Today's Free Press column was on Minnesota State's postseason awards. Players voted for those awards on the Monday after their season ended, but I'm not sure when they will be announced to the team or released.
Picking these winners was just about as tough as picking the all-WCHA teams. There were plenty of good and deserving choices for each. Anyway, here were my choices:
MVP: Ben Youds. The junior defenseman edges out some of his teammates up front, not only because he ended up leading the team in scoring by season's end but because the Mavericks had a vastly improved defense in a season in which it was critical for that to happen (young goalies, scoring troubles). Youds was a blue-line leader who helped keep most games at least close. He logged a ton of minutes on special teams, too. Others considered: Jerad Stewart, Zach Harrison.
Hustle award: Jerad Stewart. The senior forward worked harder than he had during his first three seasons at MSU, and that's saying something. The hustle even paid of in the scoring department, as Stewart reached career highs with 13 goals and 25 points. By the time the St. Cloud State playoff series had ended, Stewart had three stitches above his brow, adding to a pretty impressive scar collection. He's a fitting choice for an award won by his former teammate Trevor Bruess the last three seasons. Others considered: Geoff Irwin, Zach Harrison.
Most improved: Evan Mosey. There are two ways of looking at this award. One is improvement from one year to the next. In that category, Stewart probably deserves it. He was just two points shy of doubling the point total from his first three seasons. Lately, MSU has been giving the award to someone who improves from the beginning of the year to the end. With that criteria, Mosey, a freshman defenseman, gets the nod. He went from being in and out of the lineup to being a regular and even a power-play guy by the playoffs. Others considered: Stewart, Phil Cook.
Unsung hero: Tyler Elbrecht. I'll admit, I was lobbied a bit on this one, but I think it's a good choice. But the freshman defenseman quietly had a solid first season, logging a ton of minutes as Youds' defensive partner and a true defensive defenseman. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder finished the year as a plus (+/-) player, and chipped in with five assists too. Last year, Kael Mouillierat won this award, perhaps because he was left off the all-WCHA teams. If that's the case, others considered: Youds, Kurt Davis.
Those are the Mavericks' official awards. If they had one for top newcomer, that would be the most difficult of all. Who would that go to? Tyler Pitlick, Phil Cook, Michael Dorr? I'll call that one a three-way tie.