer Justin Abdelkader and Pittsburgh draft pick Tim Crowder.

The Irish have 16 lettermen back, including their top five scorers led by Eric Condra (14-34–48) and 2007 All-Rookie Team picks Ryan Thang (20-21–41) and Kevin Deeth (17-22–39). On defense, another All-Rookie Team member, Kyle Lawson, will be joined by freshman Ian Cole, the first-ever first-round NHL draft choice in school history (18th, St. Louis).

A total of 63 members of the media ranked the 12 CCHA teams in projected order of finish for the regular season. Points were awarded on a 12-11-10-9, etc., basis. League coaches ranked the CCHA teams, excluding their own school, in the order they predicted the regular season will end. Points in the coaches poll were tallied on a 11-10-9, etc., basis.

Additionally, the league announced its preseason All-Conference teams, led by unanimous selections Lerg and Davis, along with Jones and Michigan senior captain Kevin Porter, the leading returning pointgetter in the league (58). Miami also has defenseman Alec Martinez on the First Team; he led all defensemen in balloting with seven first-place votes. Notre Dame sophomore Kyle Lawson, a 2006-07 CCHA All-Rookie pick, joins Martinez on the back end of the First Team.

Condra and Thang, who finished first and second in Notre Dame team scoring last season, were chosen to this season’s Second Team along with Kennedy and Michigan’s Chad Kolarik, who recorded 45 points as a junior with the Wolverines. Thang and Kolarik finished tied in balloting to give the Second Team four forwards.

Alaska’s Tyler Eckford, a Preseason All-Conference Honorable Mention a year ago, finished third in the voting among defensemen to reap Second Team honors. He is joined by Ohio State rearguard Jason DeSantis. Miami goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, also an Honorable Mention last year, joins the Second Team after receiving 35 points in balloting, including 10 second-place votes.

Voting was conducted among the 12 head coaches in the CCHA. Coaches could not vote for their own players.

2007-08 CCHA Preseason Coaches Poll

Rk School (1st) Pts
1. Miami (5) 114
2. Michigan State (6) 113
3. Notre Dame (1) 105
4. Michigan 92
5. Ohio State 77
6. Nebraska-Omaha 68
7. Lake Superior 52
8. Northern Michigan 48
9. Ferris State 44
10. Western Michigan 41
11. Alaska 25
12. Bowling Green 13

2007-08 CCHA Preseason Media Poll

Rk School (1st) Pts
1. Michigan State (25) 701
2. Miami (21) 667
3. Notre Dame (13) 656
4. Michigan (4) 596
5. Ohio State 414
6. Nebraska-Omaha 412
7. Western Michigan 352
8. Ferris State 279
9. Lake Superior State 270
10. Northern Michigan 248
11. Alaska 212
12. Bowling Green 108

2007-08 CCHA Preseason All-Conference Teams

First Team

Position Name, Year, School (1st) Pts
Forward Nathan Davis, SR, Miami (11) 55
Forward Kevin Porter, SR, Michigan (8) 49
Forward Ryan Jones, SR, Miami (7) 47
Defense Alec Martinez, JR, Miami (7) 45
Defense Kyle Lawson, SO, Notre Dame (5) 37
Goaltender Jeff Lerg, JR, Michigan State (11) 55

Second Team

Position Name, Year, School (1st) Pts
Forward Tim Kennedy, JR, Michigan State (5) 43
Forward Erik Condra, JR, Notre Dame (5) 39
Forward Chad Kolarik, SR, Michigan (0) 20
Forward Ryan Thang, SO, Notre Dame (0) 20
Defense Tyler Eckford, SR, Alaska (4) 33
Defense Jason DeSantis, JR, Ohio State (3) 31
Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, JR, Miami (1) 35