There were two questions facing Union entering the 2011-12 college hockey season.
Could Troy Grosenick be a capable replacement in goal for Keith Kinkaid? And could new head coach Rick Bennett keep the momentum going that former head coach Nate Leaman started?
Both questions were answered in the affirmative. And they were both rewarded Thursday night at the ECAC Hockey Awards Banquet at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
Grosenick captured the Ken Dryden Award as the conference’s top goalie, and he was also named a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. It’s the first time a Union player has been named a finalist for the award that goes to college hockey’s top player in the program’s 21-year NCAA Division I history.
Bennett won the Tim Taylor Award as the ECACH Coach of the Year.
Union center Kelly Zajac was also a winner, capturing the Best Defensive Forward Award.
Grosenick, who was also named to all-ECACH first team, ranks third in the country with a 1.69 GAA. His .933 save percentage ranks him third in the country, as well. He tied a team record by posting five shutouts. Being a Hobey finalist isn’t a big concern for Grosenick. He’s focusing on this afternoon’s ECACH tournament semifinal game against Colgate at 4:30 p.m. at Boardwalk Hall.
“I’m not too worried about [the Hobey Baker] right now,” Grosenick said. “I think it’s a great thing for the program. It shows that it’s come a long way. I’m proud to be playing with my teammates, and [being] part of this program.”
Not much was known about the sophomore Grosenick because he played in only three games last season. But he did a fantastic job in replacing Kinkaid, last year’s Dryden winner. Grosenick posted a 11-3-1 record and led the league in goals-against average (1.60) and save percentage (.940).
“It goes to show how great of a team we have ahead of us,” Grosenick said. “Obviously, a lot of guys were in front of Keith that were in front of me this year.”
Grosenick is the third Union goalie to win the Dryden. Trevor Koenig was the first, winning in 1997.
Bennett, who spent six seasons as Union’s assistant/associate head coach, was elevated to head coach April 22, when Leaman resigned to become head coach at Providence College. Bennett has more than filled the bill, guiding the Dutchmen to a second straight Cleary Cup regular-season title with a 14-4-4 record.
“You’re always a little nervous when you go from assistant coach to a head coach,” Bennett said. “I only had experience at USA Hockey of being a head coach, but that was only for a couple of weeks. You never really know what you have. I mean this in the fullest, when you surround yourself with good people, good things are going to happen. I’m really fortunate for that.”
Bennett becomes the fourth Union coach to win the Taylor Award, joining Leaman (2010 and 2011), Bruce Delventhal (1994) and Stan Moore (1997). Bennett is the second rookie coach to win the award, joining Moore. Union becomes the first school to win the Taylor Award three straight years. The award was first presented in 1987.
“Anytime you take over a program, even if you have the pieces in place, . . . you still have to put your own mark on it,” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. So, obviously, Rick must have a great relationship [with Leaman]. Nate must have given him a lot of responsibilities, so it seemed like the transition was seamless.”
Zajac, who was named all-ECACH third team was the Dutchmen’s leading scorer with eight goals and 33 assists. He had a defensive rating of plus-13 during ECACH play. He is the second Union player to get the Best Defensive Forward Award. Adam Presizniuk won it last year.
Union sophomore defenseman Mat Bodie was named to the all-ECACH first team. Bodie was the third-leading defensive scorer in the league with six goals and 10 assists.
Union junior center Jeremy Welsh, who tied for second in the league with 13 goals, was named to the all-ECACH second team. Dutchmen freshman defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was named to the All-Rookie Team. He had three goals and 11 assists.
Colgate senior right winger Austin Smith won Player of the Year and was also named a top-10 Hobey Baker Award finalist. Smith led the league in scoring with 25 goals and nine assists.
Harvard junior Dannie Biega won the Best Defensive Defenseman Award. Cornell freshman forward Brian Ferling took home Rookie of the Year.