BostonBruins.com — The puck will drop on the college hockey season as NCAA action officially kicks off this weekend.
But before skates are sharpened, sticks are taped, and fans pack on campus arenas throughout the country, teams are already ranked and several Boston Bruins prospects appear on the country's most elite rosters.
USA Today released its final preseason poll on Wednesday. Four of its ranked schools carry a Boston prospect and one B's hopeful's school received poll votes.
The highest ranked of those schools is North Dakota, with goaltender Zane Gothberg representing the Black & Gold on the fourth ranked Fighting Sioux.
"To be honest, our team looks really, really strong," Gothberg told BostonBruins.com in September.
But North Dakota lost to Minnesota in the regional round of the NCAA tournament last spring, something Gothberg said will motivate the team this season.
"I think a lot of the people, or a lot of the players on the team have a little bit of a fire in their belly just to kind of prove a lot of people wrong, or prove that this team is really, really good," added the freshman goalie.
Coming in next on the USA Today poll is Cornell, standing at number five and boasting B's-drafted forward Brian Ferlin.
With the Big Red hoping to capture an ECAC championship and a NCAA title Ferlin will be right in the middle of things after taking both the Ivy League and ECAC Rookie of the Year awards last season.
"We didn’t lose too many pieces from last year, and we were one goal away from the Frozen Four last year," Ferlin told BostonBruins.com after he arrived in Ithaca. "I think that we have all the pieces in place, as long as guys stay healthy.
"I think that we’re going to definitely [contend] in the national picture this year."
Following Cornell is Western Michigan, landing at number seven. Broncos’ freshman forward Colton Hargrove, drafted by the Bruins in 2012, is hoping to assist his team in defending its CCHA championship.
"I’m just going to work hard every time I get on the ice, never take a shift off, play as hard as I can, try to make my teammates around me better, and we’ll just see what happens," Hargrove said of his hopes for the 2012-13 campaign. "I’ll play physical; I don’t try to play out of my role."
|BU's Grzelcyk |
Local powerhouse Boston University makes the list at 14. Freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk patrols the blueline on Commonwealth Avenue, just a short trip from Causeway Street, where Grzelcyk hopes eventually to play as a pro.
"I had the opportunity to come in this summer and take some classes, and just kind of get the ball rolling," Grzelcyk explained after he arrived at BU. "The guys have been great welcoming in us nine freshmen, so I couldn’t have asked for a better situation right now."
Also receiving votes, but not cracking the poll, was Harvard, who finished just 24 points shy of number 15 Wisconsin. Harvard will look for scoring from senior Alex Fallstrom.
Fallstrom, for one, thinks the Crimson will have something to say about the season's final poll.
"It’s something you’ve been dreaming over ever since you came to Harvard—to play in the national tournament, to win the ECAC tournament, and to win the Beanpot Tournament," said the forward. "Those have all been goals: This is what I want to win, and this is what I want to accomplish when I got to Harvard. I feel like it’s going to be a really exciting year."
That exciting college hockey year gets underway in earnest when Western Michigan kicks off its season Friday, and Boston University plays its official opener on Saturday.
Also opening play this weekend is unranked Clarkson, who will play on Thursday and Friday, and who are captained by Bruins prospect Ben Sexton.
Like his fellow B's prospects, Sexton will look to leave his mark on the NCAA scene this season.
"I think internally here we have a mentality and an attitude that we are going to win this year," Sexton said when asked about his Golden Knights. "I think everyone here has the mentality that we can’t accept losing in the first round, we need to be a top team in the ECAC every year."