Three Gophers players up for Hobey Baker, nation’s top college hockey award

Neal Broten was given 1981’s inaugural award, and three Gophers have won since.

Justin Kloos, Jake Bischoff and Tyler Sheehy play at Mariucci Arena.

Justin Kloos, Jake Bischoff and Tyler Sheehy play at Mariucci Arena.

Drew Cove

Sixty-six college hockey players, including three Gophers, have been nominated for this year’s Hobey Baker award.

The award’s history is deeply rooted in the state. The Hobey Baker is awarded annually to the nation’s top college hockey player.

Nine Minnesota natives have won the award — including four Gophers players — in the award’s 36-year history.

Minnesota’s three nominees are Big Ten leading-scorer Tyler Sheehy, Jake Bischoff and senior captain Justin Kloos.

“It’s definitely really special,” said Gophers defenseman Jake Bischoff. “The tradition that that award has, the great people that have not only won it but have been nominated, it’s a huge honor.”

The award was first presented by the Decathlon Athletic Club of Bloomington, Minnesota to a Minnesota native and former Gophers forward Neal Broten.

Coincidentally, Broten’s teammate at the University of Minnesota, Steve Christoff, is the model for the statue on the award.

Robb Stauber, Brian Bonin and Jordan Leopold are the other former Gophers players to win the award. Nineteen have been top-10 finalists.

The only team that has more Hobey Baker winners than the University of Minnesota is in-state rival Minnesota-Duluth.

“Being a Minnesotan, you grow up, and hockey is your life,” Bischoff said. “There’s a lot of great people that have played hockey in this state, and it’s definitely special.”

Kloos was nominated for the award last season.  

“[Kloos is] one of our top scorers,” said head coach Don Lucia. “Six game-winning goals, [he] plays in every situation, and [he’s] a guy that you can count on at the end of a game.”

This year, the captain has already surpassed his season-high goal total at 17 and is only four points away from breaking his career high in points of 43.

Sheehy and Kloos are first and second, respectively, for the Gophers in scoring this season. Bischoff provides a stable presence on the defensive end. He’s provided 24 assists — second on the team.

“All three of them are having great years,” Lucia said. “[Bischoff] has grown so much each year he’s been here; he’s a program guy, a tremendous leader … Tyler Sheehy has really had a terrific sophomore campaign … He’s really put together a nice year; [he] has scored some big goals, but he can not only score goals, but he can feather some nice passes too.”

Bischoff leads all defensemen on the Gophers and in the Big Ten in points with 28 points, and he is in his second year of leading the defensive corps as an alternate captain with the team.

Sheehy has been the story for Minnesota offensively, scoring at 1.5 points per game. He has 48 points in the 32 games played so far, leading all players in the Big Ten.

“To be recognized as a premier college player is pretty special,” Kloos said. “I think it’s a little more of a team award that we’ve had success here to have three nominees.”