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First Look: 2016-17 College Hockey Season

[lead align=”default”]While America settles in for a long day of college football, the 2016-17 college hockey season begins tomorrow as well.[/lead]

At least in terms of college sports, the gridiron shares the spotlight now with the ice. (In terms of viewers, the gridiron reigns supreme.) Nevertheless, hockey is here, and right away, several ranked teams take to the rink. Ferris State kicks off the regular season against Alabama-Huntsville in a WCHA contest. After that, Army visits Colgate and in our first all-ranked matchup of the year, Minnesota-Duluth hosts Michigan Tech.

Here are some of the things we can come to expect from the 2016-17 college hockey season.

2016-17 College Hockey Season: The Favorites

North Dakota Fighting Hawks. The defending national champions need no introduction, but get one anyway. This is a young team, with 19 of their 26 players underclassmen, but that large sophomore class all took part in a title run last year.

Amongst their upperclassmen are returning starting goalie Cam Johnson and senior backup Matt Hrynkiw. Statistically, Johnson was one of the country’s best goalies in the 2015-16 campaign, with a GAA of 1.66 and a crisp 0.935 save percentage.

Yet, the underclassmen feature top talents as well. Forward Brock Boeser, now a sophomore, was fourth in the NCAA last year with 27 goals and looks for another big year now. He was third in the nation in points last season with 60.

This team looks like it will be stacked for years to come.

2016-17 College Hockey Season: Other Contenders

Boston University Terriers. The Terriers look solid this year, and like North Dakota, don’t be fooled by their apparent youth. Boston University has just nine upperclassmen out of 26 players, but keep an eye on guys like Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy. Guys like them will have to replace a lot of production with departures from goalie Sean Maguire and forward Danny O’Regan.

Quinnipiac Bobcats. Quinnipiac lost some scoring pop in the offseason, including Sam Anas. Team captain Connor Clifton will be one of the guys called upon to pick up the slack.

Overall, this is a very good program out of the ECAC, making four NCAA Tournaments in a row and two Frozen Fours in that span.

Denver Pioneers. How can Denver not be a contender? They’ve made the tournament nine years in a row, and in a field of just 16, you’re entering with okay odds of the Frozen Four. Leading scorer Danton Heinen is not back for the Pioneers, instead jumping to the NHL, but goalie Tanner Jaillet is.

Boston College Eagles. Boston College was picked sixth in Hockey East this season, but Jerry York’s team doesn’t rebuild: they reload. Ryan Fitzgerald looks like an offensive star, along with Colin White and Chris Calnan. Boston College replaces Thatcher Demko at goalie, likely with either freshmen Ryan Edquist or Joe Woll. Neither of them should diminish your belief in this team, who have won national championships with newcomers between the pipes.

2016-17 College Hockey Season: Best Conference

Hockey East. The Hockey East Association features six currently in the USCHO preseason top 20, more than any other conference. That is also one of the largest conferences, so it’s perhaps not as dense with good teams, but there’s no denying it’s got talent.

Boston College and Boston University, the Commonwealth Avenue rivalry, tops Hockey East, but other key players include Northeastern, UMass-Lowell, Providence, and Notre Dame. Even schools like New Hampshire and Vermont can put together a good game now and then.

Hockey East is consistently a good conference, and comes into the 2016-17 college hockey season riding a high. They got a team, Boston College, into the Frozen Four last year, and the Eagles were one of six Hockey East teams to make the NCAA Tournament.

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