Monday, April 18, 2011

2010-2011 HighHorse Awards

Connolly's Take Home More Awards

It is that time of year that we sit down and look at the season while doling out the HighHorse Awards. It was unanimous across the board this year in the voting by HighHorse writing staff. Presenting the 3rd Annual HighHorse Awards:

Huffer Christiansen Award (MVP): This year it is very difficult to pick one player as the MVP as there were so many at the top end level. In the end, you need not look further than the FFC line. All three contributed on nearly an equal level, but we give it to the guy that was the play maker and the most consistent throughout the season, Jack Connolly. Jack lead the team in assists with 41, and was tied for second in power play goals at 7 with Mike Connolly. After three seasons Jack is averaging better than a point a game having recorded 137 points in 125 games. With a senior season coming up next year all Bulldog fans are hoping third All-American season.

This was not without some discussion as dissenting voter, Andrew Craig, made a case for Mike Connolly. We then looked into the consistency of play and wholeheartedly agreed on Jack.

Rookie of the Year: The discussion again came down to two names, J.T. Brown and Justin Faulk. We will honor Faulk as he was a quarter back on the defensive line. Brown had a tremendous freshman season which included being named the Most Outstanding Player in the Frozen Four, but his 8 game stretch where he didn’t get into the box score was too much to earn this award. As for Justin Faulk any time a blue liner has a season where he 8-25-33, it is an impressive season. Nearly enough to garner his own talk for the Huffer Christiansen Award. Unfortunately Justin's time as a Bulldog is over as he signed a pro contract.

Most Improved Player: Again this award is splitting hairs just like in the MVP discussion. Two good choices are Travis Oleksuk and Kyle Schmidt. Both had great seasons. Kyle dealt with injuries all year and still managed to score 11 goals, two of which were game winners and the last one being the biggest game winner ever in UMD history. Schmidt also won the national Unsung Hero Award which we believe is much more fitting than our Most Improved. Kyle has the tools, he just had to battle hard through injuries this year. T.O. upped his point total from his sophomore season of 24 points to 33 points this year. He had 14 goals and a team leading 7 game winning goals. We are going to give the award to Oleksuk with his very impressive 0.77 points and two OT game winners.

7th Defenseman Award: Given to the defenseman who steps up, becomes a regular player for the team and makes an impact. This year we salute Justin Faulk. It is unexpected to give the award to a freshman for the second year in a row, but he does fit the crtieria of stepping up and making an impact. This award could have gone to Kenny Reiter for his stepped up play in the NCAA Playoffs, but Faulk had the feel for the most of the season.

#29 Award: Given to the leading goal scorer and named after the most famous #29 from UMD, Brett Hull. For both conference games and overall games that player this year was Mike Connolly. Mike lead the team in goals scored at 28. He played strong all season and his 5-goal game (tying Steve “Pokey” Traschel for the UMD record) against the Gophers is one that Bulldogs fans will remember for a long time. As Mike has decided to forgo his senior season, he will be greatly missed. We at the College Hockey HighHorse had speculated that if he would have returned for a senior season Mike and Jack each would have likely approached the 200 point career, but instead we wish him the best in this future with San Jose.

Those are our awards for the season. With this we also put a close on the 2010-2011 UMD Bulldog season except for the final report card which we will skip. How do you grade a team that has won the National Championship?

This is a season that every Bulldog fan will remember forever. We felt that this team has been so close to being at the top the last few years, but it took the right combination of players to get there. For next season, 2011-2012, UMD will be the reigning NCAA Champions and will have a target on their back every game. The graduating seniors and early departures will make for a lot of holes to fill, but with a year of experience for the current young players will go a long way.

It should also be noted that there are no players on any other WCHA team that have the experience of winning a NCAA Championship. This should build confidence for next year.

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