It feels like football season just got here but we drop the puck on a new collegiate hockey season in just 16 days. And if the pre-season CCHA polls are any indication, it’s going to be a great year to be a college hockey fan in the U.P.
The CCHA Coach’s and media pre-season polls came out Monday a day before CCHA Media Day was held. Both the coach’s and media polls have Michigan Tech at number one with Northern Michigan closely following in 2nd. In fact in the coach’s poll Michigan Tech received 4 of the 8 first place votes, while the Wildcats received three.
For Michigan Tech it is clear why they are the favorites to win the CCHA. They return Richter Award Finalist and All-American goaltender Blake Pietila. In last year’s regular season Pietila gave up just 62 goals in 33 starts in net, good for a 1.88 goals against average, while pitching 9 shutouts. The Huskies also bring back 2022-2023 CCHA Rookie of the Year Kyle Kukkonen, who led the team with 18 Goals, 5 power-play goals, and 5 game-winning goals in addition to tallying 9 assists.
After coming up just short in overtime in the CCHA Championship game a year ago, Northern Michigan will look to rely on their firepower to finally get over the hump and bring home a conference title in Grant Potulny’s 7th season. The Wildcat’s return Forward Andre Ghantous who finished 2nd in the conference in points per game a year ago. Ghantous will look to pick up where finished last year, as he was arguably the best player in conference over the last two months of the season. From February on, Ghantous racked up 16 points in 12 games, including 9 goals. The ‘Cats also return defensemen Josh Zinger who was named to the pre-season all CCHA teams in both polls and 2nd year goaltender Beni Halasz who posted a 2.32 goals against average and a .919 save percentage a year ago.
Tech kicks off their season October 7th at Minnesota Duluth while NMU drops the puck a week later on October 13th also in Duluth. And the first time the ‘Cats and Huskies take the ice against each other will be December 8th at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
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