Big Ten hockey coaches expect the Gophers to hold their spot atop of the conference. The Gophers were picked to win a fourth consecutive regular-season title and earned a league-best four mentions on the players to watch list, the Big Ten announced Monday.

The Gophers also debuted at No. 13 in the USCHO Top 20 preseason poll after ending last season unranked. Defending national champion North Dakota is No. 1 in the national poll. The rivals face off Nov. 4-5 at Mariucci Arena with Fox Sports North broadcasting the games. They haven’t met in the regular season since 2012-2013.

The Gophers will play on TV 29 times, the team announced Monday. FSN will broadcast 17 games starting with the home opener against St. Cloud State Oct. 21. The Big Ten Network will air 10 games and ESPN two games. They open conference play Dec. 2 against Ohio State on BTN. Among the seven games not currently scheduled for TV are early season trips to Alaska, New York and Massachusetts.

Ohio State was picked to finish second in the Big Ten, Michigan third, Penn State fourth, Wisconsin fifth with Michigan State in last place. Michigan won last season’s Big Ten tournament to claim the conference’s only spot in the NCAA tournament.

Gophers senior forward Justin Kloos and sophomore goaltender Eric Schierhorn were two of four unanimous selections for the Big Ten preseason watch list. Senior defenseman Jake Bischoff and junior forward Leon Bristedt were also named to the list.

Luke Kunin, the Wild’s first-round draft pick and Wisconsin sophomore forward, was a watch list unanimous selection. Grant Besse, the former Benilde-St. Margaret’s star and Wisconsin senior, also made the list.   

Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State are ranked No. 5 and 6, respectively, in the USCHO preseason poll. Minnesota State is No. 19. Michigan, ranked No. 11, is the only other Big Ten member in the Top 20. Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State all received votes. Division I Men’s Poll
Rk.      School (1st-place votes)
1.          North Dakota (43)  
2.          Quinnipiac (1)           
3.          Denver                
4.          Boston University (5)           
5.          Boston College (1)          
6.          Minnesota Duluth             
7.          St. Cloud State                  
8.          Massachusetts-Lowell        

9.          Notre Dame                  
10.        Providence                      
11.        Michigan                           
12.        Harvard                               
13.        Minnesota                         
14.        Bowling Green               
15.        Northeastern               
16.        St. Lawrence                  
17.        Michigan Tech                    
18.        Yale                                   
19.        Minnesota State                
20.        Ferris State                       
Others receiving votes: Cornell 92, Omaha 85, Penn State 63, Clarkson 62, RIT 62, Ohio State 33, Air Force 17, Vermont 16, Miami 11, Wisconsin 10, Dartmouth 6, Robert Morris 6, Michigan State 5.

Big Ten preseason poll
1.  Minnesota
2.  Ohio State
3.  Michigan
4.  Penn State
5.  Wisconsin
6.  Michigan State

Big preseason watch list
Alex Kile, F, Michigan
Mason Appleton, F, Michigan State
Jake Bischoff, D, Minnesota
Leon Bristedt, F, Minnesota
Justin Kloos, F, Minnesota*
Eric Schierhorn, G, Minnesota*

Josh Healey, D, Ohio State
Mason Jobst, F, Ohio State
Nick Schilkey, F, Ohio State
David Goodwin, F, Penn State
Vince Pedrie, D, Penn State*
Luke Kunin, F, Wisconsin*
Grant Besse, F, Wisconsin
* Unanimous selection

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