Coaches pick defending champs to win WCHA title

A lot of people expect the Gophers men's hockey team to win its third straight national title this season. Monday, the Grand Forks Herald released its 33 Annual Coaches Poll, and every coach picked the Gophers to finish on top of the WCHA.

The two-time defending NCAA champion University of Minnesota men's hockey team was picked to finish first in the 33rd annual Grand Forks Herald WCHA Coaches Poll. The Golden Gophers received nine of 10 first-place votes. Head coaches cannot vote for their own teams, so Minnesota received every first-place vote possible.

The Maroon and Gold received 81 points. North Dakota, which received the other first-place vote, is picked to finish second with 73 points. Rounding out the poll are Colorado College and Minnesota-Duluth (58 points), Denver (48), Minnesota State, Mankato (46), Wisconsin (31), St. Cloud State 28), Michigan Tech (17) and Alaska Anchorage (10).

Minnesota returns 20 letterwinners in 2003-04, including sophomore forward Thomas Vanek, the WCHA Preseason Player of the Year. Vanek received six votes with sophomore Zach Parise of North Dakota finishing second with three votes. Minnesota's junior defenseman Keith Ballard picked up one vote. Wisconsin freshman defenseman Ryan Suter was voted the league's Rookie of the Year with five votes. North Dakota's Brady Murray earned three votes, while Minnesota's Ryan Potulny (Grand Forks, N.D.) and Minnesota State, Mankato's Dave Backes received one vote apiece.

Minnesota opens official practices on Thursday, Oct. 2, at Mariucci Arena. The Golden Gophers begin defense of their NCAA crown at the Maverick Stampede on Friday-Saturday, Oct. 10-11, in Omaha, Neb. Minnesota opens the season against Maine at 5:05 p.m.

33rd annual Grand Forks Herald WCHA Coaches Poll

1. Minnesota (9), 81

2. North Dakota (1), 73

3. Colorado College, 58; Minnesota-Duluth, 58

5. Denver, 48

6. Minnesota State, Mankato, 46

7. Wisconsin, 31

8. St. Cloud State, 28

9. Michigan Tech, 17

10. Alaska Anchorage, 10

Golden Gopher Men's Hockey Television Schedule Released

The University of Minnesota and Fox Sports Net have released the television schedule for the 2003-04 season of Golden Gopher men's hockey. A total of 32 games will be broadcast on Fox Sports North with additional postseason games to be added in the future. In all, 32 of 39 regular season games will be televised.

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