COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Coming off a national championship last season, Minnesota Duluth has been voted by the media as the favorite to capture the 2018-19 Penrose Cup, awarded to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) regular-season champions, as the NCHC Preseason Poll was unveiled Monday on Twitter.
The Bulldogs received 20 of a possible 27 first-place votes and totaled 209 points, while St. Cloud State was picked second in the poll, garnering six first-place votes and 182 points. North Dakota came in third in the poll (150 points), while Western Michigan (121) rounded out the top half. Denver, who picked up the final first-place vote, was selected fifth (115), followed by Colorado College (98), Omaha (61) and Miami (36), respectively.
Minnesota Duluth returns 18 letterwinners from last year’s squad that finished 25-16-3 overall, third in the NCHC regular season (13-11-0-0) and made a postseason run to win the program’s second NCAA championship. UMD, which is still searching for its first Penrose Cup, brings back junior goaltender Hunter Shepard and sophomore defenseman Scott Perunovich, who were both All-NCHC performers last season.
SCSU won its second Penrose Cup in 2017-18, going 25-9-6 overall and 16-4-4-1/0 in conference play. The Huskies bring back 21 letterwinners from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, led by three-time captain and All-American defenseman Jimmy Schuldt. North Dakota finished fourth in the NCHC for the second straight season last year after going 8-10-6-1/2 in conference play and 17-13-10 overall. UND returns 19 letterwinners, while looking to start a new NCAA Tournament appearances streak after having its 15-year streak snapped last season.
Western Michigan (15-19-2, 10-13-1-0 NCHC in 2017-18) looks to improve on last year’s tie for fifth place in the NCHC, while Denver (23-10-8, 12-6-6-4/0) must replace several key forwards and its starting goaltender from last year’s team that finished second in the NCHC and won the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. Colorado College (15-17-5, 8-12-4-3/0) also finished in a three-way tie for fifth with WMU a season ago, its best ever finish in NCHC play, along with Omaha (17-17-2, 10-13-1-0). Miami (12-20-5, 6-14-4-2/0) aims to prove the media wrong and avoid finishing eighth in the conference for a second straight season.
A total of 27 ballots were submitted by local media members from each school, as well as select national media. Points were awarded on a descending scale with a first-place vote worth eight points, a second-place vote worth seven points and so on.