The Minnesota Duluth men's hockey program will begin the 2018-19 season right where it left off at the end of last season-on top.
The defending national champion Bulldogs picked up 44 of 50 first-place votes Monday, Sept. 24, to take the top spot in the USCHO Division I men's preseason poll.
Aside from UMD, which returns 19 of the 26 players from the 2017-18 squad, four other NCHC teams were included in the national poll, including two more in the top 10.
St. Cloud State, which finished 25-9-6 a year ago, is ranked No. 6 while 2017 national champions Denver are No. 9.
The University of North Dakota, despite missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 years last spring, is ranked No. 11 after a 17-13-10 season. Western Michigan rounds out the poll at No. 19.
Regionally, two other schools from Minnesota are also ranked in the top 20 poll. Minnesota State, the champions of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association last season, is ranked No. 10 after a 29-10-1 campaign while Minnesota, which missed the playoffs last spring, are No. 13.
UMD also tops NCHC poll
The NCHC preseason media poll was also released Monday, and the Bulldogs were the favorites to win their conference too.
They edged defending regular-season conference champion St. Cloud State.
The Bulldogs garnered 20 of 27 first-place votes after posting a 25-16-3 record overall and 13-11 mark in NCHC play last year to finish third in the league during the regular season.
The Huskies, now coached by Duluth native and former Bulldogs assistant coach Brett Larson, received six first-place votes after going 16-4-4 in league play a year ago.
North Dakota, which lost captain Austin Poganski and starting goalie Cam Johnson to graduation and saw top=line forwards Christian Wolanin and Shane Gersich sign NHL contracts, was picked to finish third by the league media, while Western Michigan was picked to finish fourth.
Rounding out the preseason poll was Denver (fifth), Colorado College (sixth), Omaha (seventh) and Miami of Ohio (eighth).
The college hockey season gets underway in October, with teams playing both exhibition and regular season games starting Saturday, Oct. 6.
NCHC Preseason Media Poll
1. Minnesota Duluth (20)
2. St. Cloud State (6)
3. North Dakota
4. Western Michigan
5. Denver (1)
6. Colorado College