Just miss the top: Michigan Tech hockey team edges out Northern Michigan University Wildcats for top spot in CCHA coaches preseason poll

Northern Michigan University head hockey coach Grant Potulny, center, gives a hand signal to Wildcats' goalie Beni Halasz to vacate the net late in the third period of a CCHA hockey game played against Michigan Tech at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Jan. 28. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

MARQUETTE — If coaches were that good at predicting, each of them would be sitting in an ivory tower being called the “Nostradamus of our time” instead of behind the bench or along the sideline with their teams.

Still, it was an honor for the Northern Michigan University hockey team to be selected as a quite close second place in the CCHA Preseason poll conducted among the league’s coaches and announced on Monday.

The Wildcats received 66 total votes, including three first-place votes, to trail Michigan Tech by a single vote in each of those categories.

Oddly enough, fifth-place pick and the league’s newest team on the ice, St. Thomas, earned the other first-place vote.

NMU finished last season 21-17-0 as the Wildcats just missed making the NCAA Tournament after falling in the CCHA Championship game 3-2 at Minnesota State-Mankato in mid-March. The Wildcats had a 2-0 lead with three minutes to go before the Mavericks scored twice with their goalie pulled and again in overtime.

Northern defeated Tech and Bemidji State in earlier playoff rounds to reach the Mason Cup Finals.

In the preseason poll, there was quite a gap after the Huskies’ 66 votes and NMU’s 65. Bowling Green was third with 55 votes, while Bemidji State came in fourth with 49 and St. Thomas and Minnesota State tied for fifth with 45.

Ferris State was chosen seventh with 36 points, while Lake Superior State rounded out the picks in eighth with 29.

NMU returns three of its top five point leaders from last season. They include top scorer and senior forward Andre Ghantous, who joins sophomore defenseman Josh Zinger as All-CCHA Preseason Team selections also announced Monday.

Ghantous had 38 points last season, while returnee Artem Shlaine had 32 and Kristof Papp 26.

The CCHA’s ninth team, Augustana, joined the league in the spring of 2022 but won’t play a full league schedule with games that count in the league standings until the 2025-26 season. Meanwhile, this Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based squad will play a limited schedule against other CCHA teams, including NMU, during this season and next in transition.

Northern plays the Vikings at home on Dec. 1-2 in what are considered nonconference games.

The Wildcats kick off their season with a pair of nonconference series on the road, at Minnesota-Duluth on Oct. 13-14 and at Arizona State on Oct. 20-21.

Their first home series at the Berry Events Center also kicks off the CCHA campaign against Ferris State on Oct. 27-28. The Friday game faces off at 7:07 p.m. and Saturday’s at 6:07 p.m., home game times the team will follow throughout the season.

For ticket purchases and information, visit the NMU Tickets website at https://nmu.universitytickets.com/?cid=172.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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