MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - The Adrian College men's hockey team tasted what the top stage was like in 2010-11 with an appearance in the NCAA Division III National Championship game. The bitter taste left in the mouth of the Bulldogs will serve as motivation during the 2011-12 season. Also serving as a kick in the pants is the fact that there are many doubters outside the program, who believe Adrian doesn't have the firepower to return to the NCAA Tournament with the graduation of 17 players from that national runner-up club.
What all of this means will start to take shape very soon and the beginning of another season is upon us as witnessed by the annual unveiling of the USCHO Division III Preseason Poll. The Bulldogs will begin 2011-12 with their highest ranking to date to begin a season. Adrian received 216 poll points and are fourth in the nation at the outset. Fifth-year head coach Ron Fogarty must replace seven of the team's top 10 point getters from a year ago. This is uncharted territory for Fogarty, who has had the luxury of a four-year class that has been with him since day one of the program. All that initial class did was go 102-12-2 in four years from scratch and capture four consecutive MCHA regular season and Harris Cup titles. In addition, the Bulldogs have made back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament.
The one nemesis for the black and gold has been St. Norbert College. The Green Knights are currently number one in the preseason after defeating the Bulldogs, 4-3, in the title game at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. St. Norbert also bounced Adrian from the 2010 postseason with ironically a 4-3 win in Green Bay in the opening round game. Following St. Norbert in the poll is Oswego State and then Norwich. The top four teams in the preseason poll were also the four teams that advanced to the Division III Frozen Four in Minneapolis last March. Adrian defeated Oswego State in one national semifinal, 5-3, and St. Norbert dispensed of Norwich, 3-2, setting up the all-West Region finale.
Adrian will open the season officially on Saturday, Oct. 22 when they travel to #12 Geneseo State in New York for a 4:00 PM puck drop. The team will then skate with the US Under 18 Development Team on Friday, Oct. 28 at 7:00 PM at Arrington Ice Arena in Adrian. The MCHA schedule begins on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7:00 PM from Arrington as Northland College visits for a two-game series.