The WCHA’s best team in the regular season became the most decorated team in the postseason.
MacNaughton Cup champion North Dakota took home three individual awards and put three players on the All-WCHA first team at the league’s awards ceremony on Thursday.
Coach Dean Blais was named the league’s coach of the year, Hobey Baker finalist Jeff Panzer was tabbed the player of the year and goaltender Karl Goehring earned the student-athlete of the year award.
Sioux forwards Panzer and Bryan Lundbohm and defenseman Travis Roche made the league’s top team.
Blais earned the top honor for a league coach for the third time in the last five years. He received a standing ovation from the crowd when he approached the dais to accept the award.
It’s been a tough year for Blais, who has shuttled between Grand Forks, N.D., and Rochester, Minn., where his daughter Mary Beth was undergoing treatment for leukemia.
But the Blais family got an encouraging sign this week, when Mary Beth came home to Grand Forks.
“It was like a breath of fresh air,” Blais said.
Colorado College forward Mark Cullen, Minnesota defenseman Jordan Leopold and St. Cloud State goaltender Scott Meyer were also named to the first team.
Leopold also was named the league’s defensive player. Colorado College forward Peter Sejna was named the league’s rookie of the year.
But Panzer was the runaway favorite to be voted the WCHA’s top player, and the voters concurred.
Panzer, though, was more concerned with his team’s success in this weekend’s Final Five. The Sioux will play the winner of Thursday night’s Colorado College-Wisconsin game.
“[The award] is almost secondary,” said Panzer, who leads the nation with 74 points. “We want to play well this weekend and we want to advance and get seeded. Individual awards, you can’t put too much into them because that doesn’t really matter right now. The team matters.”
Goehring a senior marketing major, has a 3.8 grade point average and is a three-time member of the league’s all academic team.
“You don’t often hear about the academic side of college hockey,” Goehring said. “It’s something I take pride in and it’s nice to be rewarded for that.”
The WCHA second team included Minnesota forward Erik Westrum; Wisconsin forward Dany Heatley; North Dakota forward Ryan Bayda; St. Cloud State defenseman Duvie Westcott; Colorado College defenseman Paul Manning; and Denver goaltender Wade Dubielewicz.
The third team featured Colorado College’s Sejna; St. Cloud State forward Mark Hartigan; St. Cloud State forward Brandon Sampair; Minnesota State-Mankato defenseman Ben Christopherson; Colorado College defenseman Tom Preissing; and Minnesota goaltender Adam Hauser.
The rookie team included Sejna; Minnesota forward Grant Potulny; Minnesota forward Troy Riddle; Denver defenseman Ryan Caldwell; Minnesota defenseman Paul Martin; and Alaska-Anchorage goaltender Chris King.