WCHA PRESEASON POLL: Mankato earns top spot in WCHA
BEMIDJI — With six new teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this season, many predicted more parity in the new-look league.
According to members of the WCHA media, that prediction should hold true — although most think Minnesota State-Mankato will finish on top a year after a fantastic season and an NCAA tournament appearance.
The Bemidji Pioneer WCHA Preseason Media Poll shows the Mavericks as a near-unanimous choice to win the league, garnering 22-first place votes. A panel of 25 WCHA media members voted on a predicted order of finish, as well as individual awards.
Bemidji State was picked to finish eighth in the poll, behind Lake Superior State and ahead of Alaska Anchorage and Alabama Huntsville. The Beavers finished 11th out of 12 teams last season.
Despite nearly everyone in the media selecting MSU to take first in the league, the disparity between the Mavericks (who earned 244 total points) and the second place team was just 26 points.
Ferris State earned two first place votes and 218 points for a solid second place finish.
Alaska was picked to finish third with 68 points.
The teams in the middle of the pack were separated by 12 points. Bowling Green (149 points) was picked to finish fourth, followed by Michigan Tech (144) and Northern Michigan (137).
Lake Superior State (117) was chosen to finish seventh, Bemidji State eighth (108) and Alaska Anchorage ninth (54). Alabama-Huntsville, who was an independent last season, was picked to finish 10th out of 10 teams with 36 points.
The media also selected the league’s Preseason Player and Rookie of the Year, as well as an All-WCHA team.
Minnesota State swept the Player and Rookie of the Year awards. MSU forward Matt Leitner was the league media’s near-unanimous pick for preseason Player of the Year; while Mavericks’ forward Zach Stepan was the media’s pick for preseason Rookie of the Year.
Leitner was also named to the All-WCHA team as a forward along with Bowling Green’s Ryan Carpenter and Michigan Tech’a Alex Petan.
Defensemen named to the All-WCHA team were Minnesota State’s Zach Palmquist and Ferris State’s Jason Binkley.
MSU’s Stephon Williams was voted the goaltender on the All-WCHA team.