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I know the rules. I go over them all the time: Hobey Likes Goals, there’s always an candidate from the East, all that stuff.

And I spit in the face of all the rules.

Sure enough, it came back to bite me. Cam Atkinson, not Jack Connolly, is the third member of the Hobey Hat Trick, along with the two easy choices, North Dakota’s Matt Frattin and Miami’s Andy Miele.

What was I thinking? Well, I was impressed by the Bulldogs’  ”FCC” line at the East Regional last weekend, and I thought that a trip to the Frozen Four would push Connolly, a gifted setup man, past the eastern candiadates like Atkisnon, Paul Thompson and Chase Polacek.

In the cases of Thompson and Polacek, I may have been right, but clearly, I had it wrong with Atkinson.

Atkinson, of course, has a lot to recommend him. He’s a big-time goal-scorer with a National Championship and two Hockey East titles on his résumé. He comes from a long line of BC forwards who have been finalists under Jerry York.  Of course, no one in that line – Ben Eaves, Patrick Eaves, Chris Collins, Nathan Gerbe and some guy you might have heard of named Brian Gionta – has ever actually WON the Hobey, so I think we can forget that right now, which will come as a relief to the people questioning whether Atkinson belongs on the list, given the fact that he is now a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

An aside on that subject: I totally understand the concern about honoring a player who leaves early for the pros, and that academic achievement is an important element of the Hobey criteria. That said, however, I don’t have a problem with a player making the right decision for himself and his career, especially when he’s already won a national championship at the college level.  See also: Matt Carle at Denver in 2006, who won the darn thing and was given a leave of absence by the San Jose Sharks to go and collect it. He’d already won two NCAA titles, which made it easier to give him the award in a year where his team didn’t even make the tournament. Atkinson will have time to get his degree at BC, whether it’s in the offseason or after his career is over (or even if he has an injury that wipes out most of a season, although we certainly hope that doesn’t happen to him).

Still, I do think that the winner will be either Frattin or Miele. You have the top scorer in the country in points per game and the top goal-scorer in the nation, both seniors, and both leaders on teams that won their conferences. I don’t see Atkinson topping them, especially when players who have had better seasons at BC (i.e. Gionta, Gerbe) haven’t won the award.

Which of the two it will be, however, is a more difficult question, and one that I’m not going to address tonight. I’ll muse on it a bit in the coming days, including another visit to that little issue of “character.”

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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).