North Dakota's Duncan named INCH's POY
Ryan Duncan stepped up his game to take the Fighting Sioux to college hockey's final weekend. INCH salutes all of this season's top performers.
Player of the Year
Ryan Duncan, North Dakota
Statistics: 42 GP 31-26-57
Following the well-established Grand Forks tradition of undersized and virtually unstoppable forwards, the native Calgarian is listed at 5-foot-6, 158 pounds. If those numbers don't impress the pro scouts, the scoring stats certainly do. Duncan led the WCHA with 22 goals and 39 points in 28 league games, and was named the conference's most valuable player. He heads to the Frozen Four with 31 goals in 42 games, and also led the WCHA with 17 power play markers.
Watch Duncan play and his lack of size is clearly offset by his speed and accuracy with the puck. More than one WCHA goalie fell victim to Duncan's patience this season, finding the puck resting in the back of the net just milliseconds after they'd unwisely dropped a shoulder or gone into the butterfly stance and given Duncan a tiny gap below the crossbar to hit. As the most consistent offensive force on a talented club, and as the key to North Dakota's amazing second-half run, INCH salutes Duncan as player of the year.
Runner-up: David Brown, Notre Dame
Defenseman of the Year
Drew Bagnall, St. Lawrence
Statistics: 39 GP 6-19-25
When St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh was asked earlier this season whether or not his coaching staff had ever charted Drew Bagnall's ice time, he rolled his eyes and shook his head. The unspoken answer: lots of ice time.
The senior from Oakbank, Manitoba was the most important player on the most successful team in the league, and is Inside College Hockey's choice as the Defenseman of the Year.
A stellar start to his collegiate career was sidetracked by a hand injury in his junior season, but he came back to be a dominant presence on the Saint blue line. He played against the opponent's top players and factored on both special teams units for the Saints.
"He's worked hard for this. He plays with such passion and it kills him to lose. He's an unbelievable kid to coach," Marsh said. "What he's meant to this team in the locker room, in the weight room, he's just worked exceedingly hard in every area and has never compromised in any area."
His quiet confidence and steadying demeanor served the Saints well as they won a slew of close games and performed well in difficult situations.
"He creates an atmosphere in the locker room," Marsh said, "and I think that the guys deep down think, 'Thank God he's on our team, and not the other team.'"
Runner-up: Jack Johnson, Michigan
Goaltender of the Year
David Brown, Notre Dame
Statistics: 30-6-3, 1.58 GAA, .931 save pct., six shutouts
As with most goalies, his detractors will say that he's a product of the system. But it's hard to imagine the Notre Dame having its success this season without David Brown as their backstop. That's why he's our choice for goaltender of the year.
In becoming just the second Notre Dame player to make the all-CCHA first team and the first Fighting Irish netminder to earn all-conference honors since John Peterson was named to the all-WCHA second team in 1977, Brown was dominant statistically. Prior to the Frozen Four, he led the nation in wins (30) and his 1.58 goals against average is a full three-tenths of a goal better than his next closest competitor, Vermont's Joe Fallon. The Stony Creek, Ontario native also ranks third in the country with a .931 save percentage.
The eye-popping numbers become even more amazing when one takes into account that Brown played more minutes than all but one NCAA goaltender (Boston College's Cory Schneider), yet allowed just 63 goals. Among Division I netminders who worked more than 1,500 minutes this season, only Fallon, Minnesota's Kellen Briggs, and Miami's Jeff Zatkoff gave up fewer goals -- and Briggs and Zatkoff barely eclisped the 1,500-minute threshhold. Brown, meanwhile, never wore down, allowing two goals or fewer in 30 of his 39 starts.
Notre Dame's 2006-07 season will be long remembered, whether it's as a fleeting moment of success for the Fighting Irish hockey program or the start of a long tradition of excellence on ice. Either way, Brown's contribution will not be forgotten.
Runner-up: John Curry, Boston University
Rookie of the Year
Teddy Purcell, Maine
Statistics: 39 GP, 16-27-43
How good is Maine forward Teddy Purcell? Let Black Bears centerman Michel LÚveillÚ and forward Josh Soares, no slouches in their own right, explain.
"He's a terrific player," LÚveillÚ told the Boston Globe earlier this month. "He's got great speed, great hands and sees the ice really well."
"He doesn't seem like a rookie at all out there," said Soares, who spent a good chunk of the season on a line with Purcell and LÚveillÚ. "He knows where to go with the puck and he always seems to be in the right place."
Purcell's rapid ascension has allowed Maine coach Tim Whitehead to pluck him from the right wing on the LÚveillÚ-Soares unit and use him to anchor a second, capable scoring line along with junior left wing Billy Ryan and senior pivot Mike Hamilton. In four games together, the trio has combined for five goals and seven assists.
As skilled as Purcell is, his most admirable trait may be his reliability, as one might expect from a native of Newfoundland, a.k.a. "The Rock." Purcell has been held scoreless in consecutive games on just three occasions this season -- one three-game stretch and a pair of back-to-back blankings. He started the year with at least one point in 18 of Maine's first 20 games, a run that included one point streak of seven games and another of 10 games.
Even as an older freshman (Purcell turns 21 in September) he's just scratched the surface with regard to his potential. The willowy Purcell carried just 177 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame this season, and could easily add another 25 pounds without losing a step. If -- or more precisely, when -- that happens, LÚveillÚ and Soares might have to return to Orono to revamp their scouting reports.
Runner-up: Andreas Nodl, St. Cloud State
Coach of the Year
Jeff Jackson, Notre Dame
Record: 32-7-3 (21-4-3 CCHA) CCHA regular-season champs; CCHA playoff champs
Back in 2003, when INCH named its top 16 coaches in college hockey history, Jeff Jackson made the list at No. 12 for his outstanding work behind the bench at Lake Superior State from 1990-96, a run that included a pair of national championships and one second-place finish. At the time, we wrote, "If we were running a college program that could be considered a fixer-upper, Jackson would be on our speed dial."
A little more than three years later, it appears two things are in order. First, allow us to pump our own tires for the incredible foresight we showed in our statement regarding Jackson. Second, based on the masterful job he did at Notre Dame this past season, it appears we may have to rework our coaches rankings.
Jeff Jackson is Inside College Hockey's selection for Coach of the Year for leading a group of Notre Dame players -- most of whom were part of a team that won five games two seasons ago -- to unprecedented success in 2006-07. Under Jackson's tutelage, the Fighting Irish captured both the CCHA regular-season championship and the league's playoff title, which were the first conference crowns in the program's history, posted a school-record 32 wins, ascended to the top spot in the national polls for the first time, and earned an NCAA Tournament berth for just the second time.
It's unlikely Jackson was thinking along these lines after Michigan State ousted the Fighting Irish from the NCAA Tournament with a 2-1 win in the Midwest Regional championship game, but he may have summed up his impact on the moribund program during his post-game comments that night.
When asked by a reporter about the emotional response his players had to the loss to the Spartans in Grand Rapids, Jackson stated, "It means a lot more to play for Notre Dame now."
Runner-up: Don Cahoon, Massachusetts
Check out insidecollegehockey.com for more college hockey information.
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