Michigan, Notre Dame Anointed As CCHA Favorites

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

In the coaches poll, the Irish took eight of a possible 11 first-place votes, two seconds and one third. Michigan received three of the remaining first-place votes as well as 43 number-one tallies in the media poll, earning the Wolverines the top ranking there. Miami, Michigan State and Northern Michigan filled out the third, fourth and fifth-place slots in both polls.

The RedHawks garnered the only other first-place ballot among the coaches while all three teams received first-place votes from the media.

The Irish, coming off their first appearance in an NCAA championship game, have 18 returning letterwinners including starting goaltender Jordan Pearce along with four defensemen and 11 forwards including impact players Erik Condra, Ryan Thang, Kyle Lawson and Ian Cole. Condra, a 2006 draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, and Lawson, a 2005 draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, are CCHA Preseason All-Conference First Team selections, and Pearce was honored as the RBK Best Goaltender award winner last season. Notre Dame is returning eight of its top 10 scorers from last season in coach Jeff Jackson’s fourth season behind the bench.

The Wolverines bring back 21 players, tied for most in the CCHA with Bowling Green, including all seven defensemen from a squad that won 33 games last season while capturing CCHA regular-season and tournament titles. Michigan is backstopped by senior goaltender Billy Sauer, who had a 30-4-3 record with a 1.95 goals-against average and .924 save percentage last year. Michigan is led offensively by sophomore Aaron Palushaj, who had 44 points, along with five other returning Wolverines who broke the 20 point barrier.

The RedHawks have 15 lettermen back, including a pair of 40-point scorers from last season, senior forward Justin Mercier and sophomore forward Carter Camper. Michigan State will be led by senior captain and goaltender Jeff Lerg, who has been named to the CCHA Preseason All-Conference First Team for three straight seasons. The Wildcats bring back 10 of their top 12 point producers from last season and look to finish in the top three for the first time since 2004-05.

A record 83 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.

CCHA Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Notre Dame (8) 128
2. Michigan (3) 122
3. Miami (1) 108
4. Northern Michigan 102
5. Michigan State 96
6. Ferris State 84
7. Ohio State 67
8. Nebraska-Omaha 59
9. Bowling Green 56
10. Lake Superior State 46
T-11. Alaska 28
T-11. Western Michigan 28

CCHA Preseason Media Poll
1. Michigan (43) 945
2. Notre Dame (35) 915
3. Michigan State (2) 776
4. Miami (2) 746
5. Northern Michigan (1) 700
6. Ferris State 529
7. Bowling Green 444
8. Nebraska-Omaha 415
9. Ohio State 339
10. Lake Superior State 322
11. Alaska 198
12. Western Michigan 145