A year ago, Henrik Borgstrom was a finalist for NCHC Rookie of the Year honors.
This year, the Denver sophomore took that accomplishment a couple of steps further, earning NCHC Player of the Year honors at the conference’s awards celebration on Thursday at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Borgstrom, a Helsinki, Finland, native, leads the NCHC and ranks fifth nationally with 49 points on 21 goals and 28 assists. He also earned NCHC Forward of the Year honors a day after being selected as one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the most outstanding player in college hockey.
Borgstrom beat out St. Cloud State junior defenseman Jimmy Schuldt and Nebraska Omaha senior forward David Pope for NCHC Player of the Year.
Denver had a second major award with senior Tanner Jaillet being named the NCHC Goaltender of the Year for the second consecutive year. Jaillet, 19-8-7 with a 1.90 goals-against average and .927 save percentage, beat out Minnesota Duluth sophomore Hunter Shepard and St. Cloud State freshman David Hrenak for the award.
St. Cloud State, the NCHC regular-season champion, didn’t come away empty. The Huskies’ Bob Motzko was named Coach of the Year and junior Will Borgen was named Defensive Defenseman of the Year. Motzko won the award over Minnesota Duluth’s Scott Sandelin and Colorado College’s Mike Haviland. Borgen beat out Nebraska Omaha’s Joel Messner, North Dakota’s Colton Poolman and Minnesota Duluth’s Nick Wolff for the honor.
Minnesota Duluth freshman Scott Perunovich, who has a team-high 34 points on 10 goals and 24 assists, picked up two awards – Rookie of the Year and Offensive Defenseman of the Year. The other rookie finalists were Hrenak and Denver defenseman Ian Mitchell. The other offensive defenseman finalists were Schuldt and North Dakota’s Christian Wolanin.
North Dakota junior Rhett Gardner was named Defensive Forward of the Year, beating out Minnesota Duluth’s Karson Kuhlman and Nebraska Omaha’s Tyler Vesel.
Other awards were:
Senior scholar-athlete: Vesel.
NCHC postgraduate scholarship: Messner.
Three Stars award: Colorado College sophomore forward Nick Halloran.
Media excellence: Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald.
The four teams in the Frozen Faceoff – North Dakota, St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth and Denver – held practice and news conferences Thursday at Xcel Energy Center ahead of Friday’s semifinals, and here are some highlights:
It’s a team game
Schuldt was happy to be named one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award on Wednesday, but he’s not taking full credit.
“I’m obviously honored to be recognized, but the success that our team has had, it just seemed like someone should be rewarded, and there’s plenty of guys who could be exactly where I am. … It’s something to be proud of, but at the end of the day there’s a lot bigger things we are focused on.’’
Adjusting to the small sheet
St. Cloud State plays its home games on an Olympic-sized ice sheet at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, but the Huskies don’t seem concerned about facing North Dakota in Friday’s semifinal on the smaller, NHL-sized sheet at the Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s about time and space. It’s a smaller rink, and our power play has to get used to making quicker plays,’’ Huskies captain Judd Peterson said. “… We play games all year on NHL-sized rinks, so it doesn’t make a difference if we’re Olympic or NHL.’’
North Dakota’s Gardner has 11 points in 12 games against St. Cloud State, and Motzko’s goal is to keep the 6-3, 220-pounder away from the puck.
“He’s a big, strong, powerful kid who gets a lot of ice time. He carries himself high in the saddle, like he’s a ballplayer,’’ Motzko said. “… We want to mount our own attack and make him have to defend us. He’s just the jersey number now that we’re watching. There’s been a whole slew of them we’ve had to follow over the years. I hope they have to chase a few of our guys around, too.’’
Tip of hat to seniors
Perunovich was one of five Minnesota Duluth players who played for the United States in the World Junior Championship. He sees that experience as helpful but credited the Bulldogs’ leadership for easing the transition of the team’s 10 freshmen.
“This guy next to me has been one of the best captains I’ve ever had,’’ Perunovich said, pointing to Kuhlman. “The older guys on the team have really helped the young guys get more comfortable as the year goes on.’
MSU Mankato’s Suess is WCHA Player of the Year
Minnesota State Mankato senior forward C.J. Suess was named the WCHA Player of the Year. The Forest Lake native has 22 goals and 21 assists and is a plus-17 for the Mavericks, who won the conference regular-season title. One of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, Suess has four game-winning goals and has assisted on four other winners. He is the first MSU Mankato player to win the award.