BEMIDJI, Minn. -- There was a difference of opinion between coaches and the media regarding the Bemidji State men’s hockey team when the 2019-20 Western Collegiate Hockey Association preseason polls were announced Wednesday, Sept. 18.
The Beavers were picked to finish third in the league by WCHA coaches, and fifth by media members. That two-spot discrepancy between polls was the largest of any team.
“I think there’s a ton of parity in our league,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said during a conference call with the league’s coaches on Tuesday. “It’s going to be very difficult. I think after one and two it’s going to be really tight. Anybody can finish anywhere.”
The top two teams in the polls are the league’s NCAA Tournament qualifiers from last season: Minnesota State and Bowling Green.
The two-time defending MacNaughton Cup champion Mavericks were virtually the unanimous pick to repeat as regular-season champion. MSU received all 10 first-place votes in the media poll and nine in the Mankato Free Press coaches’ poll. Coaches could not vote for their own teams.
Bowling Green, who nearly captured the Jeff Sauer Trophy as WCHA tournament champion before losing an overtime heartbreaker to Minnesota State in the title game, was picked second in both polls. The Falcons received the one remaining first-place vote in the coaches’ poll.
“I don’t think there’s any question Mankato and BG are one and two, and they’re one and two for a reason,” Serratore said. “I just think right now on paper, they’re a cut above the rest.”
Only five points separated third through sixth place in the coaches’ poll. BSU led the group with 63 points for third, and was followed by Northern Michigan (61), Michigan Tech (59) and Lake Superior State (58). The media poll saw NMU earn 72 points for third, and was trailed by MTU (68), BSU (62) and LSSU (57).
Alaska, Ferris State, Alabama Huntsville and Alaska Anchorage finished in the bottom four in both polls.
The coaches and media were in complete agreement when it came to selecting preseason award winners.
Minnesota State senior forward Marc Michaelis was the leading vote-getter for WCHA Preseason Player of the Year among league coaches and media.
MSU freshman forward Nathan Smith, a 2018 third-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets, also got the nod as WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year in both camps.
Beaver freshman forward Sam Solensky received one vote for each of the rookie awards. Solensky is likely out until January with a torn labrum in his shoulder, Serratore said.
BSU goaltender Zach Driscoll garnered one vote for the media’s preseason All-WCHA team.
Bemidji State finished the 2018-19 season at 15-17-6 overall with a 13-11-4-2 mark in league play to place fifth in the WCHA standings.
BSU returns 78 percent of its goals from last season, and 71 percent of its points.
Senior forward Adam Brady and senior defenseman Tommy Muck will captain the Beavers in 2019-20 alongside alternate captains senior forward Hampus Sjodahl and junior forward Ethan Somoza.
The team returns plenty of experience up front and in goal. A young crop of blue-liners that features four freshmen will hope to hit the ground running when the season starts in three weeks.
“The biggest thing is we’re really looking and concentrating on our D corps, because these freshmen have to play,” Serratore said. “All four of our (freshmen) defensemen are coming from the USHL. All four have played a lot of hockey, and they’ve got a lot of experience.”
The 2019-20 season kicks off Oct. 11-12 with a nonconference series against in-state rival St. Cloud State at the Sanford Center.
2019-20 Preseason All-WCHA Team (coaches and media)
Forwards: Marc Michaelis (Sr., Minnesota State); Parker Tuomie (Sr., Minnesota State); Brandon Kruse (Jr., Bowling Green). Defensemen: Philip Beaulieu (Sr., Northern Michigan); Alec Rauhauser (Sr., Bowling Green). Goaltender: Dryden McKay (So., Minnesota State).
2019-20 Mankato Free Press WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Minnesota State (9) 90 2. Bowling Green (1) 82 3. Bemidji State 63 4. Northern Michigan 61 5. Michigan Tech 59 6. Lake Superior State 58 7. Alaska 39 8. Ferris State 38 9. Alabama Huntsville 30 10. Alaska Anchorage 20
2019-20 WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Media Poll
1. Minnesota State (10) 100 2. Bowling Green 89 3. Northern Michigan 72 4. Michigan Tech 68 5. Bemidji State 62 6. Lake Superior State 57 7. Ferris State 37 8. Alaska 27 9. Alabama Huntsville 26 10. Alaska Anchorage 12