Getting in under the wire

Sometime Thursday, the Hobey Hat Trick will be announced, which means that I really should have posted my predictions some time ago.

What can I say? I’ve been busy.

First, I’ll look back at my finalist predictions, which saw me go 7 for 10, which is pretty much par for the course. The three I had wrong were Paul Zanette, Gustav Nyquist and Jack Connolly, where I had Carl Hagelin, Stephane Da Costa and Keith Kinkaid.

I doubted that Connolly would stand out enough from his two outstanding linemates, Justin Fontaine and Mike “No Relation” Connolly, which was clearly a mistake. That’s probably the best line in the whole country, and with Jack Connolly being the setup man, it’s natural that he should be a selection. I think I have a better appreciation of that having watched Jack and his linemates played this past weekend in Bridgeport.

With Zanette, I thought that Niagara’s season ending before the finalists were selected would be a major hamper. Clearly I was wrong, as Zanette has a great overall profile for a Hobey Candidate, especially those 29 goals. Remember: “Hobey Likes Goals.”

Of course, that thinking had me overlooking Nyquist for a long way, especially with Maine really on the periphery of the NCAA tournament picture for much of the season. Still, as a returning member of the Hobey Hat Trick, a spot among the top 10 scorers in the nation is very hard to ignore, and I should have paid more attention to him.

Now, those are the three I got wrong, so let’s look at the three I’m trying to get right: the Hobey Hat Trick. Two of them are pretty easy to figure out, since they’ve been the two that we’ve been talking about for weeks: Matt Frattin and Andy Miele. Frattin was relatively quiet over the weekend, but in this case, “relatively” means, “one goal and two assists while the team scored 12 goals overall.” Miele, meanwhile, was a minus-2 in the RedHawks’ 3-1 loss to New Hampshire, not a great showing. On the other hand, Miele did have two goals and two assists against Notre Dame in the CCHA semifinals and a goal and an assist against Western Michigan to win the Mason Cup, bringing home the first playoff title in Miami history.

Well, that’s the easy part. There’s eight more guys for one more spot, so I have some narrowing down to do.

My instinct is to start by eliminating the guys who weren’t playing this past wekeend: Nyquist, Zanette and Justin Schultz. Of course, that thinking burned me with Nyquist last year, and I’ve got a nagging feeling about Schultz. Still, I don’t see a non-tournament player in this Hat Trick. That leaves five players for one spot: Carter Camper, Chase Polacek, Cam Atkinson, Paul Thompson, and Connolly.

Looking at the weekend results, I feel pretty strong eliminating Polacek. The way RPI was demolished by North Dakota in the Midwest hurts his case. He deserves credit for coming back in his senior year and taking RPI to the tournament, but I’m having trouble seeing him in the Hat Trick.

The way Camper and Miele were simultaneously promoted for the Hobey all year, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the two RedHawks sitting side-by-side next Friday, a la Marty Sertich and Brett Sterling. However, I’m not sure if that necessarily works after Miami got knocked off by UNH in the Northeast Regional semifinal. One member of the Hat Trick, certainly, but not two.

The player whose Hobey stock went up the most this past weekend  is Jack Connolly, and there’s certainly a feeling that goes with a Duluth kid leading Minnesota Duluth to the Frozen Four, playing closer to campus than any Frozen Four team since Wisconsin in 2006. There’s also the matter of him being the glue on the top line in the country. I’ve got a good feeling about him, but I can’t shake one nagging thought: Where’s the east?

Since I’ve been tracking the Hobey race, there’s always been an eastern conference represented: Cornell’s David McKee in 2005, BC’s Chris Collins in 2006, Air Force’s Eric Ehn in 2007 (Atlantic Hockey!), BC’s Nathan Gerbe in 2008, the entire 2009 Hat Trick (Matt Gilroy, Brad Thiessen and Colin Wilson) and Nyquist and Bobby Butler in 2010. That’s an argument for predicting that Paul Thompson or Cam Atkinson will be the third member of the Hat Trick.

Thompson might seem the safer choice there, by virtue of being the Hockey East Player of the Year, although Atkinson does have more goals, the Hockey East Championship, and last year’s NCAA title to his credit (and don’t think that a championship in your past doesn’t mean something).

So, there’s a lot of different ways one could go about this, but this is how I’m seeing it.

The 2011 Hobey Hat Trick will be:

Matt Frattin, SR, F, North Dakota
Andy Miele, SR, F, Miami
Jack Connolly, JR, F, Minnesota Duluth.

Yeah, that’s right, I’m going there. All-Western Hat Trick. If it can happen in the east, then why not in the west?

Watch, now, I’ll turn around and be wrong. But at least I won’t be accused of East Coast Bias.