All three Hobey Baker finalists have strong Minnesota ties

The Hobey Baker Award will be announced April 8 during NCAA Frozen Four weekend in Boston, and whoever is named as the nation’s top men’s college hockey player will have a strong Minnesota tie.

Gophers center Ben Meyers of Delano, Denver forward Bobby Brink of Minnetonka and Minnesota State Mankato goalie Dryden McKay on Thursday were named the Hobey Hat Trick finalists. All three will be competing in the Frozen Four, with Brink’s Pioneers playing Michigan in the first semifinal on April 7 and McKay and the Mavericks facing Meyers and the Gophers in the other semifinal that night.

The three finalists were selected from 10 top candidates by the 30-member selection committee and an additional round of online fan voting. Criteria for the award include: displaying outstanding skills in all phases of the game; strength of character on and off the ice; sportsmanship and scholastic achievements.

Meyers, a junior, has 17 goals and 24 assists this season and was named Big Ten Player of the Year. He played for Team USA in the Beijing Olympics and ranked second on the team with four points. Since returning from China, he has six goals and nine assists in seven games, including the overtime goal to beat Massachusetts 4-3 in the Worcester (Mass.) Regional semifinal, plus three assists last weekend. A standout two-way center, Meyers has won 57.9% of his faceoffs.

Brink, a junior, leads the nation with 56 points and 42 assists. He was named NCHC Player of the Year and Forward of the Year after leading the Pioneers to a tie for the conference title. He was a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2019 and helped the United States win the gold medal in the 2021 World Junior Championship.

McKay, a senior from Downers Grove, Ill., Is a Hobey Hat Trick finalist for the second consecutive year and is also up for the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top goalie. McKay (37-4-0) set an NCAA record for wins in a season, ranks second with a 1.28 goals-against average, is third with a .934 save percentage and is tied for second with 10 shutouts. His 34 career shutouts are an NCAA record, and he blanked Notre Dame 1-0 in the Albany (NY) Regional final.

The award winner will be announced April 8 during a 5 pm show on the NHL Network.

Game moved to ESPNU

For those who added ESPNU to their cable, satellite or streaming services to watch the NCAA men’s hockey regional tournaments last weekend, don’t cancel that package quite yet. You’re going to need it to watch the Gophers play Minnesota State Mankato in the Frozen Four.

ESPN2 was originally scheduled to broadcast both NCAA semifinal games on April 7 and the national championship game on April 9 from Boston. That, however, changed this week for one game. The Minnesota- MSU Mankato semifinal instead will air on ESPNU at 7:30 pm April 7. The first semifinal between Denver and Michigan remains on ESPN2 at 4 pm, as does the national championship game at 7 pm April 9.

The reason for the move: Major League Baseball, or more specifically, the money fight between the players and owners that dragged on and delayed the start of the season. Instead of the Gophers-Mavericks game, ESPN2 will air the season opener between World Series champion Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds because of a contractual obligation with MLB, an ESPN spokesperson confirmed. If you’re wondering what the ESPN flagship will air at that time, it’s the first-round replay of the Masters.

The difference between airing on ESPNU vs. ESPN2 when it comes to potential audience size is substantial. ESPN2 is packaged with ESPN on cable and satellite systems, and parent company Disney in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing in late November estimated ESPN had 76 million viewers. ESPNU had an estimated 51 million viewers, per Nielsen research that Disney included in its filing.

Compounding the situation is the fact that ESPNU often isn’t on the same package as ESPN and ESPN2. For example, Xfinity requires a higher-level, and higher-priced, package to have ESPNU than it does to have ESPN2.

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