The 2019-20 MIAC men’s hockey season should feature a tight race for the conference title, according to the league’s coaches.
St. Thomas, Augsburg, St. John’s and Concordia (Moorhead) are the top four picks in the MIAC’s preseason coaches poll, and each of those teams received at least one first-place vote. Play begins Friday with nonconference action, and some teams open league play on Nov. 8-9.
St. Thomas finished third in the conference last season and is the coaches’ pick to win it this year. Augsburg is picked second by the coaches but is tied for No. 7 in the U.S. College Hockey Online preseason Division III poll. The Auggies have won the past four MIAC tournament titles.
Augsburg must replace goalie Nick Schmidt, the MIAC player of the year, and All-America forward Alex Rodriguez, but coach Chris Brown is optimistic.
“I really like the guys we have,’’ said Brown, whose team scrimmaged Bemidji State two weeks ago. “The one bright spot in our preseason has been our goaltending and our defensive corp.’’ Leading the Auggies blue-liners is senior John O’Connor, who earned All-America honors while collecting two goals and 15 assists in 2018-19. “… The big thing is we lost seven forwards.’’
St. Thomas returns 18 players from last season’s squad, led by senior forwards Brett Gravelle and Johnny Panvica, who combined for 23 goals and 32 assists in 2018-19.
“I’m always cautiously optimistic at the beginning of the year,’’ said Tommies coach Jeff Boeser, who has led his team to six MIAC titles this decade. “The past five years it’s come down to the last weekend for the top five teams to make the playoffs.’’
St. John’s finished runner-up to Augsburg in the conference standings last season, then battled the Auggies before falling 2-1 in four overtimes in the MIAC tournament championship game. Johnnies goalie Andrew Lindgren stopped a school-record 86 shots in that game, and he’ll be a senior this season. He’s the younger brother of Charlie Lindgren, a goalie in the Montreal Canadiens organization, and Ryan Lindgren, a defenseman for the New York Rangers.
For Concordia, junior defenseman Tyler Bossert will be key. He had 11 goals and 28 assists last season.
“From top to bottom, this will be a real competitive year for the league – and exciting,’’ Brown said.
MIAC preseason coaches poll
(first-place votes in parentheses)
St. Thomas (3) 58
Augsburg (3) 54
St. John’s (2) 53
Concordia (1) 48
St. Mary’s 28