Well, as I write this, I’ve got about four hours to get a prediction in for the Hobey Hat Trick, so I’d better get to it if I want the prediction to mean anything.
The way I see it, here’s where we stand after the regionals:
• Both Jack Connolly and Spencer Abbott did a credit to themselves in the first-round game between Minnesota-Duluth and Maine, and maintained their status as the top two candidates for the Hobey.
• The only Hobey finalists advancing to the Frozen Four are Troy Grosenick of Union and Brian Dumoulin of Boston College.
• None of the other Hobey finalists made a real run at the award over the course of the weekend. That’s not to say that they played badly, but they also didn’t improve their standing.
So, at this point, we’re left with two surefire members of the Hat Trick in Connolly and Abbott, and a third spot that will, in all likelihood go to one of three players: Grosenick, Justin Schultz of Wisconsin or Austin Smith of Colgate.
History tells us that since there’s been a Hobey Hat Trick — the custom started in 2002 — it’s always included at least one player competing in the Frozen Four.
2002: Jordan Leopold, Darren Haydar
2003: David LeNeveu
2004: Junior Lessard
2005: Marty Sertich, Brett Sterling
2006: Chris Collins, Brian Elliott
2007: Ryan Duncan
2008: Kevin Porter, Nathan Gerbe
2009: Matt Gilroy, Colin Wilson
2010: Blake Geoffrion
2011: Matt Frattin
In light of that knowledge, it’s very tempting to pencil Grosenick in as the third member of the Hat Trick. However, history might be a bit misleading. After all, the Hobey Hat Trick is comprised of the top three vote-getters in the final balloting. It’s not a final three from which the Hobey winner is then chosen. If Grosenick is in the top three, it will mean that he has one of the three highest point totals in the voting.
So, the question is, will Grosenick be one of those top three vote-getters?
There’s a great case to be made for Grosenick. He’s a kid playing without an athletic scholarship at a school where none are given, who earned the opportunity to start for the Dutchmen after last year’s star netminder, Keith Kinkaid, left early to sign with the New Jersey Devils. Now, he’s backstopped his team to every single championship available, and ranks second in the nation in both save percentage and goals against average.
On the other hand, we know that Hobey Likes Goals, and no one has scored more of them this season than Austin Smith. And we also know that Justin Schultz is the biggest name in terms of NHL prospects, and he also won the WCHA’s Defensive Player of the Year award for the second straight season. It’s very hard to say which direction it will go … but then, that’s what I do.
So, what do I think will happen?
I’m going to go out on a limb and stick with Grosenick.
Here’s my reasoning: We know Hobey Likes Goals, but the Hobey Hat Trick seems to keep finding a home for goalies who backstop their teams into uncharted territory, even if they wind up not winning the award (see also: Brown, David; Thiessen, Brad). Also, I would think that Grosenick’s statistical accomplishments in terms of being the top goaltender (statistically) in a “Big Four” conference put him on a par with Smith, with the ECAC regular season and tournament titles putting him over the top. As for Grosenick vs. Schultz, yes the Hobey is an individual award, but it’s also a college hockey award, so whatever potential Schultz might have to compete at the NHL level shouldn’t mean much.
My call is Spencer Abbott, Jack Connolly and Troy Grosenick.
In a few hours, we’ll find out if I’m right.