Midseason Awards and 20 Bold Predictions

Two Division III teams were in action this past weekend in South Burlington, Vt. to kick off 2012 at the St. Michael’s Holiday Classic. Division I Sacred Heart stole the tournament title however with a 5-2 win over Nichols and then a 3-1 victory over the host Purple Knights. Colby split the weekend with a 3-1 loss to St. Michael’s, but rebounded with 2-1 win over Nichols to finish in third place.

Three games are on tap today including the opening round of the Codfish Bowl hosted by UMass-Boston. Sacred Heart will look to steal another tourney title as they take on the host Beacons at 2 p.m. Bowdoin and Wesleyan are currently playing in the other first round game. Southern Maine meets Trinity in non-conference action as well to wrap up their two-game series. The Bantams won 3-1 last night in the first game.

Plenty of teams are taking advantage of the break from classes to get in midweek games. There are games on almost every night of the week for the next two weeks including a full slate of games this Friday and Saturday to really get things cranking on the D-III 2012 schedule.

However, before we get too far into 2012, I’d like to hand out some midseason awards from the first half, take an early look at the frontrunners for the Laura Hurd Award (D-III Player of the Year award), as well as make my popular 20 bold predictions.

 Midseason All-Americans

1st Team East:

F. Kourtney Kunichika, RIT
F. Julie Fortier, Norwich
F. Chelsea VanGlahn, Plattsburgh
D. Geneva Lloyd, Amherst
D. Madison Styrbicki, Middlebury
G. Laura Chamberlain, RIT

2nd Team East:

F. Kolbee McCrea, RIT
F. Melissa Rundlett, Norwich
F. Tori Charron, Elmira
D. Ashley Salerno, Amherst
D. Sarianne Lynn, Norwich
G. Annabelle Jones, Middlebury

1st Team West:

F. Nina Waidacher, St. Scholastica
F. Allie Schwab, Gustavus Adolphus
F. Katelyn Dold, Concordia (Minn.)
D. Anna Carlson, Bethel
D. Lindsey Hjelm, Gustavus Adolphus
G. Danielle Justice, Gustavus Adolphus

2nd Team West:

F. Kim Herring, Lake Forest
F. Kasey Evans, St. Catherine
F. Mollie Carroll, Gustavus Adolphus
D. Allie Olson, Wis.-River Falls
D. Kelly Salis, Adrian
G. Ashley Kuechle, Wis.-River Falls

 Laura Hurd Award Outlook

As always when I talk about the Hurd Award, I preface the fact that this National Player of the Year award presented by the American Hockey Coaches Association is normally a senior award rewarding a career rather than just an individual season.

Only one non-senior has ever won the trophy and that came in 2008 with Plattsburgh’s Danielle Blanchard winning it as a junior after leading the Cardinals to their second straight National Championship.

Last year, RIT’s Sarah Dagg became the first Tiger to win the award. In the 12 years the award has been given out, Middlebury has four winners, while Gustavus Adolphus and Elmira have two each. The NESCAC has accounted for half of the winners while no player from the ECAC East or NCHA has ever won the award.

Here are the five players that I see in the running right now.

Forward – (Sr.) Julie Fortier, Norwich

Fortier has been in the shadow of Sophie Leclerc for her first three seasons at Norwich. However, this year as the go to goal scorer, Fortier has been brilliant with 13 goals and nine assists for 22 points. Her goal and point tallies tie for the nation lead in both categories. So far in her career, Fortier has 75 goals and 67 assists for 142 points, which is just 22 points away from breaking the Norwich program record.

Forward – (Sr.) Allie Schwab, Gustavus Adolphus

Schwab is off to a terrific start in her senior year with a team-leading 19 points in 10 games. She’s been a big factor in GAC still being unbeaten as we enter 2012 with eight goals and 11 assists. In her career, Schwab has played in 98 games and has exactly 98 points with 54 goals and 44 assists.

Forward – (So.) Kourtney Kunichika, RIT

Kunichika has picked up right where she left off last year after a sensational freshman campaign where she led RIT in scoring on a team that featured three All-Americans and she wasn’t one of them. She has nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points so far to tie her with Fortier and St. Scholastica’s Nina Waidacher for the nation lead. Kunichika is already at 65 career points and has only played in 41 games. The only thing working against her for this award is she isn’t a senior.

Forward – (Sr.) Kim Herring, Lake Forest

Herring currently has 11 goals and six assists for 17 points so far. She has scored 61 goals and 39 assists for 100 points in 78 career games. Last year she missed the whole first half of the season with mono and was only able to play in 15 games and tallied just 10 points. It was certainly a let down after she scored 28 goals and has 25 assists for 53 points as a sophomore with the Forresters. Healthy again this year she has started to produce at a similar rate to her outstanding sophomore year when she led the country in scoring.

 Defense – (Jr.) Geneva Lloyd, Amherst

 Lloyd doesn’t get as much press as the four names mentioned above because she plays defense but for anyone that has seen her play, you quickly realize most nights she’s the best player on the ice and can control the game at both the defensive end and on offense. She has three goals and seven assists so far for a team-leading 10 points. She has led the Lord Jeffs in points in every season she has played for Amherst. So far in her career she has 24 goals and 49 assists for 73 points in 63 games.

20 Predictions

1. Gustavus Adolphus finishes regular season unbeaten.

2. St. Scholastica freshman Nina Waidacher leads nation in points at end of regular season.

3. RIT announces they are going to Division I next year before the end of the season.

4. Amherst sweeps River Falls and St. Thomas on western road trip.

5. Norwich finishes unbeaten in ECAC East play for second straight year.

6. Julie Fortier, Kourtney Kunichika, Allie Schwab, Kim Herring and Geneva Lloyd are the five Hurd Award finalists. 

7. Norwich’s Julie Fortier wins Laura Hurd Award.

8. Gustavus Adolphus’ senior goalie Danielle Justice leads nation in shutouts. 

9. RIT’s Kolbee McCrea leads nation in goals.

10. Two more schools announce they are adding D-III women’s hockey before end of the season (Franklin Pierce and Stevenson have already announced).

11.  RIT loses two games this season (playoffs and NCAA’s included). One to Elmira and one to Plattsburgh.

12. Manhattanville makes ECAC East finals.

13. One of River Falls, Middlebury, or RIT doesn’t make their conference championship.

14. St. Scholastica makes NCHA finals.

15. Castleton makes ECAC East final four.

16. Elmira wins ECAC West Tournament.

17. Amherst wins NESCAC Tournament.

18. RIT, Norwich, Amherst, River Falls make the Frozen Four.

19. RIT hosts the Frozen Four

20. RIT wins National Championship