COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Returning the majority of last season’s national championship team, the Denver Pioneers were unanimously selected by the media as the favorite to capture the 2017-18 Julie and Spencer Penrose Memorial Cup, awarded to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) regular-season champion, for a second straight year. DU topped the 2017-18 NCHC Preseason Poll, which was unveiled Tuesday on Twitter, one day ahead of NCHC Media Day.
The Pioneers, who won their first Penrose Cup a season ago, received all 30 first-place votes on the media ballots for a total of 240 points. St. Cloud State was picked second in the poll with 187 points, after placing fifth last year, while North Dakota landed in the third spot with 172 points, one spot up from last year’s finish. Minnesota Duluth, the 2017 NCHC Frozen Faceoff champions, was chosen fourth in the poll with 160 points.
Looking to improve on last year’s seventh-place finish, Miami was selected fifth in the preseason poll with 104 points, only two points ahead of rival Western Michigan, which was sixth in the poll with 102 points. Omaha came in seventh in the preseason poll with 83 points while Colorado College totaled 32 points in eighth place.
Denver posted a 33-7-4 record en route to the program’s eighth national championship last season, including 18-3-3-2 in NCHC play to hoist the Penrose Cup. The Pioneers return 16 letterwinners from that title team, including four student-athletes who earned NCHC Preseason All-Conference Team honors on Monday, but do lose Hobey Baker Award winning-defenseman Will Butcher. Senior Tanner Jaillet, the 2016-17 Mike Richter Award winner, returns in goal for the Pioneers while sophomore forward Henrik Borgström, the reigning NCHC Rookie of the Year, and junior forwards Dylan Gambrell and Troy Terry all joined Jaillet on the Preseason All-NCHC Team.
St. Cloud State is coming off a 10-13-1-0 campaign in the NCHC that saw them finish only four points behind fourth-place North Dakota. The Huskies bring back 18 lettermen from that team, including junior defenseman Jimmy Schuldt, who was named to the NCHC Preseason All-Conference Team Monday, and sophomore forward Ryan Poehling, who was a first-round NHL draft pick in June.
The Fighting Hawks were picked behind SCSU, but also return 18 letterwinners from a team that went 11-12-1-1 in the NCHC a season ago. UND was 21-16-3 overall last year after making its 15th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, and will be led in net by senior Cam Johnson and on offense by junior forward Shane Gersich, who was a Preseason All-NCHC pick.
Rounding out the top half of the poll was Minnesota Duluth, which is coming off a national runner-up season and a runner-up finish in the NCHC with a 15-5-4-3 record. The Bulldogs were 28-7-7 overall last year, losing 10 letterwinners from that squad, but UMD does bring in a talented freshman class with three NHL draft picks to go along with sophomore forwards Joey Anderson and Riley Tufte, who were both drafted in 2016.
A total of 30 ballots were submitted by local media members from each school, as well as select national media. Points were awarded on a descending scale with a first-place vote worth eight points, a second-place vote worth seven points and so on.
NCHC Media Day will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept. 20 at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn., the new home of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. Fans can participate on social media and follow along throughout the day on our Media Day Live blog.
The NCHC drops the puck on the 2017-18 season with five exhibition games on Saturday, Sept. 30 while the regular season begins Friday, Oct. 6 with six NCHC teams in action. Fans can watch all the exciting NCHC action on NCHC.tv, where over 140 NCHC games will be streamed live during the season. To subscribe to NCHC.tv, click here.
2017-18 NCHC Preseason Poll
Denver – 240 points (30 first-place votes)
St. Cloud State - 187
North Dakota - 172
Minnesota Duluth - 160
Miami - 104
Western Michigan - 102
Omaha - 83
Colorado College – 32