Minnesota-Duluth forward Junior Lessard was honored Friday at historic Faneuil Hall in Boston with the 2004 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, presented annually to college hockey’s top player.
Lessard, a native of St. Joseph deBeauce, Que., led the nation in goals this season with 32, in power-play goals with 14, and in points with 63. He also compiled a plus-21 plus-minus rating, and totaled three hat tricks.
He has already been honored this season as a first-team All-WCHA pick, as WCHA Player of the Year, as a first-team All-American, and as USCHO.com’s 2003-04 Player of the Year.
Throughout his collegiate career, Lessard has been a critical component in the revival of the Bulldogs’ fortunes. The team, under new head coach Scott Sandelin, went from a 7-28-4 record in Lessard’s freshman year to a 28-13-4 finish this season, as UMD finished second in the WCHA and advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time in 19 years.
Lessard’s own production increased each season as well; his career totals at Duluth are 74-68–142. His selection makes him the fourth Hobey Baker winner for UMD, following Tom Kurvers (1984), Bill Watson (1985) and Chris Marinucci (1994).
He has overcome adversity this season as well, including a life-threatening swimming incident last August, and a knee injury during the WCHA Final Five that initially was feared as season-ending. Lessard, however, recovered in time to play the next weekend in the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs lost in the national semifinals Thursday to Denver, despite Lessard’s pair of goals. He also tallied twice in the Midwest Regional semifinals, giving him four goals in three games of the NCAAs.
In winning the 24th edition of the Hobey Baker, Lessard beat out fellow Hobey Hat Trick finalists Zach Parise of North Dakota and Yann Danis of Brown. He joins a list of honorees that includes initial winner Neal Broten of Minnesota, and last year’s recipient, Colorado College’s Peter Sejna.