March 23, 2012

NCAAs give Hobey Baker nominees final chance to impress

By Jesse Connolly

With just hours to go until the 2012 NCAA tournament commences, eight of the ten Hobey Baker finalists are about to get one last chance to make an impression. 

BC defenseman Brian Dumoulin (Biddeford, Maine) is among the ten nominees for this year's Hobey Baker Award. (Dave Arnold Photography)

The three Hobey Hat Trick finalists will be named on March 29, while the winner will be unveiled on April 6 at the Frozen Four down in Tampa. With the final vote taking place next week, this weekend’s tournament action could undoubtedly sway a few opinions.

Unfortunately for Justin Schultz (Wisconsin) and Austin Smith (Colgate), no such opportunity lies ahead, as their teams didn’t qualify.

For those looking for a little local flavor, there are plenty of New England ties among the current nominees.

Spencer Abbott (Maine) – The Black Bears’ senior forward led the entire nation in scoring and enters the tournament with 20 goals and 41 assists in 38 contests. Unfortunately, Maine’s star up front is doubtful for the opener against Minnesota-Duluth. Abbott was driven into the boards hard by BU defenseman Sean Escobedo during the Hockey East semifinals last week. He missed the championship game against BC the following night and all indications are he’ll be out of action on Saturday against the defending national champions.

Jack Connolly (Minnesota-Duluth) – Connolly and Minnesota-Duluth will have to get past the likely-Abbott-less Black Bears in the first round if they hope to keep their repeat hopes alive. The senior forward, who has 58 points in 39 games, is the brother of BU captain Chris Connolly.

Brian Dumoulin (Boston College) – BC’s ever-reliable defenseman is a long-shot at best when it comes to potentially becoming one of the Hobey Hat Trick finalists, but that’s certainly no slight on Dumoulin (Biddeford, Maine). The steady rearguard had six goals and 20 assists this year for the Eagles and will undoubtedly play a big role in shutting down Air Force, whose offense ranked 14th in the nation at 3.13 goals per game.

Troy Grosenick (Union) – Tying the ECAC Goaltender of the Year to New England might be a stretch. Nevertheless, Grosenick did prevent the region from adding one squad to the list of 16 participants in the tournament, as he backstopped Union to victory in the ECAC championship game against Harvard. Grosenick comes in with the third best goals-against average in the nation (1.65). His squad will take on Michigan State on Friday at 3 o’clock.

Shawn Hunwick (Michigan) – Generously listed at 5-foot-7, Hunwick has improved every year at Michigan, culminating in a senior season that saw him post a 24-11-3 record and a .933 save percentage (tying him for fourth in the nation). Hunwick’s older brother, Matt, spent parts of four seasons patrolling the blue line for the Boston Bruins. The Wolverines will square off with Cornell on Friday at 9 o’clock.

Tim Kirby (Air Force) – If the top team in the nation, the Boston College Eagles, don’t advance, it’s likely that Kirby will be one of the biggest reasons why. The Minnesota-born defenseman led all Air Force rearguards with 28 points this season. More importantly, he helped the Falcons finished with the third-ranked defense in the nation, as Air Force allowed just 2.13 goals per game.

Torey Krug (Michigan State) – Not too many defenseman finish as their team’s leading point-getter. Not even Justin Schultz, who led all college hockey d-men with 44 points, pulled off that feat. For Krug, however, his 33 points were tops among all Spartans. He and Michigan State will have a tough time against a Cornell squad that went 18-8-7 overall and finished second behind Union in the ECAC.

Reilly Smith (Miami) – If UMass-Lowell wants to make the most of their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1996, they’re going to have to shut down Smith. The high-flying forward ranked second in the nation with 30 goals this season, which accounted for more than 25 percent of Miami’s total goals. Keep him in check and the River Hawks should be in good shape.