DULUTH, Minn.--The Adrian College men's hockey team, the four-time defending Peters Cup champions, have been picked to finish in second place in the 2018-19 Northern Collegiate Hockey Association race, according to a vote of the league's 12 head coaches. The NCHA office announced the preseason poll results this afternoon.
Adrian returns 16 skaters and two goalies from last season's squad that finished 24-6 overall and 17-1 for first place in the NCHA South Division. The Bulldogs won their fourth-consecutive NCHA Peters Cup regular-season championship and advanced to the conference tournament final for the 10th time in 11 seasons of their existence. Adrian also made its sixth NCAA tournament appearance in a row and eighth in school history.
After spending much of the 2017-18 regular season as the No. 1 team in the national polls, the Bulldogs came in second with 112 points and two first-place votes in the NCHA preseason rankings.
Three-time All-America defenseman Cory Dunn returns for his senior campaign, leading five Bulldogs who have earned all-conference at some point in their careers. Dunn has racked up career scoring totals of 18 goals, 79 assists and 97 points in 88 games played, including 3+27=30 in 30 a season ago. Senior left wing Trevor Boyd hopes to regain his All-America form of two years ago after posting 17+11=28 totals as the team's top returning goal scorer from 2017-18. They are joined by All-NCHA performers senior goalie Kevin Entmaa (16-4 W-L, 1.88 GAA, .932 Save%, 1114:36 MP), senior right wing/center Bryan Yim (8+11=19) and senior center Connor Armour (1+5=6; limited to nine games because of injury).
The team welcomes 12 newcomers including a pair of NCAA Division I transfers coming closer to home in junior right wing Bryce Van Horn (Port Huron, Mich./Colorado College, NCHC) and junior right defenseman Niko Coffman (Chelsea, Mich. /Bowling Green State University, WCHA).
The Bulldogs graduated a talented group at offense, but lean heavily on Dunn, a three-time All-NCHA pick, and Entmaa, who last season posted a 16-4 mark with a .932 save percentage and 1.88 goals-against average--all career bests and figures that rank sixth, third and fourth in school single-season history.
"We're looking forward to the season, like everyone. In October, it's easy to say you're excited," said Adrian head coach Adam Krug '12, who is 92-21-6 (.798) in four seasons on the Bulldogs bench. "A lot is new. Year-to-year your team is different whether you graduate zero, one, or 20 players. So, yeah, we're excited.
"We've got 12 newcomers. There was a lot of trying different guys in certain spots but naturally, the chemistry has taken over and things are coming along well," he said. "An early preseason trip to Princeton was great for our guys. To compete against a high end D-I team and have the ability to have that camaraderie among our group was a nice touch.
Krug added: "We have a pretty loaded schedule. We'll be tested right out of the gate at Utica, games against top-notch NCHA opponents will give us a good measuring stick through November before non-conference picks up before Christmas break. The conference is the best in the country, in my opinion. Couple that with seven games against high-end non-conference opponents, we hope, creates a team that is ready to play deep into March."
Following a season that culminated with a victory in the NCAA Division III national championship game, St. Norbert College (27-4-1, 15-3-0 NCHA) has been picked by league coaches to place first in the upcoming NCHA regular season, tabulating 119 points and 10 of the 12 first-place votes.
All-NCHA goalie T.J. Black headlines the returners after finishing second in the nation with his 1.44 GAA, first with 27 wins and third with a .940 save percentage. NCHA All-Freshman honorees Peter Bates (11-17-28 points), Keegan Milligan (12-13-25) and defenseman Luke Davison (6-13-19) also return for the Green Knights.
Marian University (20-8-1, 12-6-0), fresh off the first-ever league and school at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and a finish in the Top 15 in the country, came in third with 96 points. The Sabres graduated a talented core, but have Hunter Vorva returning in goal after going 20-8-1 with a .924 save percentage and 1.93 GAA.
The College of St. Scholastica went 15-11-1 last season, placing fourth in the poll with 85 points. Kyle Star (6-17-23) leads the offense into the new season after topping the Saints in scoring last winter.
Concordia University (77 points/16-9-2 in 2017-18) and Lake Forest College (74 points/15-11-2) make up the next two tightly-contested spots at fifth and sixth in the poll, as Brayden Barker (6-18-24) looks to improve on an inaugural campaign for the Falcons, one in which he was named NCHA Freshman of the year. The Foresters are led by NCHA All-League goalie Louis-Phillippe De Courcy, who posted a .928 save percentage and 2.15 GAA a year ago.
Seventh through 10th place in the coaches poll were also tight, with Aurora University (5-15-5 last year) finishing seventh with 54 points, MSOE (11-14-2) eighth with 50, Lawrence University (10-15-2) ninth with 48 and Northland College (9-13-3) 10th with 43.
Trine University (20 points) and Finlandia University (14) rounded out the poll.
MEN'S NCHA COACHES POLL (2017-18 Standings)
1. St. Norbert 119 (10 first-place votes)
2. Adrian 112 (2 first-place votes)
3. Marian 96
4. St. Scholastica 85
5. Concordia Wisconsin 77
6. Lake Forest 74
7. Aurora 54
8. MSOE 50
9. Lawrence 48
10. Northland 43
11. Trine 20
12. Finlandia 14
(Editor's note: The NCHA office contributed to this news release.)