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Zach Pekale | | September 30, 2019

College hockey: 3 preseason candidates for the Mike Richter Award

Minnesota Duluth wins back-to-back hockey titles

Cayden Primeau put together a remarkable sophomore year at Northeastern. The goaltender was the lone underclassmen tabbed a finalist for the Mike Richter Award — annually awarded to the top goalie in college hockey. 

His case for the hardware was strong as he was later named the recipient of the award. Additionally, that recognition might have furthered his case to jump to the NHL. Primeau, along with finalists Joey Daccord (Arizona State), Jake Kielly (Clarkson) and Andrew Shortridge (Quinnipiac) each left college early, paving the way for a new crop of netminders to leave their mark on the 2019-20 campaign.

WATCHLIST: Preseason Hobey Baker Award candidates

With the spotlight waiting to be commanded, we looked at three goaltenders who could compete for the Richter Award this season.

Hunter Shepard – Minnesota Duluth

If not for Primeau, we could be discussing Shepard’s case at back-to-back Richter wins. Instead, it could very well be the one major accolade missing from the senior’s resume.

Shepard’s career at Minnesota Duluth speaks for itself. He’s a two-time national champion with three Frozen Four appearances, a first-team All American, starter of 81 consecutive games and was named a captain ahead of his final season.

As a junior, Shepard started all 42 games between the pipes for UMD, winning a Division I-best 29 while recording a school-record 1.76 goals allowed average. The season culminated in Buffalo with the Bulldogs winning their second-straight national championship. 

Shepard, a Richter finalist in 2018-19, was later named Duluth’s Keith Christiansen Award (team MVP) recipient for a second straight year. Despite a stellar sophomore year, Shepard’s junior season surpassed most expectations. 

Replicating his numbers alone might be enough to win the Richter Award. Outdoing himself again would make a decision much less difficult.

Cale Morris – Notre Dame

Like Shepard, Morris opted to play out the final year of his college career. But Morris possesses something no other goaltender in college hockey has — a Richter Award.

Morris won the trophy as a sophomore at Notre Dame, leading the Fighting Irish to a national championship game appearance. He made 24 appearances, winning 17 while stopping almost 94 percent of shots faced.

Morris’ usage was increased as a junior, when he recorded 35 appearances in 40 games. His goals allowed average improved as his save percentage experienced a slight drop. Nonetheless, he was still a Richter semifinalist as the Irish won the Big Ten tournament and reached the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.

LOOKING BACK: Morris wins 2018 Richter Award

The two-time team MVP didn’t have a bad year by any measure, but rather didn’t stand out the way the finalists did. Still, Morris has a chance to create history.

In the award’s brief history, no player has won it twice. Morris came the closest and will get another shot to become the first two-time winner. 

Tommy Nappier – Ohio State 

Nappier only made four starts for Ohio State as a freshman. By the end of his sophomore season, he’d made more appearances (20) than 2018 Richter semifinalist Sean Romeo (17). 

Romeo’s departure (graduation) opens up an additional minutes for Nappier as an upperclassman. In a split-goaltending system, Nappier posted a 12-4-3 record, .934 save percentage a set a program record with a 1.86 goals against average.

The Buckeyes’ co-most improved player — voted on by the team — was named a Richter semifinalist and led OSU to the NCAA tournament. While the program’s postseason run ended in the opening round, having a steady glove in net is a reassuring thought headed into a new season. 

Ohio State graced the No. 1 ranking at one point a year ago. If Nappier remains reliable in the crease, the Buckeyes could find themselves towards the top throughout the year and the junior netminder could wind up in contention for the Richter Award.

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