CHN’s All-Hockey East ballot

Posted by: Joe Meloni

Hockey East’s official postseason awards will be handed out Wednesday, March 14 and Thursday, March 15. Day 1 will see all minor awards and the league’s all-rookie team, before the major distinctions and other honors are revealed the following evening.

The 2011-12 Hockey East season was a continuation of previous years of excellence from some players and teams. However, it also produced its share of revelations. As such, this was much harder to compile than I initially anticipated. In years past, there’s usually more unanimity for this type of stuff.

Some of the awards we decided were agreed upon by all CHN staffers that took part in my poll. In the next few weeks, we’ll see players and teams in this conference fight for the ultimate honor. Scott McLaughlin, Michael King, Joshua Seguin, Jill Saftel, Mike Machnik, Mike McMahon and I will be with you throughout the Hockey East Tournament up until Joe Bertagna hands out a trophy in nine days. For now, we’re taking the chance to hand out a few of our own. The seven of us voted and bantered, argued and agreed, eventually on the following names.

Let’s see if you agree.

All-Hockey East First Team

F — Spencer Abbott, Maine

F — Brian Flynn, Maine

F — Chris Kreider, Boston College

D — Brian Dumoulin, Boston College

D — Karl Stollery, Merrimack

G — Doug Carr, UMass-Lowell

EXPLAINED: Maine’s Spencer Abbott’s 56 point (19 goals and 37 assists) give him 11 more than the league’s second-leading scorer, Brian Flynn, his teammate and linemate with the Black Bears. Abbott was the lone unanimous selection among the forwards. Flynn’s three-zone dominance makes him the league’s top center. The duo has led the Black Bears back to home ice and a likely NCAA Tournament appearance. Kreider is probably the most talented player in Hockey East. His numbers, 20 goals and 17 assists, place him in a tie for fifth in the conference, but the junior’s dominance manifests itself best in the open ice he creates for his teammates. On the blue line, Brian Dumoulin has been a shutdown force in Hockey East since arriving in Chestnut Hill three years ago. His plus-19 rating is tops in Hockey East, and he’s developed his skills on the offensive end with five and 20 assists for the Eagles. Karl Stollery may not have the pedigree or certain NHL future of Dumoulin, but his role on one of the league’s best defenses cannot be understated. His seven goals and 14 assists are a good compliment to his duties facing opponents’ top lines every night. UMass-Lowell’s Doug Carr has, perhaps, been the most consistent goaltender in the league throughout the season. The sophomore’s 2.06 goals-against average and .926 save percentage are both second in the league, behind goaltenders that made fewer appearances than he did this year.

All-Hockey East Second Team

F — Matt Nieto, Boston University

F — Barry Almeida, Boston College

F — Joey Diamond, Maine

D — Garrett Noonan, Boston University

D — Chad Ruhwedel, UMass-Lowell

G — Joe Cannata, Merrimack

EXPLAINED: BU’s dynamic sophomore winger Matt Nieto finished the season tied with Kreider for fifth in the league in scoring. His ability to drive possession for the Terriers earned him a plus-15 rating to compliment his 13 goals and 24 assists. Up the road from Nieto and BU, BC’s Barry Almeida spent his final season with the Eagles becoming one of the conference’s top three-zone players. Adding to his already suffocating effort as a defensive forward, Almeida finished the regular season with 21 goals and 15 assists, including 15 points in his last 11 games. Maine’s Joey Diamond started the season as one of the league’s most troubled players due to a lack of discipline. Retargeting that aggression into his offense made the winger the perfect bit of sandpaper to match the finesse of Abbott and Flynn on Maine’s top line. His league-best 22 goals illustrate that perfectly. Garrett Noonan’s play was inconsistent at times early in the season, but the sophomore emerged as a dominant two-way player in the second half. His 14 goals are second nationally among defenseman, and his plus-18 rating proves his contributions on offense haven’t detracted from his defensive responsibilities. UML’s Chad Ruhwedel was just one of the handful of River Hawks to become top-tier players this season. His consistent growth throughout the year, paired with the development of several other UML players, helped the River Hawks finish second in the league in the regular season. Joe Cannata entered the year as the most likely candidate to earn top honors at the position, and he would’ve if not for Carr’s dominance. In 34 games this season, Cannata allowed more than two goals just seven times, finishing the year with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.

All-Hockey East Freshman Team

F — Johnny Gaudreau, Boston College

F — Ludwig Karlsson, Northeastern

F — Scott Wilson, UMass-Lowell

D — Alexx Privitera, Boston University

D — Trevor vanRiemsdyk, New Hampshire

G — Casey DeSmith, New Hampshire

EXPLAINED: One year ago, it seemed likely that Johnny Gaudreau would be on this list, but playing for Northeastern rather BC. Originally committed to NU, Gaudreau sought his release from a National Letter of Intent after Greg Cronin left last summer. The last-minute shakeup hardly fazed the winger. While inconsistency troubled him in the season’s middle months, he was among the league’s most productive players in Feburary with 12 points in seven games for the Eagles. He finished the year with 32 points on 16 goals and as many assists. Scott Wilson arrived in Hockey East with less hype than Gaudreau. Still, the Lowell winger led the surprising River Hawks with 15 goals and 20 assists. Aside from offensive contribution, Wilson has become a reliable penalty killer and responsible defensive forward for one of the nation’s best teams. Northeastern’s Ludwig Karlsson seemed to be a lock for this spot midway through the year, but he — along with most NU players — tapered off heavily in the second half. His 26 points (10 goals and 16 assists) were still good enough for the scoring lead on the Huskies. Trevor vanRiemsdyk’s career started poorly as UNH stumbled to an 0-4-1 start. However, the younger vanRiemsdyk still enjoyed a fine first season in Durham, becoming one of the league’s most complete underclassman blue liners. His teammate Casey DeSmith took over the starting job for UNH after Matt Di Girolamo struggled and Jeff Wyer suffered a season-ending injury. DeSmith became the de facto No. 1 Jan. 7 and posted a 2.23 goals against average and .928 save percentage in that time. His presence helped UNH fight back into the league playoff race.

Individual Awards

Hockey East Player of the Year

Spencer Abbott, Senior, Forward, Maine

EXPLAINED: Spencer Abbott’s 56 points are 11 higher than Brian Flynn’s 46. The duo, which makes up the left wing and center on Maine’s top line, certainly benefits from the presence of one another, not to mention Joey Diamond’s on the right. However, Abbott became a truly dominant offensive player in Hockey East this season, leading an offense that averages 3.50 goals per game. In league play, where points are even tougher to come by, Abbott was still good for more than one point per game with 15 goals and 23 assists in 27 games. His plus-16 rating improved steadily throughout the season, as he and his teammates became a better-rounded team.

Hockey East Freshman of the Year

Scott Willson, Forward, UMass-Lowell

EXPLAINED: Scott Wilson finished his first season in Lowell as the leading scorer on a team hosting a playoff series and virtually guaranteed a trip to the NCAA Tournament. His 35 points on 15 goals and 20 assists are only marginally better than the 32 of BC’s Johnny Gaudreau. However, Wilson as league’s freshman of the year was one of the few unanimous choices on this ballot due to his role as three-zone player for the River Hawks. He finished the season as a plus-14 and became a reliable penalty-killing option for UML. Furthermore, in league games, Wilson outscored Gaudreau with 12 goals and 16 assists to his counterpart’s 12 goals and 10 assists. His talent forced him into a greater role than most freshman in Hockey East are expected to deal with, and he excelled in this position.

Hockey East Goaltender of the Year

Doug Carr, Sophomore, UMass-Lowell

EXPLAINED: Much like Wilson, Doug Carr’s 2011-12 season began with very little expected of him. Carr wasn’t even UML’s No. 1 goaltender to start the season. All of that changed quickly, as Carr finished his first 10 games of the season with a 1.80 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. As the season progressed, Carr faltered to an extent, getting pulled twice in a three-game stretch against Boston University and Merrimack. Still, ending the season second in the league in both save percentage and goals-against average behind DeSmith and BC’s Parker Milner, who played fewer games than Carr, gets him the nod for the league’s top netminder in our eyes.

Hockey East Coach of the Year

Norm Bazin, First Year, UMass-Lowell

Contributions from his standout players didn’t hurt Norm Bazin’s case. But something has to be said for the transformation UML experienced in 2011-12. Last year, under Blaise MacDonald, the River Hawks won five games and missed the Hockey East Tournament. Immediately upon taking the job, Bazin’s confidence manifested through the program. The River Hawks matched their win total from a season ago on Nov. 12, 2011. Currently at 22-10-1, UML has already won 17 more games than did a year ago, and there’s a good chance that figure will only improve as the postseason begins.

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