NCAA Hockey: Hobey Baker Award field down to three finalists

The NCAA announced the Hobey Hat Trick today for the three players who are the ultimate finalists for the Hobey Baker Award for college hockey’s top player. While the teams playing in this year’s Frozen Four in St. Paul may have been a surprise, the three players in the running for the Hobey Baker Award are not.

North Dakota’s Matt Frattin, Miami University’s Andy Miele, and Boston College’s Cam Atkinson, who recently signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets got the call to be at the Frozen Four to see if they can take home the year’s top individual prize. Their résumés this year are each very impressive.

Matt Frattin is the top goal scorer in the country with 36 for the Fighting Sioux and he’s helped lead his team to the Frozen Four. The senior from Edmonton, Alberta and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect is having the best season of his career and is persevering after running into legal problems just two years ago being arrested for DUI and getting dismissed from the team for half a year before being reinstated halfway into last season. This year with 36 goals and 60 points and a shot still at the National Championship, Frattin has made for quite the redemption story.

Miami’s Andy Miele is the nation’s top scorer with 24 goals and 47 assists this year, good for 71 points. Miele, a senior, led an offensively powerful Redhawks team to their first CCHA Tournament championship and a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Miami was unceremoniously bounced out of the tournament by regional fourth seed New Hampshire but that does nothing to take away from Miele accomplished this season with Miami and his case for the Hobey is a strong one given how well he did personally and for what his team accomplished. Miele is an undrafted free agent and will likely net a deal with an NHL team in the very near future.

Cam Atkinson once again showed why Boston College does so well year in and year out. Despite being 5’8″, Atkinson scored 31 goals and added 21 assists for the Eagles as they won the Hockey East championship yet again this year. Atkinson’s offensive output helped lead BC to a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and, like Miele’s Redhawks, were ousted in the first round of the tournament, this time by Colorado College. Atkinson’s junior season was a great follow up to his sophomore year that saw him score 30 goals last season and a big reason why the Blue Jackets opted to sign him now. After all, what more could he show at the NCAA level aside from score more goals and win Boston College another National Championship? Huh, when you write it out like that it doesn’t sound so bad after all. Of the three players in the Hobey Hat Trick we’re considering Atkinson to be the long shot of the bunch.

The Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced Friday, April 8th from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the day between the National Semifinals and the National Championship game.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.