Minnesota Duluth did not have the chance to win its third consecutive NCAA men’s hockey championship because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the Bulldogs still ended up with a nice consolation prize.
They have the best player in all the land.
Bulldogs defenseman Scott Perunovich was named the 2020 Hobey Baker Award winner as the nation’s top college hockey player on Saturday night, beating out North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi and Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman for the sport’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
Perunovich, a junior from Hibbing, Minn., becomes the sixth Minnesota Duluth player to win the Hobey, two more than any other school. He joins defenseman Tom Kurvers (1984), right winger Bill Watson (1985), left winger Chris Marinucci (1994), right winger Junior Lessard (2004) and center Jack Connolly (2012).
“I’m extremely honored and humbled to be this year's Hobey Baker Award recipient,’’ Perunovich said on ESPN. “Five other Bulldogs have won this coveted award before me, so it's just a privilege to join them.''
A 2018 second-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues who signed with the NHL team on March 27, Perunovich is a three-time All-America selection who was a key player in the Bulldogs’ back-to-back NCAA championships in 2018 and ’19. He led UMD in scoring this season with 40 points on six goals and 34 assists, helping the team to a second-place finish in the NCHC and status as the No. 4 team in the final PairWise Ratings. Perunovich was named player of the year in the NCHC and national player of the year by College Hockey News.
"With Scott Sandelin running that program, he does a great job and we recruit a lot of good players,'' Perunovich said of UMD's coach. "The expectation is always a national championship, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of two of them.’’
Perunovich ranked second among NCAA defensemen with 40 points, while his 22-power-play points led all skaters and his 34 assists ranked second nationally. He burst upon the college hockey scene in 2017-18, amassing 11 goals and 25 assists on the way to winning the Tim Taylor Award as the nation’s top freshman. As a sophomore, he battled a back injury but still contributed three goals and 26 assists. He finished his Bulldogs career with a plus-50 rating.
The Hobey Baker Award winner was selected by a 30-member committee and online fan voting. . Criteria for the award included: displaying outstanding skills in all phases of the game, strength of character on and off the ice, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements. The award started in 1981, and Perunovich is the 10th Minnesota native to be honored.
Kawaguchi, a junior from Abbotsford, British Columbia, finished second in the country with 45 points on 15 goals and 30 assists. His 13 game-winning points led the country, and he had five game-winning goals. Kawaguchi was named nation player of the year by U.S. College Hockey Online and helped UND become the nation’s No. 1 team in the final PairWise Ratings.
The 22-year-old was not drafted by an NHL team and said he plans to return to Grand Forks for his senior season.
The Mike Richter Award for outstanding goalie of the year went to Swayman, the Hockey East player of the year the junior lead college hockey with 1,099 saves, finished second in save percentage (.939) and had a 2.07 goals-against average and three shutouts. He had an 18-11-5 record.
Minnesota State sophomore Dryden McKay was one of the five finalists. He led the nation in wins (30), goals-against average (1.31), save percentage (.942) and shutouts (10), tying the NCAA single-season record.
The Hockey Humanitarian Award for off-ice contributions went to Amanda Conger of Division III St. Anselm.
Perunovich and Kawaguchi also were named to the American Hockey Coaches Association West All-America first team, along with Minnesota State senior forward Marc Michaelis and McKay. Bulldogs sophomore forwards Noah Cates and Cole Koepke and senior goalie Hunter Shepard were named to the second team, as was Minnesota State junior defenseman Connor Mackey.
Here are the All-America teams:
West first team
D: Scott Perunovich, jr., Minnesota Duluth
D: Ian Mitchell, jr., Denver
F: Jordan Kawaguchi, jr. North Dakota
F: Marc Michaelis, sr., Minnesota State
F: Hugh McGing, sr., Western Michigan
G: Dryden McKay, so., Minnesota State
West second team
D: Cole Hults, jr., Penn State
D: Connor Mackey, jr., Minnesota State
D: Alec Rauhauser, sr., Bowling Green
F: Noah Cates, so., Minnesota Duluth
F: Cole Koepke, so., Minnesota Duluth
F: Nate Sucese, sr., Penn State
East first team
D: David Farrance, jr., Boston University
D: Jack Rathbone, so., Harvard
F: John Leonard, jr., Massachusetts
F: Jack Dugan, so., Providence
F: Morgan Barron, sr., Cornell
G: Jeremy Swayman, jr., Maine
East second team
D: Yanni Kaldis, sr., Cornell
D: Mike Lee, sr., Sacred Heart
F: Nick Abruzzese, fr., Harvard
F: Jason Cotton, sr., Sacred Heart
F: Tyler Madden, so., Northeastern
G: Frank Marotte, sr., Clarkson