Thompson, Kessel named Walter Brown Award Semifinalists

BOSTON – Senior forward Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.) and junior defenseman Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) of the eighth-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team were named semifinalists for the 59th annual Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England.

Thompson and Kessel were among a group of 15 semifinalists selected by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston, as announced by president Ray Gallant on Feb. 14. In total, nine players from Hockey East were selected.

Thompson has become one of the elite players in college hockey in 2010-11. A two-time Hockey East Player of the Month (November and January) and three-time Hockey East Player of the Week, he ranks second in the nation in goals (24), goals per game (.87) and points per game (1.57). In addition, Thompson leads the nation in power play goals with 11. The senior forward's 44 points is six more than his next closest competition in Hockey East, his linemate Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.). 

Kessel leads all of Hockey East in defensive scoring with 21 points in 28 games (0.75 ppg). He is a mainstay in the UNH power play and ranks 10th in Hockey East in power play points with 11 points.

The Wildcats have a storied tradition in the Walter Brown Award history that includes eight former Wildcats that have earned the honor, including Bob Miller (1977), Ralph Cox (1979), Ty Conklin (2001), Mike Ayers (2003) Steve Saviano (2004), Kevin Regan (2008) and, most recently, Bobby Butler (2010).

"Once again the Walter Brown Award Committee took on a formidable task in evaluating all the worthy nominees and selecting a field of semifinalists. Unfortunately, not every player who received serious consideration is on this list," remarked Gridiron Club Hockey Awards Committee chairman Tim Costello.

The Gridiron Club will announce the finalists and winner of the 59th Walter Brown Award in March, following league playoffs and before the start of NCAA Tournament play. The award will be presented to the winner at the New England College Hockey Writers' Dinner in April.

UNH returns to action Feb. 18-19 at the University of Vermont for a two-game road series in Burlington, Vt. The teams play Friday night (7:30 p.m.) live on CBS College Sports and conclude the series on Saturday (7 p.m.). New Hampshire's next home game is Friday, Feb. 25 against Northeastern (7 p.m.). Tickets to the Northeastern game are available online at www.UNHWildcats.com.

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