Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's national-title day!

Minnesota Duluth will go for its first national championship and the WCHA's first since 2006 when it plays Michigan at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul at 6 p.m. tonight. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Duluth undoubtedly will get the support of a lot of the "home" crowd, although Michigan will have plenty of fans there, too. The Wolverines are going for their NCAA-leading 10th national title.

The Bulldogs are carrying the banner for the WCHA and will be playing not just a CCHA team, but a Big Ten team that will be breaking away, along with Minnesota and Wisconsin, in a couple of years. Michigan, which has the hottest goalie (a former walk-on, no less) in the tournament, has defeated three WCHA teams to get to the title game — Nebraska-Omaha, Colorado College and North Dakota — to get to tonight's game against a fourth from the conference.

On Friday, Miami's Andy Meile won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation's best player. He led the country in scoring and was the highest point-producing player (71 points) since the 2002-03 season. I was a Hobey voter for three years (2002-2004) and probably would have voted for North Dakota's Matt Frattin if I had a vote this year. However, I don't think a voter could go wrong with either pick. (Actually, voters list their top five of the top 10 finalists in order of preference. It was a top-three list when I voted, if memory serves.)

UPDATE: All-American teams were also announced on Friday, and seven WCHA players earned first- and second-team honors. Here's the list:

AHCA All-Americans
West first team
F — Matt Frattin, North Dakota
F — Andy Miele, Miami
F — Jack Connolly, Duluth
D — Chay Genoway, North Dakota
D — Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
G — Pat Nagle, Ferris State

West second team
F — Mike Connolly, Duluth
F — Carter Camper, Miami
F — Carl Hagelin, Michigan
D — Jake Gardiner, Wisconsin
D — Zach Redmond, Ferris State
G — Aaron Dell, North Dakota

East first team
F — Cam Atkinson, Boston College
F — Paul Thompson, New Hampshire
F — Chase Polacek, RPI
D — Blake Kessel, New Hampshire
D — Brian Dumoulin, Boston College
G — Keith Kinkaid, Union

East second team
F — Stephane Da Costa, Merrimack
F — Gustav Nyquist, Maine
F — Paul Zanette, Niagara
D — Taylor Fedun, Princeton
D — Nick Bailen, RPI
G — John Muse, Boston College

So who do you like in tonight's game? The best line in the country? The hottest goalie? The home-state 'Dogs? The mighty Wolverines?


Dave said...

You would seriously voted for Frattin(The Lawnmower Man) even with his off ice issues during his career? I believe that character is carries just as much weight as playing the game does. He hasn't exhibited any quality off the ice to make him worthy of the Hobey Baker Award. The Hobey committee did right by voting for Miele, class act off the ice and great player on the ice. My 2 cents Shane.

Sam said...

I like the Bulldogs tonight, and I hope Jack Connolly just goes off. Normally I'd root against UMD, but on a night when the WCHA is competing against the CCHA (soon to be Big 10), you have to pull for the best conference in college hockey. So, for one night, go Duluth!

I also agree with Dave. Frattin could score, but the kid had some serious character issues. To me, the award encompasses what the player did on AND off the ice. Besides, Miele scored an astounding 71 points! That's unbelievable.

I followed Andy quite a bit when he was in juniors (USHL), and he was ALWAYS on the score sheet. I don't know how he continues to do it, but it's extremely impressive. Congrats to Andy, and here's hoping he can continue to score in the NHL.

Shane Frederick said...

Dave and Sam ...

No question that character counts, and Frattin's off-ice behavior from last season should be noted.

However, I think his story from this season — call it
redemption, call it maturity, call it "figuring it out" — should also be noted. He just about lost it all, college-hockey-wise, last year due to his own issues and had to earn it back. And he had to do it the right way. Not only did he do that but he became one of, if not the best, players in the country — certainly the most clutch (through the Final Five, anyway) — after cleaning up his act.

I think his story is one that many players could/should take note of. Too many athletes feel like they are owed the world. They don't work hard, and they don't take responsibility for their misdeeds. Frattin could have taken the easy way out, blamed others, complained about how UND treated him, turned pro, etc. He could have come back to school and have been a third- or fourth-line player, someone in and out of the lineup week to week.

He should be applauded for that. Does that mean he deserves the Hobey? No, that's up to each individual voter. I'd have no problem if someone chose not to vote for him — or at least put someone else ahead of him — for character reasons alone.

It's a great debate, though.