PITTSBURGH -- The St. Cloud State Huskies might not be playing in Saturday's national championship game at the Frozen Four, but they'll still be bringing some hardware back with them on the ride to Minnesota. Senior forward Drew LeBlanc has won the 33rd Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey.
"It's tough to put into words," LeBlanc said. "It's obviously a tremendous honor. For everything Hobey Baker did, not only for college hockey but for the country as well, I'll take tremendous pride in representing him."
The Hermantown, Minn. native beat out Quinnipiac Bobcats goalie Eric Hartzell and Boston College Eagles forward Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau, a sophomore, had slightly better numbers than LeBlanc, scoring one extra point in six fewer games on the season, but LeBlanc was also named the WCHA's Player of the Year and Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year awards.
Hartzell has been Quinnipiac's MVP all season long, leading them to a No. 1 ranking for half the year and a berth in the national championship game on Saturday, but it's rare that goaltenders win the Hobey. It's happened just twice since the award was first awarded in 1981 -- Minnesota's Robb Stauber in 1988 and Michigan State's Ryan Miller in 2001.
Perhaps even more impressive, LeBlanc played this season as a redshirt senior after suffering a compound fracture of his leg the year prior. The injury draws comparisons to the one suffered by Kevin Ware of Louisville in the NCAA basketball tournament two weeks ago.
"I forced myself not to watch it because I know how it feels," LeBlanc said of Ware's injury. "I did see a picture and got a little tingly where my bone came through. I feel sympathy for him and I feel really bad, but knowing what's ahead of him, with hard work and dedication he'll be back."
LeBlanc is a free agent in the NHL and can be signed at any time. That'll likely happen sooner than later.