MINNEAPOLIS — After wrapping up the regular-season conference title, the University of Minnesota hockey team placed two players on the WCHA first team when awards and honors were released on Thursday.
Senior goaltender Kent Patterson and sophomore forward Nick Bjugstad were named all-WCHA first team. Sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt was named second-team all-conference and freshman Kyle Rau was named to the league’s all-rookie team. It’s the first time since the 2006-07 season, Minnesota had four players honored by the league.
Patterson, from Plymouth, was the WCHA’s goaltending champion, leading the league with a 20-8 record and 2.06 goals-against average in conference games. His .918 save percentage ranked third in the league. He finished the regular season by playing in all 37 games, tallying a 24-12-1, .915 save percentage and 2.13 goals-against average. Patterson led the nation with seven shutouts this season and is the first Gophers goaltender named to the all-league first team since Steve DeBus in 1996-97.
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Bjugstad, from Blaine, had 16 goals and 13 assists in conference play. He finished with 23 total goals — tied for third nationally — and 15 assists. Bjugstad and Patterson were the first conference first-teamers for Minnesota since Ryan Stoa in 2008-09. His 23 goals are the most by a Gophers player since Stoa had 24 in 2008-09.
Schmidt, had two goals and 21 assists in the WCHA and three goals and 30 assists for the season. His 30 assists are sixth in the nation and the top total by a defenseman. He’s also a plus-22, tied with Rau for the team lead and tied for fourth in the nation.
Rau leads all freshman forwards in scoring this season and is second nationally among freshman with 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists). He had 12 goals and 15 assists in conference play.
Patterson and Schmidt were also named to the WCHA’s all-academic team. The WCHA’s top seed for the conference tournament, Minnesota hosts Alaska-Anchorage this weekend in the best-of-three first round.
Also named to the WCHA first-team were forwards Jack Connolly and J.T. Brown from Minnesota-Duluth. Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz and Denver’s Joey LaLeggia were the two defenders.
Connolly, the league’s scoring champion with 16 goals and 27 assists in conference games, received 48 of the 96 votes to win the WCHA player of the year award. Connolly was a finalist last season for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, giving to the best player in college hockey and is second nationally with 55 total points this season.
Schultz was named the defensive player of the year for the second straight season, and LaLeggia was the rookie of the year. Michigan Tech’s Mel Pearson was named the coach of the year. North Dakota goaltender Brad Eidsness was honored as the outstanding student-athlete of the year.
The second team was comprised of forwards Jaden Schwartz (Colorado College), Drew Shore, Jr. (Denver) and Jason Zucker (Denver), defenders Gabe Guentzel (Colorado College) and Schmidt, and goaltender Kenny Reiter (Minnesota Duluth) The third team was forwards Mark Zengerle (Wisconsin), Brock Nelson (North Dakota) and Travis Oleksuk (Minnesota Duluth), defenders Nick Jensen (St. Cloud State) and Ben Blood (North Dakota) and goaltender Josh Thorimbert (Colorado College). Joining Rau on the all-rookie team were forwards Jean-Paul Lafontaine (Minnesota State) and Jayson Megna (Nebraska Omaha), defenders Andrew Prochno (St. Cloud State) and LaLeggia, and goaltender Juho Olkinuora (Denver).
Voting is done by conference coaches, players, sports information directors and local media, with each team receiving eight ballots for a total of 96 voters. The defensive player of the year is selected by the conference’s 12 head coaches.