Hobey Baker Watch: Week Nine
As teams begin their in-conference schedules, it will be interesting to see which teams stay afloat through the second half of the season. The same could be said for the players who are contending for the Hobey Baker Award, as many will begin play against much stiffer competition than they are used to thus far. With that being said, a number of questions remain. Is the race still contentious? Will Mike Vecchione continue his torrid scoring pace? We go conference by conference and take a look at who still has the best shot at receiving college hockey’s most coveted award.
We will start in Atlantic Hockey (AHA) where Brady Ferguson of Robert Morris leads in scoring with 21 points. That mark is good enough for a seventh place tie in all of Division I currently, while on defense, there are three players tied at +9, a good rating but very far down in the national leaderboard. Leading the way in goal are Francis Marotte of Robert Morris and Parker Gahagen of Army. Both goalies represent the best shot the AHA has at a Hobey. Marotte has a 1.81 goals against average (GAA) and .943 save percentage, while Gahagen continues to impress with a 1.83 GAA and .934 save percentage.
Meanwhile in the Big Ten, Denis Smirnov of Penn State is first in the conference and sixth in the country with 22 points. The freshman has come out of nowhere to put up these stats, and he represents the only Big Ten forward worth considering for the award. On defense, Nick Schilkey of Ohio State leads the conference and is tied for the Division I lead at +15, while three other players, including Smirnov, are tied for second in the conference and sixth nationally at +14. For goaltenders, freshman Hayden Lavigne of Michigan continues to be the sharpest goalie in the Big Ten, with a 1.50 GAA, which is in the top five nationally and a .956 save percentage, which leads the nation. Overall, Smirnov and Lavigne are the biggest contenders from the conference, but it will be interesting to see if either of the freshmen can continue their tremendous starts to the season.
Over in the ECAC, the aforementioned Mike Vecchione remains the top contender out of any conference with 26 points, leading both the conference and Division I. His teammates Spencer Foo and Sebastian Vidmar have regressed slightly. Foo has 21 points, good for second in the ECAC and a seventh place tie in all of college hockey. Vidmar has 18, making him third in the conference and only tied for 14th overall. On defense, Vecchione and Foo are both tied with the best plus/minus in their conference and in the nation at +15. In net, Chris Truehl of Quinnipiac leads with a 2.06 GAA, but Kyle Hayton of St. Lawrence has the highest save percentage at .934. Overall, Vecchione is the top contender, but Foo can work his way back into the thick of the race as well.
There is a new point leader in Hockey East heading into this weekend. Tyler Kelleher of New Hampshire (UNH) is second in the NCAA with 24 points. Behind him are three players tied at 23, including Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork. On the blue line, Rob Hamilton of Vermont and Connor Moore of Boston College are also tied for the national lead at +15. In net, a new goaltender rises above the rest as Stefanos Lekkas of Vermont has a 1.72 GAA and .940 save percentage. With the fifth best mark for a goaltender in all of college hockey, Lekkas represents a sleeper in this Hobey race if he can continue this pace. Kelleher has definitely worked his way into a shot at the award as well.
In the NCHC, we have another change at the top of the scoring charts as Shane Gersich of North Dakota tops the league with 21 points. Alex Iafallo of Minnesota-Duluth follows closely behind with 19. On defense, Tucker Poolman of North Dakota continues to pace the conference in plus/minus with a +12 rating, tied with Karson Kuhlman, also of Minnesota-Duluth. It has been fairly disappointing net minding so far from the NCHC as far as Tanner Jaillet leads the way a 1.98 GAA and .921 save percentage, which is off from the top contenders in the country. Contenders from the NCHC? Gersich might have the best chance, but even he seems like a long shot comparatively to others.
And in the WCHA, Mitchell McLain of Bowling Green has taken the lead with 17 points. Back on the blue line, he also leads the conference with a paltry +11. Do things get any better for the goalies? Barely, but there are a couple standouts. Justin Kapelmaster of Ferris State sits at third in the nation with a 1.85 GAA and .943 save percentage, and Jason Pawloski is at fourth overall, following Kapelmaster closely with a 1.62 GAA but a lower save percentage at .942. In general, if either of these goalies can continue to ride their hot hands, then maybe they have a shot at a Hobey? Otherwise, there are very few WCHA contenders this season.
To sum up, Mike Vecchione remains the favorite to win the Hobey. Spencer Foo could still have a shot at the award as well. Both Smirnov and Lavigne from the Big Ten are in the conversation, and Kelleher from UNH has made a splash in the last couple weeks. I wouldn’t ignore his teammate either as Stefanos Lekkas has proven that his name belongs in the conversation as well. Many teams will take a long break following this weekend, so this is the last chance for Hobey contenders to make a name for themselves for at least a while.
Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.