So in my one dry run through this year's Vote For Hobey process, I decided to cast my vote for Ohio State sophomore goalie Dustin Carlson because, well, the kid made it out of Forest Lake, Minnesota, and you've got to recognize an achievement like that. In fact, I even voted twice. Unfortunately, that only brought his vote total up to 6, roughly 7384 votes behind leader Chay Genoway.
But even if 33% of his fan vote was born out of an odd sense of humor, it may not be all that ridiculous to start considering Carlson as a legitimate Hobey candidate, or at the very least, one of the most valuable players in college hockey.
If I voted twice, the other four votes probably should have come from his coach, John Markell, since it looks like Carlson may have saved Markell's job. It was a pretty poorly kept secret that Markell wasn't just on the hot seat last summer; he was almost let go.
This season started as more of the same mediocrity for the Buckeyes. To be fair, they started the season with a brutal schedule, playing one game at Miami, two at Denver, and two at Michigan. But still, coming out of the Michigan series, they were 2-5-1 with 4 points in the CCHA.
The following weekend, Carlson, who started the season as the back-up to Joe Palmer, who was once one of the most highly-touted goalies in the country, but has struggled in his career as a Buckeye, got the start against Michigan State and shut the Spartans out. Since then, Carlson has been one of the best goalies in the country, and Ohio State has been one of the hottest teams in the country.
In the last 16 games, the Buckeyes are 14-1-1, and have earned 18 league points, vaulting them up to fourth in the conference, with games in hand that could move them as high as second in the conference.
Over that 16 game stretch, Carlson has started 15 of those games, and has only given up 27 goals, for a GAA of roughly 1.80 and a save percentage of .944. Those numbers are huge considering Palmer's stats in the three games he started earlier this year were an atrocious 5.40 GAA and .836 save percentage. Carlson changed the Buckeyes from a team that got blown out consistently to a team that could win tight games, as evidenced by the fact that they are 9-5-2-2 in conference play, but only have a +3 goal differential.
All this means that the Buckeyes are set up pretty nicely for their first postseason run since 2005. They're looking very likely to finish in the top four in the CCHA, which would earn them a bye in the first round of the CCHA playoffs, and most importantly, they sit at 10th in the Pairwise Rankings, which means they're a fairly strong bet to make the NCAA tournament if they keep up their current play.
It's hard enough for a goalie to merit consideration for the Hobey Baker award, but even more so with so many goalies putting up ridiculous numbers this year. Carlson may not even merit all-conference consideration with Notre Dame's Jordan Pearce and Alaska's Chad Johnson both playing in front brickwall defenses, but if Carlson finds a way to lead a young Ohio State team into the national tournament, it would be one of the more remarkable accomplishments of the college hockey season.