By Derek Berry
DETROIT – Blake Geoffrion, senior forward from the University of Wisconsin, won the 2010 Hobey Baker Award during a ceremony held Friday evening at Ford Field in Detroit, site of the 2010 NCAA Division I men’s hockey championship. This year marks the 30th year the prestigious award has been handed out.
Geoffrion edged out two others for the honor: Gustav Nyquist, sophomore forward from the University of Maine Black Bears and a Detroit Red Wings draft pick, and Bobby Butler, senior forward from the University of New Hampshire Wildcats, who just signed a contract with the Ottawa Senators.
Geoffrion, a native of Brentwood, Tenn., is a second round draft pick of the Nashville Predators. Geoffrion’s last name is probably quite familiar to hockey fans far and wide. He is the son of Danny Geoffrion, who had a brief career with the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets. He is also the grandson of the late Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and great grandson of the late Howie Morenz, both of whom also played for the Canadiens and are both enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Badgers coach Mike Eaves regularly puts Geoffrion on the power play and penalty kill, demonstrating his ability to be a strong two-way player. He is a remarkable 60 percent on faceoffs and has a shooting percentage of 23 percent.
Geoffrion was named MVP of the NCAA West Regional this year and had 27 goals and 38 points in 38 games coming into the Frozen Four, ranking second in the nation. He was tied for first in power play goals heading into the semifinals in Detroit as well.
“I want to thank my teammates and the wonderful people around me every day,” said Geoffrion, the first Wisconsin Badger to win college hockey’s most cherished prize. “I wouldn’t be here without them. I speak for my teammates when I say the job’s not done yet. We��ve still got one more win to go.”
Eaves said Geoffrion’s leadership is one of the key things that his captain brings to Wisconsin’s squad.
“His leadership, his ability to play in all situations, our top faceoff guy, he’s probably one of the best in the country,” said Eaves. “He’s our first go-to guy out there to kill penalties. (These) are things he brings to the table.”
His major off-ice achievements include spending time with sick children at the University of Wisconsin Children’s Hospital, and being a mentor to a cancer patient and a peer leader at school, lending assistance to fellow University of Wisconsin students. Geoffrion’s major at Wisconsin is Consumer Science.
READY TO RUMBLE
With a single goal in mind, both the Eagles and Badgers took to the ice Friday in preparation for Saturday night’s NCAA Division I Frozen Four championship, which will be broadcast on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST.
Coming into the final, both teams are coming off of semifinal blowouts, outscoring RIT and Miami by a combined 15-2. Wisconsin drubbed RIT 8-1, ending the Cinderella run for the Tigers. Boston College soundly beat a solid defensive team in the Miami RedHawks 7-1.
Boston College coach Jerry York has seen talented teams like Wisconsin all season in his league – Hockey East – and elsewhere.
“We played teams that were very, very good, whether we were in our league or we stepped outside and played Denver or Notre Dame,” said York, who has directed the Eagles to championships in 2001 and 2008. “It’s going to be the small things that determine the outcome of the game. A big save or maybe a key block by one of our defensemen.”
The Eagles players know they are in for a tough test in facing a talented Wisconsin team and trying to win their second national title in three seasons.
“They’ve scored a ton of goals,” said BC sophomore forward Jimmy Hayes. “But we have, too, so it should be a great game. I think with the speed it’s going to have an exciting, fast pace, so I think it will be great for our game.”
BC senior Matt Price agreed with his teammate: “They are a great team. You don’t go into a national championship and expect anything else.”
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves has a friendly relationship with York and a lot of respect for the long-time Eagles coach, as York coached one of Eaves children (Patrick Eaves, now with the Detroit Red Wings and a BC alum).
“The fact that (we’re up against) coach York and we have history makes it all the more interesting,” said Eaves, making his second appearance in the national championship with the Badgers. “Coach York and his coaching staff, they do a great job. There’s a lot of respect there. Their teams are ready to play.”
Eaves said there are no secrets in terms of game strategy against BC in the final.
“(They are) excellent with the puck at the blueline,” he said. “If we can get to the puck and have good puck protection and be patient, that will be a key part of the game.”
Badgers junior goaltender Scott Gudmandson said the little things will matter most when all is said and done Saturday night.
“We’ve got to have great puck management and get the puck deep,” said Gudmandson. “I think that BC kind of lived off turnovers (against Miami), so if we have good puck management I think we will be fine out there.”
Wisconsin sophomore forward Derek Stepan agreed, adding: “I think it just comes down to playing hard, simple, smart as a team. It’s going to be a fun game and it’s going to be energetic.”
The Badgers are appearing in the NCAA title match for the ninth time in school history and the second time in the last four years. Wisconsin tries for its seventh all-time title.
Boston College, meanwhile, is making its fourth trip to the NCAA championship in the last five years. They will be looking for their fourth national title in school history.
BC holds the edge all-time in the series with Wisconsin, owning a record of 11-9-0. The two schools have met three times previously in the NCAA tournament. BC bested the Badgers 4-1 in 2000 in a second round game in Minneapolis. Prior to that, the Badgers beat the Eagles 2-1 in 1990 on the way to the NCAA title. And Wisconsin beat Boston College as recently as 2006 in the national championship in Milwaukee.
RECOGZIED FOR GIVING BACK
Colgate University’s Ethan Cox was named the 15th recipient of the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award, created to acknowledge outstanding student-athletes who have embraced humanitarian efforts. Cox was recognized in a ceremony prior to the Hobey presentation.
Cox spent time off the ice during his four years at Colgate leading a holiday food drive for the needy, which became a tradition. In fact, during this past holiday season, he led an effort to collect more than 1,000 pounds of non-perishable food items. He has also been involved in raising money for various local and national charities and spearheaded an event called “Facing-off Against Cancer,” where donations were collected for Colgate faceoff wins during games.
Cox even helped raise $25,000 for the American Cancer Society.
“My parents were both teachers and they instilled in me the notion of giving back ever since my brother and I were children,” said Cox, a native of Richmond, B.C. “They told me to always be thankful and the best way to express that is to give back to those less fortunate than I am.”
Derek Berry is a freelance writer for TheHockeyNews.com and covers the CCHA as a freelance writer for Michigan Hockey Magazine.