Every year, it's tough to fill out the WCHA all-conference ballot and this season was no different. In fact, the ballot this year may have had some of the toughest choices in recent memory.
There were upwards of 10 players who could have made a case for the WCHA Player of the Year award. The same could be said about a number of positions, including rookie forwards, which had an especially deep pool of candidates this season.
Without further ado, here is my ballot for the 2012-13 All-WCHA team.
All-WCHA First Team:
F Ryan Walters, Nebraska Omaha (Led the WCHA in scoring and plus/minus)
F Erik Haula, Minnesota (Led WCHA in points-per-game in second half)
F Dan Kristo, North Dakota (Tied for second in goals and points in WCHA play)
D Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State (Most valuable defenseman in the WCHA)
D Nate Schmidt, Minnesota (Top scoring defenseman in WCHA play)
G Juho Olkinuora, Denver (.924 save percentage while team gives up 31 shots per game)
All-WCHA Second Team:
F Corban Knight, North Dakota (All-situations player led conference in faceoff wins)
F Drew LeBlanc, St. Cloud State (Led WCHA in assists with 25 in 28 games)
F Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College (Fourth in WCHA scoring)
D Mike Boivin, Colorado College (Led WCHA defensemen in goals with 13)
D Joey LaLeggia, Denver (Second in goals and points among WCHA defensemen)
G Joel Rumpel, Wisconsin (No. 1 goaltender on WCHA's best defensive team)
All-WCHA Third Team:
F Michael Mersch, Wisconsin (2nd in WCHA in goals; recorded 25% of team's goals)
F Josh Archibald, Nebraska Omaha (Led WCHA in goals scored with 18)
F Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota (Most dominant player in league; No. 1 faceoff man at .590 %)
D Derek Forbort, North Dakota (Minutes-eating, puck-moving defenseman)
D Andrej Sustr, Nebraska Omaha (6th in WCHA in blocked shots, physical force)
G Stephon Williams, Minnesota State (Led WCHA in goals against average)
WCHA All-Rookie Team:
F Jonny Brodzinski, St. Cloud (Led WCHA Fr. in goals, & all WCHA in 2nd-half goals)
F Alex Petan, Michigan Tech (Led WCHA freshmen in scoring)
F Tony Cameranesi, Minnesota-Duluth (Led UMD in scoring in No. 1 Center role)
D Nolan Zajac, Denver (Two-way d-man led WCHA freshmen defense in goals)
D Andy Welinski, Minnesota-Duluth (Top scoring WCHA freshman defenseman)
G Stephon Williams, Minnesota State (Top Sv. % among goalies playing > 50% of games)
WCHA Player of the Year: Ryan Walters, Nebraska Omaha
The Omaha forward led the WCHA in total points with 40 in 28 league games. Walters also led the league in plus/minus at +21. Walters ranks second nationally with 50 points in 36 games. While some may knock Walters for UNO's late swoon as the Mavericks went 3-7 to finish the season, Walters averaged over a point per game during that stretch and was a +5.
WCHA Rookie of the Year: Stephon Williams, Minnesota State
Williams led all WCHA goaltenders in goals-against average at 1.93. He also led all WCHA goaltenders that played at least half of their team's games in save percentage at .927 percent. Williams' three shutouts also led the WCHA.
WCHA Defenseman of the Year: Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State
Jensen was in serious contention for the overall player of the year award. No defenseman in the WCHA changes a game like Jensen can. Jensen's ability to posses the puck and move it up ice in transition is also unparalleled in the WCHA. The SCSU blue-liner plays more minutes than any other player in the conference. While not an overly offensive-minded guy, Jensen still chipped in 23 points in 28 leagues games while playing outstanding defensively.
WCHA Coach of the Year: Bob Motzko, St. Cloud State
St. Cloud caught a break by getting a fifth-year out of Drew LeBlanc, but Motzko deserves a lot of credit for piecing together a WCHA championship club in his 8th season in St. Cloud. The MacNaughton Cup is the first in the history of the program. The Huskies were predicted to finish sixth by league media, and fourth by the WCHA league coaches.
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