Yes, Regis, This Is My Final Answer

As Tony Kornheiser might say when discussing American Idol, “It’s Go Time.” 

The regionals are behind us, and while we have 10 days to wait before the Frozen Four, there’s an important bit of news headed our way before then: the Hobey Hat Trick.

This is the last real question that I have to answer this year, because, as I’ve said ad nauseum, the award is Kevin Porter’s, it has been for some time, and if there was any lingering doubt, it was erased when Porter was named Most Outstanding Player at the East Regional.

But that’s the easy part. The hard part – as my former colleagues on the CSTV Hobey Baker Watch panel will attest – is getting the Hat Trick right.

This year should be easier, since there’s a group of three (maybe four if you include Jeff Lerg) players competing for the two spots that won’t be Porter, but at the same time, any combination is feasible, so who do you leave home?

Well, a good place to start is how the players did since being named finalists.

Nathan Gerbe, F, Jr., Boston College: three assists in 5-4 overtime win over New Hampshire in Hockey East semifinals; a goal and an assist in a 4-0 win over Vermont in the Hockey East final; a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win over Minnesota in the Northeast Regional semifinals; one goal in a 4-3 overtime win over Miami in the Northeast Regional final.

Ryan Jones, F, Sr., Miami: one assist in a 2-1 overtime win over Notre Dame in the CCHA semifinals; no points in a 2-1 loss to Michigan in the CCHA championship; one assist in 3-2 overtime win over Air Force in the Northeast Regional semifinals; one goal in a 4-3 overtime loss to Boston College in the Northeast Regional final.

Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, G, Sr., North Dakota: 27 saves on 29 shots in 3-1 loss to Denver in the WCHA semifinals; 33 saves on 35 shots in a 4-2 win over Colorado College in the WCHA consolation game; 38 saves on 39 shots in 5-1 win over Princeton in the Midwest Regional seimifinals; 41 saves on 43 shots in a 3-2 overtime win over Wisconsin in the Midwest Regional final.

Jeff Lerg, G, Jr., Michigan State: 41 saves on 42 shots in a 3-1 win over Colorado College in the West Regional semifinals; 23 saves on 26 shots in a 3-1 loss to Notre Dame in the West Regional championship.

The safe pick for the Hobey Hat Trick is Porter, Lamoureux and Gerbe. Three different conferences are represented, all three players are in the Frozen Four, and there’s a goaltender in the mix, as there has been with every Hobey Hat Trick since 2003 (2002’s trio of Darren Haydar, Mark Hartigan and eventual winner Jordan Leopold was the last Hat trick without a goalie).

That’s the safe pick.

But it’s not my pick.

I just can’t see Ryan Jones being left out in the cold here.

Jones is a very similar to Porter in terms of the blend of leadership and production that he gives his team. Jones also shares the national lead in game-winning goals (unless Chad Kolarik scores a game-winner for Michigan in the Frozen Four), and the fact that he’s donating his long hair to Locks For Love – over the protestations of Barry Melrose, I hasten to add – gives him a real “total package” as a candidate for the Hobey. If it weren’t for Porter, I’d pick him to win.

So, if Jones is in, then who’s out?

Sorry, North Dakota fans.

Lamoureux has had an excellent season. The numbers don’t lie, as he leads the country in both save percentage and goals-against average, and he can laugh all the way to Denver at the people who thought he’d be the weak link for North Dakota this season. There’s really not much you can say against him.

However, if Jones is in, then someone else has to go. Could it be Gerbe, given the much-discussed issue of his suspension in the fall for a spear against Merrimack? Maybe, but I think it’s a dead issue at this point, especially now that Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, the same man who issued the suspension and commented on a pattern of “inappropriate behavior” from the BC forward, is on the record as saying that it shouldn’t be a factor. Besides, I can see the WCHA not being represented, because it’s happened to the CCHA and Hockey East twice each in the last three years (both were out in 2005, when Colorado College’s Marty Sertich beat out teammate Brett Sterling and Cornell goalie David McKee), but I can’t see the east going wholly unrepresented in the Hat Trick.

Why not? It hasn’t happened since there’s been such a thing as the “Hobey Hat Trick.”

So, there you have it. I’m calling Porter, Jones and Gerbe for the Hobey Hat Trick. Right or wrong, we’ll break down what happens after the announcement is made.