BOSTON -- Hockey East teams won't drop the puck on exhibition games until next weekend, but the league's 2015-16 season got underway a little early on Monday at its annualat TD Garden.
The start of the season is an exciting time for everyone involved in college hockey and the coaches quickly pointed out that the score is even at the outset. The past is the past, and every team's expectations for the road ahead are high.
The league's coaches agreed with the Hockey East Writers and Broadcasters Association's annual ranking, choosing Boston College at the top of their preseason poll for the 14th time in the last 17 years. BC collected 115 total points and seven first-place votes.
Boston University took home three of the remaining five first-place votes and 107 points, while Providence was voted at the top of the remaining two coaches ballots.
The end to the Terriers' last season at this past April's Frozen Four was a tough one, but BU head coach David Quinn knows his team is ready for the next chapter.
"It was probably the most enjoyable year I had coaching," Quinn said of last year's 28-8-5 team, "but I think a lot of the guys are past that. I know talking to our seniors and our captains, they're looking forward to getting back on the ice and starting a whole new year. It's their turn to follow the lead of (Evan) Rodrigues, (Cason) Hohmann, and (Matt) O'Connor, the guys who were leaders in that senior class."
Quinn and the Terriers have all the reason to be optimistic again as 15 of their top 18 scorers from a season ago are back. BU also brings in two second-round NHL draft picks in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jordan Greenway, to bolster the attack, and defenseman Charlie McAvoy, a highly-touted prospect for 2016.
Merrimack finished last season two points ahead of last-place UMass and was slotted into the same position to begin this year, but a young team with a lot of upside has 11th-year head coach Mark Dennehy excited.
"I don't know if I've been this excited to coach a hockey team in a long time," Dennehy said. "Emotionally, I could have started this season when we lost to BU (in the first round of the playoffs). That's how ready I was."
Dennehy's roster is littered with underclassmen, but players like Brett Seney and Jace Hennig took big steps in the latter half of their rookie seasons in 2014-15 and are expected to contribute in a big way once again.
"We're going to be young, but we expect them to get better and we've already seen it," Dennehy said. "We've got some guys in this sophomore class that were kind of just hitting stride towards the end of the year and used that as motivation, because obviously it wasn't good enough. Already, they've come back and you can tell the difference."
Another team checking into the season with youth is Maine. The departures of Devin Shore and Ben Hutton leave the Black Bears with some big shoes to fill, but head coach Red Gendron sees a new core of players who can help shoulder the load.
Maine welcomes back 16 letterwinners with senior Steven Swavely, juniors Blaine Byron and Cam Brown expected to be among the leadership group on the stat sheet.
Gendron's optimism was apparent, but his response was rather similar to some of his coaching colleagues.
"We're undefeated, so I feel real good about our team," Gendron said. "I think we're deeper than we were a year ago and we're more experienced in the pipes. For that reason, we're very, very optimistic."
Now that the talk is over, let's drop the puck.