BLOOMINGTON, Minn.--The Adrian College men's hockey team will begin the 2017-18 season ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to the D3hockey.com Top 15 preseason media poll released late Wednesday. With 281 points and eight 1st-place votes, the Bulldogs edged defending NCAA champion Norwich University--which received two more first place votes than Adrian among 273 points--for the top spot in balloting by coaches, Sports Information Directors and media members from across the country.
Norwich clipped Adrian, 5-4 in overtime, in last year's Frozen Four in Utica, N.Y., but heavy losses to graduation for the Cadets paired with minimal losses for the Bulldogs was enough for the voters to give the latter a narrow edge.
The votes are in and though this year's preseason poll showcases the same 15 teams last season's final poll did, their order is noticeably different -- and that shake-up starts at the very top as Adrian edged out defending national champion Norwich and will open the season at No. 1. Norwich, which topped Adrian 5-4 in overtime in last season's NCAA semifinals, landed at No. 2 despite claiming ten first-place votes to Adrian's eight.
This marks the first time ever that Adrian is the D3hockey.com Preseason No. 1 and the 281 points and eight first-place votes are also program records in the organization's premiere season rankings. Earlier this week, the Bulldogs checked in at No. 3 in US College Hockey Online's preseason poll.
Adrian returns a bevy of lettermen--21 in all--including its top nine point scorers and two veteran goaltenders. The team is the three-time defending Northern Collegiate Hockey Association Peters Cup champion for regular-season play and has captured two of the last three Harris Cups symbolic of winning the conference championship. The Bulldogs return 90.8 percent of their goal-production and 93.7 percent of the assists. Last year's squad ended up 20-7-2 overall (17-3 NCHA South Division) and advanced to its seventh NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship appearance, reaching the national semifinals for the second time in three years.
The NCHA preseason favorites also return the top three point-scorers from the conference last season among an experienced group of 21 lettermen, including senior left wing Kyle Brothers (1st/8 goals+28 assists=36 points), junior left wing Trevor Boyd (19+17=36/first in goals) and junior defenseman Cory Dunn (9+27=36). Boyd and Dunn were All-NCHA members, as was junior forward Bryan Yim (14+15=29) and junior goalie Kevin Entmaa (15-7-2 W-L-T, 2.27 GAA). Boyd and Dunn both earned American Hockey Coaches Association All-America accolades, and sophomore forward Vincent Paquette (14+15=29) was named the 2017 NCHA Freshman of the Year.
That nucleus is joined by an equally talented recruiting class that is comprised of two transfers and three freshmen.
Defending national runner-up Trinity and fellow 2017 Frozen Four participant St. Norbert, which claimed two first-place votes of its own, checked in at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, while the next five spots are held down by teams that all qualified for last year's NCAA tournament.
UW-Stevens Point held its final No. 5 position from a year ago, while upstart Endicott will enter its season at No. 6 on the heels of its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance -- and NCAA tournament win.
Behind the Gulls, Oswego State's three-spot jump from No. 10 to No. 7 marked the second-biggest leap of any team in the poll, and the Lakers are followed by Hamilton at No. 8 while Hobart will enter its first year in the NEHC at No. 9.
Geneseo was the biggest gainer in this year's debut group of 15 as the Knights climbed five spots to No. 10. UW-Eau Claire landed a spot behind at No. 11 and defending SUNYAC postseason champion, Plattsburgh State, followed the Blugolds at No. 12.
And finally, reigning MIAC postseason champion Augsburg, along with Utica and New England College nailed down the final three spots in the inaugural Top 15.
By conference, both the NEHC and SUNYAC placed three teams in the poll while the NCHA, NESCAC and WIAC claimed two spots apiece and the CCC, MIAC and UCHC all landed a single representative.
#GoldStandard #AdrianBulldogs #GoDawgs #BulldogProud
(Editor's note: The D3hockey.com editorial staff contributed to this story.)