Hobey Baker committee adds Gothberg to list of finalists

For the first time in its 34 year history, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award committee has acknowledged an oversight and is now working to correct it.

Specifically, an 11th player has been added to the list of finalists just one day before the field will be narrowed to three in what is known as the “Hobey Hat Trick”.

That player: North Dakota sophomore goaltender Zane Gothberg.

Leading up to the March 20th announcement of ten finalists, Gothberg had a record of 17-8-3 with a goals-against average of 2.08, a save percentage of .922, and two shutouts.

Those numbers were solid, but not spectacular enough to bump Ferris State’s C.J. Motte, Wisconsin’s Joel Rumpel, or Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox – fellow goaltenders all – off of the list of ten finalists.

But a Hobey committee member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said early this morning that after watching the second-year netminder from Thief River Falls, Minnesota outduel two of the other finalists (Wisconsin’s Rumpel and Ferris State’s Motte) at the Midwest Regional last weekend, they felt it was only right to add another name to the list.

“Talking about the goalies, Wilcox has been great all year. Rumpel and Motte also. But (in Cincinnati) Gothberg showed us that he belonged, too. And then we went back and looked, and he’s been great for North Dakota all year. But we couldn’t take anybody else off the list. So we just sort of thought that we could try something different. I mean, everybody knows that (Johnny) Gaudreau’s going to win it, and so if we can generate a little bit of interest this week by thinking outside the box about the thing, we might get a little bit more buzz.“

Over the past four games since the list of ten finalists was unveiled, Gothberg has gone 3-1, making 116 of 122 saves for a .951 save percentage and a 1.40 GAA . He saved his best for last, making 44 of 45 saves over 82 minutes in a double overtime victory over Ferris State in the regional final.

Remarkably, UND’s star between the pipes was passed over for not one but two awards at the NCAA Midwest Regional. Teammate Rocco Grimaldi was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, and Bulldog netminder C.J. Motte was named to the all-tourney team.

“We think he got jobbed, and that entered into it, too. He deserved something after the show he put on (against Ferris State), and this is what we came up with to reward his performance.”

With that stellar performance, Gothberg is now averaging less than two goals allowed per game (1.99) on the season and takes a record of 20-9-3 into the Frozen Four.

And to that last point, my source indicated that North Dakota’s 20th appearance in the Frozen Four also led to the decision, in a manner of speaking. The other three schools competing for an NCAA title in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania next weekend (Boston College, Union, and Minnesota) all have Hobey Baker finalists.

“And yeah, we looked at that, too. We saw that with Johnny Hockey and the other guy (Kevin Hayes) from BC, and Gostis-whateverhisnameis (Shayne Gostisbehere) from Union, and the Gopher goalie, that it would kind of be a neat thing to market if UND got somebody in, too. Frozen Four, four different conferences, four teams with a Hobey finalist, you know? Oops, oh yeah, and Gaudreau’s linemate, too.”

Two former North Dakota players have won college hockey’s highest individual honor. Tony Hrkac won the award in 1987 after setting a record for points in a season (46-70-116 in 48 games) that will never be broken. And twenty years later, Sioux forward Ryan Duncan took home the hardware despite some criticism that he was the third-best player on his own line (he played with T.J. Oshie and Jonathan Toews).

Four Minnesota players have won the Hobey (Neil Broten in 1981, Robb Stauber in 1988, Brian Bonin in 1996, and Jordan Leopold in 2002), while two Boston College players (David Emma in 1991 and Mike Mottau in 2000) have done the same. Union is looking for the program’s first Hobey Baker winner.

Another North Dakota goaltender, Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, was a Hobey Baker finalist in 2008, but despite a record of 26-11-4 with a 1.64 goals-against average, a .934 save percentage, and six shutouts, he was not named to the Hobey Hat Trick. North Dakota fans are used to Hobey heartbreak, as Jeff Panzer (who lost to Ryan Miller in 2001), Zach Parise (who was passed over for Junior Lessard in 2004), and Matt Frattin (who fell to Andy Miele in 2011) all came within a whisper of hockey immortality. And the year before the award’s inception, UND’s Mark Taylor was named the national player of the year after scoring 33 goals and adding 59 assists for 92 points in 40 games and leading the Fighting Sioux to their third NCAA title.

A news conference to formally announce the 11th member of this year’s Hobey class and further explain the rationale behind this unique development is scheduled to air at 4:01 p.m. Eastern time on ESPNU. The Hobey Hat Trick will be revealed as previously scheduled on Wednesday, April 2nd. I’ve got my prediction for the top three Hobey hopefuls here.