Providence freshman goaltender Jon Gillies earned my vote for Hockey East Rookie of the Year. - Jamie Sabau
This was the year of the freshman goaltender. Providence's Jon Gillies and UMass-Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck led a crop of five freshmen goalies who played major roles for their respective teams.
This is my ballot as submitted for the Hockey East Writers and Broadcasters Association year-end awards.
First Team All-Hockey East
F: Mike Collins, Junior, Merrimack
F: Johnny Gaudreau, Sophomore, Boston College
F: Steven Whitney, Senior, Boston College
D: Trevor van Riemsdyk, Sophomore, New Hampshire
D: Patrick Wey, Senior, Boston College
G: Jon Gillies, Freshman, Providence
Second Team All-Hockey East
F: Matt Nieto, Junior, Boston University
F: Scott Wilson, Sophomore, UMass-Lowell
F: Kevin Goumas, Senior, New Hampshire
D: Chad Ruhwedel, Junior, UMass-Lowell
D: Matt Grzelcyk, Freshman, Boston University
G: Connor Hellebuyck, Freshman, UMass-Lowell
Hockey East All-Rookie Team
F: Kevin Roy, Northeastern
F: Danny O'Regan, Boston University
F: Devin Shore, Maine
D: Michael Matheson, Boston College
D: Matt Grzelcyk, Boston University
G: Jon Gillies, Providence
Hockey East Player of the Year: Mike Collins, Merrimack
Hockey East Rookie of the Year: Jon Gillies, Providence
Hockey East Coach of the Year: Nate Leaman, Providence
The most difficult decision was the goaltending battle between freshman Jon Gillies of Providence and UMass-Lowell freshman Connor Hellebuyck. Both were tremendous and sparked their teams' success. However, Gillies has the edge. Here's why. He had a less talented team in front of him and was more irreplaceable to his team. Take nothing away from Hellebuyck, but he was playing in front of a better defense and didn't take over the number one job on his team until the second half. Both freshmen made my team for the first and second teams.
All in all, It was quite a year for freshmen goaltenders in the league. Besides the aforementioned duo, Boston University freshmen Sean Maguire and Matt O'Connor were solid for the Terriers, and freshman Brody Hoffman started every game for Vermont.
UNH sophomore goalie Casey DeSmith got off to a lightning hot start, but his level of play fell off in the second half. Dick Umile is partly to blame. He rode the Rochester, NH native too much. The Wildcats have a capable back-up in Jeff Wyer. He should have seen more action against the lesser teams, if nothing else.
Mike Collins has my vote for Player of the Year. The reason is simple. While he and Gaudreau were neck-and-neck in the scoring battle until the last weekend, Collins did more with less. He was playing with wings who were inexperienced and not as talented as Gaudreau's linemates.
Coach of the Year was another difficult decision. It was between Nate Leaman of Providence and UMass-Lowell's Norm Bazin. I gave the nod to Leaman because his team exceeded expectations and received home ice just two seasons removed from missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season. Make no mistake, Bazin has been tremendous in reviving the UML program. The River Hawks have finished second, then first in his first two seasons after taking over a team that had won just five games the previous season. If possible to give the nod to both, I would have. No matter how you slice it, Dana Skinner at Lowell and Bob Driscoll at Providence made home run hires when they selected Bazin and Leaman, respectively.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.