COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A pair of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs repeated as National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) individual award winners in 2019-20, while North Dakota senior defenseman Colton Poolman also received NCHC accolades on Tuesday. UMD junior Scott Perunovich won NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the Year for the third time in as many years, becoming the first NCHC player to win any year-end individual award three times. His teammate, senior netminder Hunter Shepard, garnered Goaltender of the Year for a second straight season. Poolman was named 2019-20 NCHC Defensive Defenseman of the Year, joining his older brother, Tucker (2016-17), as the only other Fighting Hawk to win the award.
Along with being a three-time Offensive Defenseman of the Year, Perunovich (Hibbing, Minn.) is a three-time First-Team All-NCHC selection, again earning the honor this season, the first NCHC player to do so. Perunovich was named the NCHC’s co-Three Stars Award winner on Monday and is also a finalist for NCHC Player of the Year (announced Thursday). The St. Louis Blues draft pick became the first defenseman to win the NCHC scoring title, racking up 32 points in 24 conference games, including an NCHC-best 28 assists. Eighteen of his points came on the power play, tops in the conference. He recorded a point in 17 of 24 NCHC games, including 10 multi-point outings. In addition, Perunovich was a five-time NCHC Defenseman of the Week and February Player of the Month this season. He is also a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and was named College Hockey News’ Player of the Year on Tuesday, as well. Perunovich ranked second nationally in defensemen scoring with 40 points overall this season (6g, 34a).
Shepard (Cohasset, Minn.) becomes the second netminder to capture NCHC Goaltender of the Year twice, joining Denver’s Tanner Jaillet in 2017 and 2018. Shepard, an undrafted free agent, was also named First-Team All-NCHC this season, his second straight year earning First-Team honors, after landing on the Second Team in 2017-18. Shepard was the only goaltender to start all 24 conference games this season, going 17-5-2 with one shutout (Nov. 23 vs. Colorado College). His 17 wins led the NCHC, while his .923 save percentage and 2.13 goals-against average both ranked second in conference play. He racked up 615 saves in conference play, second-most in the NCHC, averaging 25.6 saves per game. Shepard was a seven-time NCHC Goaltender of the Week this season and the January NCHC Goalie of the Month. On the season, Shepard finished 22-10-2 overall, starting every game and breaking the NCAA record for consecutive starts, while posting a 2.18 GAA and a .918 save percentage.
Poolman (East Grand Forks, Minn.) followed in his brother’s footsteps in capturing NCHC Defensive Defenseman of the Year. The newest member of the Calgary Flames, who signed on Friday and is now an NHL rival with Tucker of the Winnipeg Jets, earned Honorable Mention All-NCHC for the third straight season this year. He is also a finalist for the NCHC's Senior Scholar-Athlete Award on Thursday. The two-time UND captain played in 21 conference games this season, blocking 26 shots while posting a +9 plus/minus. He committed only one minor penalty in conference play all season, while helping North Dakota to a NCHC-best 2.04 goals against per game facing NCHC foes. Poolman also anchored a penalty kill unit that finished first in NCHC play with an 86.9 percent kill rate. Offensively, he chipped in 10 points (2g, 8a) in conference games and led the Fighting Hawks to the Penrose Cup as regular-season champions.
Voting for the NCHC’s individual year-end playing awards was conducted by the eight head coaches at each institution and eight media members, one covering each member school.
On Wednesday, the NCHC will announce Forward, Defensive Forward and Rookie of the Year. Then on Thursday, NCHC Player of the Year, Herb Brooks Coach of the Year and Senior Scholar-Athlete will be revealed.
The NCHC has already handed out some individual awards over the last week: