DULUTH, Minn. - Defending champion Minnesota is the near-consensus favorite in the final year of the current Western Collegiate Hockey Association arrangement, according to a preseason media poll released today.
The Golden Gophers received 24 of 25 first-place votes after winning the league by three points last season.
Minnesota also had the media's choice for league Preseason Player of the Year, junior forward Nick Bjugstad.
Michigan Tech was picked to finish ninth of 12 teams in the voting, though first of the four schools who will be remaining in the league after this season.
Minnesota and Wisconsin will be leaving for a Big 10 hockey league in 2013, while North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College, St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth and Nebraska Omaha jump to the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
North Dakota received the 25th first-place vote and was second in the voting, followed by Denver, Wisconsin, Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State.
The bottom half of the league, according to the poll, is Colorado College, Nebraska Omaha, Tech, Minnesota State, Bemidji State and Alaska Anchorage.
Rounding out the rest of the preseason All-WCHA team are forwards Mark Zengerle (Wisconsin) and Ben Hanowski (St. Cloud), defensemen Joey LaLeggia (Denver) and Nick Jensen (St. Cloud) and goaltenders Sam Brittain (Denver) and Josh Thorimbert (CC), who tied in the voting.
The preseason rookie of the year was Rocco Grimaldi of North Dakota. Grimaldi was the preseason rookie of the year last season as well, but took a redshirt after an injury-ravaged first season in which he played in just four games.