Minnesota State leads way with four WCHA men’s hockey individual awards for ’20-21 season

Julian Napravnik and Dryden McKay captured two of the WCHA’s top honors announced Thursday (photo: Russell Hons).

The WCHA on Thursday announced its 2020-21 individual award winners, honoring the league’s offensive player, defensive player, goaltender, rookie, student-athlete and coach of the year.

Honorees this year include four from Minnesota State: forward Julian Napravnik (offensive player of the year), goaltender Dryden McKay (goaltender of the year), defenseman Akito Hirose (rookie of the year) and head coach Mike Hastings (coach of the year).

They are joined by Bowling Green defenseman Will Cullen and Bemidji State blueliner Elias Rosén, who share defensive player of the year honors and Bemidji State goaltender Zach Driscoll who is the student-athlete of the year.

The league’s player of the year will be announced on Friday.

Napravnik stands atop Minnesota State’s scoring charts with 24 points on nine goals and 15 assists in 21 games. In WCHA league play, Napravnik posted a six-goal, 11-assist line to tie for third in league scoring.

Cullen leads all league blueliners in scoring this season – and is tied for ninth in the league among all players – with 22 points on six goals and 16 assists. His point total ranks fourth nationally among defenders. In 20 games this season, Rosén has 12 points on four goals and eight assists for BSU and is part of a Bemidji State penalty kill unit that leads the country with a .929 average and has killed 20 of its opponents’ last 21 power plays.

McKay captured his third consecutive WCHA goaltending championship this season with a WCHA-record 1.07 GAA in league play. The record marks the third time in as many seasons that McKay has lowered the WCHA GAA record in league games. He joins NHL star and Michigan Tech three-time All-American Tony Esposito (1964-65, 1965-66, 1966-67) as just the second netminder to win three-straight WCHA goaltending crowns.

He enters the postseason with an equally impressive 1.32 GAA in all games that leads the NCAA. He also leads the country in shutouts (eight) and winning percentage (.895/17-2-0). McKay recorded his 22nd career shutout on Feb. 12 to establish a new WCHA record and move into second place on the NCAA career list, trailing only the 26 shutouts recorded by Michigan State’s Ryan Miller from 1999-2002. McKay’s eight shutouts in 19 contests this season are within two of equaling his WCHA single season record of 10 set last season in 37 appearances.

Hirose is Minnesota State’s top scoring defenseman with 13 points on a goal and 12 assists on the year. His points and assists totals lead WCHA rookie blueliners and stand tied for second in the country amongst all freshmen defensemen in their respective categories. He leads the Mavericks with a +16 rating – a mark that ranks fourth in the country amongst all newcomers.

Driscoll graduated with a business administration degree in the spring of 2020 and carried a 3.85 GPA. He is currently enrolled as a full-time graduate student pursuing a Masters of Business Administration degree with a 4.0 graduate GPA. In 23 appearances this season, Driscoll is 12-8-3 and leads the league and ranks third nationally with 630 saves.

He also continues to provide service to the community and campus members. He is active on the Student-Athlete Advising Committee and BSU Chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Most summers, he volunteers for Eastview youth hockey association through coaching young goaltenders and serving as a mentor to youth athletes in his hometown of Apple Valley, Minn.

Hastings led the Mavericks to an unprecedented fourth consecutive MacNaughton Cup championship this season as the Mavericks rolled to the WCHA regular-season title with a 13-1-0 mark in league play. Minnesota State is the first school in WCHA history to win four consecutive regular-season crowns and one of just two to win three outright titles in a row. The Mavericks enter the postseason with an 18-3-1 mark in 2020-21 and are poised to reach the 20-win mark for the ninth time under Hastings.