COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Three forwards earned 2019-20 hardware from the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) on Wednesday, including two from North Dakota and a repeat winner from Minnesota Duluth. North Dakota junior Jordan Kawaguchi corralled NCHC Forward of the Year, while UND freshman Shane Pinto picked up NCHC Rookie of the Year honors. Minnesota Duluth junior Justin Richards was tabbed NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year for the second straight season, the first player to win that honor twice.
A First-Team All-NCHC selection and finalist for NCHC Player of the Year (announced Thursday), Kawaguchi (Abbotsford, B.C.) is the first North Dakota player to claim NCHC Forward of the Year. He also shared the NCHC’s Three Stars Award on Monday. The undrafted free agent was the top-scoring forward in NCHC play and was second in conference scoring overall with 30 points in 22 games. The UND assistant captain tallied seven goals and 23 assists in NCHC play, while his 1.36 points per game led the conference. Kawaguchi recorded 16 of his NCHC points on the power play, tops among forwards, while firing 44 shots on goal and posting a +5 plus/minus. The Hobey Baker Award finalist tallied a point in 16 of his 22 NCHC games, including 10 multi-point games and four three-point games. Kawaguchi was a three-time NCHC Forward of the Week and two-time NCHC Player of the Month during the year. Overall on the season, he finished second nationally with 45 points (15g, 30a) in 33 games and was named USCHO Player of the Year.
Richards (Columbus, Ohio) was once again a sound two-way player for UMD in becoming the first to repeat as NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year, while Dominic Toninato in 2017 is the only other Bulldog to win the award. Richards led the conference with 307 faceoff wins in NCHC play, going 307-222 in the center circle for a .580 win percentage, which ranked sixth in conference play. The assistant captain was the only NCHC player to score two short-handed goals in conference play this season and played on UMD’s top penalty kill unit, helping the Bulldogs finish second in conference play with an 83.0 percent kill rate. Richards totaled 18 points in NCHC play on 10 goals and eight assists, playing in all 24 games and recording a +9 plus/minus. He also blocked 14 shots in conference play and committed only six minor penalties. In all 34 games this season, Richards finished with 25 points (14g, 11a), including four short-handed points (3g, 1a) and was +14. He was a Second-Team All-NCHC selection in 2018-19.
A member of the NCHC All-Rookie Team, Pinto (Franklin Square, N.Y.) joins current Vancouver Canuck Brock Boeser in 2015-16 as the only other UND player to earn NCHC Rookie of the Year. The Ottawa Senators second round draft pick led all NCHC freshmen with both 11 goals and 19 points in 23 conference games this season, while chipping in eight assists, which tied for second among rookies. Pinto tallied two game-winning goals in NCHC play, including the Penrose Cup-clinching goal in overtime on Feb. 29. His 65 shots on goal led all NCHC rookies, as did his 234 faceoff wins, while his .650 faceoff win percentage led the entire NCHC in conference play. Pinto tallied a point in 14 of 23 NCHC games, including four multi-point games, tops among freshmen, and finished with a +10 plus/minus, which was second among NCHC newcomers. He was a three-time NCHC Rookie of the Week and the NCHC February Rookie of the Month this year, as well. Overall on the season, Pinto compiled an NCHC-rookie-best 28 points on 16 goals and 12 assists in 33 games with a +19 plus/minus.
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 Thursday, the final NCHC individual awards for 2019-20 will be announced, including NCHC Player of the Year, Herb Brooks Coach of the Year and the NCHC’s Senior Scholar-Athlete Award.
The NCHC has already handed out some individual awards over the last week: