Tech top pick in Coaches’ Poll, Pietila named CCHA Preseason Player of the Year

Michigan Tech goaltender Blake Pietila prepares for a shot from Minnesota State forward Ryan Sandelin during a game Friday, Nov. 25, at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton. Pieitla was recognized as Co-Preseason Player of the Year by the CCHA coaches. (David Archambeau/For the Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech was the top pick in both coaches’ and media’s CCHA Preseason Poll the league announced on Monday (Sept. 18). Goaltender Blake Pietila was named the Co-Preseason Player of the Year on the coaches’ ballot and was joined by Kyle Kukkonen and Jed Pietila (media) on the Preseason All-CCHA Team.

The Huskies were the top pick to win the MacNaughton Cup, which is awarded to the regular season champion. Tech finished second to Minnesota State in the conference race last season only two points back of the Mavericks as the title came down to the final 45 seconds of the regular season.

In the coaches’ poll, Tech tallied 67 points out of a possible 70, including a league-high four first-place votes. Northern Michigan was one point behind Tech in second. Bowling Green (55) and Bemidji State (49) round out the top four. St. Thomas was tied for fifth and received a first-place vote while Minnesota State (45) was also fifth. Ferris State (36) and Lake Superior State (29) rounded out the poll.

In the media’s poll, the Huskies picked up 152 points with 11 first-place votes. Northern Michigan collected 133 points and was tied with third place Bowling Green (124) with two first-place votes apiece. Minnesota State was fourth with 114 points (1 first-place vote), while Bemidji State (100 points), St. Thomas (88), Ferris State (72), and Lake Superior State (49) rounded out the league. The CCHA Media Poll was comprised of 16 members of the local and national media, who cover the conference and its teams regularly. Points were awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3 basis.

Blake Pietila was the 2023 CCHA Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year. He was a First Team All-American, a Mike Richter Top 3 Finalist, and Hobey Baker Finalist. Pietila appeared in 37 games during the 2022-23 season and went 23-11-3 overall. He broke Michigan Tech records for shutouts in a season (10) and career (20) while becoming the all-time wins leader with 58. He led the nation in shutouts while ranking fifth nationally with 23 wins, seventh in save percentage (.924), and ninth in goals-against average (2.15).

Kukkonen enters his second season with the Huskies after being named the 2023 CCHA Rookie of the Year and a unanimous selection on the CCHA All-Rookie Team last season. He skated in all 39 games and led the Huskies with 18 goals while also tallying nine assists. The Anaheim Ducks draft pick ranked seventh in the country with five game-winning goals. He scored the fifth-most goals by a Michigan Tech freshman in program history and his 18 goals were the most by a Tech freshman since 1988.

Jed Pietila skated in 35 games for the Huskies on the blue line last season and tallied one goal and was second on the team with 15 assists. The Howell, Michigan native received the team’s Elov Seger Memorial Award as the most improved player and was on the CCHA All-Academic Team. Pietila ranked second on the team with a plus-11 rating and fourth with 35 blocked shots.

Coming off their 15th NCAA Tournament, last year’s CCHA Coach of the Year Joe Shawhan returns 19 players, including all-conference honorees Blake Pietila, Ryland Mosley, and Kukkonen. Tech brought in NCAA Division I transfers Lachlan Getz (Boston U.), Matthew Campbell (Quinnipiac), and Patriks Marcinkevics (Long Island).

The 2023-24 season begins with the U.S. Hockey HOF Game at Minnesota-Duluth on Oct. 7 followed by back-to-back home non-conference weekends against Alaska and Wisconsin.

2023-24 CCHA Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Michigan Tech – 67 (4 first-place votes)  

Northern Michigan – 66 (3)  

Bowling Green – 55  

Bemidji State – 49  

St. Thomas – 45 (1)  

Minnesota State – 45  

Ferris State – 36  

Lake Superior State – 29

Co-Preseason Players of the Year 

Austen Swankler, JR, F, BGSU 

Blake Pietila, SR, G, MTU 

Preseason Rookie of the Year 

Eric Pohlkamp, FR, D, BSU

Preseason All-CCHA 

Andre Ghantous, SR, F, NMU 

Kyle Kukkonen, SO, F, MTU 

Austen Swankler, JR, F, BGSU 

Ben Wozney, JR, D, BGSU 

Josh Zinger, SO, D, NMU 

Blake Pietila, SR, G, MTU

2023-24 CCHA Preseason Media Poll

Michigan Tech – 152 (11 first-place votes)

Northern Michigan – 133 (2)

Bowling Green – 124 (2)

Minnesota State – 114 (1)

Bemidji State – 100

St. Thomas – 88

Ferris State – 72

Lake Superior State – 49

Preseason Players of the Year (Media)

Austen Swankler, BGSU

Preseason Rookie of the Year (Media)

Eric Pohlkamp, BSU

Preseason All-CCHA (Media)

Andre Ghantous, F, NMU

Kyle Kukkonen, F, MTU

Austen Swankler, F, BGSU

Kyle Looft, D, BSU

Josh Zinger, D, NMU

Jed Pietila, D, MTU

Blake Pietila, G, MTU


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