A pair of seniors have earned two of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s most prestigious individual awards as announced today (March 8), with forward Jack Connolly of the University of Minnesota Duluth being named WCHA Player of the Year for 2011-12 and Brad Eidsness, a goaltender at the University of North Dakota, selected as WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year.
The league’s five other major individual awards went to University of Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz as WCHA Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, University of Denver defenseman Joey LaLeggia as WCHA Rookie of the Year, Connolly as WCHA Scoring Champion, University of Minnesota netminder Kent Patterson as WCHA Goaltending Champion, and to first-year head coach Mel Pearson of Michigan Technological University as WCHA Coach of the Year.
Connolly, who received 48 of the 96 votes in player of the year balloting, also captured the league’s scoring title (conference games only) with 43 points (16g, 27a) while playing in all 28 games for the defending national champion Bulldogs – after finishing second a year ago. Named to the All-WCHA First Team for the second straight season and a two-time WCHA Offensive Player of the Week (Nov. 15, Feb. 14), he averaged a league-best 1.54 points per game, was first in assists, first in power-play points (8-16=24) and had three game-winning goals. A native of Duluth, Minn., Connolly was a finalist for the 2010-11 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, was a first team All-American last season, and is a finalist for this season’s Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. He is currently second nationally in points with 55 and for his career (through March 8) he has 64 goals, 128 assists and 192 points, which ties him for ninth place on UMD’s all-time career scoring list with 1984 Hobey Baker winner Tom Kurvers. Connolly has also been held pointless for more than two games in a row only twice since the start of his sophomore season – six weeks ago when he was blanked in the Michigan Tech series – which ended his school single-season record 22-game point-scoring streak. He has also played in a school-record 161 consecutive games.
North Dakota’s Eidsness, a three-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete, was named the men’s WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year in a vote of league member team Faculty Athletic Representatives. Over the course of his four years he has not only stayed on track with progress towards a degree but he has completed both a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and by May will have completed the requirements and be awarded a Master of Business Administration degree. In recognition of his academic efforts, he was awarded an NCAA Elite 88 Award for men’s ice hockey at the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four. Eidsness graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 3.779 cumulative GPA in undergraduate work and has a 3.625 cumulative GPA in graduate school. During this past fall semester, he completed 15 credits of graduate coursework with a term GPA of 3.80 while continuing to perform well for the UND hockey team as a regular goaltender. He has seen action in 14 games this season and sports a 7-3-1 record, a noteable 2.09 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. Over his career at UND, he has a 57-27-10 won-loss record with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage along with five shutouts. In addition to his stellar work in the classroom and on the ice, Eidsness has been active on campus as a team representative to SAAC and with community service. His contributions include annual food drives, fan fests, Sioux Kids Club events and speaking engagements at a number of different community events.
The WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year Award is determined from nominations made by the member institutions and each institution then has one final vote. The criteria is as follows: 1) must be a senior student-athlete, i.e. one who is finishing his competition as an eligible player in the WCHA; 2) consistently displays outstanding sportsmanship on and off the ice; 3) is a good student making satisfactory progress toward a degree; and 4) is a good hockey player who has performed consistently as a regular member of the team.
For the second straight season, the league’s 12 head coaches voted University of Wisconsin blueliner Justin Schultz as the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year. This is only the third time in the history of the award that started in 1991 that a player has won it twice. Colorado College defenseman Eric Rud won the award in both 1995-96 and 1996-97 while Minnesota defenseman Jordan Leopold earned the honor in both 2000-01 and 2001-02. From West Kelowna, B.C., and a first team All-American honoree and Hobey Baker Memorial Award Top 10 Finalist as a sophomore, Schultz also earned All-WCHA First Team honors for the second straight season and he is the third straight Wisconsin player to earn the league’s defensive player of the year award (Brendan Smith in 2009-10). The nation’s, and the WCHA’s, top point-producing defenseman, Schultz is averaging 1.24 points per game through 34 games this season (15-27=42) and if he stays on top of the UW’s current goal-scoring list for 2011-12, he’ll become the first defenseman in school history to lead the team in goal scoring. A draftee of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, he logs 30-35 minutes of ice time per game, leads the Badgers with a +11 plus/minus rating, and has produced almost a point per game over his 118-game collegiate career, with 39 goals, 72 assists and 111 points. Schultz was the league’s defensive player of the week on both Nov. 29 and Jan. 24.
Honored as the WCHA Rookie of the Year for 2011-12 was University of Denver freshman defenseman Joey LaLeggia, who was named on 55 ballots, and also earned All-WCHA First Team and All-WCHA Rookie Team accolades. From Burnaby, B.C., LaLeggia has stepped in as a rookie and averaged better than a point per game for the Pioneers, ranking just behind Schultz in scoring overall among league defensemen with 37 points (11g, 26a) in 36 games. He was also the top scoring rookie in WCHA play this season with 8-20=28 in 28 conference games, leads all NCAA rookie defensemen in points, goals and assists, and owns an impressive +16 plus/minus rating. He is tied with teammate Jason Zucker for the team lead with 13 multiple-point games, he was named the HCA (Hockey Commissioners’ Association) National Rookie of the Month for January, and was the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week on Jan. 17.
Earning the WCHA goaltending crown for 2011-12 was Minnesota veteran Kent Patterson, who was also voted to the All-WCHA First Team. A senior from Plymouth, Minn., Patterson owned a league-best 2.06 goals-against average while playing in all 28 games and a league-leading 1659:41 of action for the WCHA regular season and MacNaughton Cup-champion Golden Gophers. He also owned a WCHA-best 20 victories (20-8-0, .714) and his .918 conference save percentage ranked third. Patterson,w ho earned three WCHA Defensive Player of the Week awards on Oct. 11, Nov. 1 and Feb. 21, has played in 82 games at UM (through March 8) with a 40-27-9 record, a 2.38 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage over 4,559:54 of action.
The WCHA Coach of the Year for 2011-12 is Mel Pearson of Michigan Technological University, who led a resurgent Huskies team to an 11-13-4 league record and 26 points, just two points out of a top six finish and a first round home playoff berth. The most improved team in the WCHA this winter, Pearson left a long and successful tenure as the top assistant coach at CCHA-powerhouse Michigan to take over the MTU program and had the Huskies in contention for a top division finish through the final weekend of the regular season. A former Michigan Tech player, Pearson elevated the Huskies from a 4-30-4 overall record a year ago to a 14-18-4 mark so far this season and lifted them from a 2-24-2 league slate in 2010-11 to a 11-13-4 record in his first year behind the bench. Along the way, MTU posted a 7-5-2 home record in WCHA play, earned sweeps over Wisconsin and Alaska Anchorage, took three of four points from visiting Denver in late October and at defending national champion Minnesota Duluth on Jan. 27-28, and had an impressive WCHA road victory at Minnesota on Dec. 9.
Four conference-member teams – Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Denver – are represented on the All-WCHA First Team for 2011-12, with the Bulldogs and Gophers each landing two players.
Named to the All-WCHA First Team, with statistics for league games only, were: F – Jack Connolly, Sr., Minnesota Duluth (28 gp, 16-27=43); F - Nick Bjugstad, So., Minnesota (27 gp, 16-13=29); F - J.T. Brown, So., Minnesota Duluth (26 gp, 18-19=37); D - Justin Schultz, Jr., Wisconsin (28 gp, 10-18=28); D - Joey LaLeggia, Fr., Denver (28 gp, 8-20=28); G - Kent Patterson, Sr., Minnesota (20-8-0, 2.06, .918). Connolly was the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week on both Nov. 15 and Feb. 14, Bjugstad was the HCA National Player of the Month for November and the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week on Nov. 22. Brown was WCHA Offensive Player of the Week on both Feb. 7 and Feb. 28. Schultz earned the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week award on Nov. 29 and Jan. 24 and LaLeggia was so-honored on Jan. 17. Patterson, who was the HCA National Player of the Month for October, also received the league’s weekly defensive honor on Oct. 11, Nov. 1 and Feb. 21.
Members of the 2011-12 All-WCHA Second Team are: F - Jaden Schwartz, So., Colorado College (25 gp, 12-23=35); F - Drew Shore, Jr., Denver (27 gp, 14-23=37); F - Jason Zucker, So., Denver (27 gp, 19-18=37); D - Gabe Guentzel, Sr., Colorado College (28 gp, 4-16=20); D - Nate Schmidt, So., Minnesota (28 gp, 2-21=23); G - Kenny Reiter, Sr., Minnesota Duluth (15-7-5, 2.58, .904). Shore was the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week on both Oct. 25 and Jan. 4. Schmidt was the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week on Feb. 28 and Reiter earned the award on three occasions – Nov. 8, Nov. 15 and Jan. 11.
Voted to the All-WCHA Third Team for 2011-12 were: F - Mark Zengerle, So., Wisconsin (28 gp, 11-25=36); F - Brock Nelson, So., North Dakota (28 gp, 20-13=33); F - Travis Oleksuk, Sr., Minnesota Duluth (18 gp, 14-22=36); D - Nick Jensen, So., St. Cloud State (28 gp, 5-18=23); D - Ben Blood, Sr., North Dakota (28 gp, 1-13=14); G - Josh Thorimbert, So., Colorado College (12-4-1, 2.33, .928). Zengerle was the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week on March 6, Nelson was the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week on both Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 and Oleksuk was the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week on Jan. 11. Jensen earned the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week award on Dec. 20 while Thorimbert was so honored on Nov. 22 and March 6.
Members of the All-WCHA Rookie Team as selected by the voters for 2011-12 were: F - Kyle Rau, Fr., Minnesota (27 gp, 12-15=27); F - Jean-Paul Lafontaine, Fr., Minnesota State (28 gp, 10-13=23); F - Jayson Megna, Fr., Nebraska Omaha (28 gp, 12-12=24); D - Joey LaLeggia, Fr., Denver (28 gp, 8-20=28); D - Andrew Prochno, Fr., St. Cloud State (28 gp, 4-18=22); G - Juho Olkinuora, Fr., Denver (5-4-3, 2.32, .915). Rau, who was the HCA National Rookie of the Week for October, was a three-time WCHA Rookie of the Week – on Oct. 18, Feb. 21 and Feb. 28. Lafontaine earned the WCHA Rookie of the Week award on Nov. 8 and Prochno earned the honor on Jan. 24. Olkinuora earned both the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honor on Jan. 4 and the WCHA Rookie of the Week award on Nov. 29.
Repeat members of all-league teams from 2010-11 were: Jack Connolly, F, UMD (All-WCHA First Team in 2010-11); Justin Schultz, D, UW (All-WCHA First Team); Jason Zucker, F, DU (All-WCHA Second Team); Drew Shore, F, DU (All-WCHA Second Team); Kent Patterson, G, UM (All-WCHA Second Team); and Jaden Schwartz, F, CC (All-WCHA Third Team). Zucker, Schwartz and UMD forward J. T. Brown were members of the All-WCHA Rookie Team last season.
Two players named to the all-league teams were also honored on Feb. 15 as WCHA Scholar-Athletes for 2011-12. They were: Kenny Reiter, Sr., G, Minnesota Duluth (All-WCHA Second Team) and Nick Jensen, So., D, St. Cloud State (All-WCHA Third Team).
To earn recognition as a WCHA Scholar-Athlete, student-athletes must have completed at least one year of residency at their present institution prior to the current academic year and must also have a grade-point average of at least 3.50 on a 4.0 scale for the previous two semesters or three quarters, or may qualify if his or her overall GPA is at least 3.50 for all terms at his or her present institution.
Major award winners and members of the various all-league teams who were also recognized today as member of the 2011-12 men’s All-WCHA Academic Team were: Gabe Guentzel, Sr., D, Colorado College (All-WCHA Second Team); Drew Shore, Jr., F, Denver (All-WCHA Second Team); Jason Zucker, So., F, Denver (All-WCHA Second Team); Kent Patterson, Sr., G, Minnesota (All-WCHA First Team, WCHA Goaltending Champion); Nate Schmidt, So., D, Minnesota (All-WCHA Second Team); Jack Connolly, Sr., F, Minnesota Duluth (WCHA Player of the Year, WCHA Scoring Champion, All-WCHA First Team); Kenny Reiter, Sr., G, Minnesota Duluth (All-WCHA Second Team); Ben Blood, Sr., D, North Dakota (All-WCHA Third Team); Brad Eidsness, Sr., G, North Dakota (WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year); Brock Nelson, So., F, North Dakota (All-WCHA Third Team); Nick Jensen, So., D, St. Cloud State (All-WCHA Third Team); and Mark Zengerle, So., F, Wisconsin (All-WCHA Third Team).
Voting for the WCHA awards is done by conference member coaches, players, sports information directors and local media. Each team receives eight ballots for a total of 96 voters. Points for awards and all-league teams are awarded on a 5 (1st team vote), t3 (2nd team), and 1 (3rd team vote) basis. The WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year award is selected by member team Faculty Athletic Representatives while the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year is selected by the league’s 12 head coaches.
Thursday, March 08, 2012
Jack Connolly Named WCHA Player of the Year; Other League Honors
As usual, I present the WCHA press release announcing the league honors without commentary or snark. Just the facts, ma'am/sir.