Saturday, April 13, 2013

Last day of the season, end of an era

Today is the final day of the 2012-13 college hockey season. Top-ranked Quinnipiac and its ECAC and in-state rival Yale (Connecticut, the state of hockey!) will square off in the national championship game (6 p.m., ESPN).

When it's over, the conference changes will really kick into gear, with the formation of the Big Ten and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, the dismantling of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and the restructuring of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Next year will take some getting used to, for sure (In need of a "new" WCHA primer already; check out this blog post by the Toledo Blade's John Wagner.)

On Friday, St. Cloud State got its first Hobey Baker winner, as Drew LeBlanc captured the award. LeBlanc probably won more on his story than his stats (13 goals, 50 points ... In 2002, St. Cloud's Mark Hartigan led the nation in goals with 37 and was second in points with 75 and lost out to Minnesota defenseman Jordan Leopold), and it's a story that's good for college hockey. I honestly thought Quinnipiac goalie Eric Hartzell was going to win and probably should have won the award this year after playing in 41 games with a .934 SV% and a 1.53 GAA (although I'm not going to say he got hosed).

LeBlanc becomes the ninth Hobey winner from the WCHA since 2002. With the balance of power changing with the conference shakeups coming, that has prompted some to wonder ...

I saw that tweet and immediately thought it could happen in the next year or two if Minnesota State's Matt Leitner continues his scoring pace (47 points this year). There is also Mavs goalie Stephon Williams and Bowling Green forward Ryan Carpenter.

Also on Friday, the American Hockey Coaches Association named its All-Americans for the season. I wasn't necessarily expecting a Minnesota State player to make All-American, but Denver goalie Juho Olkinuora was named to the West's second team. He was second-team WCHA, too, while the Mavericks' Williams was a first-team pick.

(Isn't it odd that college hockey's All-Americans are still divided between East and West with two teams each, for a grand total of four AA teams? Making it odder is that this year's East first team has three defensemen for seven players. I'd advocate for making it truly national; perhaps go to three teams with East and West honorable mentions.)

Finally, the next week or so will be interesting to see who gets hired to fill the coaching openings at Alaska Anchorage, Denver, Maine and Connecticut.

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