WCHA, CCHA Each Have Three Hobey Finalists

The WCHA and CCHA led the way with three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award each, and Colorado College has two of the 10 that will be considered for college hockey’s top individual award.

Also, the CHA has its first Hobey finalist, Niagara forward Joe Tallari.

Colorado College junior forward Peter Sejna and senior defenseman Tom Preissing were selected for the list of finalists, which will be scaled down to three on April 2 for the announcement to be made in Buffalo, N.Y., on April 11.

North Dakota freshman forward Zach Parise completes the WCHA contingent. He’s the only freshman among the finalists.

Senior forward Chris Kunitz of Ferris State, senior defenseman John-Michael Liles of Michigan State and junior forward R.J. Umberger of Ohio State represent the CCHA.

Yale sophomore forward Christopher Higgins and Cornell sophomore goaltender Dave LeNeveu were selected from the ECAC. Ben Eaves, a junior forward from Boston College, was the lone finalist from Hockey East.

The winner will be selected by a 25-member committee, with results from the fan vote at www.voteforhobey.com factored in.

Here’s a look at the finalists, in alphabetical order:

Ben Eaves, Boston College, junior, forward, Faribault, Minn.
The captain of the Eagles has come off an award-winning season by garnering Hockey East first-team all-star and Co-Player of the Year honors en route to leading Hockey East in scoring with 56 points in 34 games. Eaves, son of Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, had 18 multiple-point games, including a six-point game, while averaging almost two points a game.

Christopher Higgins, Yale, sophomore, forward, Smithtown, N.Y.
Emerging as one of the ECAC’s top scoring threats, Higgins recorded 38 points in 25 games, leading the conference with 18 goals. Last season’s ECAC Rookie of the Year is sixth in the nation in goals per game and 10th in points per game and is ECAC Co-Player of the Year. Chris skated for the U.S. Junior National Team for the second consecutive year, finishing third on the team in points.

Chris Kunitz, Ferris State, senior, forward, Regina, Saskatchewan
For the second straight year and second time in school history, the Bulldogs have a Hobey candidate. Kunitz helped lead Ferris to its first CCHA regular-season championship by leading the conference in points and in goals for the second straight year. He is a two-time first-team all-star, posting 19 multiple-point games, including 11 multiple-goal games. He’s second in the nation in scoring with 30 goals and 40 assists in 38 games.

Dave LeNeveu, Cornell, sophomore, goaltender, Fernie, British Columbia
Two years running, LeNeveu has had the best goals against average in the nation and his current mark of 1.14 not only leads all goalies in the land by a goal per game, but would be the lowest ever in college hockey history. He has eight shutouts on the season, tying the ECAC record, and has set the single season team mark, passing the legendary Ken Dryden. He is a first-team ECAC all-star and Co-Player of the Year, and has stopped over 94 percent of the shots he’s faced. LeNeveu leads the nation in goals against average, saves percentage and shutouts.

John-Michael Liles, Michigan State, senior, defenseman, Zionsville, Ind.
On pace to become the first defenseman in Spartans history to lead the team in scoring in consecutive seasons, Liles has posted 45 points in 36 games. A two-time first-team CCHA all-star, he is the first player in league history to be named top offensive defenseman twice. He currently leads the nation in points per game by a defenseman.

Zach Parise, North Dakota, freshman, forward, Faribault, Minn.
The only freshman to make this year’s top 10, the WCHA all-rookie team member is the nation’s highest scoring first-year player with 61 points in 37 games. Parise racked up 20 points in his first six college games. He is currently fourth in the nation in points and fifth in goals. The “Zack Attack” was felt in the international arena at the recent World Junior Championships, where he led the U.S. team in scoring.

Tom Preissing, Colorado College, senior, defenseman, Rosemount, Minn.
The WCHA Student Athlete of the Year became only the fifth defenseman in league history to score 20 goals after tallying 17 in his first three years combined. The three-time WCHA all-star is second in the nation in scoring by a defensemen and has been a key cog in the Tigers’ power play, which leads the nation at a 30 percent clip. His total of 15 power-play goals is second in the nation.

Peter Sejna, Colorado College, junior, forward, Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia
The WCHA and national scoring leader, Sejna is the only player in college hockey averaging two points per game (77 points in 38). A first-team WCHA all-star and the league’s Player of the Year, Sejna recorded points in all but one game this season. He set a school record with a 31-game scoring streak. Sejna is only the second European player to be a Hobey Baker candidate.

Joe Tallari, Niagara, junior, forward, Thunder Bay, Ontario
For the first time in Hobey history, a member of College Hockey America is a top 10 finalist. Tallari led the league in points and goals and is ninth in the nation in points. He is a first-team CHA all-star and was selected as the league’s Player of the Year. On his way to recording 16 multiple-point games, Tallari established several team scoring records.

R.J. Umberger, Ohio State, junior, forward, Pittsburgh
The former CCHA Rookie of the Year had a stellar season, posting 25 goals and 52 points to rank second in the CCHA scoring derby. A first-team CCHA honoree, Umberger scored points in 33 of 39 games and bagged eight game-winning goals, second in the nation. The Buckeyes’ alternate captain has led the team in scoring two straight years and is 11th in the nation.