SAINT PAUL, Minn. – After announcing the conference’s finalists for its awards last Thursday, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) unveiled its award winners for the 2017-18 season Thursday night at its annual NCHC Awards Celebration at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Denver and Minnesota Duluth took home three awards each, while SCSU picked up two awards, as did Omaha, both of which were academic-related.
For the second straight year, a Pioneer captured NCHC Player of the Year in DU sophomore forward Henrik Borgström (Helsinki, Finland), who also earned NCHC Forward of the Year, as one of two players to pick up a pair of awards on the night. The Hobey Baker Award finalist captured the NCHC scoring title with 33 points in 24 games, including 14 goals and 19 assists. A First-Team All-NCHC selection, Borgström leads the NCHC in overall points with both 21 goals and 49 points in 36 games. The Florida Panthers prospect tallied a goal in 15 games this year, while notching at least a point in 28 with 13 multi-point games. He was the NCHC Rookie of the Year last season, when DU defenseman Will Butcher earned Player of the Year.
Claiming NCHC Herb Brooks Coach of the Year for the second time in his career was St. Cloud State bench boss Bob Motzko, who also won the inaugural award in 2014. In his 13th season at the helm of the Huskies, Motzko led SCSU to a 22-6-6 regular-season record and their second Penrose Cup title as NCHC regular-season champions with a 16-4-4 mark. The Huskies had a 22-point improvement in the NCHC standings, tops among all teams, after placing fifth a season ago. The two-time U.S. National Junior Team coach led the Huskies to 13 victories over teams that finished the regular season in the USCHO.com Poll.
The second NCHC player to take home two awards was Minnesota Duluth freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich (Hibbing, Minn.), who won both Rookie of the Year and Offensive Defenseman of the Year. The draft-eligible blue liner led all NCHC freshmen and tied for third nationally among rookies with 34 points overall, nine more than any other rookie, while his 24 assists also led NCHC freshmen. The 34 points lead all rookie blue liners nationally and are second among NCHC blue liners. His +19 plus/minus also topped all NCHC rookies overall. In conference play, Perunovich led all NCHC defensemen with both eight goals and 24 points in 24 games and was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team.
The second Pioneer to win an award Thursday was senior Tanner Jaillet (Red Deer, Alberta), who claimed NCHC Goaltender of the Year for the second straight season. Jaillet posted a 19-8-7 overall record with five shutouts, which ranks second in the NCHC, while leading the conference with both a .927 save percentage and a 1.91 goals-against average. In conference play, Jaillet tied for the NCHC lead with four whitewashes and led all netminders with the same 1.91 GAA and a 12-5-5 record. He also earned First-Team All-NCHC honors for a second straight season.
Garnering Defensive Defenseman of the Year was St. Cloud State junior Will Borgen (Moorhead, Minn.). The Buffalo Sabres prospect led a Huskies defense that ranked in the top 15 nationally, while blocking 53 shots and helping SCSU kill over 80 percent of its penalties. The 2018 U.S. Olympian also added two goals to help the Huskies capture the Penrose Cup as regular-season champions, while he was an All-NCHC Honorable Mention selection this year as well.
North Dakota junior Rhett Gardner (Moose Jaw, Sask.) was selected the NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year. The Dallas Stars draft pick won 57.8 percent of his faceoffs during conference play and ranked third in faceoff wins, despite missing six games due to injury. Gardner added seven goals and 13 assists overall on the season, while the assistant captain finished +6.
The second of two Mavericks to capture an academic award, forward Tyler Vesel (Rochester, Minn.) earned the Senior Scholar-Athlete Award, after senior defenseman Joel Messner was announced the NCHC Postgraduate Scholarship winner on Monday. Vesel carries a 3.88 grade-point average while majoring in exercise science. The assistant captain is a four-time Academic All-Conference selection and was named an NCHC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete this season as well. Earlier this year, the Edmonton Oilers prospect became the 16th Maverick to join the Century Club with 100 career points and totaled 32 points, including a team-high 21 assists, this season. Messner was also presented his Postgrad Scholarship certificate on Thursday.
Minnesota Duluth senior forward Karson Kuhlman (Esko, Minn.) was chosen as the NCHC’s Sportsmanship Award winner for his demeanor and attitude both on and off the ice. The team captain played in all 38 games this season and has played in 160 straight games, never missing a game in his career, the longest active streak in the country. Kuhlman ranks second on the team with 11 goals and totaled 16 points, while committing only nine minor penalties. He is also active in the Duluth community, working with the Duluth Freighters, a special sled hockey team.
Colorado College sophomore forward Nick Halloran (Draper, Utah) captured the NCHC Three Stars Award for earning the most “Three Stars” points in conference play. He was named a First Star five times in NCHC Play, while totaling 31 points of “Three Stars,” using a 5-3-1 scale. Halloran upped his point total 36 points from his rookie campaign, the biggest improvement in the country. His 44 points this year tied for the NCHC regular-season overall scoring lead, while he was second with 19 goals. Halloran finished second in the NCHC scoring race with 31 points in conference play.
The final award of the night went to journalist Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, who earned the inaugural NCHC Media Excellence Award. Schlossman is the beat writer for North Dakota, having covered college hockey for the Herald for the last 13 years. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees, as well. The award was voted on by the conference’s sports information directors.
For most of the awards, winners were determined based on voting by the conference’s head coaches from each team. The Senior Scholar-Athlete and Postgrad Scholarship winners were determined in a vote by the conference’s Faculty Athletics Representatives (FARs), while the NCHC Awards Committee selected the Sportsmanship Award. Athletic Directors at each NCHC institution had a vote on the Herb Brooks Coach of the Year, as well.
2017-18 NCHC Individual Award Winners
Player of the Year – Henrik Borgström, Denver
Herb Brooks Coach of the Year – Bob Motzko, St. Cloud State
Rookie of the Year – Scott Perunovich, Minnesota Duluth
Goalie of the Year – Tanner Jaillet, Denver
Forward of the Year – Henrik Borgström, Denver
Defensive Defenseman of the Year – Will Borgen, St. Cloud State
Offensive Defenseman of the Year – Scott Perunovich, Minnesota Duluth
Defensive Forward of the Year – Rhett Gardner, North Dakota
Senior Scholar-Athlete Award – Tyler Vesel, Omaha
Sportsmanship Award – Karson Kuhlman, Minnesota Duluth
Postgrad Scholarship – Joel Messner, Omaha
Three Stars Award – Nick Halloran, Colorado College
Media Excellence Award – Brad Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald