Gaudreaubey Baker: Time For A Closing Statement

via Graham Beck, BC Heights Sports

The final weekend of competition before the Hobey Baker vote is upon us.

One weekend of games away from tying up the Hobey Baker resumes of the respective candidates and still no one has made a move to stake their claim to the hardware. Of the ten finalists, not one of them -- not one! -- were on a team that won --or even played for -- their conference championship.

With nobody pulling out ahead, it's neck and neck between the top candidates.

Let's take a look at the finalists and their most recent weekend of play.

10) Carsen Chubak, Junior Goaltender from Niagara University
Last week: 5-3 loss to Canisius in the AHA semifinals, 5 goals allowed on 29 shots

Chubak is not a serious contender for the Hobey (the token AHA candidate, really -- not to be disrespectful) and if there was any doubt about that, his terrible final weekend really didn't help. Niagara heavily outshot Canisius got 44-29, and the Purple Eagles put up three goals, presumably enough to win, but Chubak really struggled.

Niagara is still playing hockey, and a strong weekend against North Dakota and Minnesota could certainly raise some eyebrows -- but Chubak hasn't done nearly enough this season where one great weekend would vault him to the top.

9) Austin Czarnik, Sophomore Forward from Miami University
Last week: 0-2--2 in a 6-2 loss to Michigan in the CCHA semifinals.

Like Chubak, Czarnik hasn't been mentioned much as a serious contender to take the award. In the CCHA's final season, the league couldn't get shut out of its last Hobey Final 10, could it? That's apparently what the committee thought.

Czarnik is tied for 21st in scoring with 14-24--38 line on the season. A good year, but not Hobey worthy. He had a nice game against Michigan, assisting on both of the Redhawks' goals, but Czarnik is not a serious threat, despite still playing hockey this weekend.

8) Kyle Flanagan, Senior Forward from St. Lawrence University
Last week: DNP. Previous week: 0-0--0 in two losses against Yale in the ECAC quarterfinals

Flanagan is a senior, and had a great season, but has dropped off the map and isn't playing any more hockey. Flanagan is 9th in the nation in scoring with a solid 15-32--47 line -- and tied for 2nd in PPG with a couple others. But this is where his road to the Hobey ends.

7) Greg Carey, Junior Forward from St. Lawrence University
Last week: DNP. Previous week: 0-0--0 in two losses against Yale in the ECAC quarterfinals

Carey led the nation in scoring for a while but an invisible quarterfinal in which his team was swept and no more games to be played has taken him out of consideration as well. At 28-23--51, Carey leads the nation in goals, which is definitely to his favor, but his season ending so early really hurts.

6) Ryan Walters, Junior Forward from the University of Nebraska Omaha
Last week: DNP: Previous week: 1-1--2 in three games against Minnesota State in the WCHA quarterfinals

Walters bounced around with Carey in the top two in scoring for much of the year. With a 22-30--52, Walters had a great season, but like Carey and Flanagan, had his season end too early to really be considered.

Despite Carey leading the nation in goals, I put Walters in 6th because he had to play significantly tougher competition in the WCHA. But like the others -- great season, but this is where his run to the hardware ends.

5) Eric Hartzell, Senior Goaltender from Quinnipiac University
Last week: 4 GA in 23 shots in a loss to Brown (ECAC semis), Shutout (30 saves) vs. Yale in consolation

Hartzell is in interesting choice here after leading Quinnipiac to the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. He has a shot at the final three, but his bad game against Brown really hurt. Still, at 3rd in the nation in GAA at 1.52 and having played the vast majority of minutes in net for the Bobcats, Hartzell is a quality candidate.

A goalie really has to be exceptional to win the Hobey, and Hartzell is just Very Good. If he does lead Quinnipiac to the Frozen Four I would call him a lock for the Final 3, but if not, there is room for someone else to jump him.

4) Corban Knight, Senior Forward from the University of North Dakota
Last week: 0-0--0 in a loss to Colorado College in the WCHA Final Five

For a while, Knight appeared to be Gaudreau's strongest competition to win the Hobey. But a bit of a run by Danny Kristo has dropped Knight to 2nd best on his own team.

At 15-33--48 he's really lacking in goals, and does seem to be a notch below Kristo. His game last week where he was held off the scoresheet certainly did not help.

3) Drew LeBlanc, Senior Forward from St. Cloud State University
Last week: 0-0--0 in a loss to Wisconsin in the WCHA Final Five

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't have LeBlanc in the Final 3, despite his more-than-solid season. At 13-37--50, his numbers aren't eye-popping (he could really use more goals in that count), but LeBlanc is the "more than just a great player" candidate. The WCHA Player of the Year was also named WCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the first player to win both awards.

I personally hope that the voters value this off-the-ice criteria enough to get LeBlanc into the Final 3, because he is really the kind of person you want leading your team. His lack of goals will hold him back from winning the award, but I do hope LeBlanc makes the last cut.

2) Danny Kristo, Senior Forward from the University of North Dakota
Last week: 1-0--1 in a loss to Colorado College in the WCHA Final Five

Finally, a serious candidate who showed up on the scoresheet last week! Kristo is on a nice little point streak, with at least a point in each of his last 5 games. But like everyone else, he couldn't lead his team to even its conference championship game. But nonetheless, Kristo did light the lamp and gave his team a shot.

Kristo's 25-26--51 is very impressive. Third in the nation in goals an total points, he appears to be the biggest threat to Gaudreau. Will the "providing alcohol to minors" issue affect his shot at the hardware? If the race remains this close, it could be what loses it for him -- but I have a feeling one of these top two candidates will lead their team to the Frozen Four and pull ahead at the wire.

1) Johnny Gaudreau, Sophomore Forward from Boston College
Last week: 0-1--1 in a loss to Boston University in the HEA semifinals

Like Kristo, Gaudreau has gotten himself on a very nice point streak, also with at least one point in his last 5 games. Gaudreau's streak has been a bit more robust, however, with 11 points in those 5 games to Kristo's 7.

Gaudreau has started to turn up the heat at the right time and has put himself back atop the nation in scoring at 1.47 PPG. Kristo is one point ahead of Gaudreau -- but with an extra four games played.

Like it or not, Gaudreau's run in World Juniors is going to help his candidacy. Gaudreau led Team USA to the Gold Medal as the team's leading scorer. Between that, and his late season point run -- Gaudreau currently sits atop the Hobey "Big Board."

So how will the Hobey race shake out?

This is a race between Kristo and Gaudreau. Right now, the biggest weight weighing any of the candidates down belongs to Kristo, who has a serious candidate on his own team who will also certainly steal some of his votes. This single fact alone is going to make it very, very difficult for Kristo to topple Gaudreau right now.

But Kristo is absolutely within striking distance. If Kristo makes it onto the scoresheet and North Dakota advances to the Frozen Four, while Boston College gets taken out by Union or Quinnipiac (or Canisius, lol), you would very likely see Kristo leapfrog Gaudreau into the top spot.

Certainly the race right now is too close to call. Both of the top candidates are in a position where a convincing closing argument would be enough to win them the hardware. And those closing arguments are upon us.

Don't forget to head over to the VoteHobey.com website and vote for Johnny Gaudreau, and of course purchase your Johnny Hockey and Gaudreaubey Baker shirts to help support the BC Campus School.

Oh, and watch this over and over again, because it's awesome:

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