CC picked 7th, Thorimbert shares goalie honor in WCHA media poll

Compiled and written by Bruce Ciskie, KZIO Radio/Bulldog Radio Network …

A year after surprising many by winning the WCHA’s MacNaughton Cup Championship, the Minnesota Golden Gophers are a nearly-unanimous pick of WCHA media to win the league. The annual 94X WCHA Preseason Media Poll, released Wednesday, shows the Gophers easily outdistancing the rest of the league.

A panel of 25 members of the WCHA media voted on a predicted order of finish, along with a handful of individual honors.

Minnesota received a whopping 24 of 25 first-place votes. Defending WCHA playoff champion North Dakota had the other first-place vote and finished a distant second. Denver came in third, followed by Wisconsin and Minnesota Duluth. St. Cloud State claimed the final “home-ice” position in the preseason balloting.

Minnesota junior forward Nick Bjugstad, pictured, was a runaway choice for the Preseason Player of the Year. He also anchors the media’s second annual Preseason All-WCHA Team, where he is joined at forward by Wisconsin junior Mark Zengerle and St. Cloud State senior Ben Hanowski. The defensemen on the team are Denver’s Joey LaLeggia and Nick Jensen of St. Cloud State. Sam Brittain of Denver and Josh Thorimbert of Colorado College tied for the goaltending nod.

For the second straight year, the media chose North Dakota’s Rocco Grimaldi as Preseason Rookie of the Year. Grimaldi took a redshirt after an injury-ravaged season, and he is again eligible for rookie honors.

Teams were scored under a standard system of 12 points for a first-place vote, 11 for second, and so on. The number listed with each team is the number of points that team averaged per vote.

94X WCHA PRESEASON MEDIA POLL

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1. Minnesota (24 first place votes) … 11.92 poll average

2. North Dakota (1) … 10.76

3. Denver … 9.92

4. Wisconsin … 7.8

5. Minnesota Duluth … 6.88

6. St. Cloud State … 6.84

7. Colorado College … 6.08

8. Nebraska Omaha … 5.48

9. Michigan Tech … 5.2

10. Minnesota State … 3.6

11. Bemidji State … 2.48

12. Alaska Anchorage … 1.04

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Nick Bjugstad, forward, Minnesota (16 votes)

Others receiving more than one vote: Erik Haula, forward, Minnesota (4); Mark Zengerle, forward, Wisconsin (3)

PRESEASON ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Rocco Grimaldi, forward, North Dakota (8 1/2 votes)

Others receiving more than one vote: Nic Kerdiles, forward, Wisconsin (5); Jordan Schmaltz, defenseman, North Dakota (2 1/2); Brady Skjei, defenseman, Minnesota (2); Andy Welinski, defenseman, Minnesota Duluth (2)

PRESEASON ALL-WCHA TEAM

Forwards

Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota (20 votes); Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin (17); Ben Hanowski, St. Cloud State (8)

Others receiving more than one vote: Danny Kristo, North Dakota (7); Erik Haula, Minnesota (6); Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College (5); Corban Knight, North Dakota (3)

Defensemen

Joey LaLeggia, Denver (20 votes); Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State (9)

Others receiving more than one vote: Nate Schmidt, Minnesota (7); Wade Bergman, Minnesota Duluth (3)

Goalie

Sam Brittain, Denver and Josh Thorimbert, Colorado College (7 1/2 votes each)

Others receiving more than one vote: Juho Olkinuora, Denver (3), Joel Rumpel, Wisconsin (2)

The following media members took part in the 94X Preseason Media Poll:  David Ahlers, KKAR Radio/University of Nebraska-Omaha; Stephen Anderson, Daily Mining Gazette; Andy Baggot, Wisconsin State Journal; Tyler Buckentine, USCHO.com; Mike Chambers, Denver Post; Bruce Ciskie, KZIO Radio/Bulldog Radio Network; Chris Dilks, Western College Hockey; Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press; John Gilbert, WCHA.com; Kurt Haider, KENI Radio; Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times; Dirk Hembroff, WKMJ Radio; Jack Hittinger, Bemidji Pioneer; Ken Landau, 103.9 FM The Eagle Radio; Don Lyons, Leighton Broadcasting/St. Cloud; Todd Milewski, USCHO.com; Dan Myers, Minnesota Hockey Magazine; Jess Myers, 1500ESPN.com; Joe Paisley, Colorado Springs/Colorado College; Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune; Chris Peters, United States of Hockey; Brian Posick, WIBA Radio/Badger Radio Network; Chad Purcell, Omaha World Herald; Brad Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald; Jay Stickney, 102.3 ESPN Radio.

Monday reading: CC complex renovations, UND, Hastings, Fairbanks

The new athletic department office/classroom addition along Cache La Poudre Street opened on Aug. 6 and the new facility at the El Pomar Sports Complex looks sharp. Pictured above (image courtesy CC sports information)  is a display outside the three hockey offices showing all the former Tigers who have played in the NHL.

And yes, the display is set up so more players may be added over time.

The addition has three classrooms that may also serve as team meeting rooms — fittingly the 8-seat Ray Werner classroom could be the freshmen study table — and a formal meeting room.

Here is a view of the entrance to the athletic department offices on the second floor of the El Pomar Sports Complex.

All in all, the addition is a huge improvement over the former office space with more room for a more centralized department instead of having offices spread out all over the facility and campus.

The varsity weight rooms, locker rooms and hockey shooting room (synthetic ice) — as part of Phase 2 renovations of the existing building — are scheduled to open by Sept. 3 when classes start.

That phase also includes extensive improvements to Reid Gym. Phase 3, which includes the much-anticipated student/faculty/staff fitness center addition to the north, is scheduled to open in late spring 2013.

In other news, the Grand Forks Herald continues to give Division I hockey its due by sending its beat writer to all road contests. I was glad to read that. There is also an update of sorts about goalie Aaron Dell who will not be back but has yet to sign a pro deal. No doubt there will be more later.

ECAC postseason tournament is headed back to Lake Placid in 2014.

Here is a short profile on Minnesota State Mankato coach Mike Hastings and UConn’s Brant Harris, a future Air Force opponent.

A former Nanook is back as an assistant for Alaska-Fairbanks.

Saturday reading: NCHC venue, games of the decade, Gomez leaves

The Grand Forks Herald reported that the contract between the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and the Target Center in Minneapolis is for six years with an opt-out clause. UND player Andrew MacWilliam had shoulder surgery.

This CHN article also has some more background on the venue.

No doubt the WCHA will stay in the X and alternate with the Big 10 in Detroit as well. That contract will probably be announced soon.

College Hockey Weekly compiled its best games of the previous decade (1999-2000 to 2008-09 seasons) with two CC results making the honorable mention and one, the 2005 regional final versus Michigan,  making the top 10.

Which Tiger games are in your top 10?  Please include your real name by messaging me on Paisley Hockey on Facebook. I will pitch the story idea to CC sports information about this if there is enough fan interest shown. Thanks.

The NCAA rules committee managed to put off a decision concerning face shields and make some minor change recommendations.

Former Tiger Cody Lampl is training the next generation of college players to come out of Idaho’s Wood River Valley, where he grew up. I lived in that area and having that “hockey garage” is a step up for the area.

Finally, Gazette college hockey/Olympics/Sky Sox reporter Brian Gomez announced that his final day at the newspaper will be June 15 as he moves home to Phoenix to work for the Red Cross. Good luck to him (not that he will need it). He did a good job handling a heavy workload and I will miss him in the press box.