Greetings from Hobey Central

Hello from Bridgeport, where I’ll be covering my seventh NCAA regional this weekend, and I certainly feel like seven is a lucky number for me in my capacity as your Hobey Watch blogger. Of the four regionals, the one with the most Hobey Baker finalists happens to be the one I’m at, as Air Force’s Jacques Lamoureux, Michigan’s Louie Caporusso and Vermont’s Viktor Stålberg will be in action this weekend at the sold-out Arena at Harbor Yard. While I certainly wouldn’t have minded watching BU’s Matt Gilroy and Colin Wilson this weekend in Manchester, Princeton’s Zane Kalemba in Minneapolis or Northeastern’s Brad Thiessen in Grand Rapids, Harbor Yard is certainly the place to be for Hobey Intrigue.

By the way, it took me about three minutes to get the right ASCII code for the “å” in “Stålberg,” so if I type his name more than I otherwise might, that’s the reason.

Anyway, of the three Hobey finalists here, Stålberg is the only one with promotional material in the media area today, as the media guide table has a stack of flyers and DVDs, the latter containing the video from PickVik.com. That could change tomorrow, of course – I know Air Force has made up flyers for Lamoureux – but the real place an impression is made is on the ice, and Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon is confident that Stålberg will do just that.

“I think Viktor’s ready,” Sneddon said. “He’s very excited about this opportunity on the national scene. His consistency’s been very impressive, and I think that’s why he’s a finalist. He hasn’t had scoring tears and then quiet games; he’s been a factor every game. Even if he’s not on the scoresheet, I think everyone in attendance sees a future NHLer skating out there, who’s 6’3″ and can fly.”

For his part, though, Stålberg is avoiding the Hobey conversation. “I don’t think you focus on that,” Stålberg said. “You focus on the team right now, and if the team does well and you perform the way you should, I think you put yourself in the best position to be in the top three. For us right now, it’s just about getting to the Frozen Four.”

Caporusso, meanwhile, acknowledged that having a shot at the award is in the back of his mind while still downplaying the significance of the Hobey race. “You’re always trying to make an impression as an individual player,” Caporusso said, “but at the same time, I’m just concerned about beating Air Force right now. It’s pretty cool to have two more Hobey Baker [finalists] here at the regional, and definitely, you want to outperform your opponents, and if that means outperforming the other Hobey Baker finalists, then so be it.”

Michigan coach Red Berenson knows what that entails for his sophomore forward.

“Louie has to have a good two-way game,” Berenson said. “He’s a two-way player. He’s a lot like a lot of thes guy who score. He is opportunistic, but you don’t always get your scoring chances in these games. They are hard-fought, close battles and each team is going all-out every shift, so there’s not much time and space to handle the puck. So, he might have scored goals during the year that he might not be able to score now, but if Louie does, that is good because our team is more successful when he scores.”

At the other end of the ice for that game is Lamoureux, who also makes Air Force more successful when he scores: he has nine game-winning goals this season. He’s also clearly gotten the Wolverines’ attention.

“He’s definitely one of the top players in the nation this year,” Michigan defenseman Mark Mitera said. “I think we’ve faced players like him in the past this season, and our team’s done a good job. We just need to focus on defense. If we’re shutting down their front line it will trickle down through the rest of the team, I think, so definitely, when he is on the ice, we need to be aware of that.”

That means interfering as much as possible with Air Force head coach Frank Serratore’s plan for the game 

“The strength of Jacques’ game is his goal-scoring ability,” Serratore said, “so hopefully we get Jacques the puck in that area from the top of the cirle in, and let Jacques do what Jacques does best, and that’s score goals.”

For his part, Lamoureux is taking a cue from his brother, 2007 Hobey finalist Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, in putting the Hobey out of his mind when game time rolls around.

“It helps that my brother was a finalist last year,” Lamoureux said. “You can’t worry about that stuff, and I really don’t. To be named a top 10 finalist is an honor, and it’s pretty humbling, but we came here to win some hockey games, and the biggest thing is ‘What can I do to help the team win?’ If that’s blocking shots and finishing checks and not scoring goals, that’s what it takes. It’s about winning games at this time of year, and those individual things – if you take care of business on the ice with wins – those things kind of take care of themselves, so that’s how I see it right now.”

The players here in Bridgeport – like the ones in Manchester, Grand Rapids and Minneapolis – may be doing their best to put the Hobey race out of their minds, but the fact is that it is far from over, and that’s going to lend an extra intrigue to this weekend’s games, especially here in Bridgeport, where I’ll be following all the action here on USCHO.

Talk about lucky number seven.

Author: Elliot Olshansky

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).

  • ECAC

    As an ECAC fan, I hope RPI does NOT pull the upset because they do NOT deserve to be there. Losing to the last-place team in the league, really?

    • Bulldog07

      Maybe not, but what do you think it would say to all those NoDak and WCHA whiners out there if a team that got bounced by the #12 team in the ECAC knocked the all-mighty Sioux out of the NCAA tourney? Not to mention it would be the second time in two years that a team that “couldn’t hack it” against the ECAC’s basement kicked the arrogant NoDak fans out of the tourney again?

      If you’re an ECAC fan, you should be rooting for all three teams this Friday…because NoDak deserves to get booted for their fans’ obnoxiousness and because that would mean an ECAC squad finally gets to the Frozen Four for the first time in a while.

      From a true-bull Eli…Let’s Go ‘Tute!!!!

      • boolaboola

        Hahaha…”True-Blue” Eli! Damn the lack of editing on Disqus.

      • Crasher1339

        I’d love to see it, but I’d love to see alot of things that ain’t gonna happen. Sorry ‘tute but it would take a major miracle for you guys to be NoDak.

        • Dreamer

          Do you believe in miracles?

          • Nyqi

            Nope, not that one at least.

      • keggy

        If RPI pulls off the upset I hope everyone gives the UND crowd the same grief everyone gave Minnesota fans when they lost to Holy Cross. And no, it’s not jealousy. If I was jealous of the number of titles your team has won I should dislike Michigan and Denver, too.

      • J_nd

        really bulldog??? come on.. A RPI upset would mean nothing to the “whiners”.. A win is a win guys.. We cant keep comparing teams who are not even in the tournament!!!

    • Mike1975

      Then Union doesn’t belong either correct?
      No. 12 Colgate at No. 1 Union (Colgate wins series, 2-1)

    • EngineerHockey

      @ ECAC

      Who is your team? Cornell, Princeton or maybe Clarkson?

      Go and look at RPI’s record and then strength of opponents on our schedule. Yeah we lost to colgate 2-1 but there is a reason RPI is in and your team isn’t: RPI had a great season and your team didn’t. Simple as that cupcake! Now sit down, turn on the game and support your ECAC boys in the playoff. GO RED!!!

  • Union Alum ’97

    When Union played @ WMU, they were without Adam Presizniuk. He is the best player in the history of Union’s program. For 4 or 5 of Union’s losses, he was either out of lineup or recovering from major thumb surgery. I very much hope the WCHA arrogance and hubris has invaded the Duluth locker room b/c they will be in for a world of shock today. The Dutchman are carrying the weight of 20 plus years of mediocrity on their shoulders and are about to explode in this tourney.

  • Scorpiancmdr

    RPI has to play the game of their life in order to win (and ND has to stumble, Union (abd I am a Union fan) depends on what Union team shows up, if they comeout and play their game they will win, if not it’s one and done. Yale as much as I respect Yale I say Don’t count Air Force out after getting screwed 2 years ago they have something to prove…..that said in the tournament it is one and done if team don’t come out ready to play and mentally in the game (Just look at Denver what happened to last year, they were not ready and RIT took it to them)

  • Anonymous

    “Here’s to Old R. P. I.” is the alma mater. The song posted is “Hail Dear Old Rensselaer” – which is, indeed, the fight song.

  • Mike

    People just seem to look past the body of work from the whole season….RPI handled top 10 at the time BU no problem…beat the USA World Juniors…beat Union once…beat Yale once..swept Dartmouth…tied Colorado College…were ranked as high as 8th at one point…have an outstanding goaltender in Allen York and 2 time Hobey Baker candidate Chase Polacek..ok, they slipped a little down the stretch which can happen to any team…Colgate was predicted to finish in the top 3 of the standings at the beginning of the season by some, because they have 7 NHL draftees (to RPI’s 3) …and Colgate handled Union the next round as well…hear nobody talking about Union losing to them….can’t just judge on one game or one series…need to look at the whole season….and if each of the ECAC playoff rounds were one game elimination games like they should be like in every other league, Union and RPI would’ve both moved on because they each won the first game of the series…so people who say “they don’t deserve to be there”, why don’t you go up to North Dakota and join the whiners…this aint the final 64 like the ncaa basketball tourney…this is the Final 16…a win wouldn’t be a drastic miracle, sorry…surprise maybe, but not a miracle

    I think it will be a close fought battle…Let’s Go RPI!!!!!

    • Nyqi

      Anyone can beat anyone on a given night (or day in this case) but if you want to look at the entire season you have to admit that UND looks to be the better squad. And rather than slipping as you say RPI has down the stretch, UND is unbeaten in 13 or 14 straight and took home a conf title. Just seems that UND is hitting on all cylinders which will be trouble for any team. But again anyone can beat anyone and a hot goalie can sometimes be the difference. Good luck to all but my money is on UND in this game in a big way.

  • BLOOMY18018

    UMD Bulldogs will win the East Regional, Fire Power – Fire Power and more Fire Power,

  • Jim

    Bc fan so I hate the Sioux – but No Dak will probably win this thing 8-0. Id be surprised if they won by a less than 5 goal margin

  • Nyqi

    Looks like Union is in a bit of trouble down by 2 now.