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Home playoff picks: Northern Michigan University hockey team predicted to finish 3rd, 4th in a pair of preseason WCHA polls

Northern Michigan University’s Philip Beaulieu, right, battles Bowling Green State’s Brandon Kruse for the puck in the neutral zone in a WCHA playoff game at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on March 15. Beaulieu was named to the All-WCHA Preseason team on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota — The Northern Michigan University hockey team has found more and more success the last two years, finishing second in the WCHA standings twice and earning home ice in the postseason both seasons.

Now the WCHA media and the coaches have taken notice of that as both groups picked the Wildcats to earn home ice for a third straight year on Wednesday.

The media picked NMU to finish third overall in its poll behind Minnesota State and Bowling Green State, while the coaches predicted the Wildcats for a fourth-place finish in their poll behind MSU, BGSU and Bemidji State.

NMU also got individual acknowledgement by each groups of voters.

Wildcats defenseman Phil Beaulieu was an All-WCHA First Teamer last year and also notched WCHA Defenseman of the Year honors, and was an All-American the year before that. So not surprisingly, he got a spot on the All-WCHA Preseason team and also some votes from the media for Player of the Year.

Other members of the Preseason Team are Minnesota State forwards Marc Michaelis and Parker Tuomie and goalie Dryden McKay, as well as BGSU forward Brandon Kruse and defenseman Alec Rauhauser. Michaelis was picked by both voting groups to get Player of the Year.

Newcomers were also recognized as both groups made their picks for Rookie of the Year and MSU’s Nathan Smith got the top spot in each poll.

Three incoming Northern players also earned nods in the rookie voting from the media with forward Jett Jungels getting five votes, while defensemen Hank Sorenson and Mason Palmer got four and two votes, respectively.

The Wildcats finished 21-16-2 overall last year and 18-8-2 in the conference. They bring back 14 players with 11 newcomers joining, including transfer Ben Newhouse, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer requirements. Newhouse played at Union for two seasons before coming to Marquette. The incoming freshmen class includes two goalies, four defensemen and four forwards.

Northern opens its season with an exhibition game against the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team on Oct. 5, with its first regular season series Oct. 11-12 against Michigan State at the Berry Events Center. The Wildcats split with the Spartans last year in East Lansing.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.