INCH Goaltender of the Year: Marc Cheverie
Denver goaltender Marc Cheverie gained notoriety in October when he led his team into Mariucci Arena and shut out Minnesota on consecutive nights -- as the season progressed, we discovered that stifling the Gophers' offense wasn't a big deal, but we digress. He remained a frontrunner for the 2010 Hobey Baker Award with excellent performances against the likes of North Dakota, Boston College, and Colorado College.
Given Cheverie's occupancy of the college hockey public consciousness, it shouldn't be a surprise that he's Inside College Hockey's choice as Goaltender of the Year. It wasn't easy choosing between Cheverie and Cornell netminder Ben Scrivens, however.
Cheverie made 35 starts, one more than Scrivens, and finished the season with 24 wins. Scrivens, who won 21 games, played a greater percentage of his team's minutes -- all but approximately 58 minutes, actually -- had a better goals against average (1.87 to 2.08), save percentange (.934 to .932), and seven shutouts, one better than Cheverie. By the way, any argument stating Scrivens is a product of the Cornell system lacks merit; on average he faced less than two fewer shots per game than Cheverie and made less than two fewer saves per start.
Based on that data, it would appear Scrivens holds the edge. So what tipped the scales in favor of Cheverie? Two statistics stand out. One is Cheverie's record in starts following losses: He was 7-2-0 with four shutouts in his first start immediately after a loss and allowed a total of nine goals in those games. The other was his play during a crucial late-season stretch following DU's loss and tie at Wisconsin. The Pioneers reeled off nine straight wins en route to the WCHA regular-season championship. Cheverie started eight of those games, giving up a total of 11 goals.
We felt like we could not go wrong in picking either Cheverie or Scrivens for this honor. By the slimmest of margins, we picked Cheverie.
His runner-up: Ben Scrivens, Cornell
INCH Defenseman of the Year: Brendan Smith
It says something about the season Wisconsin defenseman Brendan Smith had in 2009-10 when he stands head and shoulders above the other members of the Badgers' million-dollar blueline. In fact, the junior's offensive numbers -- Smith led the nation's blueliners in goals (15), assists (32), and points (47) -- are the most by a defenseman since Denver's Matt Carle put up 53 points in his Hobey Baker-winning season of 2005-06.
Unlike Carle, Smith won't win the Hobey Baker Award -- he was one of the 10 semifinalists for the honor but was not among the three finalists -- but he was the obvious choice as Inside College Hockey Defenseman of the Year. The Mimico, Ontario native broke out in a big way for the Badgers, more than doubling the point total he amassed during his first two seasons in Madison. Certainly, part of his success was due to playing a larger role on the team's power play; Smith scored 11 power-play goals for Wisconsin, a number eclipsed by only five players the country. But much of it has to do with finally staying healthy for an entire season. After missing a combined 27 games during his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Smith played in all but one of his team's 41 games this year.
Like a lot of high-scoring collegiate defensemen, Smith's offensive aptitude currently outweighs his proficiency in his own end, an area in which the Detroit Red Wings' prospect -- he was taken in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft -- needs to improve. His strengths on offense are impressive, however. Smith is a great skater and an excellent puck mover with terrific vision. As a power-play quarterback, he's second to none and he has an uncanny knack for sneaking into the soft spots of an opponent's penalty kill, where he'll lock and load, ready to receive a feed and unleash a wicked one timer.
Smith will no doubt have a lot of fans cheering for him at the Frozen Four. In addition to the Wisconsinites hoping he can help lead the team to a second national title in five seasons, he'll also have support in Detroit from followers of a local NHL club whose color scheme is similar to that of the Badgers. Winged-wheel watchers will like what they see.
His runner-up: Erik Gustafsson, Northern Michigan
INCH Coach of the Year: Nate Leaman
A lot of coaches lead their teams to better-than-expected finishes every year. Others lead teams that fail to meet expectations. For Union and head coach Nate Leaman, expectations were exceeded. It was the best season in the program's 19-year Division I history that included a school-record 21 wins, its first appearance in the ECAC Hockey Championship weekend and title game and a place in the national rankings for 14 straight weeks.
Union's season was the product of a progression over the last several years. Current seniors were given lots of ice time and lots of responsibility as younger players and the likes of Mike Schreiber, Mario Valery-Trabucco and Jason Walters grew into being some of the best players in ECAC Hockey. A freshman goalie, Keith Kinkaid, was eased into the job upon his arrival on campus but turned into the team's go-to-guy between the pipes. Leaman made the decision to go with backup goalie Corey Milan in the second and third games of Union's conference quarterfinal series against Quinnipiac and Milan did the job, making 57 saves on 59 shots in two victories.
The tangible results and achievement are excellent. Other, less measureable data also trends positively for the Dutchmen. A once-dormant Messa Rink is now the place to be on campus Friday and Saturday nights, and the change in attitude around the program is such that winning is now an expectation. This isn't a one-and-done run for Union.
His Runner-Up: C.J. Marottolo, Sacred Heart
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