Boston College forward Brian Gionta and University of New Hampshire goaltender Ty Conklin have been named co-winners of the 49th Walter Brown Award, given annually by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston to New England’s outstanding American-born college hockey player. The award will be presented to the two seniors at the New England Hockey Writers’ Dinner on April 11.
“This is only the third time in almost fifty years that the selection committee has seen fit to name co-winners,” said Thomas Burke, Gridiron Club third vice president and committee chairman. “Ty and Brian are both outstanding young men who have consistently demonstrated the key personal characteristics that the committee must consider. These include sportsmanship, character, leadership and consistent contribution to the team’s success over a period of years in addition to the obvious requirement of a high level of athletic ability and achievement.
“Both Ty and Brian served as captains of their respective teams this season. Their accomplishments during the year, both tangible and intangible, were the major reasons that both BC and UNH once again were ranked consistently among the nation’s leaders. Brian did it with offense, Ty with defense.”
Conklin, the third UNH player to win the award, backstopped the most effective team defense in Hockey East this past season. His 1.83 goals-against average, 548 saves, and .930 save percentage all led the conference. His 1.64 goals against average in the 1999 season still stands as the best single-year mark in league history. Conklin played three seasons for the Wildcats after transferring from the University of Alaska-Anchorage. He has set UNH career records for goals against average (2.18); games played (93); wins (57); and save percentage (.915).
“One outstanding thing about Ty is his humility,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “He always deflects individual recognition away from himself and to the team defense. He has always put the team first.”
Gionta, the 19th BC player to win the award, led Hockey East in points and goals with 25 goals and ten assists in conference play. He also topped the league in game winning goals with five and shorthanded goals with four. He tallied five consecutive goals in the first period of BC’s 7-2 win over Maine on January 27, a modern-day Division I record. He is also the all-time leading goal scorer in Boston College history with 121 to date. Going into the Hockey East semifinal playoffs at the Fleet Center, he ranked second in BC history for total career points at 229, 10 behind 1991 Hobey Baker Award winner David Emma.
“Ever since he arrived here four years ago, Brian has been an inspiration to everyone,” said BC coach Jerry York, who won the Walter Brown Award in 1967. “He is always upbeat, positive and enthusiastic, both for the game of hockey and about life in general. Out on the ice, he’s very fast and tenacious, and he’s got tremendous peripheral vision. He sees people when they’re out in front of him, behind him, or off to the side. That’s why he distributes the puck so well.”
Yale senior Jeff Hamilton of Englewood, Ohio finished third among the ten finalists.