The defending Canada West and U SPORTS champion Manitoba Bisons are the narrow favourites heading into the 2018-19 CW women's hockey season.
Manitoba (43 pts.) topped the annual pre-season coaches poll, while the Alberta Pandas were a close second (41 pts.), as the conference's coaches cast their ballots ahead of opening weekend.
The Bisons enter the new season coming off their third Canada West title, and first U SPORTS national title. Last season, Manitoba topped the CW regular season standings (64 pts.), before eventually downing Saskatchewan in the conference final.
2017-18 was one of the most competitive in conference history, as Manitoba, Saskatchewan (58 pts.), UBC (56 pts.), and Alberta (55 pts.) jockeyed for top spot in the conference.
Based on the pre-season coaches poll, more of the same is expected this season, as the same four teams are predicted to provide another wild regular season.
Slotting in behind the lead pack in the annual poll are the Mount Royal Cougars (23 pts.), Regina Cougars (22 pts.), Calgary Dinos (13 pts.), and Lethbridge Pronghorns (7 pts.). A full preview of the conference's eight teams will be available Wednesday on CanadaWest.org.
2018 CANADA WEST WHKY PRE-SEASON COACHES POLL
TEAM / POINTS (FIRST-PLACE VOTES)
1. Manitoba Bisons / 43 (5)
2. Alberta Pandas / 41 (2)
3. UBC Thunderbirds / 38 (1)
4. Saskatchewan Huskies / 37
5. Mount Royal Cougars / 23
6. Regina Cougars / 22
7. Calgary Dinos / 13
8. Lethbridge Pronghorns / 7
NOTES: Coaches rank all conference teams excluding their own. First-place vote worth 7 pts., second-place 6 pts. etc.
PHOTO CREDIT gobisons.ca