|PHOTO BY JEFF SCHOOLS|
The Boston College Eagles, the defending NCAA Champions, are the unanimous pick to win the Hockey East crown in 2011 according to the league's 10 head coaches. The Eagles earned nine first-place votes with a total of 90 points. The Eagles, who won their league record ninth Hockey East Tournament title in March of 2010, have 17 letterwinners returning from that squad, which includes 79% of the team offense. Forwards Cam Atkinson and Brian Gibbons along with starting goaltender John Muse will give the Eagles the neccessary tools to make another run for an NCAA title at the Heights this season. Atkinson led the nation with 30 goals last season, while Gibbons posted a career-high 50 points.
Maine was right behind the Eagles with one first-place tally and 80 total points. Maine re-established themselves last year with a trip to the Hockey East Finals and returns arguably the most talented player in the league in Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist was a First-Team All-American and led the nation with 61 points in his Hobey Hat Trick sophomore season.
The Wildcats (76 pts.) won their eighth regular-season title in school history last season and made their ninth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. UNH will once again have a solid offense in place with the return of seniors Phil DeSimone, Mike Sislo and Paul Thompson. Captain Matt Campanale and All-American Blake Kessel (38 pts.) hope to make things easier for their new starting netminder Matt DiGirolamo.
The Terriers (59 pts.) do have a solid group returning, but will need to replace some key pieces, most noteably Nick Bonino and Kevin Shattenkirk. BU does have one of the most talented incoming freshman classes in the conference. Alex Chiasson, Chris Connolly and Corey Trivino will be asked to play key roles in the Terriers' offense this season.
Northeastern was picked fifth in the league this season. The Huskies will be on a mission this year, after they fell one point shy of making the Hockey East playoffs in 2009-10. Northeastern returns some firepower on offense in Wade MacLeod and Tyler McNeely and will also have sophomore Chris Rawlings, an All-Rookie selection in 2010, back between the pipes.
Vermont (53 pts.) lost their top three scorers to graduation, however, the majority of the 'Cats defense remains intact, which is always a strong suit for a team led by head coach Kevin Sneddon. Junior netminder Rob Madore also had another solid season to build off of and has started 63 games the past two seasons.
Merrimack (48 pts.) will return 20 letterwinners from last year's group as they finished sixth place in the league standings, which was the schools second highest finish in school history and their 12 wins in league play was best since they joined Hockey East.
The River Hawks place eighth in the poll with 33 points. Scott Campbell and David Vallorani return as UML's top two scorers from last year, as they scored 34 and 27 points, respectively. UML will have to endure the loss of 11 players to graduation and will need to mix in a league-high 13 new faces this fall.
Massachusetts was selected in the ninth spot with 26 points. Senior goaltender Paul Dainton will be a key component for Massachusetts this year with the early signings of Matt Irwin, James Marcou and Casey Wellman. Junior forward T.J. Syner will be asked to take an increased role UMass offense, after coming off a 20-point sophomore campaign in Amherst.
Providence College (21 pts.) missed the playoffs for the second straight season in 2009-10, but sixth-year head coach Tim Army will add six news faces to the mix this season to go along with the return of nine of his top 10 scorers.
2010 HOCKEY EAST MEN'S PRESEASON COACHES POLL
Team (1st Place Votes) Pts.
1. Boston College (9) 90
2. Maine (1) 80
3. New Hampshire 76
4. Boston University 59
5. Northeastern 54
6. Vermont 53
7. Merrimack 48
8. UMass Lowell 33
9. Massachusetts 26
10. Providence 21