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College Hockey:
Three thoughts on the end of the regular season

WCHA awards

We were disappointed to learn last week that the WCHA scrapped tradition and shut the media out of this year’s vote for league awards. All that research and number crunching down the tubes, right? Wrong! Matt and I put our lists together, shuffled some things around, played some rock-paper-scissors and finally came to a consensus. So here are our very controversial, certain-to-be-scrutinized, likely-to-be-criticized all-conference teams and awards:

Player of the year: Cody Kunyk, Alaska

Rookie of the year: Cole Huggins, Minnesota State

Coach of the year: Bob Daniels, Ferris State

First team

Forwards: Cody Kunyk, Alaska; Jean-Paul LaFontaine, MSU; Johnny McInnis, MSU. Defensemen: Jason Binkley, FSU; Scott Czarnowczan, FSU. Goaltender: Cole Huggins, MSU.

Second team

Forwards: Matt Leitner, MSU; Matt Bailey, UAA; Colton Beck, UAF. Defensemen: Colton Parayko, UAF; Shane Hanna, MTU. Goaltender: C.J. Motte, FSU.

Third team

Forwards: Cory Ward, BSU; Tyler Morley, UAF; Garrett Thompson, FSU. Defensemen: Raif Freibergs, BGSU; Zach Palmquist, MSU. Goaltender: Kevin Kapalka, LSSU.

Rookie team

Forwards: Alex Globke, LSSU; John Siemer, NMU; Marcus Basara-UAF. Defensemen: Shane Hanna, MTU; Sean Flanagan, MSU. Goaltender: Cole Huggins, MSU.

A few thoughts …

Kunyk edged LaFontaine for MVP, and it really came down to the final weekend. Kunyk scored four goals on Friday to win the league scoring title and put the Nanooks into third place. He’s had a monster second half. … Huggins, like his teammate Stephon Williams a year ago, launched himself into rookie of the year and first-team goalie discussion with his recent play. That included getting his team-record fifth shutout on Friday night. Putting him ahead of Motte might not be a popular choice, but we went with the numbers. … Coach of the year was also tough. Matt Thomas has done a fantastic turnaround job in Anchorage and got close consideration. But we went with Daniels, who basically took Ferris State wire to wire to win the MacNaughton Cup. … Picking the final forward for the WCHA All-Rookie Team proved tough, but we went with Northern Michigan’s John Siemer because he accomplished in a half season what many did in a full season, averaging nearly a points per game. Siemer didn’t join the Wildcats until the final game before the holiday break.

Goalie pull

The Minnesota State-Michigan Tech game on Saturday night came to an anticlimactic tie. The Mavericks failed to clinch the MacNaugton Cup, and the Huskies didn’t get home ice for the playoffs. Both teams needed to win to achieve those goals. Postgame, the Twitterverse and Blogosphere were filled with discussions about whether or not the teams should have pulled their goaltenders in order to get the W. Both coaches considered it, according to reports, but they thought the risk outweighed the reward. MSU’s staff feared giving up an empty-netter would have been a big blow to its Pairwise Ranking (they were right), while Tech’s feared such a result would have sent the team to Fairbanks for the first round (instead the Huskies will go to Bowling Green).

Season’s over (for some)

We’ve known for awhile that Alabama Huntsville was going to miss out on the postseason under the WCHA’s new playoff format (or should that be the new WCHA’s playoff format?). But on Saturday night there were four teams hoping to avoid an early spring break. The odd team out ended up being Lake Superior State. The Lakers dropped their final four games – to Minnesota State and Ferris State. Lake Superior State was once the surprise team in college hockey, starting the season 4-0-1. The Lakers actually tied for eighth place with Bemidji State but lost the tiebreaker.

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