Heading into this weekend versus University of Nebraska – Omaha, the Pioneers have been one of the biggest surprises in college hockey – unfortunately, for their on-ice results versus preseason expectations. LetsGoDU looked at the USCHO Preseason Hockey Poll and compared these predictions to the recent January 4th USCHO Regular Season Poll.
The biggest improvement was shown by current #2 Quinnipiac, originally predicted to finish 18th – they ‘moved up’ +16 places. Other big winners include St Cloud (+13), UMass-Lowell (+6), St. Lawrence (+6), and unranked Notre Dame that moved up to 14th (>+6). The second half of the season will show if these programs can sustain this improvement or will they fall back to earth, particularly Quinnipiac.
Minnesota Duluth, currently mired in 19th place by USCHO, has dropped -17 places from the #2 preseason slot. 19th ranked Minnesota State fell from the 6th pick in preseason (-13). The Denver Pioneers have sustained the third largest drop from #5 preseason to the 17th position (-12) in the latest USCHO poll. Denver is followed by currently unranked Minnesota (>-11) which has tumbled from #9 and unranked Miami (>-9) that fell from the #11 preseason selection. This likely spells the end of Don Lucia’s tenure at the under-performing Minnesota program. As for Denver, this fall is even more unexpected because the Pios have not faced major injuries or defections, had a strong returning roster – especially at forward and have an experienced goaltending tandem.
The second half of the season gives the Pioneers a second chance to return to preseason expectations. They clearly made progress this past weekend at home against Notre Dame. Their opportunity continues tonight on the road against current #6 UNO.