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Evan Marinofsky | | December 26, 2021

The best men's college hockey players at each position through the first half of the season

Behind Easton Brodzinski's inspiring return to St. Cloud State hockey, after breaking his leg

It's time to take a look back at the first half of the DI men's college hockey season.Ā 

I already did my Power 10 of the first half. Teams like Minnesota State, Michigan and Quinnipiac have stood out as ones that are best primed for the second half. And then, of course, who could forget the NCHC teams like St. Cloud State, Denver, Western Michigan, Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota?Ā 

For this installment of looking back at the first half, I'll be spotlighting the best players. Instead of naming an MVP, best defenseman, best goalie, etc., I'll be creating a first team, second team and all-freshmen team. It's a bit more fun than having to beĀ thatĀ selective.Ā 

At any rate, let's dive right into the best players at each position after one half.Ā 

First teamĀ 

F: Nathan Smith, Minnesota StateĀ 
F: Drew Worrad, Western MichiganĀ 
F: Hank Crone, Northern MichiganĀ 
D: Owen Power, MichiganĀ 
D: Jake Sanderson, North Dakota
G: Devon Levi, NortheasternĀ 

There's lots of potential Hobey Baker candidates in this group, so let's start with Nathan Smith. Minnesota State is the best team in the country and boasts the second-best offense, and Smith has a lot to do with that. His 27 points are tied for second in the nation and he's been key in centering the first line between senior Julian Napravnik and junior Cade Borchardt. Tied with Smith is Drew Worrad, who's played a similar role for Western Michigan ā€” the seventh-best offense in the country. His playmaking abilities have made him fit masterfully between senior Cole Gallant and fifth-year Ethen Frank (who we'll get to in a bit). Rounding out the forwards is Hank Crone who leads the country in points with 29. His Northern Michigan team loves scoring goals ā€” its tally of 74 ranks third in the nation ā€” and Crone is a huge part of that, as he's tied for tops in the nation in assists with 22.Ā 

RANKINGS: Here's the latest USCHO poll

On defense, it's hard to get better than the two listed here. Owen Power leads all defensemen in points with 23. His effectiveness at both ends of the ice with senior Nick Blankenburg by his side has been impressive. Jake Sanderson is as explosive and dynamic a player as there is in college hockey. His ability to skate end-to-end and earn a scoring chance or set up a teammate is unmatched. His 19 points place him third among all defensemen, but he's only played in 15 games, which means his points per game ranks him second. His best weekend of the season came in a sweep of Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 12 and 13 when he posted three goals and six points over the two wins.Ā 

Devon Levi was the best goalie in college hockey during the first half.

Devon Levi is the obvious choice in net. The sophomore has been outstanding, starting all 18 games for the Huskies and a massive reason as to why they're the No. 13 team in the country. His .955 save percentage is good for first in the nation, while his 1.33 goals against average ranks him third. He's tied for the country lead in shutouts with six. His most impressive performances came in a 37-save shutout at Providence on Dec. 3 and a 38-save shutout at Boston University on Nov. 19.

Second teamĀ 

F: Kent Johnson, MichiganĀ 
F: Ethen Frank, Western MichiganĀ 
F: Owen Sillinger, Bemidji StateĀ 
D: Ronnie Attard, Western MichiganĀ 
D: Jake Livingstone, Minnesota StateĀ 
G: Ryan Fanti, Minnesota DuluthĀ 

It was really tough leaving Kent Johnson off the first team, but he headlines the second team. Johnson is tied for 10th in college hockey for points with 23, but the sophomore did rank much higher before missing his team's final three games of the first half. Ethen Frank, college hockey's leading goal scorer, has been a massive reason as to why the Broncos sport one of the top offenses in the country. Rounding out the forward group is Owen Sillinger, who is Bemidji State's No. 1 center. He ranks fifth in the nation in points with 25.Ā 

Ronnie Attard was one of the best defensemen of the first half.

Ronnie Attard posted a hat trick on Oct. 29 in a comeback 6-5 win over Colgate. Since then, he's been a major player in Western Michigan's scoring attack, posting 18 points, which ties him for fourth in the nation among all defensemen. Jake Livingstone has been huge for Minnesota State's top-tier defense. Not only has the sophomore helped create one of college hockey's best defenses, he's also been huge in the offensive zone as well. His 18 points tie him for fourth in the nation among defensemen.Ā 

BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER: Here is the story of Easton Brodzinski's comeback from a broken legĀ 

Picking a goalie was a tough call. It came down to Ryan Fanti and Yaniv Perets. Ultimately, I went with Fanti. He's faced a lot more pucks and his 1.57 GAA and .935 save percentage rank him sixth in the nation in both categories. Fanti has been a vital part as to why the Bulldogs have been in the upper echelon of college hockey teams this season.Ā 

Honorable mentionsĀ 

  • Forwards:Ā Louis Boudon (Lake Superior), Carter Savoie (Denver), Matthew Kopperud (Arizona State), Matt Stienburg (Cornell), Mitchell Lewandowski (Michigan State), AJ Vanderbeck (Northern Michigan), Taylor Ward (Omaha), Matty Beniers (Michigan), Brett Berard (Providence)Ā 
  • Defensemen:Ā Michael Joyaux (Western Michigan), Luke Hughes (Michigan), Ben Newhouse (Northern Michigan), Scott Morrow (UMass), Jacob Bengtsson (Lake Superior State)Ā 
  • Goalies:Ā Yaniv Perets (Quinnipiac), Owen Savory (Umass Lowell), Dryden McKay (Minnesota State), Matthew Galajda (Notre Dame)Ā 

All-freshmen teamĀ 

F: Massimo Rizzo, Denver
F: Josh Doan, Arizona StateĀ 
F: Austen Swankler, Bowling Green
D: Luke Hughes, MichiganĀ 
D: Scott Morrow, UMass
G: Yaniv Perets, QuinnipiacĀ 

This is theĀ really fun one to get to do. After all, these are names on the cusp of becoming the biggest in college hockey.Ā 

Massimo Rizzo has been one of the best freshmen in college hockey this season.

Up front, Massimo Rizzo is having a very good first season. He's well over a point-per-game pace with 21 in 16. His nine goals are also tied for the lead among all freshmen. The other with nine: teammate Carter Mazur. The future is very bright in Denver. Josh Doan has impressed early on with Arizona State, ranking second among all freshmen in points with 20. Austen Swankler rounds out the forwards, as he leads Bowling Green in points with 19 and has been terrific in a second line center role.Ā 

FIRST HALF RANKINGS: Here's the Power 10 of the first half in men's college hockey

No surprises on defense. Both Luke Hughes and Scott Morrow had legitimate cases to be on the second team, but they slot in well here. Hughes leads all freshmen defensemen in points with 18 and has been one of many offensive weapons on a stacked Michigan team. Morrow has stepped up mightily for UMass, ranking second on the team in points with 15. Here's an interesting stat with Morrow: Of his six goals, two have been game-winners.Ā 

In net is Perets. Again, he had a really strong case for the second team. His GAA of 0.87 is best in the nation and .944 save percentage ranks fifth. He's been outstanding.Ā 

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