Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last nine years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason has been with the Star Tribune since 2012.
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Boston University’s Jack Eichel became just the second freshman to ever win the Hobey Baker Award honoring college hockey’s most outstanding player on Friday evening in Boston.
Eichel, a product of North Chelmsford, Mass., and NHL standout Paul Kariya (University of Maine in 1993) are the only freshmen to win the award’s 35-year history. Eichel beat out North Dakota junior goaltender Zane McIntyre and Harvard junior forward Jimmy Vesey for the top honor.
The 18-year-old college rookie has 70 points (26 goals, 44 assists) and a plus-51 rating through 39 games this season. He scored two goals and an assist in Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal to lead Boston University past North Dakota 5-3 and advance to Saturday’s national championship game against Providence at TD Garden in Boston.
McIntyre claimed the 2015 Mike Richter Award given to college hockey's top goaltender on Friday morning in Boston. The Thief River Falls, Minn., native led North Dakota to back-to-back Frozen Fours, but lost in the national semifinals for a second straight year after a 5-3 loss to Boston University on Thursday.
He recorded a 29-10-3 record and played all but 43 minutes this season. McIntyre's 29 wins lead the nation and are one shy of the North Dakota's all-time single-season record, his save total (1,111) is second in the nation, winning percentage (.726) is sixth, he's 11th in save percentage (.929), and 16th in goals-against average (2.05).
The one-time Frank Brimsek Award recipient honoring the top goaltender in Minnesota high school hockey, was the NCHC Goaltender of the Year after a standout regular season and is one of three Hobey Baker Award finalists. He's been especially good in close games, closing out the season with an 11-2-3 record in one-goal contests and had 15 games with 30 or more saves.
The other finalists for the 2015 Mike Richter Award were Kyle Hayton of St. Lawrence, Jake Hildebrand of Michigan State, Alex Lyon of Yale (Baudette, Minn., native) and Jamie Phillips of Michigan Tech. Gophers former goaltender Adam Wilcox was a finalist in 2014.
Gophers captain Kyle Rau was named a Senior CLASS Award Second Team All-American on Thursday. The award stands for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, and focuses on the “total” student-athlete that uses their platform in athletics to make a positive difference as leaders in their community.
Colgate senior defenseman Spiro Goulakos was selected the 2014-2015 Senior CLASS Award winner. North Dakota defenseman and Chanhassen, Minn., native Nick Mattson also earned Second Team honors.
Rau passed on signing a pro contract after a standout junior season and returned for a final year of college hockey, leading the Gophers to a fourth consecutive conference regular-season championship and a conference tournament championship.
He signed an entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers on March 29, two days after the Gophers' season ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and scored a goal in his first professional hockey game with the Panthers’ AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage.
The two-time captain, two-time All-Big Ten selection, and All-America honoree capped his college career ranked 18th on the Gophers’ career points list and fourth among players in the Don Lucia era with 164 points (67 goals, 97 assists) in 160 games. He recorded 40 points or more in each of his four seasons.
Rau was a three-time academic all-conference recipient, honored as Gopher Hockey’s John Mayasich Outstanding Student Athlete Award, and recognized as the Henry L. Williams Legacy Award’s top male student-athlete at the University of Minnesota.
Minnesota native and North Dakota's junior goaltender Zane McIntyre is one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award given annually to college hockey's top player.
Boston University's freshman forward Jack Eichel and Harvard's junior forward Jimmy Vesey round out the top three that were unveiled on Thursday morning.
McIntyre, a Thief River Falls, Minn., product, is North Dakota's all-time leader in career goals-against average and save percentage and was named First Team All-NCHC, the conference's Goalie of the Year and was a finalist for Player of the Year.
McIntyre led North Dakota back to the Frozen Four with a 29-9-3 record, one shutout, a goals-against average of 2.00 and save percentage of .931. He's also a finalist for the Mike Richter Award honoring the nation's top goaltender.
Gophers junior defenseman Mike Reilly was left out of the Hobey Hat Trick threesome after the team's early exit from the NCAA tournament. He was one of 10 finalists for the award.
The Gophers suffered the loss of the offseason's first early departure on Wednesday morning.
Junior defenseman Brady Skjei's name popped up on the American Hockey League's transaction page as signing an amateur try-out contract with the Hartford Wolf Pack, an affiliate of the New York Rangers.
The Rangers selected Skjei in the first round (28th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. The organization was interested in signing the Lakeville native after his sophomore season, but Skjei chose to join his fellow Gophers standouts and return with hopes of redeeming last year's defeat in the national championship game.
That goal was spoiled last Friday in a 4-1 loss to Minnesota Duluth in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Skjei played a shutdown role on the backend for the Gophers over the last three seasons. He missed six games this year with injuries, but finished with 10 points (one goal, nine assists), had a plus-eight rating and 29 blocks.
"Brady had a terrific career here at the University of Minnesota, helping us earn three regular-season titles, a playoff title and three NCAA tournament berths," coach Don Lucia said. "He has been a great program guy -- a guy who always put the team first -- and we look forward to seeing him continue to develop as a professional player."
Skjei is the first early departure for the Gophers since the 2013 offseason. Last year's standouts labeled ready for professional hockey (Skjei, Kyle Rau, Mike Reilly, Adam Wilcox, Hudson Fasching) all returned for another year of college hockey.
Reilly and Wilcox are considered doubtful to return for their senior seasons, but those decisions could be delayed if either chooses to test free agency. Fasching has also been mentioned among names ready to make the jump to pro hockey.
Seniors Seth Ambroz, Kyle Rau and Travis Boyd all signed pro contracts within the days following the Gophers' season-ending defeat.
Senior forward Travis Boyd, arguably the Gophers' most consistent skater this season, signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Washington Capitals the organization announced on Tuesday morning.
The two-year contract goes into effect for the 2015-2016 season, but Boyd will join the Capitals AHL affiliate the Hersey Bears this week on a tryout contract.
Boyd compiled a career-best 41 points and 19 goals in just 32 games this season, more than doubling his previous single-season goal total. Despite missing seven games with a lower-body injury, he was the team's top goal-scorer at times and led the nation with a .288 shooting percentage. His 10 power-play goals rank second in the country.
"I couldn't have asked for a better college experience over the last four years, and I will always be proud to be a Golden Gopher," Boyd said in a statement. "I'm excited to be signing with the Washington Capitals, and I'm looking forward to the next step in my hockey career."
The Hopkins native was a consistent two-way threat and logged extra ice time for the Gophers, especially late in the game. Boyd also centered an all-senior line with wings Sam Warning and Seth Ambroz that helped fuel the Gophers' second-half turnaround that secured Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships.
He earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors and was named to the All-Big Ten Tournament Team. Boyd finished his college career with 96 points (32 goals, 64 assists) in 148 games. His class won four straight regular-season conference championships, one conference tournament, played in four NCAA tournaments, appeared in two Frozen Fours and one national championship game.
"This is a great opportunity for Travis to continue his hockey career, and we certainly wish him the best," coach Don Lucia said. "Travis was a big part of our program over the last four years, and we look forward to seeing him continue to be successful at the next level."
Boyd was drafted by the Capitals in the sixth round (177th overall) of the 2011 draft. He's the third member of the senior class, joining Ambroz and Kyle Rau, to sign after the Gophers were ousted in the first round of the NCAA tournament.