With the second half of the Hockey East and college hockey season beginning later this week, it’s time to look back on the first half of 2011-12.
While Hockey East as a whole was rocked by the arrest of now-former Boston University senior Corey Trivino, the first half did produce some fantastic performances and surprising results. We watched UMass Lowell become a national contender and Northeastern score nine goals on Notre Dame.
We saw Ludwig Karlsson, Doug Carr and Johnny Gaudreau emerge as stars in this league, while young players like Bill Arnold, Mike Pereira and Matt Nieto continued on their paths to becoming truly great players in Hockey East. We also received a healthy dose of the expected as Boston College ended the first half as the team top team in the conference, and Merrimack built on its success from last season to become a contender for a national championship.
In the first half of our look at the first half of the Hockey East season, we’ll focus on individuals in the league. In Part 2, we’ll focus on some of the players to keep an eye on and moments to remember. At the end we’ll look forward to the second half of the season, and what you can expect from around Hockey East. Hockey East writers Michel King, Scott McLaughlin, Jill Saftel, Josh Seguin and I collaborated on these lists, awards and predictions.
Player of the First Half
Chris Kreider, Junior, Forward, Boston College
This hardly registers as a surprise for most, but Kreider pieced together the most consistent first half for the best team in the conference. The Eagles closed the first half a 3-2 loss to UMass Lowell, but won three of four before that defeat. Kreider leads the league in goals with 12 — if you discount the 13 scored by Trivino before he got booted earlier this month — and sits tied with Maine’s Spencer Abbott for points at 23. Entering the season, Kreider was a clear Hobey Baker favorite, and he’s lived up to that expectation so far.
Freshman of the First Half
Ludwig Karlsson, Forward, Northeastern
Karlsson missed the first two games of the season dealing with NCAA Clearinghouse issues, but the Swedish winger wasted little time making up for his absence. He recorded an assist in his first game, a 4-0 win over New Hampshire, and picked up at least a point in his first four games with the Huskies. While he closed the first half pointless in three of his final four games, the four assists he picked up in the Huskies’ 9-2 win over Notre Dame on Dec. 12 pushed his first half totals to six goals and eight assists for 14 points — the most among any freshman in the conference.
Goaltender of the First Half
Joe Cannata, Senior, Merrimack
Whether or not Merrimack is the best team in the conference will not be known until early March. Right now, though, it’s certain that the Warriors do have the league’s best goaltender. After guiding the Warriors to the NCAA Tournament last season, the senior closed the first half of his final year in North Andover, Mass., with a 1.77 goals-against average and a remarkable .937 save percentage. UMass Lowell’s Doug Carr and Northeastern’s Chris Rawlings are having strong campaigns, but Cannata sits atop the league in those two categories.
Coach of the the First Half
Norm Bazin, UMass Lowell
The River Hawks are 10-5-0 a year after finishing in the basement of Hockey East. Many expected more of the same from UML this season, as it made the transition from departed coach Blaise MacDonald to Bazin. Almost instantly, the coach’s uptempo, aggressive system sparked the River Hawks, who seem like a lock for a top four spot come Hockey East Tournament time. While his final game of the first half came with one of the most questioned decisions of the season — pulling Doug Carr with more than 3 minutes remaining in a one-goal game on a power play — it signified the aggressiveness he brings to the River Hawks. Bazin trusts his players unconditionally. That’s going to blow up in his face sometimes, but he’s 10-5-0 in his first semester as a Division I coach, so it’s worked more often than not.
First Half First Team All Conference
Goaltender – Joe Cannata, Senior, Merrimack
Defenseman – Brian Dumoulin, Junior, Boston College
Defenseman – Chad Ruhwedel, Sophomore, UMass Lowell
Forward – Spencer Abbott, Senior, Maine
Forward – Chris Kreider, Junior, Boston College
Forward – T.J. Syner, Senior, Massachusetts
First Half Second Team All-Conference
Goaltender – Doug Carr, Sophomore, UMass Lowell
Defenseman – Tommy Cross, Senior, Boston College
Defenseman – Karl Stollery, Senior, Merrimack
Forward – Bill Arnold, Sophomore, Boston College
Forward – Stevie Moses, Senior, New Hampshire
Forward – Matt Nieto, Sophomore Boston University
First Half All-Freshman Team
Goaltender – Kevin Boyle, Massachusetts
Defenseman – Dan Cornell, Northeastern
Defenseman – Trevor vanRiemsdyk, New Hampshire
Forward – Johnny Gaudreau, Boston College
Forward – Ludwig Karlsson, Northeastern
Forward – Scott Wilson, UMass Lowell