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College Hockey: WCHA's Hobey Baker Favorites

Joe WatsonCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2011

College Hockey: WCHA's Hobey Baker Favorites

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    It's that time of the year!  College hockey is back.  Many teams are starting their seasons' this weekend.  

    And with the start of a new season come the Hobey Baker predictions.  The players will be evaluated based on previous successes, especially if they have received previous consideration.  

    Here is the list of my WCHA's top five candidates.

Aaron Dell, University of North Dakota

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    Aaron Dell entered last season as Brad Eidsness' back up in net for the Sioux.  However, Eidsness struggled and Dell assumed the mantle.

    Dell excelled in net for North Dakota, leading the nation with a goals against average of 1.788.  As a result, Dell posted a 30-7-2 record in Grand Forks.

    The Sioux netminder also had a .924 save percentage.

    North Dakota lost a handful of players from last year's squad, making Dell one of the unquestioned leaders of the squad.  

    Dell will be the key to the third-ranked Sioux's success as North Dakota looks for its first NCAA Championship since 2000.

Kent Patterson, University of Minnesota

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    Being the netminder for the Golden Gopher Hockey team is a tall order.  Minnesota is one of the most notable college hockey programs in the country.  However, the Gophers are in a bit of a dry-spell.  They have not made the NCAA tournament for three consecutive seasons.

    Kent Patterson could be the goalie that can bring the winning tradition back to Minnesota.  Last year, Patterson posted a 0.919 save percentage, a 2.52 GAA, and a 14-9-6 record.  

    While his numbers don't compare well to the likes of Aaron Dell, Patterson still has the talent and poise to lead the Gophers.  For example, in a February series against the Badgers in Madison, Patterson allowed five goals on 68 shots in a series where the Gophers took three points in one of the toughest atmospheres in college hockey.

    If the Gophers are successful this season, look for Patterson to garner some attention for the Hobey Baker Award.

Jack Connolly, University of Minnesota-Duluth

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    Jack Connolly was part of UMD's juggernaut of an offense last year.  However, with the departure of Justin Fontaine, Connolly will assume the primary scoring role.

    Last year, Connolly scored 18 goals and notched 41 assists as the Bulldogs from Duluth claimed their first national championship.  Furthermore, Connolly was named a Hobey Baker Finalist.

    The eighth-ranked Bulldogs will look to make another deep run and, if the season goes well, Connolly will be among the favorites for the Hobey Baker Award.

Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College

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    Entering this season, Schwartz was named the top forward in the nation by USCHO, and rightfully so.

    Last year, notched 30 assists and 17 goals for the Tigers, while leading CC to an NCAA tournament appearance.

    Schwartz now must lead the seventh-ranked Colorado College Tigers. A team that has national championship aspirations.  

    If CC makes a deep run, Schwartz will be considered for the Hobey Baker Award.

Justin Schultz, University of Wisconsin

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    Justin Schultz had a monster year last season.  He was named the Defensive Player of the Year by the WCHA and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.  Furthermore, Schultz was regarded as the best defenseman in the country (by far).

    Schultz led all defensemen in points with 18 goals and 29 assists.  

    Not only was Schultz a dominating offensive, but he was crucial on the Badger penalty killing unit.

    However, Schultz did lose his linemate Jake Gardiner to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but don't expect Schultz's numbers to decline.  Wisconsin is known for producing excellent defensemen so expect Schultz to be paired with another standout this year.  

    In each of the last three seasons, Wisconsin has had a defenseman named as a Hobey Finalist (Schultz, Brendan Smith, and Jamie McBain).

    Pencil Schultz in as a Hobey Baker Finalist, it's almost a certainty with Badger defensemen.

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