The way the Hockey East coaches see it, Boston College will find itself back at the top of the conference standings this season. Jerry York’s bunch received eight of a possible 11 first-place votes and finished with 97 points in the preseason coaches’ poll, released Thursday during media day at TD Garden.
It’s the second straight year and third time in the last five seasons that the Eagles find themselves the favorites. BC, however, struggled much of last season and finished in seventh place.
The Eagles righted the ship in the conference playoffs, taking two of three at second-place Providence, then knocking off first-place UMass in the semifinals before succumbing to Northeastern in the championship game.
Back from that team is senior David Cotton, who was selected a first-team All-Star last season after tallying 23 goals and 13 assists. There is also the healthy return of junior Logan Hutsko, who led the Eagles in scoring two seasons ago with 12 goals and 19 assists en route to being named Hockey East Rookie of the Year. His sophomore season ended with him being wheeled off the TD Garden ice on a stretcher when he hit his head in the championship game of the conference tournament after he got tangled up with a teammate and a Northeastern defender. Hutsko injured his shoulder and suffered a concussion, but York reports that he is healthy.
“I think it’s the first time in a few years that we have a typical BC team — depth and skill through the lineup,” said York. “We’ve got some depth through the different classes, so I think that’s a key for us.”
Defending regular-season champion UMass was picked to finish second, garnering 85 points and two first-place votes. Coach Greg Carvel knows his Minutemen will not be sneaking up on anyone after last season’s run to the NCAA championship game.
“That’s where we want to be,” said Carvel of the high expectations placed on the program. “That was our vision, to try to be a top-four team in the league. Hopefully we can do what everybody thinks we can do this year.”
UMass is embarking on life without Cale Makar, who won the Hobey Baker Award last year in his sophomore season, then signed with the Colorado Avalanche the day after the Minutemen’s season was over, and made his NHL debut in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Mario Ferraro also turned pro after his sophomore season, signing with the San Jose Sharks.
“Our first two years with Cale and Mario, we knew those guys covered a lot of holes that we had in our lineup,” said Carvel. ”We were a young team, and immature team. We now feel like we’re a deeper, more experienced team.”
Providence, picked to finish third with 78 points, is coming off a season in which it reached the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight year and advanced to the Frozen Four, where it lost to eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth. The Friars return 16 players from last year’s squad.
Northeastern was picked to finish fourth with 73 points, including one first-place vote. The Huskies finished in third place last season, but won the Beanpot and Hockey East tournament in the same year for the first time since 1988.
If Northeastern is to have a shot of duplicating that success, it will need someone to step up at goaltender, as Cayden Primeau departed last spring after winning the Mike Richter Award in his sophomore season and signed an entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens.
Boston University rounds out the top five, collecting 72 points. The Terriers finished in fifth place last year, but advanced to the conference semifinals before losing to Northeastern.
Hockey East preseason coaches’ poll
(with points, and first-place votes in parentheses)
1. Boston College 97 (8)
2. UMass 85 (2)
3. Providence 78
4. Northeastern 73 (1)
5. Boston University (72)
6. UMass Lowell 53
7. New Hampshire 40
8. Maine 39
9. UConn 38
10 Vermont 19
11 Merrimack 11
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