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Puck set to drop on 2009-10 NCAA season

by Bob Snow
The puck drops at the Quest Center in Omaha, Neb., on Friday for the 2009 IceBreaker Tournament, college hockey's annual marquee event to kick off the first weekend of the regular season. 

UMass-Lowell takes on St. Lawrence in the first game; host Nebraska-Omaha tangles with Army in the second game. The winners play Saturday.

Also, the Superior Showcase and Kendall Hockey Classic will be played at Minnesota-Duluth and Alaska Anchorage, respectively, on Friday and Saturday. Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech, and Lake Superior and Duluth tangle in the Superior; Michigan vs. Alaska-Fairbanks and Mercyhurst vs. Alaska-Anchorage will meet in the Kendall. The winners play Saturday for bragging rights.

Thursday night, Quinnipiac University is at Ohio State, and Rensselaer travels to UMass for the first two official games of the season.

Saturday night, Boston University hoists its championship banner to the rafters of Agganis Arena before the Terriers' exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 Team.

Other notable matchups include CHA's Alabama-Huntsville at CCHA Notre Dame Friday and Saturday -- after the recent vote by the CCHA to deny Alabama's transfer request. There's also a back-to-back clash between Air Force and Bemidji State, pitting the only brothers to be head coaches in NCAA hockey history – Frank and Tom Serratore, respectively.

The new season also marks the last season of play for the four-team College Hockey America, comprised of Bemidji State, Robert Morris University, Niagara University and the University of Alabama-Huntsville. Beginning in 2010-11, Bemidji joins the WCHA as that league's 11th team. The WCHA also admitted the CCHA's Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks as the 12th entry, leaving the CCHA with an open slot for a new team. Atlantic Hockey has admitted Robert Morris and Niagara as its 11th and 12th teams next year. Alabama-Huntsville is the only team without a home for 2010-11.

The 2010 calendar year begins with the Bridgestone/NHL Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers at Boston's Fenway Park on New Year's Day. A week later, on Jan. 8, the first-ever outdoor college game in New England in the modern era will pit the past two national champions -- and one of college hockey's most intense rivals -- when Boston University and Boston College square off.

Here's a look at pre-season media polls across the six conferences and 58 teams as the new season gets under way, along with's Top 10 poll and Frozen Four prediction.

Atlantic Hockey -- Air Force, coming off its third straight NCAA appearance, takes the No. 1 slot, followed by Mercyhurst, Rochester Institute of Technology, Holy Cross, Canisius, Army, Bentley Sacred Heart, Connecticut and American International.

Central Collegiate Hockey Association -- While Miami is No. 1 in many national polls, Michigan gets the nod in the league media poll, followed by Notre Dame, Miami, Ohio State, Northern Michigan, Alaska, Nebraska-Omaha, Michigan State, Ferris State, Western Michigan, Lake Superior State and Bowling Green.

College Hockey America -- Bemidji State, fresh off the only Frozen Four appearance in league history, easily heads that league's poll, followed by Niagara, Robert Morris, and Alabama-Huntsville.

Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey League -- Yale won its second league crown in program history last season, and picks up right where it left off as the ECAC favorite; Cornell, Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth, Union, St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Colgate, RPI, Quinnipiac and Brown follow. Five of the six Ivy teams atop the poll is a first in league history.

Hockey East -- Boston University gets the nod at the summit of Hockey East. The 2009 national champions are followed by a surging UMass-Lowell that bowed to BU, 1-0, in the Hockey East championship game in March, denying the River Hawks an NCAA berth. Boston College, New Hampshire, Vermont, Northeastern, Massachusetts, Maine, Providence and Merrimack round out the preseason landscape.  

Western Collegiate Hockey Association -- The Denver Pioneers are a puck-width ahead or behind Miami in most national polls, but head the WCHA contingent of North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth, MSU-Mankato, Colorado College, Alaska-Anchorage and Michigan Tech.

New digs for Northeastern
-- Matthews Arena, the world's oldest hockey arena has a new look.

"We're trying to address the fan experience so we are making some changes that benefit the students and the folks that go to games and events," Northeastern Athletic Director Peter Robey told NU's newspaper, the Huntington News, about the $12-14 million facelift. Major changes include new seating, a central digital scoreboard, an improved sound system, a new press box and improved locker and weight room facilities. The main lobby also will be renovated.

"It's great for recruiting," Huskies coach Greg Cronin told the Boston Globe. "The building has taken on a new personality. The old building, I'd rush guys through there."

Harvard joins The Messier Project -- A collaboration between Cascade Sports and hockey legend Mark Messier's leadership in The Messier Project addresses the issue of concussion through product development -- and the revolutionary new M11 helmet.

An all-encompassing grassroots and educational initiative aimed to change priorities in the sport by encouraging athletes to choose the best protective equipment, Harvard is the first Division I team to sign on to use the M11 exclusively.

"We believe in the mission of The Messier Project and we believe in the M11 for its protection and its performance," Crimson coach Ted Donato said in a Messier Project press release. "We are honored to work with Mark Messier, himself a lifelong leader, throughout the upcoming season."

"A helmet should be the No. 1 piece of equipment on a player's list -- and it should offer the best protection possible," said Messier. "While rooted in tradition, Harvard has long been a leader in the evolution of the sport and I am extremely proud that Coach Donato and the Harvard team share The Messier Project's passion for this important cause."

As hockey is a multiple-impact sport, the M11 with Seven Technology provides the protection of two helmets in the space of one -- one for catastrophic hits and one for concussion. The Mono 90 Shell Design of the M11 uses the shell as a stress member to manage the energy from impact and disperse it across a larger surface area.

The M11 will be available at retail outlets this month. For more information, visit

On Campus Clips -- ECAC Hockey reached an agreement with the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority and SMG Management Group to conduct its annual men's championship at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The agreement is a three-year term and is set to begin in March 2011, ending a long run of championship tournaments in Albany this spring. Boardwalk Hall underwent a $90 million renovation in 2001. ... The 2010-2012 IceBreaker Tournaments will all be held at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. ... Four new head coaches join the Division I landscape: Dean Blais at Nebraska-Omaha, Brendan Whittet at Brown and Dennis Williams at Bowling Green; the Sacred Heart vacancy has yet to be filled. ... BC's Jerry York and BU's Jack Parker enter the new season as first and second among active coaches in career wins, at 821 and 816, respectively. Michigan State's legendary Ron Mason is No. 1 all-time at 924. ... Seven of the first-round picks in the June Entry Draft will be donning college jerseys this season: Nick Leddy (No. 16, Minnesota) will play at the University of Minnesota; Louis Leblanc (No. 18, Montreal) will play at Harvard; Chris Kreider (No. 19, N.Y. Rangers) at Boston College; Jordan Schroeder (No. 22, Vancouver) at the University of Minnesota; Kyle Palmieri (No. 26, Anaheim) at Notre Dame; Dylan Olsen (No. 28, Chicago) at Minnesota-Duluth. ... Ten countries with 1,575 players represent the D-I landscape out of the blocks. ... The 2010 national championship game is Saturday, April 10, at Ford Field in Detroit; capacity is about 70,000 for hockey.

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