BOSTON — Tim Whitehead isn’t overanalyzing the University of Maine men’s hockey team’s preseason ranking.

Even though his team was picked to finish fourth in Hockey East, Whitehead knows that a handful of variables will inevitably come into play for the Black Bears through the course of the season.

“It’s too early to tell for us,” Whitehead said of the league and the national picture. “But we’re excited about our team. It’s so tough to predict things these days. I’ve given up on trying to put a place on where exactly we’re going to be, but as far as our own perspective, we’re very confident in our potential. We want to train hard and stay healthy.”

Tuesday at TD Garden, Hockey East released its annual preseason coaches’ poll. Boston College earned seven first-place votes as the preseason favorite to win the league, ahead of Boston University, New Hampshire and Maine.

“We’ve had good programs and we’ve had a lot of good players come through our programs, but this particular year, Maine and New Hampshire and BU, those look like three really solid college hockey teams,” Boston College Coach Jerry York said.

“It depends, down the road, who stays injury-free and who can replace the void left by graduation losses.”

Each year’s preseason polls are largely predicated on each team’s finish the prior season.

The Black Bears finished fifth in the league in 2010-2011, with a record of 17-12-7 and 14-8-5 in league play and were eliminated by Merrimack in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.

“That’s about where, typically, you end up being ranked – where you finish the previous season,” said Whitehead, whose team is ranked fifteenth and sixteenth in the two national polls.

“That’s very fair. But who knows where anybody’s going to end up, with all the (NHL) signings in our league over the summer. You just never know. It’s so tough to predict. But people have to put you somewhere.”

And, Whitehead added, “We’re not really concerned where we’re slated at the start. We want to have a strong finish.”

BU forward Chris Connolly elaborated on some of the variables that can affect a team through the course of the season.

“The preseason is based on everybody being healthy and back, and some teams get plagued by injuries,” Connolly said.

“Some teams get hot at certain times, too. There’s a lot of different things that you have to take into consideration.

“That being said, I’d say the biggest thing is to make it through the biggest part of the year, in December and January, with your team healthy. You see some teams fall off because of that.”

Conversely, there are some teams that have to defy expectations instead of meet them.

With his team picked to finish last in the 10-team league, first-year Providence Coach Nate Leaman said that the coaches’ poll boils down to one thing: someone else’s opinion.

“If you get caught up in opinions, then you’re always going to be worried about pleasing people,” said Leaman, a former volunteer assistant at Maine.

“The game’s played on the ice and we’re excited. We’re excited about what we feel we can accomplish.”

 

NOTES: Maine already has two dates scheduled for the start of the 2012-2013 season.

The Black Bears will play in the four-team Ice Breaker Tournament Oct. 12-13, 2012 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., where Maine will join Army, Notre Dame and Nebraska-Omaha.

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: rlenzi