Now is the time of the year where various awards begin to be awarded in college hockey. All-conference teams, MVPs, playoff champions. In the next month,
Johnny Gaudreau someone technically unknown will walk away with the Hobey Baker and a goalie will take home the inaugural Mike Richter Award. Best of all, one team will get away from individual honors by just winning four games.
It seems like every day a new batch of awards come out - even today, we here at SB Nation had six writers come up with their All-Big Ten teams (LINK). Everyone has awards. So why not make my own? There's nothing stopping me. Heck, I figure I can make my own categories to keep things interesting. Everybody can feel good about Kyle Rau being named to the Big Ten second team. How about the Wellsy (yes I made up my made up awards name to be the quintessential hockey nickname) for Biggest Surprise? It's prestigious, creative and slightly made up.
Creativity counts on the internet, right?
Big Ten MVP: Ryan Dzingel
There are several worthwhile candidates for MVP, including Adam Wilcox, who (spoiler for those who can't see down two sentences) is goalie of the year, and co-leading goal scorer Michael Mersch. The way Dzingel easily led the Big Ten in points in a conference where defense and goaltending ruled made it an easy choice. Dzingel was consistent, only having one series this entire year without a point, and turning a team that entered the year with several negatives into a positive is MVP worthy.
Goalie of the Year: Adam Wilcox
Sometimes it's easy to overlook Minnesota's defense. The Gopher offense controls play and puck possession throughout the season to the point where finding the right context for Wilcox's play can be difficult. His consistency throughout the year and in conference, where the Gophers gave up 9 fewer goals than any other team, and growing, facing more shots as a sophomore prove that it isn't a system.
Big Ten Newcomer of the Year: Everyone
Best situation we still aren't sure how to feel about: Michigan State & Jake Hildebrand
In some aspects, Hildebrand was the best goaltender in the league. No one was relied upon the way the sophomore was in 2013-14. Michigan State's offense struggled for most of the season to the point where the Spartans scored 2 goals or fewer 23 times. In conference, MSU scored the same number of goals as last place Penn State yet thanks to defense (i.e. getting back Johnny Draeger) and winning 4 of 6 shootouts nearly finished above an OSU team which surprised us at times. There feels like there should be a bigger gap.
Is Hildebrand a great goalie on a bad team? You can make the case. At the same time, where do the Spartans go from here next season? It's interesting.
Best Placement of a Scarf: Minnesota (on a Nittany Lion)
Best Placement of an Existing Catchphrase: Penn State (Pride on Ice)
Oddest making to a beautiful off the ice rivalry ever?
Sam B. Gore Excellence in Big Ten Creative Name Mispronunciation Award: Hunter Fasching, Minnesota by John Buccigross
For the longest time this was going to be "Alex Wilcox" by Rick Pizzo. Wilcox's name botch/hybrid combining cousin Alex Stalock was more memorable because Pizzo apologized three times (we all make mistakes), but last weekend's call of "Hunter Fasching" by Bucci came in late and stole the thunder. Coming in the final minute at the end of a game was one of those moments where you had to take stock and look back and make sure that the name was slightly off. It was.
Favorite College Hockey Broadcaster: Dan Kelly
Last award's namesake aside (and even there yelling worked), there are several great college hockey broadcasters. From the local student-run calls to slanted regional coverage to BTN to NBCSN, CBSSN and other national broadcasts, the state of college hockey broadcasts is a lot better than just 5 years ago. There are more games on television.
This was a tough one, but I'm giving it to BTN's Dan Kelly for a few reasons. First, Kelly is a national guy who knows his stuff. He doesn't have one team beat and there are times where Kelly covers four different teams on the same week. While he normally covers the A game, he also is paired with 3-4 different analysts. Being able to quietly conduct different analysts without the chemistry of one throughout the year while calling the game (odds are there is one or two things that I learn) seems like a tough task.
Second, these awards are already an exercise in narcissism. So anyone - Starman, Holden, Parkhurst, McLeod, Buccigross - who wants to up their standing in next year's Wellsies one tip is call the committee your favorite on television. They enjoy hearing good things about themselves.
(s/t @cjzero for catching this)
Biggest Surprise: Shootouts not being easy for former WCHA teams
CCHA schools had an advantage with the shootout entering this season, however, no one would have guessed at the time that Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Penn State for that matter, would fail to have won at least one shootout. It doesn't seem like the most difficult skill competition to pick up as a hockey player. Apparently there is something. (Also, no NCHC team won a shootout against a former CCHA club.)
Both former WCHA schools finished with zero shootout wins despite finishing in first and second place.
Worst Surprise (Minnesota being this good)
In hindsight, I feel stupid to have put the Gophers second in the Big Ten with the number of question marks entering the season; even if Wisconsin was a top-ten team for most of the year. Every question has been answered up to this point (we'll get to the postseason ones this week). Don Lucia and his coaching staff have done a remarkable job replacing players that left for the pros with incoming freshman. Even more so is how many Gopher sophomores and juniors have continued to develop. This isn't a team with one solid line. Minnesota's speed and top-nine depth have caused problems all season and for that to be a surprise after last year spending most of the season in the top two, is wrong.
Best Big Ten Game - Penn State/Michigan February 8
When Guy Gadowsky is out recruiting, he should just show a video of Pegula Arena getting louder and louder during the Nittany Lions first conference win. The Big Ten saw OT winners, games going down to the final minute, contests shifted outdoors among others. None compare to the way Penn State came out and put three goals on the Wolverines in ten minutes only to shut them out over the next fifty.
(Runner-up: Minnesota/BC October 25 - While not a Big Ten game, till one of the best regular season experiences I've had live. No surprised these two teams spent most of the year at the top.)
Dishing the Puck Dish - Mark Zengerle
When Zengerle finishes the year with 30 assists, leading the conference in all games, and have it be the second-worst total in four seasons, you're doing things right.
Shootout excellence that didn't matter - Alex Kile December 11 vs. Ferris State
Alex Kile scored this shootout goal in a game that didn't count for anything - not a tie, not a point in conference play - except for being a top-10 Sportscenter play. It'd be one thing if the goal jumpstarted the freshman's career. However, it didn't even do that. Kile finished with 6 points (4G-2A) and he didn't score a point that actually counted again until February 21.
Best way to save a shootout goal - Adam Wilcox
Apparently this is legal so why doesn't everyone do it? Can't be worse than what Minnesota and Wisconsin already did in shootouts this year.
Most creative Twitter Handle: Nolan De Jong (@jongshow)
In lieu of an award for most creative college hockey Twitter because most aren't by design, Nolan De Jong gets the Wellsy for most creative Twitter over runner-up is PSU's Curtis Loik - @loiknessmonster. Thankfully there is some creativity is left on the ice.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate