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Hobey Baker Fan Vote Raises Questions

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, December 21, 2005

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute senior forward Kirk MacDonald, the teamís leading scorer last year, isnít playing this season while he recovers from testicular cancer.

Engineers junior third-string goalie Will Neubert, in his second season with the team, has yet to play a game not only this year, but in his college career. The only time he gets on the ice is in practice and during the pregame warmups at home. Neubert rarely gets to travel to road games.

Even though the RPI teammates havenít played this season, it hasnít stopped fans from nominating them for the Hobey Baker Award.

In the Vote for Hobey nomination phase, MacDonald has 27 votes, which puts him into the preliminary voting phase. Players with at least 25 votes advance to the next round. Neubert has 13 votes. All vote totals are through Monday night.

The nomination phase runs through Jan. 15. That gives RPI fans plenty of time to get Neubert or any other Engineer the 25 votes needed to advance to the preliminary round.

All of RPIís players have received votes. In addition to MacDonald, forwards Kevin Croxton (50 votes), Oren Eizenman (36) and Jonathan Ornelas (30) will advance to the preliminary round. Croxton, Eizenman and Ornelas, who are the teamís top three scorers, definitely deserve to be nominated.

But when players who havenít played are receiving nominations, it threatens to ruin the integrity of the fan vote.

When Jon Doehr, a vice president of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation, was told that fans are voting for players that havenít seen any action this season, he admitted concern.

"I donít think weíve had this problem before," Doehr said. "Certainly, we can not have players who have not touched the ice in any round eligible to receive votes. At the same time, I donít want to send a letter to RPI saying we appreciate your interest, but stop doing what youíre doing, at least at this stage."

"The good news is that, from looking at it, if you look at the top 10 to 15 players on the list right now, they seem to be good candidates. So, from that vantage point, itís working."

There is little the committee can do about preventing fans from voting, according to Doehr. But a rule could be voted on in the future to prevent the situation from happening again.

"Quite frankly, we donít have a staff. Weíre all volunteers," Doehr said. "To go through it every day and say it looks like so and so hasnít played more than 10 games, he shouldnít be eligible. I think itís a great idea."

The fan vote has been in place for five years. After the nomination phase, the preliminary round of voting runs from Jan. 16 through March 5. Fans can cast one ballot per day for their first- , second- and third-place choices. The fansí tally is combined with the votes of the 59 Division I coaches to determine the 10 finalists.

The final round of voting takes place from March 17-27. The results of the fan vote will be counted, along with the votes of the Hobey Baker selection committee, to determine the award winner.

"We were looking for ways, as we always are, just to promote the award, and promote college hockey in general," Doehr said. "And in addition to that, quite frankly, we didnít have any money, so we were trying to figure out how we can attract sponsors to the award. We thought getting more people attracted to our Web site would be a possible way with that cause."

"So, the fan voting was a way to promote the award, promote the game and also try to be a source of potential revenue for the foundation."

However, the fansí vote counts for just 1 percent of the final total.

"The fan vote is the minimalist in the overall selection process," Doehr said. "Weíre counting heavily on the ballots we get from the 59 coaches. The fan voting, at the end of the day, could decide a tiebreaker, but itís not going to decide who gets in the top 10, and who doesnít. Not by a long shot."

LOCAL UPDATE

Here is a look at how college hockey players from the Capital Region who are playing outside the area are doing at the Christmas break.

Boston University sophomore forward Peter MacArthur (Clifton Park) is third on the Terriers in scoring with five goals and six assists. He is tied for the team lead in power-play goals with three.

Clarkson sophomore forward Shawn Weller (South Glens Falls) has 10 goals and 4 assists in 16 games. He leads the team in goals, and in game-winners with three.

New Hampshire senior forward Andrew Leach (Altamont) has a goal and an assist in 18 games.

Army sophomore forward Ken Porter (Delmar) has played in just one game, which was Oct. 23 at RPI. He didnít get a point.

Brown junior defenseman Lauren Deeb (Menands) has two assists in 12 games.

Quinnipiac junior forward Kelly Rider (Glenmont) has yet to get a point. She has played in 20 games.

St. Lawrence junior defenseman Abbie Bullard (Queensbury) has seven assists in 17 games.

Boston University freshman Nicki Wiart (Queensbury) is tied for the third on the team in scoring with seven goals and 10 assists. Her two short-handed goals lead the Terriers.

Maine junior goalie Rachel Gettings (Watervliet) has played in six games, posting a 3-0-1 record with an 0.85 goals-against average, a.957 save percentage and one shutout.

Maine junior forward Amy Quirion (South Glens Falls) has two goals and two assists in 17 games.

SLAP SHOTS

The Christmas tournament season gets under way today when two ECACHL teams play in the Providence Holiday Tournament, formerly known as the Dunkiní Donuts Coffee Pot. Brown plays Sacred Heart in the opener at 4 p.m., while Colgate faces Providence at 7:30. That game will be the first meeting of Raiders coach Don Vaughan and his former associate head coach, Stan Moore. Moore, the former Union head coach, left Colgate to become an assistant coach with the Friars and first-year head coach Tim Army. The consolation and championship games will be played Thursday. . . .

After starting league play with four straight losses, Dartmouth won its fifth ECACHL game in the last six with a 5-1 victory over Harvard on Friday. David Jones and Rob Pritchard each scored twice for the Big Green. . . .

St. Lawrence snapped a threegame losing streak against Vermont, beating the Catamounts, 2-1, on Saturday. Mike Zbriger scored the game-winning goal with five minutes left in the third period. The win helped the Saints move from No. 15 to No. 12 in the latest USCHO.com/CSTV NCAA Top 20 poll. Vermont fell from third to fifth. . . .

Cornell sophomore defenseman Sasha Pokulok was selected to Team Canada for the World Junior Championships, which begins Monday in British Columbia. Pokulok, a first-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals, is the sixth Big Red player to be selected to Team Canada, and the first since goalie David LeNeveu played in 2003. The other Cornell players to make the Team Canada roster are Joe Nieuwendyk (1986), Kent Manderville (1990 and 1991), Dan Ratushny (1990) and Ryan Hughes (1991). . . .

The NCAA announced last Wednesday that Duluth, Minn., and Boston have been selected as sites for the Womenís Frozen Four. Duluth will host the 2008 event at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center, while Boston has the 2009 tournament at Boston Universityís Agganis Arena. The 2006 Frozen Four will be at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, while Lake Placidís Olympic Center hosts the 2007 event.