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Bemidji State men's hockey: BSU picked to finish ninth in WCHA coaches poll

Earlier this decade, there was a four-year stretch where the preseason favorite in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association finished fourth or lower.

The UND men's hockey team is probably glad the fortunes have recently changed.

The league's coaches have pegged the Sioux as the overwhelming favorite to win the league in the 40th annual Grand Forks Herald coaches poll. UND registered 10 of 12 first-place votes and easily finished ahead of St. Cloud State, which received the other two.

Minnesota-Duluth was picked to finish third, followed by Denver, Minnesota, Colorado College and Wisconsin.

Newcomers Nebraska-Omaha and Bemidji State are picked to finish eighth and ninth, respectively. Minnesota State-Mankato, Alaska-Anchorage and Michigan Tech round out the bottom of the poll.

"I don't think any of the veterans on our team are going to duck some of the expectations that we have to have a good season," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "More importantly, I expect they'll pay attention to the work and details that go into having a good start to the season. I expect they'll forget about the entirety of a season for the time being and concentrate on having a good start. The first 10 games are going to be very important."

Although the coaches typically make fun of their predicting ability, they've correctly guessed the winner in three of the last five years.

Prior to that, the preseason favorite finished sixth, fourth, seventh and fourth, prompting some coaches to call it a curse.

UND has been picked to win the league five times since 1997. The Sioux ended up winning it three of those times and finished second the other two, most recently in 2007-08.

Minnesota-Duluth junior forward Jack Connolly is the preseason player of the year. Connolly, who tallied 49 points last season, received five votes, narrowly edging UND defenseman Chay Genoway, who received four. St. Cloud State's Garrett Roe got the other three votes.

Colorado College forward Jaden Schwartz is the preseason rookie of the year in the league, getting nine of 12 first-place votes. Minnesota's Nick Bjugstad, Wisconsin's Tyler Barnes and Nebraska-Omaha's Matt White each received one vote. Schwartz was the first college player selected in the NHL draft in June.

Brad E. Schlossman is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald. The Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

North Dakota was also selected to finish first in the WCHA media poll sponsored by the 94X radio station in Duluth.

UND received 28 of the 29 first-place votes.

Bemidji State was picked to finish eighth in the media poll and Nebraska-Omaha was picked to finish ninth.

Grand Forks Herald Coaches Poll

40th Annual

1. North Dakota (10) 120

2. St. Cloud State (2) 105

3. Minnesota-Duluth 100

4. Denver 88

5. Minnesota 82

6. Colorado College 67

7. Wisconsin 64

8. Nebraska-Omaha 55

9. Bemidji State 46

10. MSU-Mankato 31

11. Alaska-A nchorage 19

12. Michigan Tech 15

(First place votes in parentheses)

Player of the year: Jack Connolly, Duluth (5); Chay Genoway, UND (4); Garrett Roe, SCSU (3)

Rookie of the year: Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College (9); Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota (1), Tyler Barnes, Wisconsin (1), Matt White, Omaha (1)

94X WCHA Media Poll

1. North Dakota (28) 347

2. Minnesota Duluth 300

3. St. Cloud State (1) 295

4. Denver 242

5. Wisconsin 218

6. Minnesota 203

7. Colorado College 182

8. Bemidji State 156

9. Nebraska-Omaha 125

10. Minnesota State 97

11. Alaska-Anchorage 51

12. Michigan Tech 46

Preseason WCHA Player of the Year

Chay Genoway, North Dakota (10); Garrett Roe, St. Cloud State (5); Justin Fontaine, Minnesota Duluth (4); Jack Connolly, Minnesota Duluth (3); Jason Gregoire, North Dakota (2); Mike Connolly, Minnesota Duluth (1); Matt Read, Bemidji State (1); Evan Trupp, North Dakota (1)

Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year

Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College (10); Derek Forbort, North Dakota (6); Beau Bennett, Denver (4); Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota (2); Tyler Barnes, Wisconsin (1); J.T. Brown, Minnesota Duluth (1); Rob Gunderson, Alaska-Anchorage (1); Radoslav Illo, Bemidji State (1); Jason Zucker, Denver (1)