Good afternoon, hockey fans. It’s late September, and that means the college hockey season is quickly approaching, with season openers for many teams on Saturday, Oct. 6. One of those matchups will be the Gophers opening at defending national champion Minnesota Duluth at Amsoil Arena in the first game of a home-and-home series that concludes the next day at Mariucci Arena.

U.S. College Hockey Online released its preseason poll on Monday, and the Bulldogs are the overwhelming choice as the No. 1 team. Minnesota Duluth, which won its second NCAA championship at Xcel Energy Center in April, received 44 of 50 first-place votes. The three Big Ten teams that advanced to the Frozen Four -- Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan – complete the top four in order, followed by Providence at No. 5.

St. Cloud State is No. 6, Minnesota State Mankato is No. 10, North Dakota is No. 11 and the Gophers are No. 13.

Here is the poll:

Gophers picked fourth in Big Ten

Minnesota is picked to finish fourth in the Big Ten preseason coaches poll. No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Notre Dame lead the poll. Penn State is picked to finish fifth, followed by Wisconsin and Michigan State.

Gophers forwards Tyler Sheehy and Rem Pitlick were named to the 15-member Big Ten preseason watch list.

Others on the watch list are:

Michigan: Quinn Hughes, Josh Norris, Jake Slater

Michigan State: Taro Hirose, Patrick Khodorenko, Mitch Lewandowski

Notre Dame: Cale Morris

Ohio State: Mason Jobst, Dakota Joshua, Tanner Laczynski

Penn State: Denis Smirnov, Nate Sucese

Wisconsin: Wyatt Kalynuk

UMD, St. Cloud State 1-2 in NCHC preseason poll

Minnesota Duluth and defending champion St. Cloud State are picked to finish first and second, respectively, in the NCHC preseason media poll. North Dakota is No. 3, followed by Western Michigan, Denver, Colorado College, Nebraska Omaha and Miami (Ohio).

MSU Mankato picked to win WCHA

Defending champion MSU Mankato is picked to win the WCHA title in polls by both the league’s coaches and media. Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, Michigan Tech and Bemidji State complete the top five in the coaches poll. The media poll has the same five teams, with Bowling Green and Northern Michigan trading spots at No. 2 and No. 3.

Northern Michigan forwards Adam Rockwood and Troy Loggins are the WCHA preseason players of the year as selected by the coaches and media, respectively. Ferris State defenseman Cooper Zech is the coaches’ choice as preseason rookie of the year.

Rockwood was one of four Northern Michigan players voted to the coaches’ preseason All-WCHA team. He was joined by Loggins, defenseman Philip Beaulieu and goalie Atte Tolvanen. Others on the team were: MSU Mankato forward Marc Michaelis and Bowling Green defenseman Alec Rauhauser.

The media’s preseason first team consisted of Loggins, Michaelis and MSU Mankato’s Jake Jaremko as forwards, along with defensemen Rauhauser and Beaulieu, and goalie Tolvanen.