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UND ranked No. 1 in preseason national poll

jea 0046 Gophers vs ND.jpg
Jordan Kawaguchi celebrates his goal against the University of Minnesota in Mariucci Arena. Herald File Photo.
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UND will enter a strange 2020-21 season with big expectations.

The Fighting Hawks were ranked No. 1 in the preseason USCHO poll, which was released Monday.

It marks the first time UND has started the season with the No. 1 ranking since the fall of 2016. That came on the heels of UND's eighth NCAA national championship.

UND reached the NCAA tournament that season, but got knocked out in the first round by Boston University in double overtime in Scheels Arena.

UND received 28 of 50 first-place votes in the poll. Boston College is ranked second, followed by Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State-Mankato, Denver, Cornell, UMass, Clarkson, Penn State and Ohio State. Bemidji State is ranked No. 16.

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The Fighting Hawks lost some key players from last year's team, including NHL signees Colton Poolman (Calgary Flames) and Cole Smith (Nashville Predators). But they return plenty of top players from a team that was 26-5-4 when the season was abruptly ended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

UND brings back Hobey Baker Award finalist Jordan Kawaguchi and both of his linemates, Grant Mismash and Collin Adams. All are seniors. The Fighting Hawks also bring back second-line center Shane Pinto, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's reigning rookie of the year, and right winger Judd Caulfield. Center Jasper Weatherby also is coming off of a 10-goal year.

On defense, the Fighting Hawks have two of the league's best in senior Matt Kiersted and junior Jacob Bernard-Docker, a first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators.

In goal, UND brings back both netminders -- Peter Thome and Adam Scheel.

This will be the third time UND has held the No. 1 preseason ranking since 2007. The Fighting Hawks did not win the league championship or national championship in either of those previous years, 2007 and 2016.

UND will kick off the season in Omaha, where it will play 10 games in the span of three weeks in the NCHC Pod. The Pod is expected to start Dec. 1.

The Fighting Hawks will play two games against Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State, Western Michigan and Miami in the Pod. They'll also play two games against either Denver or Colorado College.

After the new year, UND will play 16 games, exclusively against Omaha, Denver and Colorado College.

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2020-21 USCHO preseason poll

1. North Dakota (28)

2. Boston College (4)

3. Minnesota Duluth (3)

4. MSU-Mankato (1)

5. Denver

6. Cornell (4)

7. UMass

8. Clarkson

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9. Penn State

10. Ohio State

11. UMass Lowell

12. Michigan

13. Quinnipiac

14. Minnesota

15. Arizona State

16. Bemidji State

17. Providence

18. Western Michigan

19. Northeastern

20. Notre Dame

UND's rank in past preseason USCHO polls

2020: 1.

2019: 18.

2018: 11.

2017: 7.

2016: 1.

2015: 4.

2014: 2.

2013: 7.

2012: 4.

2011: 3.

2010: 2.

2009: 6.

2008: 5.

2007: 1.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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