Last week the Preseason USCHO’s Division I Men’s College Hockey Poll was released. After breaking down teams 20-11 in Part One of this series, we take a closer look at teams 10-1. Each team breakdown will dig a little deeper into the Top 10 and provide some veterans to watch as well as some incoming freshmen to keep a closer eye on.
Rankings can be found here: http://www.uscho.com/rankings/d-i-mens-poll/
T-1st Place in Hockey in 2015-16 – Record: 27-7-4 (Lost in Northeast Regional Semi-Final to Minnesota-Duluth)
Defending a National Championship is no easy feat as the Friars learned during the 2015-16 season. Doing so down the stretch without your best defenseman makes the task even more difficult. If it weren’t for Jake Walman’s injury last spring, he could have found himself in the NHL as early as this October. Instead, the 2014 third rounder (St. Louis) will be back with Providence this season, much to fans delight. The Friars were 20-3-4 when Walman was on the ice.
Providence was a veteran laden club last season, and this year’s team will look to replace seven of their top ten scorers. The three returners are the aforementioned Walman (STL, 2014, 82nd), Brian Pinho (WAS, 2013, 174th) and Erik Foley (WPG, 2015, 78th), all of which will play huge roles on the club in 2016-17.
Newcomer Kasper Bjorkqvist (PIT, 2016, 61st) is one to watch, as the incoming freshman posted 66 points in 45 games in the Finnish U20 league last season.
9. Notre Dame
3rd in Hockey East in 2015-16 – Record: 19-11-7 (Lost in Midwest Regional Semi-Final to Michigan)
It was a tale of two seasons for the Fighting Irish in 2015-16. The team put together a stretch of 16 out of 17 unbeaten from November 28th through February 13th, but may have peaked too early as they finished the season losing six of their final seven.
Top scorers Anders Bjork (BOS, 2014, 146th) and Jake Evans (MTL, 2014, 207th) return for their junior seasons, as does stalwart goaltender Cal Petersen (BUF, 2013, 129th) who played all but 18 minutes last year for the Irish.
Andrew Peeke (CBJ, 2016, 34th) and Cam Morrison (COL, 2016, 40th) were both top-40 picks in this years draft and are coming off solid seasons in the USHL. Both should play important roles.
T-4th Place in Hockey East in 2015-16 – Record 25-10-5 (Lost in East Regional Final to Quinnipiac)
UMass-Lowell was a team built on defense and goaltending last season, as the River Hawks surrendered just 37 goals in 22 Hockey East conference games last season. That number was good for a staggeringly low 1.68 goals per game allowed. Senior goaltender Kevin Boyle has graduated, but captain Michael Kapla and fellow senior Dylan Zink will again lead a formidable defense.
In addition to their strong returning defense, UMass-Lowell returns their top two scoring forwards from a year ago in C.J. Smith and Joe Gambardella. A trio of USHL freshmen joins the forward ranks in Kenny Hausinger, Guillaume Leclerc, and Ryan Lohin (TBL, 2016, 208).
7. St. Cloud State
3rd in NCHC in 2015-16 – Record: 31-9-1 (Lost in West Regional Semi-Final to Ferris State)
St. Cloud State was an example of a team that did peak at the right time. Despite their heartbreaking OT loss in the West Regional Semi-Final to