Minnesota State Tabbed As Preseason WCHA Favorite
Mavericks take top spot by wide margin in both coaches' and media polls; Minnesota State's Daniel Brickley, Marc Michaelis and Jake Jaremko garner preseason award recognition

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. Sept. 25, 2017 The program that owns the fourth-most wins nationally over the last five years is the heavy 2017-18 favorite in the men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), as Minnesota State sits atop both the Mankato Free Press WCHA Coaches' and UAHHockey.com WCHA Media preseason polls.

Predictions on the final standings by coaches and media mirrored each other, led by a Mavericks team that has 122 victories since Mike Hastings took the reins prior to the 2012-13 season. Minnesota State, which also owns two MacNaughton Cups (2014-15 and 2015-16 as co-champs) and a pair of Broadmoor Trophies (2014 and 2015) in that span, received all nine possible first-place votes from coaches and 12 of 14 from the media.

Defending MacNaughton Cup champion Bemidji State received the other coaches' first-place vote and is in second place in both poll. The Beavers are followed by reigning Broadmoor Trophy champion Michigan Tech (one media first-place vote) in third, Bowling Green (one media first-place vote) in fourth and Ferris State in fifth. The Huskies and Falcons both on three-year runs of 20+ victories are tied for ninth and tied for 13th nationally for wins since realignment, with 89 and 84, respectively. The Bulldogs are 18th with 80 victories in that span (Minnesota State is tied for fifth with 98).

Coaches and media also tabbed Lake Superior State (sixth place), Northern Michigan (seventh) and Alaska (eighth) to qualify for the WCHA Tournament, with Alabama Huntsville (ninth) and Alaska Anchorage (10th).

There was a tie among the league coaches for WCHA Preseason Player of the Year, as two Minnesota State players, sophomore forward Marc Michaelis and junior defenseman Daniel Brickley the media's pick each received four coach votes apiece. Bemidji State senior goaltender Michael Bitzer, the 2016-17 Player of the Year, and Beavers' senior forward Gerry Fitzgerald split the other two coach votes.

Michaelis, a native of Mannheim, Germany, was the WCHA Rookie of the Year, a first-team All-WCHA selection and the league's top overall scorer last season with 36 points (14g-22a), tied for the seventh-best nationally by a first-year skater and the second-most by a Maverick freshman in the program's Division I history. Brickley, from Sandy, Utah, was the league's 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year, a first-team All-WCHA pick and the WCHA's top-scoring defenseman with 31 points (8g-23a), while his 1.00 points-per-game ranked second among NCAA blue-liners. The pair finished two-three in the WCHA scoring race during league play, posting 28 (13g-15a) and 26 (7g-19a) points, respectively.

Minnesota State freshman forward Jake Jaremko was the coaches' choice for WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year. The Nowthen, Minn. native, former Minnesota Mr. Hockey and 2017 Clark Cup (USHL) champion with the Chicago Steel (USHL) player was one of three Mavericks to appear on coaches' ballots. The others were forward Reggie Lutz and defenseman Connor Mackey. Bemidji State forward Brendan Harris and Northern Michigan forward Joseph Nardi also received votes.

The coaches and media preseason All-WCHA Teams both featured Michaelis, Brickley and Bitzer. The Bemidji State netminder led the WCHA in all major goaltending categories last season and paced the country with a 1.71 goals-against average and six shutouts (tied), complementing a 22-14-3 record and .932 save percentage (20-5-2, .940 and 1.40 in league play).

Coaches teamed Michaelis with Bowling Green senior Mitch McLain and Minnesota State senior C.J. Suess, while the media tabbed McLain and Ferris State junior Corey Mackin. McLain was fourth overall and tied for fourth in WCHA play in scoring last season (17-16=33, 15-9=24), with Suess was fifth overall and tied for fourth in league action (12-19=31, 9-14=21). Mackin followed his 2015-16 WCHA Rookie of the Year campaign with a 26-point sophomore season (13g-13a), including 21 in league games (11g-10a).

Michigan Tech senior Mark Auk was the coaches' other blue-line pick after posting 23 points overall last season and ranking 10th among all WCHA skaters with 18 assists (2-8=10 in league play). Alabama Huntsville junior Kurt Gosselin was the media's choice, following a season in which he led league defensemen and with nine goals and tied for fourth with 18 points in just 24 WCHA games.

The WCHA launches its 66th campaign this coming Sunday (Oct. 1), as Michigan Tech visits Wisconsin in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. The first full weekend of the regular season is Oct. 6 and 7, while the Oct. 13 and 14 weekend features the WCHA openers as Ferris State hosts Northern Michigan and Tech visits Lake Superior State.

The second annual, on-campus "Battle for the Broadmoor" tournament will feature the quarterfinal (March 2-4) and semifinal (March 9-11) rounds of the "2018 WCHA Playoffs," followed by the single-game, "2018 WCHA Championship" on March 17.


2017-18 Mankato Free Press WCHA Men's Hockey Preseason Coaches' Poll
Team (1st Place Votes) Pts.
1. Minnesota State (9) 90
2. Bemidji State (1) 81
3. Michigan Tech 70
4. Bowling Green 67
5. Ferris State 59
6. Lake Superior State 51
7. Northern Michigan 40
8. Alaska 35
9. Alabama Huntsville 29
10. Alaska Anchorage 18
Predicted order of finish. Based on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale. Coaches could not vote for their own teams.


Preseason WCHA Player of the Year (Coaches may vote for their own player)

Daniel Brickley, Jr., D, Minnesota State (4) and Marc Michaelis, So., F, Minnesota State (4)

Others receiving votes: Michael Bitzer, Sr., G, Bemidji State (1); Gerry Fitzgerald, Sr., F, Bemidji State (1)


Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year (Coaches may vote for their own player)

Jake Jaremko, F, Minnesota State (4 votes)

Others receiving votes: Brendan Harris, F, Bemidji State (2); Connor Mackey, D, Minnesota State (2); Reggie Lutz, F, Minnesota State (1); Joseph Nardi, F, Northern Michigan


Preseason All-WCHA Team

Forwards
Marc Michaelis, So., Minnesota State; C.J. Suess, Sr., Minnesota State; Mitch McLain, Sr., Bowling Green

Defensemen
Daniel Brickley, Jr., Minnesota State; Mark Auk, Sr., Michigan Tech

Goaltender
Michael Bitzer, Sr., Bemidji State

Others receiving votes (listed alphabetically by position): Forwards Gerry Fitzgerald, Sr., Bemidji State; J.T. Henke, Sr., Lake Superior State; Corey Mackin, Jr., Ferris State; Tyler Spezia, Sr., Bowling Green. Defensemen Zach Frye, Sr., D, Alaska; Kurt Gosselin, Jr., Alabama Huntsville; Mitch Reinke, So., Michigan Tech; Ian Scheid, So., Minnesota State. Goaltender Olivier Mantha, Sr., Alaska Anchorage.


2017-18 UAHHockey.com WCHA Men's Hockey Preseason Media Poll
Team (1st Place Votes) Pts.
1. Minnesota State (12) 137
2. Bemidji State 115
3. Michigan Tech (1) 110
4. Bowling Green (1) 108
5. Ferris State 81
6. Lake Superior State 62
7. Northern Michigan 59
8. Alaska 43
9. Alabama Huntsville 36
10. Alaska Anchorage 19
Predicted order of finish. Based on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.


Preseason WCHA Player of the Year

Daniel Brickley, Jr., D, Minnesota State

Others receiving votes: Marc Michaelis, So., F, Minnesota State; Mitch McLain, Sr., F, Bowling Green; Michael Bitzer, Sr., G, Bemidji State


Preseason All-WCHA First Team

Forwards
Mitch McLain, Sr., Bowling Green; Marc Michaelis, So., Minnesota State; Corey Mackin, Jr., Ferris State

Defensemen
Daniel Brickley, Jr., Minnesota State; Kurt Gosselin, Jr., Alabama Huntsville

Goaltender
Michael Bitzer, Sr., Bemidji State


Preseason All-WCHA Second Team

Forwards
Gerry Fitzgerald, Sr., Bemidji State; C.J. Suess, Sr., Minnesota State; Joel L'Esperance, Sr., Michigan Tech

Defensemen
Mitch Reinke, So., Michigan Tech; Mark Auk, Sr., Michigan Tech

Goaltender
Atte Tolvanen, Jr., Northern Michigan

Others receiving votes (listed alphabetically by position): Forwards Kyle Bauman, Sr., Bemidji State; Gavin Gould, So., Michigan Tech; J.T. Henke, Sr., Lake Superior State; Max Humitz, So., Lake Superior State; Brad McClure, Sr., Minnesota State; Tyler Spezia, Sr., Bowling Green. Defensemen Clint Lewis, Sr., Minnesota State; Alec Rauhauser, So., Bowling Green; Joe Rutkowski, So., Ferris State; Collin Saccoman, So., Lake Superior State; Ian Scheid, So., Minnesota State; David Trinkberger, So., Alaska Anchorage; Zach Whitecloud, So., Bemidji State; Justin Woods, Sr., Alaska. Goaltenders Justin Kapelmaster, So., Ferris State; Olivier Mantha, Sr., Alaska Anchorage; Jason Pawloski, Jr., Minnesota State.



About the Mankato Free Press WCHA Men's Hockey Preseason Coaches' Poll

The 2017-18 Mankato Free Press WCHA Men's Hockey Preseason Coaches' Poll was conducted by Shane Frederick, staff writer, The Free Press Media. (www.mankatofreepress.com; www.mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com; Twitter/@puckato)


About the UAHHockey.com WCHA Men's Hockey Preseason Media Poll

The 2017-18 UAHHockey.com WCHA Men's Hockey Preseason Media Poll was conducted by Geof Morris, editor. (www.uahhockey.com; Twitter / @weloveuahhockey)


About Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA)

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association, among the most historic, tradition-rich and successful conferences in all of collegiate athletics, will proudly mark its 66th season of men's competition in 2017-18. The 10-team Division 1 conference consists of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Chargers), the University of Alaska Anchorage (Seawolves), the University of Alaska (Nanooks), Bemidji State University (Beavers), Bowling Green State University (Falcons), Ferris State University (Bulldogs), Lake Superior State University (Lakers), Michigan Technological University (Huskies), Minnesota State University (Mavericks) and Northern Michigan University (Wildcats). For more information, visit wcha.com.