April 7, 2006
NCAA Frozen Four
DU's Carle Wins Hobey Baker Award

By Jess Myers

Denver denfenseman Matt Carle accepts the Hobey Baker Award at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee Friday

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – In his three seasons on the Denver blue line, Matt Carle mastered the stats that are only recorded by NHL scouts. On Friday, his mastery of those stats earned him the game’s highest individual honor.

In a ceremony at center ice in the Bradley Center, Carle became the first Pioneer ever to receive the Hobey Baker Award, as the best player in college hockey.

To win the award, Carle's on-ice accomplishments needed to stand up for more than a month. The two runners-up, Wisconsin goaltender Brian Elliott and Boston College forward Chris Collins will meet head-to-head in the NCAA title game on Saturday night, while Carle's season ended 27 days ago. He signed with the San Jose Sharks shortly after the NCAA tournament pairing (which did not include Denver) were announced and scored a goal in his first NHL game.

“I’m kind of in shock right now,” Carle said in the post-announcement press conference. “Ever since the selection show I’ve been pretty much going non-stop.”

Carle’s college career, and the Pioneers’ drive for three consecutive NCAA titles, ended on March 12 with the team’s upset loss to Minnesota Duluth in the opening round of the WCHA playoffs. Carle said it pales in comparison to winning the national championship, but he hopes winning the Hobey means some kind of happy ending for his ex-teammates.

Princeton's Leroux Wins Humanitarian Award

Princeton goaltender Eric Leroux is the winner of the 2006 Hockey Humanitarian Award.

A senior goaltender from London, Ontario, Leroux was honored for his many volunteer projects, including to traveling to Kenya to work as an HIV counselor living in a rural village in a mud hut with no running water. He also worked in a malaria clinic in Ecuador where on weekends he helped build a rehabilitation clinic from Amazon Jungle vegetation.

Upon his return from Ecuador, Leroux founded the Princeton World Health Initiative, which recovers unused medical supplies from area hospitals and pharmaceutical companies and distributes them to hospitals in developing nations. He's also the founder of PUCK (Providing Underprivileged Communities and Kids), a team initiative to donate old hockey equipment to youth hockey programs which last year was successful in contributing more than $5,000 worth of equipment to the Baltimore Area Youth Hockey Association.

"My grandpa says you can find 18 hours in every day if you keep moving," Leroux said, "so I try not to ever stand still."

“We definitely had a rough loss to end the season, so hopefully this will be a bright spot for the program,” he said.

It’s definitely a bright spot for hockey fans in Colorado, who have now seen either a Colorado College Tiger or a Denver Pioneer win the Hobey in three of the last four seasons.

“We just have to get one more Hobey now and we’ll be tied,” joked Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky about CC’s Peter Sejna and Marty Sertich winning the award. Carle said there’s a better measuring stick to see who’s ahead in the DU-CC rivalry.

“If you really want to get the rivalry going, count the national championships,” Carle joked. “But to have three Hobey winners come from Colorado College and Denver really says something about the way hockey has grown in the state of Colorado.”

Gwozdecky also nodded to what it means for hockey in Alaska, Carle’s home state. His journey of success started in Anchorage when Carle first played hockey at age four.

Carle's mother Karen, after hugging her son and brushing away tears, talked of how Matt always looked up to Alaskans like Scott Gomez and Ty Conklin, who have had success in the NHL. When Matt was 15, he moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., to play for Mike Eaves in the USA Hockey Development Program. She says the thought was he'd be in Michigan for a few seasons, then would come back to play college hockey for Alaska Anchorage. Instead, Carle ended up in Denver, impressed by the school's business school and hockey program.

While it was hard to see Carle leave the program early, Gwozdecky said the contributions his defender made to the NCAA title wins in 2004 and 2005 will be with him, and Pioneer fans, forever.

“I think back to some of the big situations he was in and how he made big plays and allowed us to win championships,” Gwozdecky said. “His focus and concentration have always been so strong that no matter what is going on around him, he doesn't alter his course. I’ve always thought that great players always play at the same level no matter what the situation is. That's what made Matt Carle such an outstanding college hockey player.”

The runners-up, Wisconsin goaltender Brian Elliott and Boston College forward Chris Collins, will play for the NCAA title on Saturday night. Both tipped their hat to Carle, while saying that they’d trade a national championship for the Hobey, given the chance.

“Matt is a very deserving guy,” Elliott said. “He shows what the Hobey Baker is all about with the way he dominated his position."