Low-Flying Offense (and Men of the Month)

Normally this season, when I go to see a Hobey Baker candidate, he’s held off the scoresheet, but his team wins. This weekend, I got the opposite.

Jacques Lamoureux’s candidacy for the Hobey Baker Award last season was one of the bigger stories of the year in the Hobey race (next to, of course, the winner, Matt Gilroy, who became only the fifth player to win the Hobey and an NCAA title in the same season). With his Air Force Falcons in my general vicinity for an Atlantic Hockey series against Sacred Heart last weekend, I braved the I-95 traffic (compounded by weather), and headed for the Milford Ice Pavilion on Sunday night.

Lamoureux was credited with an assist in a 5-1 Sacred Heart win, as the Pioneers completed a weekend sweep of the the Falcons, who still share the Atlantic Hockey lead with Mercyhurst (although RIT is just one point behind despite having played four fewer games). Overall, points have been harder to come by this season for the Air Force junior, who currently sits 33rd in the nation in points per game with 1.20 PPG on 11 goals and 13 assists. Those are respectable numbers, but hardly the torrid pace of last season, when he scored 33 goals and handed out 20 assists.

“I think a lot of people know who I am this year,” Lamoureux said. “That doesn’t matter. I’ve just got to do the little things. I think, to this point, I’ve had a fair amount of success. I’m not on the pace I was last year, but I think last year was a special season, but that’s in the rearview mirror, and I’m just focused on this season.”

Still, Lamoureux sees where he can improve.

“I’ve been able to create a lot of chances each game, and I just haven’t been able to put them in like I did last year, but it’s just one of those things. I’m not unhappy with the way things are going, I’ve just got to keep working hard.

All of that said, Lamoureux is Atlantic Hockey’s player of the month for December, averaging a goal and an assist per game. Air Force has struggled offensively overall, so the Falcons will be looking to pick things up as a whole in 2010, and you can expect Lamoureux to be a part of that.”

The adjustment has generally been tough following Hobey finalist seasons, as it’s very rare  to make it back to the top 10 twice in a row. Ryan Duncan won the award as a sophomore, and never sniffed the top 10 again. 2005 winner Marty Sertich made it back to the top 10 as a senior in 2006, as did his classmate, linemate, and fellow ’05 Hobey Hat Trick member Brett Sterling, but neither got back to the Hat Trick. Scott Parse at Nebraska-Omaha was also able to manage repeat finalist nods in 2006 and 2007, but it’s a very tall order, generally speaking.

Looking around at the other Player of the Month honorees for December, Hockey East has honored Gustav Nyquist of Maine. Nyquist notched nine points in five games last month on four goals and five assists, including two assists in Maine’s biggest win of the season, a win over No. 3 Colorado College at the Florida College Classic. Nyquist is the star of Maine’s comeback campaign in 2009-10, and should be a solid Hobey contender, as he sits second in the nation in points per game (1.58 PPG on 12 goals, 18 assists).

In the CCHA, the Player of the Month is Corey Tropp of Michigan State, whose seven goals and 10 points in the month led the nation.  The Spartans have also come back strong (though they sit in the shadow of Miami’s powerhouse campaign), and while Tropp may not have the numbers at No. 16 in the nation in scoring, he could get himself into the conversation as the season goes along.

But really, though, who knows what will happen? It’s a new month, a new year, and a new decade. All I know is, it’s about to get very exciting.