The Best Weekly Effort That Was Second-Best

One agonizing consequence of handing out weekly awards is that timing is everything – it’s possible for the best weekly performances of the season to all happen in one week, yet only one individual can be honored. I think that’s the case this past weekend, in the case of USCHO Defensive Player of the Week Kim Martin and first runner-up Laura Hosier. Hosier’s 30 of 31-save effort against New Hampshire and 16-save shutout of Boston College propelled Mercyhurst to its first No. 1 ranking in school history. My opinion is that Hosier’s effort would have won the honor in every other week except this one (including her own award-winning performance in the Lakers’ sweep of Dartmouth). However, it’s tough to argue with giving the award to Martin, who stopped 57 of 58 shots in two games against the defending national champions (although the WCHA opted not to honor her).

This week got me thinking, is Hosier’s performance the best ever not to win an USCHO Defensive Player of the Week Award? Before jumping into specifics, it helps to define a Player of the Week performance. I would consider a player whose performance exceeds expectations in a given week and provides a significant contribution to her team, with special consideration given to those who accomplish notable milestones for their team or program. The expectations criterion is key — in a year like 2004-05 USCHO could have probably given awards to Krissy Wendell, Natalie Darwitz, Caroline Ouellette, or Nicole Corriero every week, but I think that would have gotten boring pretty fast (and all four won their fair share of USCHO awards regardless). To sum up, I would say the winner is the player that allows you to post the most compelling paragraph every Tuesday night.

As for the best Defensive Player of the Week performance that didn’t win the USCHO honor, there is one that clearly stand out in my mind – current U.S. goalie Chanda Gunn in her senior year, the weekend of Jan. 10-11. It was a unique weekend, a pair of games in California, Gunn’s home state, between Wisconsin, where Gunn spent her freshman season, and Northeastern, where Gunn played out her last three seasons and made a name for herself. Gunn stopped 56 of 57 shots in a 1-1 tie that Saturday, and 47 of 49 shots in a 2-2 tie on Sunday. In all, that’s 103 of 106 shots — I don’t think anyone’s ever made more saves in a weekend. In a story I wrote on Gunn at the end of the season, she called that weekend the highlight of her career — not so much because the result, but because she did in front of hundreds of California Select players who had been mentored by Gunn at the Select camp, and had never seen college hockey before in their lives. The two ties were probably Northeastern’s most impressive result that season. The results also proved to be critical to Wisconsin narrowly missing the Frozen Four, because the Huskies were one of the few common opponents the Badgers had with the top eastern teams.

Who took home the award that week? It was Dartmouth freshman goalie Christine Capuano, who stopped 37 of 38 shots in a 2-1 win against Harvard that weekend, in a game that decided both first place in the ECAC and the No. 1 ranking in the nation. It was the only time the entire season that Harvard team was held to less than two goals. Unlike Gunn’s performance, which came before a small crowd that was largely there to see her, Capuano’s effort came before one of the most hostile women’s hockey environments there could be — a Harvard home-record crowd of 1,921.

In retrospect, was giving Capuano the award the right decision? I don’t think you could wrong either way. One other thought though — since graduation, Gunn became the No. 1 goalie for the US and shut out Canada in the final of the 2005 World Championship. Capuano struggled with illness and injury for the rest of her short career, and she left the team before her junior season to place a greater focus on her academics at Dartmouth. When all else is equal in deciding these awards, as insignificant as they may be, I prefer to have shared the wealth, and to have honored brief flashes of brilliance wherever they turn up.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I think the NCAA would and should avoid sending a team out west because they would have to play UNH in round 1.

    This exposes a grotesque problem with the current format. If you’re going to let the dumbest part of the current system stay (teams hosting), then don’t screw a team for being grabbing the 1 seed because they would have to play UNH.

    What a stupid set of circumstances. Part of me wants to see it to see what the NCAA committee would do.

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