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Minnesota State picked to win restarted CCHA; Bemidji State second in Preseason Coaches’ Poll

The poll is the first for the restarted league as it returns for the first time since 2012-13.

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Minnesota State University-Mankato defenseman Riese Zmolek (25) goes down chasing the puck against Bemidji State defenseman Elias Rosen during the third period of the Mariucci Classic Dec. 29, 2019, at the 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis. The Rink Live file photo
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Minnesota State was selected to win the restarted Central Collegiate Hockey Association league title, according to the Preseason Coaches’ Poll released Monday.

Bemidji State was selected to finish second in the poll, the first for the league as it returns to the ice for the first time since 2012-13.

Minnesota State topped the poll with 67 of a possible 70 points and five of eight first-place votes. The Beavers garnered 63 points and one first-place vote, and Michigan Tech rounded out the top three with 55 points and two first-place votes.

Northern Michigan (54), Bowling Green State (46), Lake Superior State (45), Ferris State (32) and St. Thomas (30) occupy spots four through eight.

The WCHA men’s league dissolved after the 2020-21 season.

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Minnesota State won the NCAA Tournament West Regional in 2020-21, advancing to the Frozen Four for the first time in program history. They won the last four WCHA titles and are the favorites to win the MacNaughton Cup, the historic trophy given to the CCHA regular season champion that was carried over from the WCHA.

MSU junior forward Nathan Smith was also named the CCHA Preseason Player of the Year on Monday and grabbed a spot on the league’s preseason all-conference team. Fellow Mavericks Dryden McKay, Akito Hirose and Julian Napravnik also landed spots on the team, as did Michigan Tech’s Colin Swoyer and Northern Michigan’s Joseph Nardi.

Bemidji State returns 22 players from last season’s team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament East Regional Final, including senior forward Alex Ierullo, who posted a team-best 24 points in 29 games. Reigning WCHA defensive player of the year Elias Rosén returns to the Beavers’ blue line after totaling five goals and 11 assists in 2020-21.

Rosén and Owen Sillinger received votes for BSU in the preseason all-conference team voting.

Bowling Green’s Rusten Swankler was voted as the Preseason Rookie of the Year.

2021-22 CCHA Preseason Coaches’ Poll

1-Minnesota State 67; 2-Bemidji State 63; 3-Michigan Tech 55; 4-Northern Michigan 54; 5-Bowling Green 46; 6-Lake Superior State 45; 7-Ferris State 32; 8-St. Thomas 30.

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Bemidji State’s Elias Rosen (28) and Ethan Somoza (9) celebrate Somoza’s game-winning goal in the second period against Michigan Tech on March 13, 2021 at the Sanford Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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