The Hockey East standings are as tight as ever, and the second half should provide plenty of excitement and heart-stopping action. With the 2013 calendar portion of the season over it is a perfect time to recap the first half and hand out some mid-season awards. Editor's note: Compiled by Jeff Cox and Evan Sporer.
Hockey East Player of the First Half
Johnny Gaudreau, Jr., Boston College
Is there really any need to elaborate on this choice? The Calgary Flames prospect has been a human highlight reel on his way to leading the league in scoring for one of the top teams in the country. The returning Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist seems destined to win college hockey's ultimate individual award come April 11 in Philadelphia.
Runner-up: Kevin Hayes, BC
Hockey East Co-Coaches of the First Half
Jim Madigan, Northeastern
The Huskies were picked to finish last in Hockey East and have certainly surprised many by an impressive first half that included wins at UMass-Lowell and Notre Dame. The knock on NU is its soft schedule and suspect defense. No freshman class in the country has been more valuable to its team, but Madigan deserves credit for finding the right combinations and finding an adequate solution in goal.
Nate Leaman, Providence
The Friars tied a program record for most wins in the first half of the season and appear destined for continued success with the return of Jon Gillies from the World Junior Championship. Leaman has turned a downtrodden Providence program around in less than three years to the point that it is a legitimate contender to win the Frozen Four.
Hockey East Rookie of the First Half
Michael Szmatula, Northeastern
The former USHL Clark Cup champion with the Dubuque Fighting Saints whose recruiting turmoil caught the attention of the college hockey world has the third most points of any rookie in Division I. Fellow Huskies rookie Dalen Hedges has more points in league play, but it is tough to overlook Szmatula's 22 points overall. Along with John Stevens, Zach Aston-Reese and Hedges, the four freshman forwards could form a strong nucleus for years to come.
Runner-up: Ryan Fitzgerald, Boston College
Hockey East Goaltender of the First Half
Jon Gillies, Soph., Providence
The Calgary Flames prospects are running away with two of the mid-season awards. Gillies has led his team to a high national ranking and has been one of the biggest reasons that hockey is once again thriving on Huxley Ave. His sound positioning combined with his athletic ability make him one of the hardest goaltenders to beat in college hockey.
Runner-up: Martin Ouellette, Sr., Maine
Midseason Hockey East First Team
Forward: Johnny Gaudreau, Jr., Boston College
Forward: Ross Mauermann, Jr., Providence
Forward: Kevin Roy, Soph., Northeastern
Defense: Ben Hutton, Soph., Maine
Defense: Michael Matheson, Soph., Boston College
Goaltender: Jon Gillies, Soph., Providence
Midseason Hockey East Second Team
Forward: Devin Shore, Soph., Maine
Forward: Kevin Hayes, Sr., Boston College
Forward: Nick Sorkin, Sr., New Hampshire
Defense: Michael Paliotta, Jr., Vermont
Defense: Steven Shamanski, Sr., Providence
Goaltender: Martin Ouellette, Sr., Maine
Midseason Hockey East All-Rookie Team
Forward: Michael Szmatula, Northeastern
Forward: Ray Pigozzi, UMass
Forward: Ryan Fitzgerald, Boston College
Defense: Ian McCoshen, Boston College
Defense: Anthony Florentino, Providence
Goaltender: Michael Santaguida, Vermont
There were some notable omissions such as Trevor van Riemsdyk from UNH who is a solid quarterback on the power play and is a puck-moving threat, but he is not as reliable in his own end as the four picked above him.
Vince Hinostroza, a member of the United States World Junior Championship team and Notre Dame freshman, was left off the all-rookie team, but only because injuries prevented him from playing in much of the conference portion of the first half. Expect him to be on the ballot come the end of the season.
Hockey East has been very fortunate over the years with terrific goaltenders, starting in the first season with Providence's Chris Terreri. The league had a goalie picked number one overall when Rick DiPietro went first in the 2000 NHL Draft to the New York Islanders. This year there were four Hockey East goaltenders, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, Ben Bishop and Cory Schneider, with a legitimate shot to make the US Olympic team. Two, Howard and Quick, were eventually named to the squad that will head to Sochi. Why is this being brought up? In addition to Gillies and Ouellette, UMass-Lowell sophomore goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and Notre Dame senior Steven Summerhays have been outstanding between the pipes. Other league goalies such as Vermont's duo of Brody Hoffman and Michael Santaguida and Boston University's Matt O'Connor have been solid as well. The goaltending decisions were not easy.