UND tops USCHO preseason poll
GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) - The University of North Dakota was the overwhelming favorite in the Preseason U.S. College Hockey Online Preseason poll, published Monday, the first national poll of the delayed 2020-21 season.
UND returns an abundance of talent to a team that finished last season 26-5-4 overall and the champions of the National College Hockey Conference before the Coronavirus pandemic set in and canceled the remainder of the season. Headlining the group is returning Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick finalist senior captain Jordan Kawaguchi. The Abbotsford, B.C., native has progressively increased his production, including a 45-point campaign last year that netted him USCHO Player of the Year, NCHC Forward of the Year and numerous All-America plaudits. In addition to the two-time team-leading point producer in Kawaguchi, UND also returns its top goal scorer, NCHC Rookie of the Year finalist Shane Pinto, senior defenseman Matt Kiersted, who, like Kawaguchi, rebuffed NHL free agent opportunities to come back to UND for his senior season and Ottawa Senators first-round draft pick junior Jacob Bernard-Docker. Those players returned to make a run at what was taken from them last season, a chance at hanging a ninth national championship banner in the storied Ralph Engelstad Arena.
All told, 19 letterwinners are coming back from last year’s Penrose Cup champions. Both goaltenders had standout 2019-20 seasons and will look to keep that momentum when the delayed season opens with the NCHC schedule in Omaha in the beginning of December (full schedule yet to be announced). All-NCHC honorable mention junior Adam Scheel posted 19 wins and a 2.07 goals against average while senior Peter Thome made the most of his time, allowing a league-low 1.37 GAA with a 7-1-2 record.
This season’s UND roster is comprised of 26 student-athletes, half of whom are NHL draftees, including three more from the 2020 NHL Draft. Fifth-overall pick Jake Sanderson and 44th pick Tyler Kleven--both selections of the Ottawa Senators-- and fourth-rounder Mitchell Miller (Arizona Coyotes) help North Dakota surpass all NCHC schools with 13 NHL draftees.
North Dakota ended the 2019-20 season atop the NCAAs PairWise Rankings at the close of the regular season and was number two in both national polls (USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine).
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