Monday, March 15, 2010

ECAC Awards: The Final Say

All of the categories for the various ECAC awards now officially have their finalists. Let's break down the list and see what we've got.

Player of the Year
F Sean Backman, sr., Yale
F Chase Polacek, jr., RPI
G Ben Scrivens, sr., Cornell

Color us surprised by two of the three nominees. Not as surprised by Scrivens, who was head and shoulders proven to be the top goaltender in the league by the end, but we just can't understand why it is that Sean Backman is getting so much of the praise on a Yale team whose best player, in our not so humble opinion, is Broc Little. We thought Backman stole a spot on the All-ECAC first team from Union's Mario-Valery Trabucco, and now he's stealing Little's spot as a POTY finalist. The fact that he selfishly ended his own season (and likely sunk his team this past weekend by being absent) in a foolish off-ice stunt doesn't even play into it here - he's an outstanding player, but he's just not on this level.

Given that these awards are based on regular-season play alone, we don't think we're being homers by going with Chase Polacek here. While RPI's dismal post-season fortunes may cost him a seat in the Hobey Baker Top 10 (we certainly hope not, those are announced this week), Polacek was a league leader in so many categories that it's hard to say that he wasn't the all-around best player in the league, especially when he's not being compared to Little.

Ken Dryden Award
Keith Kincaid, fr., Union
Ben Scrivens, sr., Cornell
Allen York, so., RPI

Really, really, really cut and dried here. Since the Dryden Award's inception, the All-ECAC First Team goaltender has won it every single season. Why wouldn't he? It wouldn't make any sense any other way. Not surprisingly, the two other finalists are the Second and Third All-ECAC team goaltenders.

Announcing finalists for this award is loopy. It's Scrivens.

Rookie of the Year
F Jerry D'Amigo, RPI
G Keith Kincaid, Union
F Louis Leblanc, Harvard

Uh, missing someone here? Equally as head-scratching as Backman's inclusion for POTY over Little is Jerry D'Amigo's inclusion for ROTY over Brandon Pirri. We have to assume that this is partially what we've been saying all along - when it comes to Pirri vs. D'Amigo, there's no question at all that D'Amigo is the rockstar of the two, and here it is again.

If Pirri had been one of the nominees, it would have been tough to go against him. With D'Amigo, we think this is more wide open. Kincaid, if a list such as this was going to be lacking one of the two RPI forwards, was the obvious third choice, as we've been a fan of having Leblanc in this discussion since the beginning.

Without Pirri, it's definitely harder to pick. One could say that Leblanc's goal scoring outburst would make him the front-runner. Others could say that Kincaid played the lion's share of the time in net for a team that earned a first round bye. If D'Amigo's exploits in Saskatoon earned him the nod over Pirri (which isn't supposed to happen, but it's by and large what made him a rockstar in the first place), maybe he's the one that gets the award practically on behalf of the stellar freshman class that rebounded the Engineers.

This one's so close, we're going to just go ahead and be unabashed homers and pick D'Amigo. If he didn't win it, though, he would just be the latest in a long line of Engineer freshmen to have gotten the shaft when it comes to ROTY - Joe Juneau, Matt Murley, Nathan Marsters, and Kevin Croxton all immediately spring to mind (and to a lesser extent, Marc Cavosie, but he was certainly overshadowed his freshman year). Pirri's already joined that group, too. No RPI freshman has won the ROTY award since George Servinis in 1983.

Best Defensive Defenseman
Derek Keller, sr., St. Lawrence
Justin Krueger, sr., Cornell
Mike Schreiber, sr., Union

Finally, one they might have actually gotten right all the way down the middle. Each of these candidates is very deserving, and the front runner is almost certainly Schreiber, who led the league in plus/minus with +23 (that's averaging just over +1 per game).

Keller and Schreiber both were among league leaders in defenseman scoring (not really what you're shooting for with a "defensive defenseman" award), while Krueger's style of play is better compared to RPI's Jeff Foss - defense first, but pitching in with the right pass or a well timed shot occasionally.

Schreiber seems like the sensible pick here, although if you want to discount scoring against a plus/minus count, Krueger might be a good choice, too.

Best Defensive Forward
Joe Scali, sr., Cornell
Travis Vermeulen, sr., St. Lawrence
Aaron Volpatti, sr., Brown

What this really is, it seems, is an award for the league's best penalty killers, and it's a halfway decent trio, although Volpatti finds himself in the box so frequently that it's a wonder he got any time at all to display his penalty kill ability.

Having seen only Vermeulen and Volpatti play, it seems that Vermeulen is definitely the better defensive forward of the two. Aside from his general lack of goon tactics, Vermeulen plays the puck smartly and has been a very, very valuable two way asset for the Saints this season, nearly leading them to the bye, leading the team in scoring and then hustling back on defense.

We're sure Scali is an excellent selection, forwards playing defense has long been a staple of the Cornell system and Big Red forwards have won this award a number of times in the recent years, most recently with Tyler Mugford last season. We just haven't seen him play. He may well be better than Vermeulen, but we're going to go with what we know and take Vermeulen for this one.

Tim Taylor Award
Keith Allain, Yale
Nate Leaman, Union
Joe Marsh, St. Lawrence
Don Vaughan, Colgate

Yup, the RPI curse rolls on in the Coach of the Year category. While we didn't think this was going to be Seth Appert's year, we didn't expect to find him outside of the top three, and we definitely didn't expect to see him outside of a field of four.

We're going with Leaman. The man's basically on the verge of finishing the task of cleaning the Augean stables in Schenectady. The team surpassed all expectations this season and although this doesn't count for the award necessarily, they're in the semifinals for the first time in almost 20 years of trying. We don't care who else is nominated, the man's a magician doing that with the only team in the league that doesn't offer either athletic scholarships or the Ivy League brand.

Allain? Last year he was a deserving winner. This year, Yale was supposed to come out on top, and they did - in the last weekend of the season. If the Bulldogs had blown the league away from start to finish, we might have considered him a worthy candidate.

Vaughan and Marsh, both past winners, come up just short to the job Leaman has done. Both teams finished better than expected, but Colgate's record against decent teams was atrocious, and St. Lawrence came up short in the dying weeks to end up in 5th. Leaman had his team playing solidly all season long. Advantage to the Dutch.

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