Hobey Baker Watch: Week Eleven
The Hobey Baker race has begun to take an unexpected turn, and might even be more wide open than originally expected. While Mike Vecchione of Union has had a sensational season, he is locked into a tight scoring battle with not only other players across college hockey, but even his own teammates. Who else is challenging for the Hobey this year, both on the goaltending and offensive sides? Let’s take a look as we break it down by conference.
In Atlantic Hockey, Brady Ferguson of Robert Morris continues to lead the way with 35 points this season, as he climbs into a 5th-place tie overall. His teammate Daniel Leavens has also entered the fold, just breaking 30 points, putting him just outside the top 10 nationally. For goalies, Francis Marotte (1.71 GAA, .947 save %), also of Robert Morris, remains one of just eight goalies in the country giving up less than two goals a game, alongside Parker Gahagen (1.77, .938) of Army, as both continue to play their way into the conversation.
Over in the Big Ten, Denis Smirnov of Penn State still leads with 29 points, but barely maintains his conference lead over Tyler Sheehy (28 points) of Minnesota, after a quiet weekend series. Smirnov’s mark is only 13th nationally, and the Big Ten goalies aren’t looking much better. Peyton Jones of Penn State has the best GAA at 2.04, and Hayden Lavigne of Michigan has the best save percentage at .932, but neither are impressive on a national scale. As for the conference, Smirnov’s once intriguing Hobey case is fading unless he can pick his game back up.
For the ECAC, there is no shortage of Hobey competition, to the point where teammates might soon be vying for the top individual award in college hockey. Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo of Union are both tied with the national lead in points right now at 41. ECAC goaltenders have yet to impress however. Mitch Gillam of Cornell holds the lead in GAA at 2.00, while Kyle Hayton of St. Lawrence leads in save percentage with .932. Vecchione and Foo are both clear Hobey contenders, and should remain in the conversation through the rest of the season.
Meanwhile in Hockey East, there are a couple forwards who are close to passing the aforementioned duo from Union. Tyler Kelleher of UNH and Zach Aston-Reese of Northeastern are third and fourth nationally in scoring, at 40 and 39 points respectively. Behind them, Anders Bjork of Notre Dame sits tied for fifth at 35, while Dylan Sikura of Northeastern and Joe Gambardella of UMass Lowell are tied for seventh overall at 33. In net, Jake Oettinger (1.78, .937) of Boston University stays in the conversation as a top national goaltender.
In the NCHC, the only names that come to mind are Austin Ortega of Omah, with 33 points, who sits at a seventh place tie nationally, and Shane Gersich of North Dakota at 30, just outside the top 10 in the nation. A new goaltending name comes to mind with the upstart play of Ben Blacker from Western Michigan, just outside the top 5 in the country with a 1.84 GAA. These three names are longshots, but the best NCHC contenders for the Hobey.
And lastly in the WCHA, the conference still looks for their first 30-point scorer. Marc Michaelis of Minnesota State leads the way with 28. In net, things are at least slightly more optimistic, as Michael Bitzer (1.51, .937) of Bemidji State and Angus Redmond (1.45, .935) both lead the nation in GAA and are sixth and seventh respectively in save percentage.
Overall, there are a number of contenders that could still stand out. Vecchione and Foo are the most notable names in the forward pack, but the quintet from Hockey East, namely Kelleher and Aston-Reese, could still challenge for the honor. If a goaltender were to win the award, it remains to be seen as to who could land it, but none have significantly stood out thus far. What seemed like Vecchione’s race to win at one point, now seems fairly open again.
Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To reach him, send an email at email@example.com.