ST. PAUL, Minn., April 5 (UPI) -- Jordan Leopold,who has Minnesota one win from a national championship, was named the Hobey Baker Award winner Friday, becoming just the fourth defenseman in 22 years to be honored as the best player in collegiate hockey.
A finalist for the second straight year, Leopold leads NCAA defensemen with 20 goals and 26 assists in 43 games and is regarded as an excellent two-way player. He had an assist in Thursday's 3-2 win over Michigan in the national semifinals.
"Jordan is a unique defenseman," Coach Don Lucia said. "He brings both offensive and defensive parts of the game. You usually find one or the other."
Leopold is the second defenseman in four years to win the award, joining Mike Mottau of Boston College, and just the fourth since its inception in 1981.
On Saturday, he will try to become the fourth player to win the Hobey Baker and national title in the same season when the Golden Gophers take on Maine. NHL superstar Paul Kariya was the last player to accomplish the feat, claiming both for Maine in 1993.
History is not on Leopold's side. While three players have earned the individual and team honor in the same year, six Hobey Baker winners have lost the national championship game.
Minnesota reached the Frozen Four for the first time in seven years and the championship game for the first time in 13 seasons.
"The goal of our group of seniors was to bring the Gophers back to national prominence -- get back to the Frozen Four," Leopold said. "That's where we need to go with this program."
A former draft pick of Anaheim whose NHL rights belong to Calgary, Leopold is the fourth Gopher to win the award, joining forward Brian Bonin (1996), goaltender Robb Stauber (1988) and forward Neal Broten (1981) -- the first Hobey Baker winner.
This year's other finalists were St. Cloud State forward Mark Hartigan and New Hamsphire forward Darren Haydar.