Carle Takes Place In Hobey Lore
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
MILWAUKEE When Denver missed out on a chance to defend its back-to-back NCAA Tournament titles, many thought Matt Carle's hopes to win the Hobey Baker Award went with it.
But ultimately, voters could not overlook Carle's dominance on the ice, both this season, and assuredly over the last two years. That dominance is what made him an instant NHL player when he decided to leave following his junior year to sign with the San Jose Sharks.
Friday, taking a day off from his NHL duties, Matt Carle flew into Milwaukee. The trip was worthwhile.
Carle was named the 26th Hobey Baker Award winner in a ceremony on the ice at the Bradley Center. He became the fifth straight WCHA player to win the award, and first defenseman since Minnesota's Jordan Leopold.
"A defenseman does a lot of unsung things," Carle said. "The breakout pass, breaking up a 3-on-2, things they don't get noticed in the stats. You have to put up a decent amount of points to get recognized. There's other guys who could be up here for defensemen. Andy Greene (from Miami) is a great all-around defensive defenseman. ... So it's a great honor to be up here as a defenseman."
He also became the first Denver player to win the award.
"His legacy will live on at Denver for a long time," Gwozdecky said.
Carle won the award over two players that will be participating in Saturday's national championship game: Brian Elliott, junior goalie at Wisconsin; and Chris Collins, senior forward at Boston College, whose hat trick in Thursday's semifinal gives him 34 goals on the season.
"I was joking with Chris and Brian, all three of us were glad to finally end with all the hype," Carle said. "And I was giving credit to them for how they handled it and they're playing in a national championship game.
"The hype gets to you at times. But my teammates give me grief; they are there to keep you level."
His new teammates will do that too. He's already gained an acceptance with San Jose, thanks to scoring his first NHL goal in his first game, at Minnesota.
"All those guys were pretty interested, I got a few 'Good lucks' before I left," Carle said. "But I'm sure I'll get some grief. It's all in good fun. I guess I'd rather be taking the grief."
Carle's acclimation to the pro game has been relatively smooth.
"It's a much more controlled game," Carle said. "In college there's the face mask, and there's a lot of running around, and hitting. It's like a kamikaze game, I'm noticing now. In the NHL, there's so much depth and it doesn't seem like teams have any weaknesses."
"It's a true business, but at the same time, in the end, it's just guys playing hockey."
It's not supposed to be a cumulative award, but when you think of Carle's career, it's hard to overlook all that he's accomplished. He won two national championships, and this year, became the first player ever to win the WCHA's top offensive and defensive player award in the same season. That all helped him win the honor, despite missing this year's NCAAs.
"To be honest, I was concerned ... for him, that he would drop off the radar," Gwozdecky said. "But he's established himself so strongly across the country and has such a great reputation, that he stayed there."
But when you think of Carle's career, the first thing that usually stands out is being on the ice during the famed 6-on-3 against Maine at the end of the 2004 national championship game. Denver held on and won the game, 1-0, to win the first of two straight titles.
"People ask about that moment a lot," Carle said. "When I look back, I'm still in shock we won. Berky (goalie Adam Berkhoel) made some huge saves. It was the longest minute of my life."
It's gone down as one of the most famous moments in Frozen Four history, and consider that all the players that helped kill off that penalty for Denver were all seniors, except Carle, who was just a freshman.
"It shows the kind of confidence we had in him," Gwozdecky said.
Carle accomplished all of this while maintaining excellent grades at Denver, which may have been a factor in winning the award. And he said, he will still finish school.
"Summer quarter registration starts Monday and I'll be online registering," Carle said.