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College Hockey:
One more pick: Who will win the Hobey Baker?

For the first time since 2008, I’m not at the Frozen Four. While I certainly am not rooting for any of the teams in particular, I have to admit that I’m a bit worried about what might happen if Boston College wins it all. You see, if BC wins another Frozen Four that I don’t attend — they’re 1-for-3 when I’m there — then someone from BC just might try to have me banned. OK, I kid, I kid … let’s just say that I’m missing the college hockey “family reunion” and move onto the business of this blog post.

When we last checked in, I made a prediction for the Hobey Hat Trick that was logical, reasonable, but most importantly, WRONG. I picked Troy Grosenick to join Jack Connolly and Spencer Abbott in the top three, and instead, it will be Austin Smith, he of the 36 goals. I’d been a little lukewarm on Smith during the season because of team matters, and everyone who pointed out that I was getting too wrapped up in team performance proved to be absolutely right.

My thinking was fair — this is the first Hobey Hat Trick that doesn’t include a Frozen Four participant — but basing my pick on that trend is a little like those folks who come up with intricate strategies for filling out basketball brackets, only to be beaten by the person who picked the teams with the better mascots. Of course, the people who were picking Smith are much smarter than that, and in this instance, proved to be smarter than I was, but that was last week, so let’s move on to what will happen Friday night: the presentation of the Hobey Baker Award.

I’m going with Jack Connolly.

Is part of my pick based on team success? Yes. Minnesota-Duluth was a better team than Maine or Colgate in 2011-12, and I do think that NCAA title from last season was considered by the voters. Whether it should be or shouldn’t be is a fair question that’s worth debating, and we’ve done some of that this year. My feeling, without having ever been on a Hobey conference call myself, is that past seasons’ performances DO affect the voters’ thinking, and that’s part of it.

The scoring numbers favor Abbott — he has two more points in two more games — but I think that’s close enough that it will be a wash, especially if voters factored in the consistency factor that several fans called attention to in comments on this blog over the course of the season.

Here’s one more thing to think about, and this is a big factor in my call: The Hobey may not be a career award, but the impressions a player makes over the course of his career can’t be banished from the mind.

Maybe it’s right, maybe it isn’t, but the player who comes from relative obscurity to win the Hobey is the rarity rather than the rule. Guys like Andy Miele, Kevin Porter and Blake Geoffrion may not have necessarily been all-conference performers before their Hobey years, but they were prominent and productive in prior seasons, and got their names into voters’ minds. Matt Gilroy was a three-time All-American, and yes, Matt Carle was a top defenseman on two NCAA title teams. You can see where I’m going here, folks. Strictly speaking, being a Hobey finalist last year and winning an NCAA title last year SHOULDN’T be a factor in whether Jack Connolly wins the Hobey this year. However, Hobey voters — at least some of whom were on the panel last year — have thought of Connolly in terms of the Hobey longer, and I think that does have an effect.

Of course, you can see where that kind of analysis got me last week, but this time, I do believe that I’m right. I’m calling Connolly, and we’ll find out Friday if I’m right.

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