Hellebuyck wins inaugural Mike Richter Award

Sophomore Connor Hellebuyck, center, with Mike Richter, left, and Bernie Parent, right, after winning the 2014 Mike Richter award. (Candice Monhollan)

Sophomore Connor Hellebuyck, center, with Mike Richter, left, and Bernie Parent, right, after winning the 2014 Mike Richter award. (Candice Monhollan)

PHILADELPHIA – A U.S. born player and college goaltender at the University of Wisconsin before turning pro, it’s no wonder that when it was decided a collegiate goaltending award was needed, it would be named after former New York Ranger Mike Richter.

It was even more fitting the award’s first year would come when the Frozen Four was played in Philadelphia, a mere 15 miles away from his hometown of Abington, Pa.

“To be involved in this award, considering the incredible tradition of excellence in goaltending and position of goaltending in college hockey … it’s a real privilege to be part of this,” Richter said. “The position of goaltending is obviously important to the team, but the equipment, the demands, everything about the position is somewhat unique within a team sport.”

The award was created to honor the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA men’s hockey.

The five finalists for the first year were, in alphabetical order:

Senior Sam Brittain (Denver University: 19-14-6, 2.22 GAA, .929 SV%, 5 SO), sophomore Connor Hellebuyck (UMass Lowell: 18-9-2, 1.79 GAA, .941 SV%, 6 SO), junior Joel Rumpel (University of Wisconsin: 21-6-1, 2.07 GAA, .929 SV%, 2 SO), sophomore Adam Wilcox (University of Minnesota: 25-5-6, 1.89 GAA, .934 SV%, 4 SO) and junior Clay Witt (Northeastern University: 17-12-3, 2.37 GAA, .932 SV%, 4 SO).

The winner, announced in a press conference the morning before the Frozen Four National Championship game, was Hellebuyck, who was on-hand to receive the goalie mask award.

“It’s a huge honor to be chosen among so many great goaltenders in college hockey for this prestigious award,” he said. “This is a huge milestone in my life. I’d like to thank my teammates for everything they’ve done for me because without them, this wouldn’t be possible.”

Candidates for the award were determined off nominations from all 59 head coaches. They selected 19 goaltenders this season and from that pool, five finalists were chosen by a committee of coaches, scouts and members of the media.

“[Hellebuyck] has been a complete player from the moment he came to campus,” Richter said. “According to his coach especially, his work ethic is like none other. This, to me, kind of embodies what’s most important because there is a lot of talent out there and there is something that has to separate the successful players.

“[He] not only played at a high level, but I think this is the key. He played with a level consistency that was unmatched and this is really the mark of a champion – not just playing great sometimes, but playing at the upper limits of their capability as much as possible.”

Hellebuyck, who signed a three-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets last week, leaves UMass Lowell after compiling a 38-12-2 record and 12 shutouts – yes, he posted the same amount of shutouts as he in losses in his college career.

A pretty impressive feat and a very high standard to set for future award winners.

“[Being the first to win] says that these guys believe in me,” Hellebuyck said. “I’m going to focus on my career knowing that and I’m always going to have an added focus to it because of these guys. I hope we can set a good standard for the future because goaltenders should look up to this and be really proud and really striving for excellence to achieve this because this is just huge.

“Everything they’ve put together here and everything they’ve done for this award is just so professional. I could go on for days about how awesome this experience is.”

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Categories: College Sports, Frozen Four, Ice Hockey, Sports

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