Huskies picked to finish in top half

HOUGHTON – Western Collegiate Hockey Association coaches had a rosier outlook than the media for Michigan Tech’s chances in the first year after the league’s realignment.

Tech, Minnesota State, Bemidji State and Alaska Anchorage remain from the WCHA’s previous iteration, while Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, Ferris State, Bowling Green and Alaska were absorbed from the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association and Alabama-Huntsville was plucked from the independent ranks.

The Huskies were slotted for third in the annual coaches’ poll, conducted this year by the Mankato (Minn.) Free Press and released today, but were fifth in the annual media poll, conducted by the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and released Tuesday.

Minnesota State, fresh off an NCAA Tournament appearance this spring, was No. 1 by a wide margin in both polls. Among the coaches, the Mavericks received 81 poll points to second-place Ferris State’s 65. The Huskies had 64, including a first-place vote from Maverick coach Mike Hastings, which can be determined because the Mavs gained the other nine first-place votes and coaches could not vote for their own team.

Bowling Green and Alaska finished off the top half, with Northern Michigan, Bemidji State, Lake Superior State, Alaska Anchorage and Alabama-Huntsville in the bottom half.

In the media poll, MSU received 22 of 25 first-place votes to take the top spot by a wide margin. Ferris, a 2012 Frozen Four participant, was a clear second, followed by Alaska, BG and the Huskies.

NMU and LSSU were event for sixth, while Bemidji was eighth, followed by Anchorage and Huntsville.

The media also recognized players, with the Huskies’ Alex Petan being named to the preseason All-WCHA team.

Three Mavericks were on the preseason team, including forward Matt Leitner, who was named MVP, defenseman Zach Palmquist and goaltender Stephon Williams. Ryan Carpenter of BG made the team at forward, while Ferris was represented by defenseman Jason Binkley. MSU newcomer Zach Stepan was named the league’s preseason rookie of the year.

The Huskies begin play in the newly constituted league Oct. 25-26 in a home-and-home series with NMU.