The WCHA preseason polls were released the other day, and, to my mind, there weren’t many surprises near the top.

North Dakota is a solid favorite for the MacNaughton Cup, Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State should be in the mix and Denver could be hanging around the top, even without a number of the players that made it successful over the last few years.

Before I get into what did surprise me, albeit mildly, here’s how I voted in the media poll, organized this year by Bruce Ciskie:

1. North Dakota
2. Minnesota-Duluth
3. St. Cloud State
4. Denver
5. Bemidji State
6. Minnesota
7. Wisconsin
8. Colorado College
9. Nebraska-Omaha
10. Minnesota State
11. Alaska-Anchorage
12. Michigan Tech

Player of the year: Chay Genoway, North Dakota
Rookie of the year: Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College

I thought either Bemidji State or Nebraska-Omaha would appear in the top half of the polls, but they traded off eighth and ninth.

Honestly, I think either one could end up in the top half of the standings, but I put Bemidji State at fifth because I think it has a great chance of carrying over what it accomplished last season. The Beavers have most of their scoring and both of their goaltenders back, and they shouldn’t be awed by the transition to the WCHA because they’ve played a lot of the teams over the last few seasons.

All in all, though, I had a lot of hesitation about hitting the send button on the e-mail with my ballot. I don’t really like where I had Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado College and UNO, but I had to settle on something.

I can’t remember putting a team that played in the last game of the season so low in the rankings the next year. Then again, I can’t remember a team losing quite as much as Wisconsin did over the summer.

Minnesota is a mystery to me. So much talent, but we’ve seen where that doesn’t always matter.

I think Colorado College is a middle-of-the-pack team this season, but I have in my mind that whenever I think that, the Tigers turn out to be pretty good.

And picking a Dean Blais-coached team for ninth just feels wrong.

But it’s done, and we can put away the polls until March, when we can all have a good laugh.

Now it’s on to picking the national top 20 for the first Division I Men’s Poll, which will be released on Monday. I know who I’m picking for first, but spots 2 through 20 are up for grabs.

  • I wonder what swayed his decision . . . does anybody know?

    • bluetell

      This is what Blue Ice (The story of Michigan Hockey) says about it:

      “Berenson and his buddies wrote letters to a handful of schools, which resulted in Berenson visiting North Dakota in 1958 as the pilot fish for his friends. Berenson was favorably impressed by North Dakota and the caliber of players the former coach, a man named Al Renfrew, has lured to Grand Forks before Renfrew returned to Michigan the year before. But soon after Berenson’s visit to North Dakota, Dale MacDonald, a Saskatoon native playing for Renfrew at Michigan, told his coach that Berenson was the rare player worth going out of his way to get.

      “Al called me and said ‘North Dakota’s great, but you gotta come see Michigan,'” Berenson remembers. Renfrew scraped together enough money to fly the young phenom to Michigan, thereby making Berenson the first hockey player to ever receive a free recruiting trip to Ann Arbor. It also marked Berenson’s first trip on an airplane.

      The extra effort was worth it, for both parties. “Once he was on campus,” Renfrew says, “we didn’t have to sell him on it.”

      “After I came down on a visit,” Berenson confirms, “I came back and told the other guys, ‘This is where we’re going.'” And just like that, a pipeline of hockey talent was created between Regina and Ann Arbor”

      In the next 6 years (1958-1964), 14 players from Regina played for Michigan primarily because Red chose Michigan over North Dakota and they followed him down to Ann Arbor