Along with having a chance to play its way into the NCAA tournament with a pair of wins this weekend in the Hockey East Championships, the University of Maine learned Thursday that it has even more reason to be hopeful.
Gustav Nyquist, the Maine forward who leads the country in points with 59 in 37 games, is among the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, handed out each season to the country’s top player.
The top three teams in the country claimed half of the finalist spots: Denver goaltender Marc Cheverie and forward Rhett Rakhshani, Miami goaltender Cody Reichard and Wisconsin forward Blake Geoffrion and defenseman Brendan Smith made the cut to the final 10 names selected by Division I head coaches and a fan vote.
Also in the top 10: New Hampshire forward Bobby Butler, Northern Michigan forward Mark Olver, Rensselaer forward Chase Polacek and Cornell goaltender Ben Scrivens.
Cheverie and Rakhshani have the Pioneers ranked No. 1 in the nation with a powerful combination of goaltending and offense. The WCHA player of the year, Cheverie is 24-4-3 with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.
Rakhshani, Denver’s captain, is seventh nationally in scoring with 49 points.
Reichard backstopped Miami to a runaway victory in the CCHA standings, going 15-0-2 in league play while allowing only 21 goals in 17 games. He’s 18-3-3 with a 1.64 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
Geoffrion led the Badgers and the WCHA with 19 goals in league games, and he has 23 goals and 41 points in 34 games.
His teammate, Smith, is the only defenseman in the final 10 in large part because he’s the nation’s top-scoring defenseman with 15 goals and 44 points in 36 games. WCHA coaches named him the league’s top blueliner.
Butler, also a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, was named Hockey East’s player of the year after leading the nation in goal scoring with 27 in 37 games. Twenty-one of those goals came in league play.
The national points leader with 59 in 37 games, Nyquist tied for first in scoring in Hockey East with 41 points. He was the runner-up to Butler for Hockey East player of the year honors.
Olver led the CCHA with 35 points in 27 league games, and leads the Wildcats in overall scoring for the third straight season. He has 16 points in his last 10 games, helping Northern Michigan to a CCHA first-round bye.
The ECAC Hockey player of the year, Polacek ranks third in the nation in both points (52) and goals (26). He’s second in the nation with 13 power-play goals.
Scrivens is second in the nation in goals-against average (1.89) and save percentage (.933) and had five shutouts this season for the Big Red.
A 24-member selection committee and another round of fan balloting will choose the Hobey Hat Trick of three finalists, which will be released on March 31, and the award winner, who will be announced during the Frozen Four in Detroit on April 9.