For a weekend that saw three of the four top seeds make it to the Frozen Four, this certainly feels like a pretty wild regional weekend that we just had. There were wild offensive shootouts, St. Cloud’s first NCAA tournament victory, and, of course, the small matter of an Atlantic Hockey program that’s only been in Division I for five seasons advancing to its first Frozen Four.
Of course, none of that really affects the Hobey Watch…or does it?
To be honest, I’m really not sure what happened this weekend in terms of the Hobey Baker race…or at least, I’m still without too good a grip on who will be part of the Hobey Hat Trick when it’s announced on Wednesday. What I do know comes under the general heading of “stock rising” and “stock falling.” I suppose it makes the most sense to start with that before I make the call again for the Hobey Hat Trick.
- STOCK RISING
Blake Geoffrion, Wisconsin - A game-winning goal against Vermont on Friday and an early goal to help get the Badgers rolling against St. Cloud on Saturday is an excellent “closing statement” for the Badger forward. He now has as many goals as anyone in the country not named “Bobby Butler,” and unlike Butler, he’s going to the Frozen Four.
Bobby Butler, New Hampshire – Butler and his wildcats fell short of the Frozen Four, but Butler had two goals in the win over Cornell and looked dangerous in UNH’s loss to RIT. Running up against a hot goalie in Jared DiMichiel doesn’t undo a Hobey candidacy, especially not when Butler is a senior and the national goal-scoring leader.
- STOCK HOLDING
Brendan Smith, Wisconsin - Smith had a solid weekend in the Badgers’ victories at the West regional, but wasn’t spectacular. I think the thing I realized about Smith this weekend is that while he was looking like Matt Carle circa 2006 earlier in the season, he’s not there right now, and doesn’t necessarily have the numbers to win the Hobey. I think he could easily be in the Hat Trick, but there’s a bit of doubt creeping in as to whether he walks away with the whole thing.
Mark Olver, Northern Michigan - By many accounts, Olver was the best player on the ice in the Wildcats’ first-round loss to St. Cloud State, but the reality is that he needed serious tournament heroics to vault into the upper echelon of Hobey contenders. That didn’t happen. Olver didn’t lose anything this weekend – he’s had a fantastic season and was fully deserving of his honors from the CCHA and the coaches who made him a finalist – but he didn’t win anything, either.
Rhett Rakhshani, Denver - Rakhshani was there in the clutch for Denver all season long, but couldn’t get the Pioneers even with RIT in their stunning first-round loss to the Tigers. Like Geoffrion, Rakhshani was his team’s secondary Hobey candidate (behind Marc Cheverie), and like Olver, needed a big weekend to have a shot at the hat trick. He didn’t get it, so he’s done.
Cody Reichard, Miami - Had it been Reichard in net for Miami’s double-overtime win over Michigan on Sunday night, a spot in the hat trick could easily have been his. However, the fact that Miami stuck to its goaltending rotation emphasizes why Reichard is a tough sell as a Hobey contender to begin with. A goalie who’s played a bit more than half of his team’s games doesn’t really work for the Hobey, although someone who accepts his role so readily and displays commitment to the team over thirst for individual glory the way Reichard has is certainly living up to the principles that Hobey Baker himself valued.
- STOCK FALLING
Ben Scrivens, Cornell – They weren’t all his fault, but letting in five goals against New Hampshire on Friday will get the Big Red netminder a big ol’ “Thanks For Playing” from Hobey. Cornell goaltenders get so little respect as it is that even a solid performance this weekend might not have been enough without a regional tittle. As it is, Scrivens’ candidacy went down in flames.
Marc Cheverie, Denver – I don’t know how much Cheverie’s stock fell by, but the RIT loss didn’t help him any. He certainly didn’t mess up his chances as badly as did his fellow netminder, Scrivens, since his overall goaltending numbers were solid. I still think Cheverie could have a shot at the Hat Trick – think Brad Thiessen last year – but any thought of his becoming the first goalie since Ryan Miller to win the Hobey is officially gone.
So, now that we know who’s up and down, how does that affect the Hobey Hat Trick? Well, with there being three spots, I see five players who could potentially fill those spots: the two Wisconsin entries, Geoffrion and Smith, Cheverie, and the two Hockey East contenders, Butler and Maine’s Gustav Nyquist, since the Hat Trick has included a non-tournament player as recently as 2006.
I feel like Smith is solidly in. Assists on the tying and winning goals against Vermont as part of a solid weekend performance may not set the world on fire, but he’s been one of the nation’s best players all season long. I’m not as sure of him as a winner as I was before, but he’s in the Hat Trick.
I think Nyquist is out. I think that Butler probably outclasses him in the eyes of the voters as the Walter Brown Award winner and Hockey East Player of the Year, especially when you add they key goals in UNH’s win over Cornell.
So basically, that leaves three players for two spots – Butler, Geoffrion and Cheverie – and I’m thinking that it’s Geoffrion and Cheverie.
Cheverie faded down the stretch, obviously, especially in terms of postseason wins, but I think that like Brad Thiessen last year, his regular season performance will be enough, especially since he didn’t disgrace himself against RIT (two goals allowed on 24 shots, with neither goal one you could fault him on).
Geoffrion was one of the tournament’s top performers this weekend, and was already getting a lot of buzz from people who think that he, not Smith, is the better Badger candidate. They may or may not be right, but I think he gets in and we spend another week and a half debating which one is better.
That leaves Butler on the outside looking in, which is hard to figure, as I’ve long been of the opinion that the entire Hobey Hat Trick is unlikely to come from one region of the country. But there we were last year in Washington, with a pair of BU Terriers and a Northeastern Husky among the top three vote-getters for college hockey’s top individual honor. If it happened in Hockey East, it can certainly happen in the WCHA, which was pretty clearly the class of college hockey this season, as much as Hockey East was last season.
So, there you have it: My Hobey Hat Trick prediction is Blake Geoffrion, Brendan Smith and Marc Cheverie. Last year, my mistake was doubting a Hat Trick from one conference. I’m not making the same mistake again, but am I making a different one now? We’ll know on Wednesday.