Hobey Watch – NCAA Tournament Edition, Day 1

Following Friday’s East Regional semifinal games at the Times Union Center, I have the following statements to make about the race for the 2010 Hobey Baker Award.

– Thanks for playing, Ben Scrivens.

– Welcome to the competition, Bobby Butler.

Going into the weekend, my feelings were that the Hobey Hat Trick would consist of:

1) Wisconsin defenseman Brendan Smith, absent a T.J. Hensick-type situation that would take him out of the running.

2) Either Denver goalie Marc Cheverie OR Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens, pending the outcome of the East Regional.

3) A player to be determined, with a strong possibility (but not a guarantee) that the player would come from an Eastern team.

That feeling has not changed.

Here’s what happened tonight:

First of all, while both Cheverie and Scrivens had their seasons ended in regional semifinal upsets, Cheverie had a very respectable performance, stopping 23 of 25 shots against an RIT team that did give him a legitimate test. Had Denver won today’s game 3-2, Cheverie’s performance wouldn’t be criticized one bit, and it shouldn’t be now, either. The two goals scored on him were off of a bad turnover and a well-executed power play, and it’s hard to fault him on either.

Scrivens, meanwhile…well, let’s put it this way. When asked about Scrivens’ performance tonight (31 saves on 36 shots), the Big Red bench boss began his response by talking about what a great career Scrivens has had. Schafer would go on to say that he doesn’t comment on goalie performances until he’s reviewed tape, but that kind of opening can be taken to mean, “There’s no way I’m throwing this kid under the bus, but he really didn’t play well tonight.” Scrivens didn’t get much help – Cornell turned the puck over way too much – but he really didn’t look very good.

I think that Cheverie’s strength over the course of the season will serve him well – especially now that he’s just .002 behind Scrivens in save percentage – combined with the fact that he’s playing against WCHA opposition in a system not particularly known for enabling great goaltending statistics, as opposed to ECAC Hockey opponents and the notorious Cornell “system.” So, barring anything crazy, I think Cheverie’s in and Scrivens is out.

Now, as for the third spot, Bobby Butler is staking his claim. Two goals today give him sole possession of the NCAA lead with 29, and the hardware he’s already collected – Hockey East Player of the Year, Walter Brown Award – bolsters his resumé that much more. If Butler turns in a similar performance tomorrow, that third Hobey Hat Trick spot could easily be his. The only other players I see competing for it are Blake Geoffrion with a monster performance in the West regional, or Gustav Nyquist if UNH and Wisconsin both fall short, as Nyquist’s huge regular season numbers will still stand up.

But who knows? There’s a lot of hockey to be played, and as we’ve seen today, anything can happen.