WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published March 18, 2010, 03:31 PM

Kristo, Eidsness, Genoway honored by WCHA

Kristo is rookie of year; Eidsness, Genoway make all-WCHA team

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The five nationally-ranked teams that make up the field for this week’s 2010 WCHA Final Five championship – the University of Denver, the University of Wisconsin, St. Cloud State University, the University of North Dakota and the University of University of Minnesota Duluth – all had at least two players named to an all-league team while the MacNaughton Cup-champion Pioneers also led with four individual award winners to highlight the annual WCHA Awards Banquet and Ceremony held today (March 18) at RiverCentre in Saint Paul, Minn.

Denver junior goaltender Marc Cheverie was named the WCHA Player of the Year, Michigan Tech senior defenseman Eli Vlaisavljevich is the WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year, Wisconsin junior blueliner Brendan Smith was the head coaches’ choice as WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, North Dakota forward Danny Kristo was the WCHA Rookie of the Year, Denver forward Rhett Rakhshani was honored as the WCHA Scoring Champion, DU’s Cheverie was recognized as the WCHA Goaltending Champion, and Pioneers’ head coach George Gwozdecky was named the WCHA Coach of the Year.

WCHA Rookie of the Year Danny Kristo, a freshman from Prior Lake, Minn., also earned All-WCHA Rookie Team honors. He led all WCHA rookies with 10 goals and ranked second with 23 points during regular-season conference play for North Dakota. A two-time WCHA Rookie of the Week, Kristo led all UND players with eight power-play goals in the regular season, including six in conference action.

UND sophomore goalie Brad Eidsness made the all-WCHA second team. In WCHA regular season games, Eidsness had 14 wins with a 2.18 goals-against average and a save percentage of .914.

UND senior Chay Genoway was voted to the all-WCHA third team, despite playing only nine games and scoring 10 points this season. In mid-November, a checking-from-behind incident left Genoway sidelined with a concussion. He has not returned to the lineup.

WCHA Player of the Year Marc Cheverie, a junior from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, was also named to the All-WCHA First Team and is the WCHA Goaltending Champion. One of the nation’s elite netminders, he led all WCHA goalies with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .934 saves percentage in conference play to lead the Pioneers to the conference regular season title. A four-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Week, Cheverie enters the postseason leading all goalies in the country with 24 wins (24-4-3) and ranked third nationally in goals-against average (1.94) and first in saves percentage (.937) and winning percentage (.823).

WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year Eli Vlaisavljevich, a senior defenseman from Shoreview, Minn., has been named a WCHA Scholar-Athlete three times and to the All-WCHA Academic Team three times during his collegiate career at Michigan Tech. He currently carries a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average in Bio Medical Engineering and is a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship. Vlaisavljevich is also among 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award for 2009-10, has been awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship and the Michigan Tech’s Provost Award for Scholarship, and was named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District First Team. He helps in several elementary classrooms, is a mentor with the Michigan Tech Athletics Koaches Kids Program and volunteers with the Copper Country Junior Hockey Association. Vlaisavljevich appeared in 111 career games for the Huskies with 10 points (3g, 7a). The WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year Award is determined from nominations made by the member institutions and each institution then has one final vote. The criteria is as follows: 1) must be a senior student-athlete, i.e. one who is finishing his competition as an eligible player in the WCHA; 2) consistently displays outstanding sportsmanship on and off the ice; 3) is a good student making satisfactory progress toward a degree; and 4) is a good hockey player who has performed consistently as a regular member of the team.

WCHA Defensive Player of the Year Brendan Smith, a junior from Mimico, Ontario, also earned All-WCHA First Team honors as the backbone of Wisconsin’s team. A three-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Week, Smith led all WCHA defensemen during the regular season in goals (11), assists (18) and points (29). Entering the Final Five, Smith also leads all of those categories nationally as well with 15 goals, 29 assists and 44 scoring points through 36 games. Earlier this season, he tallied two power-play goals in the third period, including the game-winner with 1:22 left in regulation, to lead Wisconsin past Michigan 3-2 in the Camp Randall Hockey Classic played outdoors in front of 55,031 fans.

WCHA Scoring Champion Rhett Rakhshani, a senior from Huntington Beach, Calif., led all league players with 35 points (15-20=35) in regular season conference play for league champion Denver and was also named to the All-WCHA First Team. One of three finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, he was a three-time WCHA Offensive Player of the Week, scored points in 28 of his 36 regular season games and had 16 multiple-point games. Heading into the Final Five, Rakhshani had scored 20 goals and set up 29 others for 49 points in 38 games.

WCHA Coach of the Year George Gwozdecky, who led his Denver Pioneers to the WCHA regular season championship and MacNaughton Cup here in 2009-10, is a two-time AHCA (American Hockey Coaches Association) Spencer Penrose Award-winner and now four-time recipient of the league’s coach of the year honor. Gwozdecky led Denver to back-to-back NCAA championships in 2004 and 2005 to become the only person to win an NCAA title as a player, assistant coach and head coach. He has now coached the Pioneers, who enter the Final Five with a nation’s best record of 27-7-4 and are ranked No. 1 in the national polls, to four WCHA regular-season championships. Gwozdecky previously earned the WCHA Coach of the Year award in 1994-95, 2001-02, and 2004-05.

The WCHA Player of the Year, WCHA Rookie of the Year and WCHA Coach of the Year awards are voted on by conference-member coaches, student-athletes, sports information directors and media. There are 80 voters total, with each member institution receiving eight ballots.

The WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year award is selected by league-member Faculty Athletic Representatives, while the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year is selected by the league’s ten head coaches.

Three different conference-member teams are represented on the All-WCHA First Team for 2009-10. Named to the First Team were (statistics are final league games only): F – Rhett Rakhshani, Sr., Denver (28 gp, 15-20=35); F – Blake Geoffrion, Sr., Wisconsin (25 gp, 19-15=34); F – Jack Connolly, So., Minnesota Duluth (28 gp, 12-21=33); D – Brendan Smith, Jr., Wisconsin (27 gp, 11-18–29); D – Patrick Wiercioch, So., Denver (26 gp, 4-16=20); and G – Marc Cheverie, Jr., Denver (17-4-3, 2.05 GAA, .934 sv%).

Members of the 2009-10 All-WCHA Second Team are: F – Justin Fontaine, Jr., Minnesota Duluth (28 gp, 18-15=33); F – Ryan Lasch, Sr., St. Cloud State (28 gp, 15-17=32); F – Tyler Ruegsegger, Sr., Denver (28 gp, 14-17=31); D – Ryan McDonagh, Jr., Wisconsin (28 gp, 3-9=12); D – Nate Prosser, Sr., Colorado College (28 gp, 4-16–20); and G – Brad Eidsness, So., North Dakota (14-8-2, 2.18 GAA, .914 sv%).

Voted to the 2009-10 All-WCHA Third Team were: F – Michael Davies, Sr., Wisconsin (26 gp, 10-22=32); F – Joe Colborne, So., Denver (26 gp, 16-13=29); F – Garrett Roe, Jr, St. Cloud State (27 gp, 14-18=32); D – Garrett Raboin, Sr., St. Cloud State (25 gp, 3-12=15); D – Chay Genoway, Sr., North Dakota (7 gp, 4-3=7); and G – Dan Dunn, Jr., St. Cloud State (9-2-2, 2.76 GAA, .912 sv%).

And members of the 2009-10 All-WCHA Rookie Team are: F – Danny Kristo, Fr., North Dakota (28 gp, 10-13=23); F – Craig Smith, Fr., Wisconsin (28 gp, 6-19=25); F – Rylan Schwartz, Fr., Colorado College (28 gp, 6-14=20); D – Matt Donovan, Fr., Denver (26 gp, 4-11=15); D – Justin Schultz, Fr., Wisconsin (28 gp, 2-14–16); and G – Joe Howe, Fr., Colorado College (12-12-3, 2.90 GAA, .905 sv%).

Seven players named to the various all-league teams were also earlier honored as WCHA Scholar-Athletes for 2009-10. They were goaltenders Marc Cheverie of Denver and Brad Eidsness of North Dakota, defensemen Patrick Wiercioch of Denver and Garrett Raboin of St. Cloud State, and forwards Rhett Rakhshani, Tyler Ruegsegger and Joe Colborne from Denver. Raboin joined DU’s Rakhshani and MTU’s Vlaisavljevich among the 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.

WCHA major award winners and members of the various all-league teams who were honored as member of the All-WCHA Academic Team for 2009-10 included CC’s Nate Prosser, DU’s Marc Cheverie, Joe Colborne, Rhett Rakhshani, Tyler Ruegsegger and Patrick Wiercioch, MTU’s Eli Vlaisavljevich, UMD’s Jack Connolly and Justin Fontaine, UND’s Brad Eidsness, SCSU’s Ryan Lasch and Garrett Raboin, and UW’s Ryan McDonagh.

Voting for the all-league teams in the WCHA is done by conference-member coaches, players, sports information directors and media. Points for the all-league teams are awarded on a five (1st team vote), three (2nd team), and one (3rd team vote) basis.

The 2010 WCHA Final Five gets underway Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center (18,064) with a quarterfinal matchup between the No. 5 seeded and No. 11-ranked Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (22-16-1) and the No. 4 seeded and No. 5-ranked North Dakota Fighting Sioux (22-12-5) at 7:07 pm CT.

On Friday, there will be two semifinals, with No. 3 seed and No. 6-ranked St. Cloud State (22-12-5) taking on No. 2 seed and No. 3-ranked Wisconsin (24-9-4) in the afternoon tilt at 2:07 pm CT followed by Thursday’s winner against No. 1 seeded and top-ranked Denver at 7:07 pm CT.

Then on Saturday, the 2010 WCHA Final Five will conclude with the third place game at 2:07 pm CT and the Broadmoor Trophy championship contest at 7:07 pm CT. All five Final Five games are being telecast live by Fox Sports North and audiocast live via wcha.com with the winning team receiving the WCHA’s automatic bid into the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Hockey Tournament, which gets underway the following weekend at four regional sites.