DETROIT – Apparently, the CCHA looks different from the bench than from the press box.
For the first time in recent memory, the CCHA coaches and media picked different teams as preseason favorites. Michigan received the media’s nod, and Michigan State got the coaches’ in the polls unveiled yesterday at CCHA Media Day at Joe Louis Arena.
The Wolverines beat out the Spartans by one point in the media poll (845-844), despite receiving 12 fewer first-place votes. In the coaches’ poll, the Spartans led by a much wider margin (117-108).
Following last year’s third-place conference finish and first-round loss to North Dakota in the NCAA Tournament, Michigan coach Red Berenson pointed to his hockey program’s prestige as a main reason for the preseason hype.
“It shows respect for the Michigan program,” Berenson said.
Although Michigan and Michigan State topped the preseason rankings, the coaches agreed that there is no clear-cut favorite to win the conference – or any single game for that matter.
“Every game is a war,” Michigan State coach Rick Comley said.
The coaches also pointed to the fact that there’s always a surprise team in the conference. Last year, Ferris State and Lake Superior State were picked to finish 10th and 11th, respectively, before the season. When the final whistle blew, the two schools tied for sixth.
“Every year, someone emerges (that you don’t expect),” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “You never know who.”
It takes just a glance at last year’s preseason polls to realize that preseason rankings don’t mean much. The coaches and media picked Ohio State to win the conference. At the end of the season, the Buckeyes were 10th.
Last year’s regular-season champion Miami (Ohio) was picked to finish third in both polls.
The CCHA also announced its preseason All-Conference team yesterday. As would be expected from a team picked to finish in the top two of the league, Wolverines occupy a few spots on the squad.
Senior defensman Matt Hunwick and senior forward T.J. Hensick were named to the CCHA Preseason All-Conference First Team yesterday, along with sophomore defensman Jack Johnson. Both Hensick and Hunwick were named to the CCHA All-Conference second team after last season, with Johnson on the CCHA All-Rookie team.
Joining the Michigan trio on the preseason first team are Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg, Miami (Ohio) forward Nathan Davis and Nebraska-Omaha forward Scott Parse, the defending CCHA Player of The Year and lone consensus pick to the first team.
Michigan junior Kevin Porter was named to the second team, and sophomore Andrew Cogliano received honorable mention.
Team practices officially begin around the conference on Saturday.