This Week in College Hockey: Mid-Season Award Projections

Compiled by the This Week in College Hockey Staff
Dan Shulman, Jake Reiser, Chris Picher, Jordan Thibault & Marisa Ingemi

Hobey Baker (Player of the Year)

DAN – Mike Vecchione, Union

18 goals, 19 assists, 37 points. The senior captain is for real. Union struggled last season but this year, thanks to production from Vecchione, the Dutchmen are 14-3-2 (8-1-1 ECAC) and sit atop their league standings. Leading the nation’s fourth best scoring offense is talented enough, but Union looks poised to make a deep run again this season with Vecchione at the helm.

JAKE – Mike Vecchione, Union

For the defending champs of three years ago, last year was quite the embarrassment. Now it’s tough not to say why not Spencer Foo, he has only three less points than Vecchione? It’s the 4 game winning goals that Vecchione has compared to 2 for Foo that puts him over top. One or two GWG is a good stat, but 4 shows how consistently clutch Vecchione is.

CHRIS- Mike Vecchione, UnionHobey_Baker_Logo_large

The senior captain has helped bring the Union program back to the top of the college hockey world after a few slow seasons following their national championship win three years ago. Union’s schedule has not been as difficult as some other top contenders, but his 18 goals and 37 points lead the nation and has been terrific. The Dutch will need Vecchione in a big way in arguably their biggest test of the season on January 5th against BU.

JORDAN – Zach Aston-Reese, Northeastern

This may be a bit of a wildcard but Aston-Reese has been on fire as of late. He’s currently 5th in points in the NCAA overall with 29 (14-15-29). He’s scoring at a 1.71 Points per game clip. But what’s most impressive is that 15 of his 29 points came in the final 6 games of the first half of the year, and against stout defensive teams like Boston College and Michigan Tech.  Look for Aston-Reese to continue his hot streak during the final stretch.

MARISA- Denis Smirnov, Penn State

Penn State has been put on the hockey map in just their fifth year as a program. His 27 points lead the team and he’s on pace to be a top NHL draft pick. Just a freshman, he’s eighth in the nation in points and one of the most important reasons for the Nittany Lions’ turnaround. The 19-year-old was passed over in June, but he’ll be getting plenty of interest in the 2017 draft by plenty of teams. Before then, he could be leading Penn State to a deep playoff run.

Mike Richter Award (Goaltender of the Year)

DAN – Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State

The WCHA has been waiting to come alive again and it was Bemidji State leading the way this year. The Beavers jumped out to a stellar start this season thanks to superb play by their goaltender Michael Bitzer. The junior is among the top three in the nation in wins (13), goals against average (1.46), save percentage (.940), and shutouts (3).

JAKE – Jake Oettinger, Boston Universityp7

I love how much teams out of the west and new teams are springing up from the depth of their conferences. Unfortunately, it’s the elite teams that end up getting rewarded, but that’s not to take anything away from what Oettinger has done at BU. 3 shutouts on the season already, a 1.87 GAA, and a .932 save percentage, he’s solidified himself as the bonafide starter at a stacked program.

CHRIS- Tanner Jaillet, Denver

This mid-season accolade could go to a host of goaltenders, especially some very talented freshman such as Jake Oettinger (#2 on my list), but Tanner Jaillet has had a brutal schedule and has been very up to the task posting a 11-2-3 record. He boasts a .922 save percentage and a 1.99 GAA. If I wanted one goalie for one big game in March I want Jaillet in between the pipes.

JORDAN – Michael Bitzer –  Bemidji State

The Bemidji State tendy has stood his ground better than any goalie in the NCAA this season. He’s played almost 200 more minutes than the next man up (Atte Tolvanen) with 1270 Mins played in the crease. He’s second in GAA with 1.46, third in SV% with .940 and has 3 shutouts on the year. His play has allowed Bemidji to creep back into the top spot of the WCHA. Their defense is first in the league this year only allowing 1.59 goals per game.

MARISA- Jake Oettinger, Boston University

BU has plenty of talent, but the way Oettinger, the second youngest player in the nation, has performed has been more than noteworthy. An early season shutout streak over the course of three contests and absolute dominance at home has helped the Terriers get through some early season inconsistencies. With a 1.87 goals against average as a freshman on a championship contender, that says enough.

Spencer Penrose Award (Coach of the Year)

DAN – Guy Gadowsky, Penn State

I said it at the start of the season and I’ll say it again: Guy Gadowsky is going to lead Penn State to the NCAA Tournament this season. So far, so good. While they are far from clinching a berth, the Nittany Lions are 13-1-1 and sit atop the pairwise rankings. Not to mention they have the top scoring offense and third best scoring defense in the country, and it’s all attributed to their excellent coach

JAKE – Guy Gadowsky, Penn State

I can’t argue anything about what Gadowsky has done in Happy Valley. Bringing a young program from the top, coaching the one place where a team like that can get rewarded and Gadowsky is more than fitting for this award.

CHRIS– Guy Gadowsky, Penn Statepenn-state-logo

It is hard to not give it to Gadowsky. Penn State has been absolutely terrific. They are ranked third in the country and it’s not just because of their 13-1-1 record. They are a very complete hockey team that has won a lot of big games in an improved BIG 10 Conference.

JORDAN – Guy Gadowsky, Penn State

Although Penn State hasn’t had a tough schedule, they’re still the only one loss team in the nation. To rise from not even having a D1 program just a few years ago to being the #3 ranked team and the highest scoring offense in such a short timeframe is a remarkable feat for Gudowsky and his staff. Without a doubt he deserves the Penrose award.

MARISA- Guy Gadowsky, Penn State

Penn State has been the surprise of the season, with just one loss all year in what’s a stronger Big Ten conference than previous, and Gadowsky is the coach behind that run. Led by the likes of Smirnov and freshman goalie Payton Jones, it’s hard to deny the excellence in Penn State this season, even without a difficult schedule thus far.

Projected National Championship Game

DAN – Denver vs. Union; Denver wins 3-1

There hasn’t been two hotter teams than Denver and Union this season. The Pioneers lost their opening two games and have since only lost once to Minnesota-Duluth. Meanwhile, the Dutchmen have been prolific on both ends of the ice this season and are looking like real contenders once again. Both teams have solid goaltending and have proven they can put the puck in the net. Based on experience and talent alone, Denver should walk away victorious with their first National Title since 2005.

JAKE – Boston University vs Denver; BU wins 2-1

Denver is clearly one of the most elite teams in college hockey, there’s no denying that at all. Tanner Jaillet has regained his form and made himself a brick wall to opposing defenses and guys like Henrik Borgström, Troy Terry and Dylan Gambrell lethal. However, BU had expectations of a national championship on their shoulders and with a healthy Clayton Keller, the Terriers run just as stacked a team. I wholeheartedly believe that there are enough milestones along BU’s season, with the BU/BC series, the Beanpot, the Hockey East playoffs, that this young team gels enough to fight their way to Chicago and avenge their demons of the last two seasons against the Pioneers.

CHRIS–  Boston University vs. Denver; Denver wins 3-217_mih_frozenfour_fc

Predictions are just really tough, especially in December. The first half of the season really doesn’t matter for the top contenders. It’s all about how you play in late February and March leading up the tournament. Denver has the most complete and proven team in College Hockey, but to me BU has the most talent. If Coach Quinn can harness it all and get this team playing a loose and speed-driven brand of hockey in March they could be national champions. BU will be tested a lot in the second half of the season so I think they will improve a lot. However, the team I have been most impressed with so far this year is Harvard. They have a great PP and so much speed and raw talent with a good group of upperclassmen and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them playing in April. Also, Minnesota-Duluth is built for success in the postseason.

JORDAN – Boston University vs. Minnesota Duluth

This is a matchup we’ve been looking forward to for a while. BU currently sits at #5 but with their players lighting it up in the World Junior’s over break, the hockey world is starting to see just how solid this Terriers’ lineup is. It may be even better than their 2014 squad who were Frozen Four runner-ups. Duluth knocked on the door to the Frozen Four in 2014 but was unable to crack the Terriers in the Northeast Regional Final. The #1 ranked team in the country has been reeling this season, they took down Denver and Notre Dame once, and swept North Dakota and St. Cloud State. It wouldn’t surprise me to see these two powerhouses end up in the Frozen Four Final in Chicago.

MARISA- Boston University vs Denver

A rematch of the early season series that saw Denver sweep a BU team that wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Come April, the Terriers will be months more experienced and the freshmen will be prepared. Jordan Greenway has improved as the year has gone on, and freshman defender Dante Fabbro has started to show flashes of his potential. Denver, meanwhile, has continued to be one of the top teams in the nation even with the departure of Danton Heinen and losing Dylan Gambrell early on, who has returned. For other teams heading out to Chicago, it could be Harvard and Minnesota-Duluth making some noise as well.

Author: Dan Shulman

A New Englander at heart, Dan is a sports contributor for covering the New England Patriots primarily among other sports. He has written for the Boston Globe since 2014 with a focus on local sports, and has contributed to SB Nation, FanSided, Inside Hockey, New England Soccer Journal, and WEEI. Follow him on Twitter @DanielRShulman.

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