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The second-to-last college hockey weekend of the season is upon us, but for the Hobey Baker finalists who are still playing, this is it: time to put up or shut up.

Oh, the heck with it: Kevin Porter won the award months ago, and everyone else is playing for second…and third.

And of course, among the people playing for second and third is one T.J. Oshie. I expressed surprise at the North Dakota forward earning a finalist spot in light of his problems with the law (he’s been arrested just once, but I think this is a fair way to account for the other incident), but I acknowledged there are very good reasons for Oshie to be a finalist. Still, the logic of Michigan’s T.J. Hensick talking his way out of a spot in the Hobey Hat Trick last year while Oshie (and, to a lesser extent, BC’s Nathan Gerbe) made the top three this year is a bit tough to figure.

That said, though, I think I’ve got it.

The offenses perpetrated by Oshie and Gerbe this year deprived their respective teams of their services for one game apiece, for games relatively early in the season. Both teams lost, but as we can see heading into this weekend, they’ve survived. Hensick, by contrast, left Michigan without the nation’s top scorer in the crucial moments of an NCAA tournament game, and while Hensick’s presence would probably not have been enough to get the Wolverines past North Dakota in that wild West shootout in Denver (it was wild, and it was in the West region…it works), it weakened what opportunity they did have.

Of course, if that’s the reasoning, then it means that character only becomes a disqualifying factor for the Hobey when it affects the team’s chance of winning. Now, that doesn’t strike me as being all that similar to what’s written in the selection criteria for the award, but it is a formula that allows for l’affaire Hensicklast year and Oshie getting a finalist spot this year (yes, and Gerbe too).

Now, that’s all a rehash of what’s happened before now, and there’s no reason to dwell on the past right now, as the NCAA tournament is just about upon us. So, what, if anything, does all of this mean for the games ahead?

If you think that Porter is going to go the way of his former linemate this weekend, think again. Porter is a much different player and a different person, and the captain who led Michigan so far past expectations this season isn’t about to jeopardize his team’s NCAA title chances like that. However, for the guys playing for second and third, it’s something to keep an eye on.

I have written in the past that Porter will, in all likelihood, be joined by some combination of Gerbe, North Dakota’s Jean-Philippe Lamoureux and Miami’s Ryan Jones, although if Michigan State can find its way from Colorado Springs to Denver, I wouldn’t write Jeff Lerg off, either. Now, neither Lamoureux nor Lerg is a likely candidate for an ill-advised penalty (really, how many goaltender penalties do you see in college hockey?), but both Gerbe and Jones have spent quite a bit of time in the sin bin this season (65 and 79 minutes, respectively, according to both schools’ official athletic sites). Both players are extremely competitive – it’s a big part of why they’re the great players they are – but that competitive energy can have negative consequences when it boils over, and if that happens in a crucial situation this weekend, it could make the difference when it comes time to decide who gets to sit next to Porter in Denver two weeks from tomorrow.

Of course, there’s also the fact that Gerbe and Jones could very well meet this Sunday in the final of the Northeast Regional. Could a spot in the Hat Trick be up for grabs if BC and Miami are playing for a Frozen Four berth? I wouldn’t rule it out.

Naturally, though, all this talk is secondary, as the primary concern this weekend is who’s going to Denver. Still, this is something else to think about.

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Elliot Olshansky covers the Hobey Baker Award beat for USCHO.com and also covers men’s and women's hockey and lacrosse at NCAA.com for Turner Sports. His experience includes four years covering college hockey for CSTV, stints at other media outlets including the New York Daily News and Spike TV, and freelance writing. His debut novel, "Robert's Rules of Karaoke," is currently available from The Write Deal (www.thewritedeal.org).
  • WMU has been in the basement so long when Culhane was the coach, you expected them to never see daylight. The Broncos can beat anyone when they stop getting dumb penalities, I think when Frank moved on he took the self destruct component with him…he did know how to hit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBtcM_uj5zQ
    A new coach and look Kuhn is it net…holy cow..Blashill actually started him, Culhane would have never done that.

    Lets recap for an average team
    ..
    Swept Union..overratted..
    Spilt Miami, Northern, LSSU, Ferris,
    and is 7-1 with East Coast teams…

    If WMU is average this year exactly how many ranked team do they need to beat to get out of that category?

  • SiouxAlumDenver

    I would say IF Michigan Tech were to steal one from UND it would be this weekend, not next. And it would be the Saturday game. I think UND takes all four games, but there is no way Tech is taking a game in Grand Forks during the playoffs in my opinion. The Ralph will be rocking.

    • FightingSioux4ever

      They ended a 14 game unbeaten streak in 09. In the Ralph. I think that Sioux take all four, but Tech proved in Denver a few weeks back that they can pull off a surprise win, too. This Sioux team is just too good for that to happen this year.

  • Matt4466

    Is is possible the gophers and badgers could meet in the playoffs next week? If so what is the scenario?

    • Omaha

      Too many scenarios to spell out. Especially for someone unwilling to do it themselves.

    • lakeshoe

      Here’s one Sioux fan hoping the rodents get SCSU for the first round. This is the best case scenario for MN to miss the Final 5. SCSU takes 2 of 3 and tDon likely doesn’t get an extension.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think ND has anything to play for here, way from home, in what will probably be a blase’ environment. I would not be shocked at all for MT to come of this weekend with at at least a point. Trap games.

  • LuckyLou

    If UW was to take 3 pts. from CC and SCSU swept the pioneers……wouldn’t the Huskies have home ice?

  • Anonymous

    UNO leads the nation in shutouts (6) and their goaltending is “average”?

    Plus, Faulkner has taken a shutout into the 3rd period of 12 games (more than 1/3 of UNO’s entire schedule), and UNO’s goaltending is “average”?

    Right.

    How about, if we had better defensemen and took a few less penalties we’d have the best goaltending in the NCAA? That sounds a lot more like it to me.

    If Faulkner isn’t the WCHA goaltender of the year, there’s something really wrong here.

    • Saara

      Faulkner won’t be goaltender of the year because sorry but the WCHA doesn’t have that award. We have a “goaltending champion” which goes to the goalie with the best goals against average in league play, and it’s looking like that will be Aaron Dell. So sorry. Faulkner will have to settle for *maybe* one of the all-wcha awards.

    • Omaha

      As a UNO fan, I almost made the same post. But his GAA is 2.50 and save percentage is 91.1. Those are fair numbers but there are 6 other WCHA goalies ahead of him in the same categories and having a similar amount of games. So that’s middle of the pack and does not equate to goaltender of the year. Don’t get me wrong, he can steal games. I’ve seen it numerous times this year. And if he gets on a roll, UNO has a good chance to do some damage.

  • siouxfanforlife

    Why is it that all season long they don’t give tech a chance in heck to win anything, but all of a sudden they are predicting a win against the Sioux in one of the upcoming two weekends? I understand they beat us two years ago in the Ralph, but I firmly believe that this year the Sioux are better than they were two years ago, and at the same time I think Tech is worse than two years ago. True, upsets can always happen, but I think the Sioux are just too deep of a team and playing too well this time of year for that to happen. Long story short, I’m wondering why they picked a team that is #1 in every poll and #2 in the pairwise to be one of the few teams to drop one against Tech?

  • Old Time Hockey

    “Wait until next week when the series will most likely go three.” That is the best laugh I have had in a long time

  • Markoak2000

    So proud of these Michigan Wolverines, I have watched them be one of the top rated teams early in the year, they went through a mid-season slump, then went on amazing run late in the year to end up in the championship game, and regardless of win or lose it I know they deserve nothing but high praise for where they made it.