The Minnesota Golden Gophers are the favorites to win the Big Ten this season in a poll of the conference coaches. The Big Ten announced a slate of preseason honors on Monday which included the preseason coaches poll, and the preseason All-Big Ten teams. A quartet of Gophers were named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team including junior wing Sammy Walker on the first team.
The Big Ten coaches decided that the Gophers coming on strong at the end of last season was not a mirage and they predicted that the Gophers will take another step forward and win the conference this season. Minnesota last brought home the WCHA Regular season title in the 2017-18 season.
The #Gophers open their 100th season as the favorite in the 2020-21 #B1GHockey preseason coaches’ poll. pic.twitter.com/aKX6JO3ecE— Big Ten Hockey (@B1GHockey) November 9, 2020
Michigan took the second place spot in the poll with Notre Dame and Ohio State tied for third place. Wisconsin moved up to fifth from their seventh place finish a year ago with Michigan State in 6th place and last year’s regular season champion Penn State in the last spot. It’s an interesting difference between the views of the Big Ten coaches and the voters in the national polls which have Penn State ranked in the top ten in the nation, but predicted to finish last in the conference. But as Badgers coach Tony Granato said in his Big Ten media call on Monday, every single team in this conference thinks they can win it and make the NCAA Tournament. There is not much difference between first and last.
Four Gophers were named to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team roster. Junior Sammy Walker was named to the first team. Walker led Minnesota with 30 points in 37 games last year and notched career highs for points, goals (11) and assists (19). He will be Minnesota’s captain for the second season in a row.
Walker was joined on the first team with Penn State’s Alex Limoges, Wisconsin’s Cole Caufield, Michigan State’s Dennis Cesana, and Michigan’s Cameron York, and Strauss Mann
Senior forward Brannon McManus was named to the second team. McManus is Minnesota’s active leading scorer with 62 points in 109 career games. He had his best season last year as a junior recording a career-high 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) while earning All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors.
Sophomore defenseman Jackson LaCombe joins McManus on the second team. IN his rookie campaign LaCombe earned Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors. He recorded 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) and led all Big Ten freshmen defensemen with 61 blocks.
The fourth Gopher to be honored was sophomore Ben Meyers who earned Honorable Mention status. Meyers was also on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team a year ago when he lead the Gopher freshmen with 26 points (10 goals, 26 assists).
While not officially announced yet it appears we do have some information on Minnesota’s opening series against Penn State. According to the advanced digital schedules on several local cable providers the Gophers are set to open their season Thursday November 19th at 7:30 on BTN. The second game of the series is slated to also air on BTN at 3:00 PM Friday afternoon which is set to lead into the Gopher Football team’s game against Purdue that night at 6:30 from TCF Bank Stadium, also broadcast on BTN.
Look for season previews of the 2020-21 Gopher squad next week here at TDG.