The Central Collegiate Hockey Association announced the top three finalists for six of the major individual awards that will be presented on Thursday, March 15 at the historic Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit.
Michigan senior forward T.J. Hensick, Northern Michigan junior forward Mike Santorelli and Notre Dame senior goaltender David Brown are the three finalists for the RBC Finanical Group CCHA Player of the Year award. Hensick, who was a finalist for the award in 2005, leads the CCHA in conference and overall scoring while placing second in the nation with 56 points in 36 games. The Colorado Avalanche draft pick also leads the NCAA in assists with 39. Santorelli finished the regular season as the CCHA leader in goals with 23 in 28 conference games, including a league-best nine scores on the power play. The Nashville Predators draft pick ranks second among NCAA skaters with 29 goals in 38 games. Brown leads the nation with a 1.68 goals-against average in 33 games and placed second in the CCHA with a .922 save percentage in 28 conference contests. The Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick recorded 25 wins and five shutouts this season, which were both Irish school records. In 2004, Brown and Hensick were both finalists for the CCHA Rookie of the Year award, which Hensick won.
Coach of the Year finalists include Michigan’s Red Berenson, Notre Dame’s Jeff Jackson and Western Michigan’s Jim Culhane. Berenson became only the eighth coach in college hockey history to record 600 career wins this season while leading the Wolverines to a 23-12-1 record. Jackson oversaw an Irish team that won 14 more games than last season and is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. Culhane led Western Michigan, picked to finish last in the 2006-07 CCHA preseason media and coaches polls, to a 14-13-1 record and a sixth-place finish in the conference standings.
Freshmen played key roles in the success enjoyed by Notre Dame and Western Michigan. Forwards Ryan Thang of the Irish and Mark Letestu of the Broncos, along with forward Jarod Palmer of Miami, are finalists for the CCHA Rookie of the Year award. Letestu and Thang finished first and second in conference rookie scoring, with Letestu tallying 18 goals and 16 assists and Thang registering 11 goals and 14 assists in 28 games. Palmer finished fourth with nine goals and 13 assists.
Lake Superior junior Derek A. Smith, Michigan sophomore Jack Johnson and Ohio State senior Sean Collins were named as finalists for the CCHA Offensive Defenseman of the Year award. Smith recorded a career-best 26 points in 39 games this season, including 16 in 28 conference contests. Johnson, a 2005-06 finalist for this award, led all CCHA defensemen in conference scoring with 25 points in 25 games and in overall scoring with 31 points in 31 games. Collins places second in the conference in overall scoring with 28 points in 37 games.
Collins is also nominated for the CCHA Defensive Defenseman of Year award, along with Michigan senior Matt Hunwick and Notre Dame junior defenseman Brock Sheahan. Hunwick’s plus-14 in 28 conference games places him in a tie for sixth among CCHA skaters, while Sheahan helped anchor an Irish defense that posted a conference-leading .919 penalty kill average and a 1.82 goals-against average.
CCHA Defensive Forward of the Year nominees include Miami junior Nathan Davis, Michigan senior David Rohlfs and Western Michigan sophomore Jeff LoVecchio. Davis spearheaded a Miami penalty kill that ranked second in the conference with a .899 efficiency. Rohlfs finished second in the conference with a plus-18 in 28 conference games, while LoVecchio placed fourth with a plus-15.