The first round of ten finalists have been narrowed down to the final three or “Hat Trick” for college hockey’s top individual honor.
This year marks the first time in the nine-year format of the Hobey Hat Trick that all three finalists have come from the same conference (Hockey East), and the first time since 2005 that two of the three players have come from the same team. The winner of this year’s Hobey Baker will also be the award’s first recipient from Hockey East since 2000.
The three players that make up this year’s Hat Trick are Matt Gilroy and Colin Wilson (NSH) of Boston University, and Brad Thiessen (PIT) of Northeastern University.
Boston University has had only player that has ever won the Hobey Baker Award. That came back in 1998 when Chris Drury accomplished the feat. Northeastern has never had a player that has won the Hobey Baker Award.
Below is a closer look at each Hat Trick finalist.
Matt Gilroy, D
Senior, Boston University
NHL Rights: Undrafted
Defenseman Matt Gilroy has become one of the best stories to come out of college hockey this season. The soft-spoken rearguard has earned the much-deserved respect from both teammates and opponents alike through skill, hard work and leadership by example. While NHL prospects on the team such as Colin Wilson and sophomore forward Nick Bonino (ANA) may have been talked about more around the hockey community at large, Gilroy is the player that is truly the heart and soul of the Boston University Terriers, and nowhere more so than on defense.
“Matt’s not only had good years here (at BU), but he’s gotten better and better every year,” Boston University head coach Jack Parker said of Gilroy. “I think the thing that has gotten him noticed is the fact that he’s such a real good offensive defenseman. He can skate, move the puck and jump into the play. But he’s also becoming a good defensive player too. Matt’s decided that he wants to excel at it. The fact that he’s become as dominant defensively as he has offensively is something that frankly is very, very impressive.”
Last season, Gilroy was named an All-American and thereafter became one of the most sought-after free agents available. He fielded offers from 23 NHL teams last summer and that’s not likely to change this off-season either.
The North Bellmore, NY native has played in all 43 games thus far this season, posting 36 points (eight goals, 28 assists). His plus-21 ranks fifth on the team. Among the numerous accolades that Gilroy has earned this season include the 2008 Walter Brown Award as the top American-born, Division I player playing at a New England college, and the College Hockey News Player of the Year.
Brad Thiessen, G
Junior, Northeastern University
NHL Rights: Pittsburgh Penguins
No team in the NCAA leaned as heavily on one player this season as the Northeastern Huskies did on Brad Thiessen. The junior netminder was an absolute workhorse between the pipes. He played all but 5:44 seconds of 41 games this season, going 25-12-4 that included three shutouts. Of those 41 games, Thiessen allowed two goals or less in 24 of them and one goal or less in 16. What makes the feat even more remarkable is the fact that he regularly faced 30 or more shots in a game.
The Aldergrove, BC native also rewrote the Northeastern goaltending history books as well. He sets new school single-season records in wins (25), games played (41), goals against average (2.12), save percentage (.931), saves (1,195) and minutes played (2495:44). His 2.40 goals against average, .922 save percentage and nine shutouts are all school career-records.
Thiessen’s outstanding season earned him the Hockey East Player of the Year honor as well as the Leonard Fowle Award as New England’s Most Valuable Player.
“Brad won the single awards because the goalie is the guy on the ice that has the biggest impact on the game,” said head coach Greg Cronin said of Thiessen during the NCAA Tournament Regionals media teleconference. “If there is one guy that really moved this program forward on the strength of his will power and his talent, it’s Brad.”
Thiessen is a goaltender with great athleticism that thrives in big game situations. He can single-handedly win games as well as be a game-saver. He is confident, focused and isn’t one to get rattled easily.
An undrafted free agent, Thiessen was recently signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Colin Wilson, C
Sophomore, Boston University
NHL Rights: Nashville Predators
This season featured a number of excellent NHL-drafted prospects turning in magnificent performances in the NCAA, but none have done it better than Boston University’s Colin Wilson. The Winnipeg, MB native has been a force to be reckoned with all season long for the Terriers. As good as Wilson was last season, he has been even better this season. His combination of toughness with superb playmaking skills, and the tremendous ability to make those around him better has been a key reason why the Terriers are contending for the National Championship this season. Wilson has also been a catalyst on a very deep and offensively potent Boston University team that is averaging nearly four goals per game.
“Colin has an incredible ability to find passing lanes and create scoring chances for his linemates,” Boston University associate head coach David Quinn said of Wilson. “Because he is so strong and difficult to knock off of the puck, Colin has the puck an awful lot. I don’t think that there’s any doubt that he’s more comfortable this year. Right out of the gate this year, things started off well for us and for Colin, and I think that has just kind of snowballed. Anytime you can have a 50-point guy like Colin your team, that’s a huge benefit.”
Wilson currently ranks third in the nation and first among the remaining players heading into the upcoming Frozen Four in scoring with 52 points (15 goals, 37 assists) in 41 games. His six power play tallies are tied for third on the team, while his four game-winners are tied for second. Wilson became the first Boston University player to reach the 50-point plateau since Chris Drury did it 1997-98. His 37 assists are the most by a Terrier since Bob Lachance’s 38 back in 1995-96. Wilson has posted 17 multi-point games this season and notched his first career hat trick back on Feb. 13 versus Maine. His stellar season performance has earned him numerous honors including a spot on the All-Hockey East First Team and the Herb Gallagher Award as New England’s Best Division I forward.