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Hobey Top 10 Won’t Dump Chase

In life, as in hockey, the value of timing can never be underestimated.

For example: this week’s Hobey Watch Podcast with Ed Trefzger and Jim Connelly features a guest appearance by RPI head coach Seth Appert, the same week that the Engineers’ Saturday afternoon tilt against Cornell is picked up by the NHL Network. All told, it seemed like a good time for me to take a closer look at RPI senior Chase Polacek.

I’ve had Polacek on my list for Hobey contenders all season long, starting in October when I made my pre-season list. Of course, since he was a Hobey finalist last season, Polacek seemed like a natural, even though repeat Hobey finalists have been insanely rare in the time I’ve been following the race (I want to say there haven’t been any, but I’m not absolutely certain). In any event, this is what I wrote about Polacek in September:

Polacek was the ECAC Hockey Player of the Year last season, and luckily for the Engineers, the nation’s sixth leading scorer turned down any opportunity to turn pro. Unfortunately for the Engineers, that made him the exception rather than the rule among RPI’s top stars. It’ll be interesting to see how the absence of early signees Jerry D’Amigo and Brandon Pirri affect Polacek. When a team loses major weapons, the ones who are left will command more attention, so RPI will need to make up for the lost productivity relatively quickly. Still, when you scored 50 points a year ago and you stay in school, you get consideration for the Hobey coming into the season.

When I revisited the pre-season list last month, this is what I had to say:

Polacek was the nation’s No. 6 scorer last season, and made the laudable decision to return for his senior year. It was uncertain how the early departures of Jerry D’Amigo and Brandon Pirri would affect Polacek. As it turns out, Polacek’s points-per-game average (1.39) is higher than it was at the end of last season (1.33), although his goal-scoring has dropped. He’s 15th in the nation in PPG right now, and I think that if RPI continues to play well and make a run at returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995, Polacek’s stock will rise. He remains a player well worth keeping an eye on.

Polacek has seen his stock rise since I wrote that, as Polacek is sixth in the nation in points per game as of this writing. So, having kept an eye on Polacek in this afternoon’s 3-2 overtime loss to Cornell, here’s what I think.

Obviously, the first thing that comes out is that Polacek scored his 18th goal of the season this afternoon, and even though RPI was on the power play when he scored it was hard not to be impressed by the way he cut his way through traffic, skated in on net and put the puck past Andy Iles (the RPI fans broke out in a chant of “Hobey Baker” shortly thereafter).

Of course, so much is made of offensive numbers, but the goal Polacek scored – which leaves him 15th in the country in goals per game (.60) – was just one part of his game that impressed me. I liked the work he did on the power play in general, and also liked what I saw of his contributions to the RPI penalty kill (No. 12 in the country at 85.3 percent). I also saw Polacek take two key faceoffs in the waning minutes of regulation, one in the offensive zone during an RPI power play, and one in the defensive zone at the start of a Cornell power play with 3:30 left. He won them both. So, what we have here is a player who’s one of the top scorers in the nation, the national leader in game-winning goals (eight), plays on the power play and penalty kill, takes key faceoffs at crucial times (and wins them!) and wears a letter as assistant captain. That sounds like a Hobey Baker candidate to me.

Then, there’s the fact that Polacek stayed in school when he had the opportunity to leave, helping to keep the Engineers on the rise, as they have been since Seth Appert came to town. That’s one more factor that clearly counts for something, as the last three Hobey winners – Kevin Porter, Matt Gilroy and Blake Geoffrion – were all seniors with professional opportunities.

At this point, I think RPI would have to go seriously south for there to be a chance of Polacek not making it to the Finalist stage of Hobey voting, and while a pair of overtime losses this weekend leave RPI on the wrong side of a tie for 15th in the Pairwise (before most of the Saturday schedule, mind you) a Rensselaer tournament berth  - especially if accompanied by ECAC hardware – makes Polacek a serious contender for the Hat Trick and beyond.

One final note on the Engineer front: Bryce Merriam played in goal for the Engineers in place of the injured Allen York, who has also garnered Hobey consideration. York is third in the nation in goals-against average and sixth in save percentage, and if RPI strengthens its NCAA bid over the remaining time between now and the Hobey voting, he’s a potential finalist. My gut feeling, though, is that if RPI only gets one finalist in, then it’s Polacek.

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  • collegehockeyfan

    Congrats Hunwick, you just won the tournament MVP

  • see you on the links

    Karma’s a b-tch Sioux fans. Enjoy the offseason.

    • collegehockeyfan

      can’t say Michigan was the better team… that’s for sure. I’ve said it more than a hundred times, one player can win a game…

      • see you on the links

        North Dakota was the better team. And I actually feel for them. But I don’t have any sympathy for the Sioux fans that trash talked all season.

        • collegehockeyfan

          agreed, even though I’m a Sioux fan. Hard to win a game when you put up a 0 on the scoreboard, dissappointing. Hunwick played out of his mind.

          • UMH

            I have seen maybe one example of a goalie playing that well in a tournament game, and that is Knapp from miami last year against Michigan. Hunwick played like a man possessed tonight and it paid off for michigan in a BIG way. Fantastic game to all the players, and I’m sad to see a goalie as good as Dell be overshadowed in such a way.

        • HRGuy

          Notes from the FF, their trash talk continued right up to Winnett’s goal in the 1st. Not much heard from them after that. And one last comment to the obnoxius siouxage girl and her troll brother, I hope you got a least 5 bucks for your championship ticket, have a nice ride back to great forks.

          • Aircorps41

            Hey HRGuy, agreed! I am a Sioux fan, being from North Dakota, but you will never hear me trash talk. Trash talking is for the young/immature idiots and they DO deserve to be slammed when our team loses and they were mouthing off about it. I wish they would show some class and have true sportsmanship. I would much rather here people say sorry to the Sioux and their fans rather than give it to us, but we deserve it when mouths are opened! Am I bumbed, yes, but this is hockey and Michigan did what they needed to do to win, oh yeah, Hunwick played great!

          • After Further Review

            Great post, Aircorps… every team does have their share of trash talkers. It just seems that UND has more, maybe because hockey is so important to them. I used to cheer for them, even though I am a Hockey East fan (I know, where are the HE teams now?), til more of them seemed to come out of the woodwork and act like jerks.
            I do feel badly because they had a great season, but doesn’t break my heart to see them lose. I will say all of the Sioux fans around me last night, although very loud, ONLY cheered for their team, no trash talk, I appreciate that.
            The refs pretty much let them play which is always what UND claims it wants and they did dominate after the 1st period, but great game for Hunwick.
            What is really kind of sad is all the bashing going on in this blog… which was about a potentially serious injury. I hope Nelson is OK and has a very speedy recovery.

          • Aircorps41

            Hi After Further Review, thanks. I have nothing but respect for all of the other teams out there. It’s all about the players, schools and fans, once being a player myself. But sometimes we can get carried away. Personally I’m not much of a Hockey East Fan, and for good reason, we haven’t been doing too well against you lately. LOL But anyone who rips on the other conferences is just being plain stupid, because in my opinion all of the conferences have power house teams. So to those out there that don’t think so, they don’t understand the idea of sportsmanship and respect.

          • After Further Review

            Well, hopefully HE will be back because I enjoy seeing HE/WCHA and their best teams match up. But you are right, all conferences have their share of top, powerhouse teams.
            I have that same respect for all teams, but many others, from all conferences don’t. All in all, it was a fun FF to watch and it doesn’t sound like Nelson’s injury is too serious, although serious enough.
            See you all next year.

        • B.D.

          Soooo, stating an opinion is trash talking?
          Interesting…..

      • Duh!

        Scoreboard.

  • HockyFan

    Sioux lose and Miele wins the Hobey. Yay!

  • typical Sioux troll

    If only we had the number one seed! We were screwed by the Pairwise! Something something Yale.

    • B.D.

      Please specify.

  • Austin Linebaugh

    go blue baby what excuses do u have sioux fans i sat back and took your posts and just waited to let you see that defense wins championships not offense not superior talent a good system and defense wins 4 to 1 pp advantage and 4 shots on goal on the pp that lossed you guys the game. enjoy your empty 15000 person stadium. GO BLUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • collegehockeyfan

      If Hunwick doesn’t show up tomorrow, it will end up the same for the Michigan, trust me, if Hunwick can play like that on Saturday, he will lock up the best performance in NCAA hockey history. Can’t agree on them being the better team though, they got worked all game, as my other post says, one player won this game, but if he doesn’t show up again, its gonna be a light show. Good game Hunwick.

    • Blisteriii

      Host is a dump

      • Josh

        Where is Host?

  • Stonecoldwolv

    Sioux fans we have been there a ton of times. The better team out played the other team in every way and lost. You guys had an awesome team. A walk-on goalie just is playing lights out.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JDGZXFDMDYK6NNRD2QK3DAGXVQ Jason Stanko

    Sad to see anyone get hurt. Hope he recovers well and returns for next season.

    Awesome game. Can’t say Michigan would have won if they opened up on offense but they were the better disciplined team. They pretty much played the same game vs. CC but had the puck for 90% of that game, maybe 40% of this one. They played the role of the underdog well.

    Hope they can make it 4-0 vs. WCHA

  • Where was Frattin?

    Question: Where was Frattin?

    Answer: Showing why I’ve been saying all along he’s over rated and racks up huge numbers against inferior opponents. Again – I refer you all to Exhibit A:

    http://insidecollegehockey.com/inch/2011/03/10/trackler_podcast/

    GO BULLDOGS!

  • Flaca

    LETS GO SCSU…. SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT OWLS WIN THEIR DIVISION….

  • SueeeSue

    Hey college hockey fan. Enjoy the summer. Looking forward to your manifestos using lame statistics to prove UND is better. I hear Dell is already applying for an oil rig job

    • B.D.

      Doubtful since he has plenty of years left.

  • irish

    When do the Sioux play next??? You’re the number 1 team in the nation-do you have a bye?? Please enlighten me!! Maybe we can get the CCHL crew that officiated the Yale-Minnesota-Duluth game to officiate your next game. They’ll provide the incompetence you need in order to win!! Please get the linesman that looks like the Pillsbury doughboy (Tony something) on the game. He’ll make sure he ejects the opposing team’s best player-you’ll certainly have your chance to win. Good luck!!

    • Anonymous

      Really? We’re going to post this stuff on stories about a guy going to the hospital during the game with a back injury? Does anyone on any of these boards have any conscience at all? Pray for this kid, and if you’re not the praying type, just respect what he, and the other players on both teams do on the ice. We’re hockey fans. We have nothing to do with our team winning or losing. Don’t live vicariously. Enjoy the game, and respect the players. If fans of some team have annoyed you, realize they aren’t all like that, and don’t tear the whole team and their fanbase down, because a few idiots left a bad taste in your mouth. Get well, Brock. Hope to see you healthy and playing strong next year.

    • Karl Largen

      Classy guy Irish. Classy guy.

      Hope Brock has a swift and easy recovery, and that he signs pro so the rest of the WCHA doesn’t have to deal with the monster that soon will be Brock Nelson.

  • UM in the SW

    As a Michigan fan, want to wish the young man who was hurt all the best. Our prayers are with him and a safe recovery!

  • Billymbrew

    Hunwick was good. Thats it. All other sioux fan commentary is probably useless.

    • BlueSkies

      No Billy, Hunwick was not good, he was awesome.

      • B.D.

        Concur, he was the number one reason for Michigan victory.
        THe other was that Michigan controlled the slot fairly well, not perfectly (Nor as good as UND did theirs) but adequate to the purpose.

  • Bob

    Hunwick was fantastic…I hope the injured player is ok…Happens all the time in NCAA hockey games… One team out shots the other team but a goalie steals the game… as a matter of fact it has happened a lot to michigan in the past… Today was our day… i hope Hunwick has plays great on sunday because i am sure the refs will give more PP’s to MD…

  • ddddangles

    Our prayers are with you Nels! Thank you for your hard work all season!

  • Been There

    First I hope the Nelson kid is ok then we can talk hockey. UND was by far the best team on the ice, but Michigan had a game plan and carried it out well. They forced UND to shoot the puck in and then beat them to the puck. UND had to put more pressure on Michigan’s D. Can’t understand why UND didn’t take advantage of Hunwick coming so far out of the net instead of shooting right on giving him a clean look at most pucks. Why UND didn’t set up the PP off to the side, fake the shot and use it as a pass to the guy on side and then tip or shoot behind the goalie as he is moving across the net. Give UMD this chance on the PP and its in the net.

  • Jon

    Is there any further word on Nelson?

    • DannyKristo

      They found out that he’s actually a chick. Otherwise, no.

      • B.D.

        The troll is back.

  • BlueSkies

    First, prayers for Nelson’s full recovery. A reminder that in the big picture, it’s just a game.

    At the 2008 Frozen Four in Denver, Michigan and Notre Dame played the second semifinal game. Michigan was the overall #1 seed with 33 wins to that point. It had beaten ND twice in the regular season, and was far and away the more talented team. But Michigan’s goalie (Billy Sauer) had an awful game, and Notre Dame stuck to its defensive game plan and won. So last night was Michigan’s karma. Hunwick (who was a freshman in Denver) played lights out, Michigan stuck to its defensive game plan, and may win its 10th national championship Saturday night. Go Blue!