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Hockey: Brown picked for Hobey Hat Trick

Kyle Cassily | Thursday, March 29, 2007

Irish goalie Dave Brown took another step toward college hockey’s ultimate prize – the Hobey Baker Memorial Award – when the senior was selected to be one of three finalists to appear for the presentation April 6 in St. Louis, the Hobey Baker Foundation announced Wednesday night.

It is the first time in school history that an Irish player has reached the final three, continuing a season of firsts and never-have-befores for Notre Dame.

“It was a great feeling to actually reach that goal of becoming one of the elite players in college,” Brown said. “More than anything it really helps to push Irish hockey to the forefront.”

The Hobey Hat Trick includes Brown, junior forward Eric Ehn of Air Force and sophomore forward Ryan Duncan of North Dakota. The three finalists were picked by a 25-member selection committee from a pool of 10 semi-finalists originally chosen by votes from every Division I head coach.

“This is the ultimate in recognition,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “I’m very happy for David, and I’m happy for our team too, because they’re a part of David’s success.”

The Hobey Baker is awarded to the college hockey player who displays, “strength of character on and off the ice, outstanding skills in all phases of the game, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements,” the Hobey Baker Web site said.

Brown, a native of Stoney Creek, Ont., was recently named CCHA player of the year and tournament most valuable player, after backstopping the Irish to their first league regular season and playoff championships.

“As a coach, you’re really a teacher and when you see your students recognized for things you have worked with them on, it’s rewarding,” Jackson said. “I spent a lot of personal time with David, and I certainly don’t take any credit for his success, but I’m proud the time we spent together has helped him be recognized as one of the best players.”

Brown’s superb stats, along with his league hardware, helped to make a case for his Hobey candidacy. The senior led the nation in goals-against average (1.58) and wins (30) this season, while he finished second in save percentage (.931).

Jackson, who owns two national championships, has never had one of his players named to the final three Hobey spots in his eight years behind a college bench. The coach, in his second year at Notre Dame, said he first began to believe that Brown would make a run at the Hobey after the team turned the corner into the final third of the season.

“When we won [the CCHA championship] at the Joe, I thought that might have pushed him over the top as a finalist for sure – if not the winner,” Jackson said.

After Notre Dame’s 2-1 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament regionals Saturday, Brown’s season was cut short one game before the Frozen Four – the weekend in which the Hobey is awarded. Brown, however, is not the only one of the three finalists whose season is over.

Ehn fell 4-3 to Minnesota with the rest of his Air Force squadron in the first round of the Tournament’s Denver regional. Ehn finished the season second in the nation in points (64) and assists (40), while he scored 24 goals. He is the first player from one of the military academies to make the top 10.

North Dakota’s Duncan, however, will be playing in St. Louis the day before the presentation when the Fighting Sioux face Boston College in the national semifinal. The 5-foot-8, 155 pound forward had 31 goals and 26 assists to finish fourth in the nation in scoring with 57 points.

Only two goaltenders have won the Hobey in the award’s 26-year history, the last of which was Ryan Miller of Michigan State in 2001 – now an NHL All-Star with the Buffalo Sabres.

“[The Hobey] should be about the player that has had the greatest impact in making his team successful,” Jackson said of the Award. “And I don’t think any one fits in that category as much as Dave does.”