AIC goes 0 for 3 with the Hobey Baker Award but nets NCAA Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award

Anthony Del Trecco, Staff Writer

As reported in our last edition, three of AIC’s men’s ice hockey players were nominated for the Hobey Baker Award. While none of our players won that prize, that doesn’t mean the end of the year wasn’t filled with reasons to celebrate.

Senior forward Jared Pike was the winner of this year’s Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award. Other team members are looking forward to joining the pro ranks as their college careers come to a close.

AIC’s hockey regular season ended on a high. The team had only six in-conference losses, with twenty-one wins. The Yellow Jackets finished as the regular season champion for the second straight year.

In addition to that, the team had three finalists for the most prestigious award in college hockey, the Hobey Baker Award: seniors Blake Christensen and Zackarias Skog, along with junior Brennan Kapcheck. The hat trick of nominees all had great cases for why they should win the award. Had one of these Yellow Jackets won, he would have been the first recipient in both program and conference history.

But it wasn’t to be. The winner of the Hobey Baker Award this year came from the University of Minnesota, Duluth; they won the last two national championships and are regarded as the best program in college hockey today.

Scott Perunovich became the record sixth player in UMN program history to win the award. He became the first defenseman to lead the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in scoring, notching thirty-two points off four goals, and twenty-eight assists in twenty-four games. Overall, the second-round pick for the St. Louis Blues finished with six goals, thirty-four assists, and forty points in thirty-four games total. His assist tally ranked second in the nation.

This wasn’t the only disappointment for the Yellow Jackets at the end of such a bright season, as the onset of the novel Coronavirus pandemic led to the post-season being cut prematurely short. AIC was set for a best-of-three game series with rival Bentley University on home ice at the MassMutual Center before the playoffs came to a halt.

But one AIC team member did receive some well-earned accolades at the end of the season, forward Jared Pike. The Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award  is named after Derek Hines, who played and was a co-captain for Army before he was killed in Afghanistan in 2005. Pike was recognized for his “sportsmanship, competitiveness, intelligence, and work ethic.”

The Hockey Commissioners Association takes nominees from all of the Division I hockey conferences and the conference media directors vote for the winner. Despite being a Division II school for much of athletics, AIC hockey competes at the Division I level in the Atlantic Hockey Conference.

In addition, six of our players were named to the Atlantic Hockey Conference All-Conference Teams. All three Hobey Baker award nominees made the first team, with another senior, Patrik Demel named to the second team, and seniors Martin Mellberg and Hugo Reinhardt named to the third team.

Pike is one of ten seniors on the team, many of whom have professional aspirations.

Another is goalie Zackarias Skog, who was the undisputed number-one goaltender for the Yellow Jackets this year. Skog played in nineteen games with four hundred and three saves to go along with a 10-7-1 record. He also played in three shootouts. Skog was the wall in the crease that helped the team become so successful yet again. He looks to have a very bright professional future.

Senior forward Blake Christensen had a great curtain call to his AIC tenure. He always seemed to come up clutch when the team needed him most. Christensen made an impact at the left wing position and on the power play with the special teams unit. He lead the team in goals, with eleven, and had seventeen assists. He was tied for team-lead in points with Martin Mellberg at twenty-eight.

Christensen will look to continue his success at the professional level as he has signed a contract with the Edmonton Oilers, along with fellow senior and Defensemen Janis Jaks.

This means there are now three former Yellow Jackets in the professional ranks. Shawn McBride, class of 2019, is currently in the New York Rangers system. He is currently playing in the minor leagues, mostly with the Hartford Wolfpack.

Not everyone on our outstanding team is graduating this year. Junior defenseman Brennan Kapcheck appeared in thirty-three games and notched twenty-five points for two goals and twenty-three assists. He was a staple in the starting five this season, always being paired senior Patrick Demel.

The team always has good skaters and Kapcheck is no exception. The future of the AIC men’s ice hockey program seems bright as Kapcheck and others are set to return.

RJB Sports
Jared Pike wins the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award