If you hoped that last year's sub-standard season meant that Boston College hockey would come in to this year without the target placed squarely on their backs, think again. With last year's national championship game contestants both losing key players to graduation and with no clear successor bringing back the bulk of a strong roster, Boston College was ranked #1 in a very disjointed USCHO preseason poll.
I can't really tell if I'm surprised or not that BC is #1. I guess I shouldn't be; BC was ranked #1 in Hockey East by both the media and the coaches, and Hockey East has been the best conference in college hockey over the past 8 years or so, so it stands to reason that the Eagles would top the national poll. However, it feels like a bit much, expectations-wise, for a team that eked in to the tournament last year, got blitzed by Denver, and lost their two most talented defensemen.
Of course, BC's #1 ranking is less a reflection of a team expected to dominate and more a reflection of the complete mystery that is this forthcoming college hockey season. It seems like with no clear favorites writers flocked to teams they knew and BC was the obvious big name to pick.
The preseason poll featured a record-setting ten teams receiving first place votes: BC, Minnesota-Duluth, BU, North Dakota, Minnesota State, Providence, Harvard, Minnesota, Miami and UMass Lowell. Lowell got a pair of first place votes and yet came in at #14 overall, with some voters leaving them off their ballot entirely.
35 teams received at least one vote in the poll - more than half of the total amount of schools playing D1 hockey. WISCONSIN got 5 points despite being utterly putrid last year. Brown got a 20th place vote... I have to assume that was New Guy.
The point is that nobody really knows what to expect. Usually there are a few heirs apparent to the throne - teams that made solid tournament runs or had good regular seasons, didn't win it all, but return most of their best players. Going in to last year, that was Minnesota and North Dakota, both of whom brought back a lot of talent from teams that came up short in the 2014 Frozen Four. Both lost a lot of firepower from last season, with North Dakota losing their coach and their starting goalie to the NHL, and the Gophers losing a golden generation of talent.
The closest anyone comes to the "heir apparent" this year is, I guess, Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs return 8 of their top 10 scorers from a team that last year torched Minnesota and took BU to the brink in the NCAA regionals. Harvard also returns a lot of talent from last year's very good team, including preseason Hobey candidate Jimmy Vesey. I probably would have expected each of those teams to be ranked ahead of BC.
In a sport where the #1 overall seed, BU, finished the regular season with just three more wins than a Michigan team that was on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble, where one of the last teams to squeak in to the tournament won the championship, and where a series of lesser-heralded programs have won national titles in recent years, it stands to reason that the preseason poll would reflect some serious uncertainty. This could be the most wide open season of college hockey in quite some time. Can the Eagles rise above the crowded field?
Complete poll results, via USCHO.com:
|Team||(First Place Votes)||Record||Points||Last Poll|
|3||Boston University||( 6)||28- 8-5||820||2|
|4||North Dakota||( 1)||29-10-3||766||3|
|6||Minnesota State||( 1)||29- 8-3||699||7|
|17||St. Cloud State||20-19-1||236||10|
|Others receiving votes: Robert Morris 63, Notre Dame 45, Rochester Institute of Technology 39, Michigan State 37, Northeastern 31, Vermont 23, Penn State 19, New Hampshire 18, Ferris State 11, Wisconsin 5, Bemidji State 4, Union 3, Alaska 1, Brown 1, Dartmouth 1.|