Minnesota leads conference in preseason poll

The Gophers are the favorite to win the conference and several players made preseason honors.

Minnesota+forward+Nick+Bjugstad+keeps+the+puck+from+Wisconsin+forward+Nic+Kerdiles+on+Sunday%2C+Feb.+17%2C+2013%2C+at+Soldier+Field+in+Chicago.

Emily Dunker

Minnesota forward Nick Bjugstad keeps the puck from Wisconsin forward Nic Kerdiles on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Julianna Landis

In poll results announced Monday morning, the Gophers sit atop the ranks of the Big Ten, voted by the league’s coaches as the preseason favorite to win the conference.

In order, Minnesota was ranked first, with Michigan in second place, Ohio State and Notre Dame tied for third, Wisconsin fifth, Michigan State sixth and Penn State pulling up the rear in seventh place.

Four Gophers players also made their way onto preseason honors lists with captain Sammy Walker being named to the All-Big Ten Hockey First Team, senior forward Brannon McManus and sophomore defenseman Jackson LaCombe both making the All-Big Ten Hockey Second Team, and sophomore forward Ben Meyers earning an honorable mention nod.

Nominated as a team captain for a second straight year, Walker led the team in points last season, putting up 30 points in 37 games. In his 74 games with Minnesota, he has put up 21 goals and 35 assists for a career total of 56 points.

Heading into his senior season, McManus is the team’s current active-leading scorer with 62 points in 109 games. A Newport Beach, Calif., native, McManus will serve as an alternate team captain this season.

LaCombe led all Big Ten defensemen his freshman year with 61 blocks and was ranked second among defensemen for scoring with 13 points. Originally from Eden Prairie, Minn., LaCombe is in the running to make the U.S. Junior National Team to play in the IIHF World Junior Championship this winter.

Meyers is returning to the Gophers as an alternate captain after a stellar first season, where he played in all 37 games and led all team freshmen with 26 points. The Delano, Minn. native was named Men’s Rookie of the Year for the whole University athletics department and was also a finalist for the Big Ten Freshman of The Year last season.

Minnesota will drop the puck on its 100th season on Nov. 19 against Penn State.