DULUTH, Minn.--The 2019-20 edition of the Adrian College men's hockey team is predicted to finish in second place in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association race at the end of the regular season, according to the results of the coaches' preseason poll announced today by the league office.
The new-look Bulldogs with nine newcomers and 19 returners collected 91 total points and two 1st-place votes--only eight points shy of first place.
Adrian saw its postseason run end in the Harris Cup title game last winter, but still finished ranked No. 8 in the final USCHO.com national poll. Adrian graduated a trio of all-league selections and five of its top six scorers, but will look to its underclassmen and a strong returning nucleus to carry on the winning tradition.
Senior forwards Dino Balsamo (13+16=29 points), who was the team's second-leading scorer in 2018-19, and Matt McNair (8+8=16 points) will lead the offensive charge for the Bulldogs, who wound up 20-8-1 overall and won their fourth-consecutive NCHA-South Division title with a 13-4-1 league mark. Both student-athletes achieved career highs in goals and total points as juniors. Also scoring in double digits last season were sophomores forward Austin Bottrell (4+9=13), defenseman Brandon Marinelli (3+9=12), and seniors forward Bryce Van Horn (8+4=12), defenseman Joey Colatarci (4+7=11).
In goal, junior transfer Cameron Gray and freshman Nic Tallarico will compete for most of the minutes between the pipes. Gray transfers from NCAA Division I St. Lawrence University where he was a two-time ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team honoree, while Tallarico posted a 24-10-1 record, 2.49 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 42 games with the Hearst Lumberjacks who captured the 2019 Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League crown.
Following a season that culminated with another strong run in the NCAA Tournament and a Harris Cup championship, St. Norbert College has been picked by league coaches to place first after receiving 99 points among nine 1st-place votes.
The rest of the poll included Marian, MSOE, Aurora, Lake Forest, St. Scholastica, Concordia Wisconsin, Trine, Finlandia and Lawrence.
Fans caught a glimpse of the 'Dogs in game-action last Saturday when they doubled up Trine, 7-3, in an exhibition contest at home. Sophomore Rex Moe scored twice while Bottrell led all student-athletes with three points on a goal and two assists. Balsamo (1g, 1a), Matt McNair (1g, 1a) and fellow senior Vincent Paquette (2a) also had multi-point games. Gray and Tallarico recorded 13 and eight saves, respectively.
Adrian, which will conduct its annual Black and Gold intrasquad game at 4:05 p.m. Sunday in Weston Rink at Arrington Ice Arena, officially opens the 2019-20 campaign on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1-2, in Buffalo, N.Y., for the Buffalo State College Classic. The Bulldogs will open against Nichols at 3:30 p.m. Friday and play either host Buffalo State or Manhattanville on Saturday at 3:30 or 7 p.m.
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MEN'S NCHA COACHES POLL
1. St. Norbert 99 (9 first-place votes)
2. Adrian 91 (2 first-place votes)
3. Marian 76
4. MSOE 65
5. Aurora 64
6. Lake Forest 63
7. St. Scholastica 50
8. Concordia Wisconsin 33
9. Trine 25
10. Finlandia 24
11. Lawrence 15