COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – While the winners will not be revealed until next Thursday, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) unveiled the finalists and nominees for 11 of its individual awards for the 2016-17 season this Thursday. The winners will be announced and presented their awards on March 16 at the annual NCHC Awards Celebration at Muse Event Center in Minneapolis on the eve of the fourth annual NCHC Frozen Faceoff.
Three seniors are up for NCHC Player of the Year in Denver defenseman Will Butcher, Minnesota Duluth forward Alex Iafallo and Miami forward Anthony Louis. Butcher led NCHC blue liners with 25 points in conference play, appearing in all 24 NCHC games, while posting a conference-best plus-18 rating. Iafallo won the NCHC scoring title with 30 points in 24 games, tallying 11 goals and a plus-13 rating in conference play, while Louis was third in NCHC scoring with 27 points in 24 NCHC games, notching eight goals and 19 assists.
The top three teams in the NCHC standings produced the three finalists for the NCHC Herb Brooks Coach of the Year award, none of which have won it previously. Denver head coach Jim Montgomery led the Pioneers to their first Penrose Cup as regular-season champions, posting an 18-3-3-0/2 record in NCHC play with the 59 points earned tying an NCHC record. Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray led the best turnaround in the conference as the Broncos finished third this season after placing seventh last year and being picked to finish seventh this season in the preseason poll. Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin guided the Bulldogs to a runner-up finish in NCHC play with a 15-5-4-1/2 record and 52 points.
Only two student-athletes are finalists for the Senior Scholar-Athlete Award (previously Scholar-Athlete of the Year) in Denver forward Matt Marcinew and Omaha forward Justin Parizek. Marcinew boasts a 3.7 grade-point average while majoring in Real Estate and Construction Management. He is a two-time NCHC Scholar-Athlete Team recipient and has totaled 63 points, including 28 goals, in 152 career games played. Parizek carries a 3.78 GPA while majoring in business and is also a two-time NCHC Scholar-Athlete Team honoree. The Mavericks’ team captain has totaled 73 points, including 33 goals, in 130 career games.
Up for Rookie of the Year are a pair of Bulldogs and a Pioneer. UMD forward Joey Anderson finished second in NCHC scoring among freshmen with 18 points in 23 conference games on nine goals and assists each. DU forward Henrik Borgström captured the rookie scoring title with 19 points in 20 NCHC games (0.95 ppg) and also led freshmen with 12 goals. UMD goaltender Hunter Miska is the third nominee after leading NCHC rookie goalies with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage, while starting all 24 NCHC games, the only goalie to do so.
Miska is also one of three finalists for NCHC Goaltender of the Year, along with Western Michigan freshman Ben Blacker and Denver junior Tanner Jaillet. Miska led all NCHC netminders with four shutouts while his 15 wins were second to Jaillet’s 16, posting a 15-4-4 record (.739). Jaillet led the NCHC in most goaltender statistics with a 1.65 GAA and .936 save percentage, while his 16-2-3 record and .833 win percentage also led the conference. Blacker, an NCHC All-Rookie Team selection this year, posted a 10-4-1 mark with a .912 save percentage and a 2.79 GAA in 16 NCHC games.
Four finalists are up for Forward of the Year, including Iafallo and Louis, along with Denver sophomore Dylan Gambrell and Omaha senior Austin Ortega. In addition to his scoring title, Iafallo’s 1.25 points per game led the NCHC as well, while tallying two short-handed goals and two game-winners in conference action. Louis handed out an NCHC-leading 10 assists on the power play while he and Iafallo both tied for second with 19 assists in NCHC games. Gambrell was fifth in NCHC scoring with 25 points in 24 games, including 10 goals, while Ortega was second in NCHC scoring with 28 points in 23 games, also tallying 10 markers.
St. Cloud State sophomore Will Borgen, Minnesota Duluth sophomore Neal Pionk and North Dakota junior Tucker Poolman are finalists for a new award this season, Defensive Defenseman of the Year (replacing Defenseman of the Year). Borgen blocked 19 shots in 23 NCHC games, while Pionk logged a plus-12 rating with 38 blocked shots in 24 games. Poolman also played in all 24 NCHC games, racking up a plus-6 rating with 28 blocked shots.
Pionk is also up for Offensive Defenseman of the Year, along with Butcher and Omaha junior Luc Snuggerud. Pionk tied for third in NCHC defenseman scoring with 18 points on four goals and 14 assists, while Butcher’s 22 assists in conference play led all NCHC players, along with leading defensemen in scoring. Snuggerud was second among NCHC defenseman scoring with 22 points in 24 games, including leading all blue liners with nine goals in conference play.
Two more Bulldogs and a Bronco are up for Defensive Forward of the Year. WMU senior captain Sheldon Dries led all NCHC forwards with 46 blocked shots in 24 games while posting a plus-6 rating. UMD junior Karson Kuhlman logged a plus-17 rating in 24 NCHC games, which led forwards in conference play, while blocking 16 shots. Senior teammate Dominic Toninato is the third finalist, compiling a plus-13 rating in 24 NCHC games, also blocking 16 shots.
Four student-athletes were nominated by their institutions for the NCHC’s Sportsmanship Award, which is presented to the player who displays sportsmanship based on values, respect and integrity, going beyond the game’s rules regarding etiquette, and also positively affects his community’s sports culture and environment. The four nominees are North Dakota senior goaltender Matt Hrynkiw, Kuhlman, St. Cloud State junior forward Judd Peterson and Omaha junior forward Tyler Vesel.
The final award is the Three Stars Award, which was first handed out last season and is presented to the player who accumulates the most points (based on a 5-3-1 scale) in conference games for being named one of the Three Stars of the Game. The four highest point totals for earning top-three stars are WMU’s Blacker, DU’s Borgström, Minnesota Duluth sophomore forward Adam Johnson and his teammate in net, Miska.
For most of the awards, finalists were determined based on voting by the conference’s head coaches and one student-athlete from each team with the top three vote-getters (plus ties) being finalists. The Senior Scholar-Athlete Award finalists were determined in a vote by the conference’s Faculty Athletics Representatives (FARs) while the Three Stars Award finalists are the players with the highest Three Stars of the Game point totals from the season. Sportsmanship Award nominees were nominated by each institution. Athletic Directors at each NCHC institution had a vote on Herb Brooks Coach of the Year, rather than the student-athletes.
In addition to these 11 award winners being announced at the NCHC Awards Celebration next Thursday, March 16, the NCHC will also announce its Postgraduate Scholarship winner and recognize its All-Rookie and All-Conference Teams, which were announced earlier this week. The NCHC announced its all-academic teams in February.
Player of the Year Finalists
Will Butcher, Sr., D, Denver
Alex Iafallo, Sr., F, Minnesota Duluth
Anthony Louis, Sr., F, Miami
Herb Brooks Coach of the Year Finalists
Jim Montgomery, Denver
Andy Murray, Western Michigan
Scott Sandelin, Minnesota Duluth
Senior Scholar-Athlete Award Finalists
Matt Marcinew, F, Denver
Justin Parizek, F, Omaha
Rookie of the Year Finalists
Joey Anderson, F, Minnesota Duluth
Henrik Borgström, F, Denver
Hunter Miska, G, Minnesota Duluth
Goaltender of the Year Finalists
Ben Blacker, Fr., Western Michigan
Tanner Jaillet, Jr., Denver
Hunter Miska, Fr., Minnesota Duluth
Forward of the Year Finalists
Dylan Gambrell, So., Denver
Alex Iafallo, Sr., Minnesota Duluth
Anthony Louis, Sr., Miami
Austin Ortega, Sr., Omaha
Defensive Defenseman of the Year Finalists
Will Borgen, So., St. Cloud State
Neal Pionk, So., Minnesota Duluth
Tucker Poolman, Jr., North Dakota
Offensive Defenseman of the Year Finalists
Will Butcher, Sr., Denver
Neal Pionk, So., Minnesota Duluth
Luc Snuggerud, Jr., Omaha
Defensive Forward of the Year Finalists
Sheldon Dries, Sr., Western Michigan
Karson Kuhlman, Jr., Minnesota Duluth
Dominic Toninato, Sr., Minnesota Duluth
Sportsmanship Award Nominees
Matt Hrynkiw, Sr., G, North Dakota
Karson Kuhlman, Jr., F, Minnesota Duluth
Judd Peterson, Jr., F, St. Cloud State
Tyler Vesel, Jr., F, Omaha
Three Stars Award Finalists
Ben Blacker, Fr., G, Western Michigan
Henrik Borgström, Fr., F, Denver
Adam Johnson, So., F, Minnesota Duluth
Hunter Miska, Fr., G, Minnesota Duluth