Broncos Picked Seventh, Bellissimo Honored

The CCHA held its annual media day today at Joe Louis Arena to introduce the 12 member teams to the media. Announced were the television schedule, the preseason polls and the inaugural CCHA Preseason All-Conference teams.

The Western Michigan Broncos were picked to finish seventh in both the media and coaches preseason polls. Head coach Jim Culhane doesn't put much stock in preseason polls however. Culhane said, "Where we finish in early March is what I put a lot of stock in," when the CCHA tournament starts.

Topping both polls this year is Michigan who is ranked #1 in the nation according to the first USCHO poll of the season. "The Mighty Wolverines look to be the team to beat," said Culhane of the CCHA's likely national title contenders. Second place in both polls went to Michigan State followed by some disagreement between the polls until last place Nebraska-Omaha (complete polls listed below).

The CCHA conducted its first ever poll for preseason All-Conference Teams. Six schools were represented between the first and second teams. For the Broncos Vince Bellissimo was named to the first team at forward receiving 12 first team votes (complete preseason teams listed below).

"I think it's a great individual honor for Vince but also it's one that we can be proud of as a hockey program," said Culhane about the Broncos' leading scorer in each of the past two seasons. "We're excited as a program for Vince, we're happy for him."

The Broncos will once again host a televised game on Fox Sports Detroit (FSD) playing Michigan on January 8. This is the second consecutive year the FSD crew will broadcast from Lawson Arena with Matt Shepard and Ken Daniels calling the action.

Also in the works is a continuing partnership with Leafs TV from Ontario to re-air CCHA games throughout the season and into the off-season. The newly formed Comcast Local sports station is also working out broadcast deals with the CCHA and specifically covering teams within Michigan. Expect an announcement shortly about which WMU games will be aired on Comcast Local.

Rules Emphasis:

Normally one of the subjects addressed at media day is rules changes made in the off-season. This season, however, there are no significant rules changes to speak of but instead an emphasis on enforcing them properly.

CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos spearheaded a movement to make the game more attractive to fans and to address the "clutch and grab" style of play that has become prevalent throughout all of hockey. The start to this is an emphasis this season on referees enforcing the rules as written and enforcing them regardless of when in a game the infraction happens or the importance of the game being played.

"The whole point of emphasis is to call the penalties, to call the rules," said Culhane. "What they're trying to do is to eliminate the clutching and the grabbing and the obstruction that happens all over the place and not just in neutral ice. I think there will be an adjustment phase for the players on what's going to be tolerated and what's not and it's our job as coaches and players to adjust to what's going to be called."

The hope is to open up the ice for the skilled players to use their skills unobstructed while not adding rules to the rulebook. "I think it's a good thing for hockey in general," added Culhane.

A copy of the "Open Letter to the NCAA Ice Hockey Community" which addresses this issue will be posted in the Broncos Illustrated message boards under the Lawson Arena forum.

Preseason Polls:

1 – Michigan
2 – Michigan State
3 – Northern Michigan
4 – Miami
5 – Ohio State
6 – Notre Dame
7 – Western Michigan
8 – Ferris State
9 – Bowling Green
10 – Lake Superior
11 – Alaska Fairbanks
12 – Nebraska-Omaha

1 – Michigan
2 – Michigan State
3 – Miami
4 – Ohio State
5 – Notre Dame
6 – Northern Michigan
7 – Western Michigan
8 – Bowling Green
9(tie) – Alaska Fairbanks
9(tie) – Ferris State
11 – Lake Superior
12 – Nebraska-Omaha

Preseason All-Conference Teams:

First Team:
F - Jim Slater, SR, Michigan State
F - T.J. Hensick, SO, Michigan
F - Vince Bellissimo, JR, Western Michigan
D - A.J. Thelen, SO, Michigan State
D - Andy Greene, JR, Miami
G - Al Montoya, JR, Michigan

Second Team:
F - Jeff Tambellini, JR, Michigan
F - Mike Lalonde, SR, Michigan State
F - Matt Christie, SO, Miami
D - Nathan Oystrick, JR, Northern Michigan
D - Brandon Rogers, SR, Michigan
G - Jordan Sigalet, SR, Bowling Green

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