Given the massive retooling of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's membership for the upcoming season -- six of 10 teams are new to the circuit -- it's difficult to know how much weight to give preseason predictions.
For what it's worth, UAA (4-25-7 last season) was picked to finish in ninth place and UAF (17-16-4) was ticketed for third in the inaugural Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer WCHA Preseason Media Poll.
Minnesota State-Mankato secured the top spot. The Mavericks (24-14-3 last season) are returning WCHA members who last season seized an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament behind the grand goaltending of Stephon Williams of Fairbanks. They received 22 of 25 first-place votes.
Ferris State of Michigan (16-16-5), which along with UAF is among five new WCHA members that arrive from the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association, was picked to finish second. Bowling Green (15-21-5), another former CCHA squad, was picked to finish fourth, behind the Nanooks.
Picked to finish last was Alabama-Huntsville (3-21-1), which enters the WCHA after three seasons as a Division I independent program.
The upcoming season heralds significant changes in the landscape of Division I, where two power conferences debut:
• The six-team Big Ten includes three former CCHA programs, two former WCHA programs and a newcomer in Penn State.
• The eight-team National Collegiate Hockey Association features six former WCHA members and two former CCHA members.
The restructured WCHA, meanwhile, now features schools much like UAA -- that is, those that primarily compete in Division II athletics but play Division I hockey.
UAA is entering its first season under coach Matt Thomas, who came from the pro ranks -- the ECHL's Stockton Thunder -- to replace Dave Shyiak.
Wednesday will bring the inaugural Mankato Free Press WCHA Men's Head Coaches Preseason Poll.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
BEMIDJI PIONEER WCHA PRESEASON MEDIA POLL
Team (First-Place votes) Total Points 2012-13 record
1. Minnesota St.-Mankato (22) 244 24-14-3
2. Ferris St. (2) 218 16-16-5
3. UAF 168 17-16-4
4. Bowling Green 149 15-21-5
5. Michigan Tech 144 13-20-4
6. Northern Michigan 137 15-19-4
7. Lake Superior St. 117 17-21-1
8. Bemidji St. (1) 108 6-22-8
9. UAA 54 4-25-7
10. Alabama-Huntsville 36 3-21-1
Preseason Player Of The Year -- Matt Leitner, F, Minnesota St.-Mankato
Others receiving votes: Garrett Thompson, F, Ferris St.; Stephon Williams, G, Minnesota St.-Mankato
Preseason Rookie Of The Year -- Zach Stepan, F, Minnesota St.-Mankato
Others receiving votes: Thomas Scholl, G, Bowling Green; Brendan Harms, F, Bemidji St.; Mathias Dahlstrom, G, Northern Michigan; Cliff Watson, D, Michigan Tech
Preseason All-WCHA Team
Matt Leitner, Minnesota St.-Mankato; Alex Petan, Michigan Tech; Ryan Carpenter, Bowling Green.
Others receiving votes: Cody Kunyk, UAF; Reed Sekel, Northern Michigan.
Jason Binkley, Ferris St.; Zach Palmquist, D, Minnesota St.-Mankato.
Others receiving votes: Stephan Vigier, Northern Michigan; Matt Prapavessis, Bemidji St.; Ralfs Freibargs, Bowling Green; Colton Paraynko, UAF; CJ Ludwig, Northern Michigan
Stephon Williams, Minnesota St.-Mankato
Others receiving votes: CJ Motte, Ferris St.; Andrew Walsh, Bemidji St..
By DOYLE WOODY