Carle wins college hockey’s highest honor

By DJ Powers

On Friday evening, college hockey handed out its top individual awards. Former University of Denver defenseman and current San Jose Shark Matt Carle was named the recipient of the 26th annual Hobey Baker Award as collegiate hockey’s top player.

Carle became the first ever player from the University of Denver to win the Hobey Baker Award and the first defenseman to win it since Jordan Leopold in 2002. Carle led the nation in scoring among defensemen with 53 points (11 goals, 42 assists) and points per game (1.36). His 43 assists led the nation among all skaters. He also led the nation with a 1.08 assists per game. Carle co-captained the Denver Pioneers to a second place finish in the WCHA after the conclusion of the 2005-06 regular season.

The Anchorage, AK native became the first player in the history of the WCHA to be named both the Player and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. He was also a WCHA All-Conference First Team selection. Carle led all WCHA defensemen in points, goals and assists in league play.

One of Carle’s most memorable performances this season came back on Feb. 10 in Denver’s 7-4 win over Minnesota State-Mankato, when he notched five assists.

Carle also has his place in the Denver Pioneers hockey history books. His 42 assists set a new school record for assists by a defenseman in a single season. He fell one point shy of tying the school’s single-season record for points by a defenseman. He was an integral part of the Denver Pioneers squad that won back-to-back national championship titles in 2004 and 2005. Carle finishes his illustrious career at the University of Denver second all-time in assists among defensemen (93) and third all-time in points among defensemen (122).

On Mar. 19, Carle signed with the San Jose Sharks, who drafted him in the second round (47th overall) back in 2003. He made his NHL debut on Mar. 25 versus the Minnesota Wild.

With the hoopla surrounding his finalist nomination for the Hobey Baker Award along with trying to establish himself in the NHL, it has been a whirlwind experience to say the least for Carle.

“Ever since the selection show on Sunday it just seems like it’s been going nonstop. Every day has been a new experience and I’ve been learning more and more. I can’t give enough credit to the San Jose Sharks organization for making that transition so easy for me. I’ve been taking baby steps one at a time and now I’m trying to start developing and getting in more games. We’re in a tight playoff race and it’s been really exciting,” said Carle at the Hobey Baker Award news conference. “I’ve gotten some ‘good lucks’ from my teammates (in San Jose). Having won the Hobey Baker Award I’ll get some grief (laughing) but it’s all in good fun.”

Carle answered several questions from the media about his career just getting underway in San Jose, including one about the loyal fan support.

“I was talking to my family about being out on the ice for warm-ups and there were all these people with their cell phones with cameras out there taking pictures of me down by the glass. I played my first game against Minnesota on the road and I scored my first goal in that game. I remember walking off the ice and all of the Sharks fans were around to congratulate me. It’s amazing that the fans are so loyal to the team no matter what and how closely they follow the team on the road and everything like that. It’s a great feeling and I’m happy to be playing there.”

Carle’s achievements and dedication reached outside of the hockey rink as well. He is a two-time WCHA All-Academic Team selection with a 3.30 grade point average. He majors in real estate and construction management. Despite recently signing an NHL contract, Carle has every intention of finishing up his degree as well.

“School is a big factor. I’ll be online registering for (summer) classes on Monday and I’m definitely going to be pursuing my degree. It’s something that I take seriously and something that’s always been a big part of my family. It’s something that I look forward to doing for the future.”

Leroux wins humanitarian award

Princeton senior goaltender Eric Leroux was named the recipient of the 11th annual Hockey Humanitarian Award, which recognizes the collegiate hockey player who has displayed exemplary excellence in community service and/or charity work.

Leroux enjoyed a stellar senior year at Princeton University that included selections to the All-Ivy League First Team and the All-ECACHL Second Team. He is also a three-time All-ECACHL Academic Team selection, majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. Leroux finished his final collegiate season with a 7-13-2 record that included two shutouts in 23 appearances. His .914 save percentage is a new Princeton hockey record.

One of Leroux’s best performances of the season came against the reigning national champions. Back on Dec. 30, he backstopped the Tigers to a stunning 4-1 upset win over Carle and the Denver Pioneers in the semi-final of the Wells Fargo Denver Cup holiday tournament.

“For us, it was a chance to really prove where the program has gone in the past two years. It has really moved along a good trajectory. I am absolutely thrilled to have been a part of it right at the start of the turnaround,” said Leroux at the Hockey Humanitarian Award press conference about the win over Denver.

Leroux is the embodiment of what the Hockey Humanitarian Award symbolizes. As much as the London, ON native was known for his hard work and passionate spirit on the ice, he was equally, if not more known for his work off the ice.

“He’s absolutely deserving of it. He’s just a very, very giving person. It’s just the way he lives every hour. He’s been a really great influence on the team for helping others. I’m very proud to be part of a program that has him,” Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky told Hockey’s Future after the Hockey Humanitarian Award press conference.

Leroux’s dedication and work with organizations such as the Foundation for Sustainable Development and the Society for Orphans with AIDS Network have touched the lives of individuals that extend far beyond the campus of Princeton University. Leroux also founded two Princeton-based organizations – PUCK (Providing Underprivileged Communities and Kids), an organization that donates old hockey equipment to youth hockey programs and the Princeton World Health Initiative, which distributes unused medical supplies from local area hospitals and pharmaceutical companies to hospitals in developing nations.

Leroux’s next tour of humanitarian duty will take him to South Africa with Broadreach Healthcare, an organization influential in every level of the treatment and prevention of AIDS. His work will be in helping to increase the availability and the distribution of anti-retroviral drugs to people with AIDS.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.