Semifinalists For Walter Brown Award Named

Gridiron Club of Greater Boston president Al Robichaud announced Monday that 15 NCAA Division I players are semifinalists for the 56th Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England.

The candidates include 12 players from Hockey East and three from the ECAC Hockey League. The slate comprises nine forwards, four goalies, and two defensemen. Providence College, which did not have a semifinalist last year, boasts three in 2008. Boston College, Boston University, and New Hampshire each have two candidates. Three nominees, BC’s Benn Ferriero, BU’s Peter MacArthur, and UNH’s Kevin Regan, were semifinalists for last year’s award, which was won by Boston University goalie John Curry.

Goaltenders on the 2008 semifinalists’ list include Regan, a UNH senior from South Boston, MA; sophomore Nevin Hamilton (Ashland, MA) of UMass-Lowell; junior Billy Blase (Santa Monica, CA) of Yale; and senior Tyler Sims (Fort Worth, TX) of Providence. Regan, with a 2.38 goals against average to date, has been a fixture in the net for UNH, Hockey East’s league leading team. Hamilton and Sims have both been strong factors in their respective teams’ surprising performance in the tightly-contested Hockey East race. Blase currently sports a 1.98 goals-against average for the resurgent young Bulldogs, who are making a surprising run at a home-ice playoff berth in the ECAC.

Defensemen on the list are Providence junior Matt Taormina (Washington Township, MI), who leads Hockey East rearguards in scoring with 23 points to date, and Maine’s slick-passing senior Bret Tyler (Maynard, MA).

Among the forwards, BC junior Nathan Gerbe (Oxford, MI) is currently the top scorer in Hockey East and third in the nation with 37 points. Ferriero (Essex, MA), his teammate and classmate, has put up 27 points to date. BU seniors MacArthur (Clifton Park, NY) and Bryan Ewing (Plymouth, MA) have been among Hockey East’s top scorers all season and each have 30 points. Providence senior Jon Rheault (Deering, NH) is tied for second in goal production among Hockey East players with 14.

A pair of Hockey East freshmen are among the candidates. New Hampshire’s James vanRiemsdyk (Middletown, NJ), who starred for the United States team in this season’s World Junior Championship, is the third-leading scorer among the league’s rookies with 23 points despite missing five games for tournament play. UMass rookie James Marcou (Kings’ Park, NY) has posted 25 points thus far. Rounding out the semifinalists’ slate are Harvard senior Jon Pelle (West Islip, NY) slate and Quinnipiac senior Ben Nelson (Spokane, WA).

“We almost always note, in making our semifinalists’ announcement, that Eastern hockey is competitive and well balanced. That is certainly true this year, but perhaps even more so than ever. We have a long way to go before standings and playoff berths are sorted out, and a brief hot streak or slump can spell a major change in the standings for any given team,” said Gridiron Club Hockey Awards Committee chairman Tim Costello.

“The same thinking applies to the slate of potential candidates for this year’s Walter Brown Award. Many very fine players came under consideration, and unfortunately some of them could not make the watch list. That said, we believe that this is a strong group of semifinalists, and we look forward to tracking them closely for the rest of the season.”

The Gridiron Club plans to announce the finalists and winner of the 56th Walter Brown Award in March, following league playoffs and before the start of NCAA Tournament play.