The WCHA added two new teams this year, and unfortunately didn’t expand the awards at all, making it even tougher to fill out a ballot in this, the toughest of conferences. The player and coach of the year seemed fairly easy, but first, second and third team selections were extremely difficult to fill out. My awards are below, as well as an attempt to preempt some criticism.
Player of the year – Matt Frattin, North Dakota
Frattin was incredible this year. The Senior is tied for the national lead in goals per game, is 4th in goals per game, and did it all against one of the toughest schedules in the country. North Dakota has played exactly two games against non-TUC teams this year, and as a result, Frattin has more goals against TUCs than the next two highest scorers combined.
Coach of the year – Dean Blais, Nebraska-Omaha
I picked UNO to finish fairly high, so the Mavs didn’t really surpass my expectations, but there is no doubt that Blais has been great for the school. In two years he has taken them from CCHA also ran to a 3rd place finish in the WCHA. The school will also make only its second NCAA tournament appearance later this month.
Freshman of the year – Jason Zucker, Denver
It came down to Zucker and Jaden Schwartz, but Schwartz’s injury sealed it for the Pioneer. Zucker ended up finishing 3rd in the WCHA in points per game, and was 2nd in the conference in goals only to Frattin. I always thought he would make an impact in college, but I never thought he would be able to make this much of an impact this early.
(ed. added a jump. Sorry for the extreme length)
F – Matt Frattin, North Dakota
F – Mike Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth
F – Jason Zucker, Denver
D – Jake Gardiner, Wisconsin
D – Chay Genoway, North Dakota
G – Kent Patterson, Minnesota
- Frattin is an obvious choice, as is Zucker in my mind. I like Mike Connolly over Jack and Justin Fontaine due to his balance in terms of goals and assists and I think he contributes on both ends of the ice very well. Defensively I went with Gardiner over Schultz because while Schultz has more points Gardiner was the best all around defenseman in the league this year to me. Genoway missed some time with an injury but logged a ton of minutes for a Sioux team that was best in the conference defensively. Patterson led the league in save percentage and saved the Gophers’ season after Alex Kangas went down.
F – Jason Gregoire, North Dakota
F – Jack Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth
F – Drew Shore, Denver
D – Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
D – Ben Blood, North Dakota
G – Sam Brittain, Denver
- Gregoire ended up 4th in the conference in goal scoring, and second only to Frattin in goals per game. Though I think Mike is the better overall player, Jack Connolly was one of the best setup men in the country this year, and that deserves to be rewarded. I haven’t seen Blood recognized in too many people’s all league teams, but as hesitant I am to credit a guy’s +/-, Blood’s was the best in the league and like Genoway he played a lot of tough minutes on the best defensive team in the conference. Brittain played less than 1300 minutes, so I am willing to hear objections on him being on the 2nd team, but he had a .920 save percentage and I still say he should have been the guy on Canada’s WJC team this year.
F – Matt Ambroz, Nebraska-Omaha
F – Matt Read, Bemidji State
F – Justin Fontaine, Minnesota-Duluth
D – Matt Donovan, Denver
D – Eric Olimb, Nebraska-Omaha
G – Mike Lee, St. Cloud State
- I am assuming most Omaha and North Dakota fans will want to know why Lee is the goalie over either Faulkner or Dell. My answer is fairly simple: though UND and UNO were the best two defensive teams, it was because of their overall defensive play, not the play of their goalies. Omaha and North Dakota each had around 14 PIM per conference game, not really enough in my mind to make their even strength save percentage that much different than their overall save percentage. Though Dell had the best winning percentage in the league, he was 7th in save percentage and his GAA was due to having 6 very good defensemen in front of him. Faulkner had a lot of shutouts this year, and shut out some very good teams, but was 8th in save percentage. And he was 8th in save percentage with good players around him, it’s not as if he was carrying the team. I have seen arguments for both of them, but none that sway me from Lee, who had better statistics despite playing with worse players. And before someone says that the fact that Faulkner and Dell’s teams won so many games means they were good goalies, I am going to shut that down right now by saying that is the laziest analysis around.