Wednesday, March 24, 2010

National Awards: The Last Pontification, Maybe

With our 5-for-6 record in the ECAC awards, we thought it was time to tackle the three major national awards - the Hobey, which is the Player of the Year award, the Penrose, which is the Coach of the Year award, and the National Rookie of the Year award, which we feel confident that we should not have to fully explain to you.

The nominees are...

Hobey Baker Award
F Bobby Butler, sr., New Hampshire
G Marc Cheverie, jr., Denver
F Blake Geoffrion, sr., Wisconsin
F Gustav Nyquist, so., Maine
F Mark Olver, jr., Northern Michigan
F Chase Polacek, jr., RPI
F Rhett Rakhshani, sr., Denver
G Cody Reichard, so., Miami
G Ben Scrivens, sr., Cornell
D Brendan Smith, jr.,Wisconsin

Most of these names should look familiar from our earlier Hobey primers. The only ones we haven't really mentioned are Olver, Reichard, and Scrivens. Olver and Reichard are both out of the CCHA and are solid selections - you already know Scrivens is a solid selection even if some of his success derives from the Cornell system.

At this point, it's not really about picking a winner as much as it is figuring out who the three finalists will be. We've already told you that Polacek's status as a top 10 finalist is about as much as we could hope for. The team's disastrous playoff showing meant he couldn't continue to grow his numbers as long as some of the other candidates.

We'll take a forward, a goaltender, and a defenseman here. Obviously, that means Smith, who's been a huge part of Wisconsin's success this season. The goaltender debate really boils down to Cheverie and Scrivens, and although he had a rough weekend last week in St. Paul, Denver is where they are today because of him, more so than Cornell or Miami with their goaltenders. The final choice is probably between Gustav Nyquist and Bobby Butler - we'll take Butler's more solid scoring numbers and his playing a bigger part in his team's greater success.

Spencer Penrose Award
Red Berenson, Michigan (1)
Enrico Blasi, Miami (1)
Danton Cole, Alabama-Huntsville
Mark Dennehy, Merrimack
George Gwozdecky, Denver (2)
Dave Hakstol, North Dakota
Nate Leaman, Union
C.J. Marottolo, Sacred Heart
Mike Schafer, Cornell
Tom Serratore, Bemidji State
Dick Umile, New Hampshire (1)
Wayne Wilson, RIT
Jerry York, Boston College (1)

Wow! What a list! Why so many? Simple - because the Penrose Award nominees every year are the coaches who either won their league's coach of the year award, or who coached their team to the tournament championship. This year, none of the six coaches of the year went on to win a league title (although Leaman and Marottolo had their teams playing for one), and on top of all that, Umile (1999's Penrose winner) and Dennehy split the Hockey East coach of the year award.

The national coach of the year practically always comes from a team playing in the NCAA Tournament, that leaves out Dennehy, Leaman, and Marottolo. Berenson (2008) helmed a very up and down Michigan team that is only in the tournament thanks to a scalding hot finish and their CCHA title. Cole's squad needed just a pair of wins to earn their bid, neither coming against the beast of the CHA, Bemidji State.

The favorites here are probably Serratore, whose Beavers made the tournament as a #2 seed with an at-large bid despite coming out of the CHA, York, whose only Penrose nod came in 1977 when he was at Clarkson, and Schafer, who seems to always be in the mix but has never won one himself.

National Rookie of the Year
F Stephane Da Costa, Merrimack
F Jerry D'Amigo, RPI
F Jordan George, Bemidji State
F Danny Kristo, North Dakota
D Chris Tanev, RIT
F Andy Taranto, Alaska

Given that none of the past three National Rookies of the Year failed to win their league's award, we can safely assume that these six players are the nominees (although we'd be hard-pressed not to mention Brandon Pirri, who still probably should have won the ECAC award).

We can definitively pick a winner here after welching out on the last two. Stephane Da Costa, more than any of the other winners, made his team a contender for his presence. The Warriors very nearly upset the defending national champions to earn their first ever trip to the TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals, and if it weren't for Da Costa, they almost certainly would have been in their usual position of missing the playoffs. D'Amigo, George, and Taranto certainly made solid and important contributions to their teams - in the latter two instances, to the tune of NCAA Tournament appearances, boosting their odds - but in those cases they were merely important pieces of the puzzle. Da Costa took his team on his back. He's the deserving choice.

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