WAUKESHA, Wis. – The Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) has released its 2014-15 Preseason Coaches' Poll and Adrian College has been picked to finish second in the 10-team league. St. Norbert College coming off its third NCAA National Championship in the past four seasons has earned nine first-place votes and 81 poll points. The Bulldogs checked in with one first-place vote and 69 poll points. College of St. Scholastica is third just one point behind the Bulldogs. Lake Forest is fourth with 51 poll points and Marian rounds out the top five with 50 poll points.
St. Norbert picked up all possible first-place votes (coaches could not vote for their own team) and finished 28-3-1 a season ago. One of those losses did come at the hands of Adrian, but the Green Knights returned the favor in the NCAA Quarterfinals. The Bulldogs had their streak of six straight NCHA regular season titles snapped last year finishing just one point behind St. Norbert in the standings. Adrian was ranked number one in NCAA Division III for the first time in the history of the school and finished the season with a 22-3-4 record. They were the sixth-best team in the country according to USCHO.com at the end of the season.
"I'm not surprised by the poll and St. Norbert has a program that has a lot of talent coming back," said first-year head coach Adam Krug. "We understand that in order to climb to the top spot we have to prove it on the ice. Our goal every year is to win our conference and win a national championship. I feel like we have the talent to do that. I'm personally very excited to get going this weekend. It will be a thrill to be behind the bench as opposed to on the bench like I did years ago."
The biggest change in the offseason was that Krug, a former All-American with Adrian, was hired to replace Ron Fogarty. Fogarty guided the Bulldogs to 167 wins and a .860 win percentage over the previous seven seasons.
"I think we have a short period of time to adjust before the season starts and learning as we go will be important," said Krug. "I've noticed that my philosophies are different in some areas from the previous seven seasons and that adjustment will take some time. I am lucky to have inherited a strong experienced team that is adaptable."
Senior forward Duston Hebebrand (Waterloo, Ont.) returns after being named Second Team All-American and All-NCHA. Hebebrand will serve as team captain and finished with 18 goals and 16 assists a season ago. He ranked 28th nationally in points per game (1.21) and tied for 20th in goals per game (0.62). Senior defenseman Ryan Gieseler (Penetang, Ont.) was named All-NCHA after playing in 28 games. He finished with three goals and 15 assists and ranked fifth on the team in assists and second with a plus-19 rating. He ranked eighth in the NCHA in assists per game (0.67) and tied for 13th with seven power play points.
Senior goaltenders Scott Shackell (Kanata, Ont.) and James Hamby (Ann Arbor, Mich.) effectively split time and formed a tough tandem between the pipes. Shackell had minor injury issues which kept him off the ice early in the season, but he still managed to post an 11-1-1 record with a 2.40 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. He ranked 30th nationally in goals-against average and third in win percentage. Hamby played in 16 games and went 11-2-3 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. He tied for 11th nationally with three shutouts and was 16th in goals-against average and eighth in win percentage.
MEN'S NCHA COACHES POLL
1. St. Norbert: 81 points, 9 first-place votes
2. Adrian: 69, 1 first-place
3. St. Scholastica: 68
4. Lake Forest: 51
5. Marian: 50
6. Concordia: 37
7. MSOE: 36
8. Lawrence: 31
9. Northland: 14
10. Finlandia: 13