The Hockey East Writers & Broadcasters Association has picked Boston College to defend its regular-season title. The Eagles received 21 of 25 first-place votes to top this year’s preseason media poll. Massachusetts-Lowell, which tied for second last season, picked up three first-place votes and placed second in the poll. Boston University and New Hampshire rounded out the top four, while Providence, Maine (which got one first-place vote), Merrimack and Northeastern filled spots five through eight. Massachusetts and Vermont occupied the bottom two spots.
I was one of the three people who picked Lowell first. Obviously I have no problem with BC taking the top spot. I get it. The Eagles are the defending national champs and they’ve won three straight league titles. I would not be surprised at all if they did the same thing again this year. But, as of right now, I just think the River Hawks have fewer question marks. They return eight of their top 10 scorers and six defensemen who saw regular playing time, while BC returns just five of its top 10 scorers and three starting defensemen. Both teams return their starting goalie, and both are very good. The Eagles bring in a better recruiting class on paper, but Lowell’s incoming class is nothing to scoff at either. So did I really go out on a limb by picking Lowell? I don’t think so.
My ballot was different in two other places as well. I had Providence ahead of UNH for the fourth and final home ice spot, and I had UMass and Merrimack flipped. UNH could very well make the jump into the top four after finishing sixth last year, especially with Casey DeSmith starting in net from Day 1, but I think the Friars will ride the momentum they built at the end of last season, when they beat Lowell in the quarterfinals to reach the Garden for the first time in 10 years. Providence also brings in one of the best freshman classes in the league.
UMass went through a wild coaching search this summer, which I’m guessing is the main reason my peers have them out of the playoffs. However, the Minutemen return all but three point-scorers from last season, so I think it’s more likely they actually improve on last season’s eighth-place finish. Merrimack, meanwhile, loses star goaltender Joe Cannata and four of its top five scorers, which is why I have the Warriors tumbling to ninth.
The media also picked a preseason All-Hockey East Team. Maine’s Joey Diamond, BC’s Johnny Gaudreau, BU’s Matt Nieto and Lowell’s Scott Wilson were selected at forward (due to a tie, four were named). The two defensemen were BU’s Garrett Noonan and Lowell’s Chad Ruhwedel, while BC’s Parker Milner got the nod in goal. I have no problem with any of that because I picked the exact same team, minus Diamond, who would have been my fourth forward if I could have picked that many.
You can find the full media poll here.