Matt Carle’s team didn’t make the WCHA Final Five, but the Denver junior defenseman still picked up the league’s top honor.
Carle, the nation’s top defensive scorer, was named the WCHA’s player of the year and headed the all-league first team that was announced at an awards banquet Thursday.
Denver was eliminated from the WCHA tournament by Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, and the second-place Pioneers probably saw their NCAA tournament hopes vanish in the process.
But voting had already been done before that time and Carle’s regular season — which included 11 goals and 50 points as well as a defensive presence that was unmatched around the league — was strong enough to capture the award.
He also took home the honor as the defensive player of the year, an award voted on only by coaches, and became the first person to win that award and be named the league’s player of the year in the same season. The other awards, with the exception of the student-athlete of the year, are voted on by coaches, players, sports information directors and media members.
After hearing a partial list of the others who had won the WCHA’s top individual award, Carle was awed.
“To be in that same category is a great thrill,” Carle said.
Minnesota’s Don Lucia and his former assistant, St. Cloud State’s Bob Motzko, tied in the voting for honors as coach of the year and they shared the award.
Lucia led the Gophers to the MacNaughton Cup despite a rough start to the season and key absences on his team. The Huskies finished sixth in the league in Motzko’s first season despite being picked for ninth by the league’s coaches.
“It’s kind of cool that I can share it with Don,” said Motzko, who was an assistant under Lucia at Minnesota from 2001 to 2005.
Motzko credited former St. Cloud State coach Craig Dahl, who told him that this year’s Huskies team was better than most projected.
A first-year coach being honored “means I walked into a pretty good situation,” Motzko said.
Minnesota’s Phil Kessel, who had 12 goals and 33 points in 28 league games, was the WCHA’s rookie of the year.
Carle and Wisconsin senior Tom Gilbert were the first-team defensemen. St. Cloud State junior goaltender Bobby Goepfert earned a spot on the first team ahead of league goaltending champion Brian Elliott of Wisconsin.
Minnesota junior Ryan Potulny, Colorado College senior Brett Sterling and Denver sophomore Paul Stastny, the league’s scoring champion, were the first-team forwards.
Denver senior forward Ted O’Leary was chosen the student-athlete of the year by institutional representatives.
The all-league second team included Wisconsin sophomore forward Joe Pavelski, Colorado College senior forward Marty Sertich, Minnesota State junior forward David Backes, Minnesota sophomore defenseman Alex Goligoski, Colorado College junior defenseman Brian Salcido and Wisconsin’s Elliott.
The third team included North Dakota junior forward Drew Stafford, Denver sophomore forward Ryan Dingle, Minnesota junior forward Danny Irmen, Minnesota senior defenseman Chris Harrington, North Dakota junior defenseman Matt Smaby and North Dakota junior goaltender Jordan Parise.
The all-rookie team included Minnesota’s Kessel, North Dakota forward T.J. Oshie, Minnesota-Duluth forward Mason Raymond, Denver defenseman Chris Butler, North Dakota defenseman Brian Lee and Minnesota State goaltender Dan Tormey.