BOBBY BUTLER TABBED HOCKEY EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR; DICK UMILE SHARES COACH OF THE YEAR HONORS

Bobby Butler
Hockey East Player of the Year
Hockey East All Star First Team

Dick Umile
Hockey East co-Coach of the Year
Brian Foster
Hockey East All Star First Team
Blake Kessel
Hockey East All Star First Team

CAMBRIDGE, Mass – Senior forward Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.), of the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team, was selected as the 2010 Hockey East Player of the Year at the annual league banquet at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Thursday night in Cambridge. Head coach Dick Umile earned Hockey East Co-Coach of the Year honors with Merrimack’s Mark Dennehy. In addition, Butler, Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.) and Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) were all named to the Hockey East All Star First Team.

Butler is the first position player to capture the league’s top honor since BC’s Chris Collins, brother of former Wildcat Greg Collins, did so in the 2005-06 season. Butler is the first Wildcat to earn the league’s Player of the Year honors since Kevin Regan in 2008 and is the seventh UNH player to win this award. Butler’s accolades speak for themselves as he has garnered Player of the Week three times this season and Player of the Month for November. Butler was also a unanimous All-Hockey East selection.

Butler is enjoying not only his best season as a Wildcat, but arguably the greatest season by any Wildcat forward in recent history. Butler ranks first in the nation in goals with 27 and is sixth overall in scoring with 50 points (1.35 ppg). Butler sits third in goals per game at 0.73, sixth in points (51), ninth in short-handed goals (2) and 18th in game winners (4). The co-captain, as voted by his teammates, has been even better among Hockey East’s elite, ranking first overall in goals, third in points, seventh in power play goals, second in short-handed goals and third in game-winning tallies. In conference play, Butler finished first in points (41) and goals (21), and sixth in assists (20). He becomes the first player in Hockey East to register 20 goals and 20 assists in league play since 1999 Hobey Baker winner Jason Krog of New Hampshire. Butler has already taken home his share of hardware this season, highlighted by his Hockey East Player of the Month honor in November. Butler was also a three-time Hockey East Player of the Week this season. Butler is a semifinalist for the Walter Brown Award, given annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England. Butler was one of just six male position players selected to represent the East Squad at the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four Skills Challenge. On Wednesday, Butler collected more hardware from Hockey East as he earned the Hockey East Humboldt Storage and Moving Co-Scoring Championship as well as the Hockey East Three Stars Award for the 2009-10 season. Other UNH Players of the Year include Jason Krog (1999), Ty Conklin (2000 – co), Darren Haydar (2002), Mike Ayers (2003 – co), Steve Saviano (2003) and Regan.

Umile earns Hockey East Coach of the Year for a league-record sixth time, surpassing Boston University’s Jack Parker. Umile guided the Wildcats, who were picked fourth in the Hockey East Preseason Poll, to their eighth regular season championship including the third in the last four years. The Wildcats lead the Hockey East standings for an eye-popping 16 straight weeks, taking over the league lead Nov. 23, 2009 and never relinquishing that position. UNH went unbeaten at home in Hockey East play for the first time since the 1999-00 season and won the regular season series with six of nine league foes. Umile helped guide a team that lost 10 players, including Hockey East All Star and leading scorer James van Riemsdyk, from last year’s squad to its 22nd straight trip to the Hockey East playoffs and home-ice advantage in the quarterfinals for a league-best 14th-straight season. After going just 2-6-2 over its first 10 games, Umile’s Wildcats responded with a 10-1-2 mark over the next 13 games, including a 12-game unbeaten streak in Hockey East play. Umile’s run in the regular season was capped by a dramatic 3-3 come-from-behind deadlock with Boston College that clinched the league’s crown in front of the home fans on Senior Day at Whittemore Center.

Overall, the Wildcats made up half of the Hockey East First Team. Joining Butler on the league’s First Team is senior goaltender Brian Foster and sophomore defenseman Blake Kessel.

Foster, a 2009 Hockey East Honorable Mention selection, was a four-time Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week and earned Goalie of the Month in December and January. Hockey East’s ironman in net, Foster played in 36 of 37 games and ranked first in Hockey East in saves (1,077), minutes (2,18:04) and wins (16). In Hockey East play, Foster was in the top five in every netminding category with a 2.75 GAA (5th), .913 save percentage (4th), .653 win percentage (3rd) and 764 saves (2nd). Foster stopped a career-high 50 shots on March 14 against Vermont and allowed two goals or fewer on 15 occasions. Foster’s 1,077 saves in 2009-10 is second behind All-American Mike Ayers (1,139 - 2002-03) on UNH’s single season saves list.

Kessel anchored a youthful Wildcat defense as a sophomore. The blueliner ranks second in the nation in defensive scoring with 35 points. Kessel’s 26 assists are the most by a Wildcat blueliner since Steve O’Brien (27) and Jayme Filipowicz (30) in the 1998-99 season. In addition to his 26 assists, Kessel had a knack for scoring big goals, including a pair of late game-tying goals against Vermont and Boston College on back-to-back weekends and a dramatic game-wining goal against Mass-Lowell in early December. Kessel leads Hockey East in defensive scoring with 36 points and his 26 assists are fifth among all players in the league. He dished out a career-high four assists in a win over in-state rival Dartmouth College, earning co-MVP honors. In addition, Kessel was recently named a semifinalist for the Walter Brown award.

These honorees and the rest of the Wildcats await the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, March 21 (11:30 a.m.) on ESPN2 for the announcement of the tournament field to see if they have earned an at-large bid in the 16-team field.

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