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Tuesday June 25, 2024
Tech, Northern Highlight CCHA Pre-Season Polls

Story courtesy of the CCHA

The Central Collegiate Hockey Association 2023-24 Media Poll and Preseason Awards have been announced and Michigan Tech University topped Northern Michigan University for first, followed by Bowling Green State University.

Individually, Falcons junior forward Austen Swankler was named Preseason Player of the Year, while Bemidji State University defenseman Eric Pohlkamp was selected as the Preseason Rookie of the Year. Six other student-athletes earned Preseason All-CCHA honors. 


Michigan Tech picked up 152 points in the poll with 11 first-place votes.

Northern Michigan collected 133 points and was tied with third place Bowling Green (124) with two first-place votes apiece. Defending MacNaughton Cup and Mason Cup Champions Minnesota State University was fourth with 114 points (1 first-place vote), while Bemidji State University (100 points), University of St. Thomas (88), Ferris State University (72) and Lake Superior State University (49) rounded out the league. 


The CCHA Media Poll was comprised of 16 members of the local and national media, who cover the conference and its teams regularly. Points were awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3 basis. 


Swankler (North Huntingdon, Pa.) led the CCHA in points (32) and assists (19), while scoring 13 goals in 26 conference games for Bowling Green in 2022-23, earning All-CCHA First Team honors. Notching at least one point in 22 contests, he amassed a nation-best 19-game points streak across all competitions. Four of his goals came on the power play and two were game-winners. Recording 65 shots on goal, the two-time CCHA Forward of the Month ranked second in the league in plus-minus (+12). 


A fifth-round pick by the San Jose Sharks in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, Pohlkamp (Brainerd, Minn.) joins the Beavers after a pair of seasons with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United State Hockey League (USHL).

Named the USHL Defenseman of the Year in 2022-23, he led all defensemen with 51 points on 16 goals and 35 assists in 59 games. He also paced league defensemen in power-play goals (9), power-play assists (18) and power-play points (27). He helped the United States Junior Select squad win the gold medal at the World Junior A Challenge in December 2022. 


Joining Swankler on the Media’s Preseason All-CCHA team were Andre Ghantous (Northern Michigan), Kyle Kukkonen (Michigan Tech), Kyle Looft (Bemidji State), Josh Zinger (Northern Michigan), Jed Pietila (Michigan Tech) and Blake Pietila (Michigan Tech). 


Ghantous (Glendale, Calif.) closed out the 2022-23 regular season on a tear, finishing with nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 26 CCHA contests. He was a +2 with four power-play tallies and one game-winner. Notching 52 shots, he was second among conference skaters with seven multi-point games. Third in points and points per game (1.00), he was sixth in assists and assists per game (0.65) and was the only player to record two multi-goal games. 


The CCHA Rookie of the Year a season ago, Kukkonen (Maple Grove, Minn.) played in all 39 games for the Huskies last season and led the team in goals (18), power-play goals (5) and game-winning goals (5). Also collecting nine assists, he was second in points (27), with two shorthanded tallies and a +5 rating. The CCHA leader in game-winning tallies, he was third in shorthanded goals, shots (120) and shots per game (3.16), fourth in goals and goals per game (0.47) and his eight multi-point games are seventh-most in the league. 


A senior defenseman and second-year captain, Looft (Mankato, Minn.) was one of seven Beavers to skate in all 36 games last season. He totaled eight points on a career-high five goals and three assists. Tied for second on the team with three power-play goals he led the Beavers with three game-winners, which was good for fourth in the CCHA. Totaling eight penalties for 19 penalty minutes, he was second on the team and fifth in the CCHA with 63 blocked shots. 


Zinger (Red Deer, Alb.) recorded three goals and 13 assists for 16 points while playing in all 38 games for the Wildcats as a freshman blueliner last year. He was even in plus/minus with 20 blocked shots at the defensive end of the ice. Helping Northern Michigan to a 2.71 team goals against average, the Wildcats finished fourth in the league, earning a home series in the Mason Cup Playoffs and advancing all the way to the Mason Cup Championship Game. 


A senior defenseman, Jed Pietila (Howell, Mich.) was named to the 2022-23 CCHA All-Academic Team and received the team’s Elov Seger Memorial Award as the most improved player. Skating in 35 games for the Huskies, he tallied one goal and was second on the team with 15 assists. Ranking second on the team with a plus-11 rating and fourth with 35 blocked shots, he registered three assists in the series-clinching win over St. Thomas (Mar. 4) in the Mason Cup Playoffs. 


The reigning CCHA Player and Goaltender of the Year, Blake Pietila (Howell, Mich.) returns to Tech after going 23-11-3 with a 2.15 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in 37 starts last season. An All-America selection, he led the nation in shutouts with 10, while also holding the school record in that category for both a single-season and career (20). Helping the Huskies to a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, he finished with 951 total saves in 2173:57 minutes. 


2023-24 CCHA Preseason Media Poll:  

Michigan Tech - 152 (11 first-place votes) 

Northern Michigan - 133 (2) 

Bowling Green - 124 (2) 

Minnesota State - 114 (1) 

Bemidji State - 100 

St. Thomas - 88 

Ferris State - 72 

Lake Superior State – 49 


Preseason Players of the Year (Media) 

Austen Swankler, BGSU 


Preseason Rookie of the Year (Media) 

Eric Pohlkamp, BSU 


Preseason All-CCHA (Media) 

Andre Ghantous, F, NMU 

Kyle Kukkonen, F, MTU 

Austen Swankler, F, BGSU 

Kyle Looft, D, BSU 

Josh Zinger, D, NMU 

Jed Pietila, D, MTU 

Blake Pietila, G, MTU