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College hockey notebook: Bulldogs' Shepard up for national goaltender award

Clint Austin / Minnesota Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard (32) stops a Nebraska-Omaha shot on goal Saturday at Amsoil Arena.

Despite having its net raided by the NHL in back-to-back offseasons, Minnesota Duluth once again has a goalie up for the position's top award.

Bulldogs sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard on Thursday was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Mike Richter Award, which honors the most outstanding goaltender each season in NCAA Division I men's hockey.

Shepard, of Cohasset, is no stranger to goaltending awards, having won the Frank Brimsek Award at Grand Rapids High School as the state's top senior goalie in 2013-14. He was the North American Hockey League Goaltender of the Year during his second season in Bismarck in 2015-16.

"He's just been good for us," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said last month. "He's stabilized our team by playing the way he's played. Everybody has more confidence knowing that he's played the way he's played."

Shepard, in his first full season as a starter at the NCAA level, sports a 2.04 goals-against average that ranks 10th nationally. His .923 save percentage is 11th in the country, but only two have been better than the Bulldogs' goalie in that category since Dec. 8. Shepard has posted a .942 save percentage since then.

Shepard set a new UMD single-season record for shutouts this year with six, passing Hunter Miska (2016-17), Kasimir Kaskisuo (15-16) and current UMD volunteer goalie coach Brant Nicklin (97-98), who all were tied with five.

Miska, who signed with the Arizona Coyotes at the end of last season, was a semifinalist for the Richter Award. Kaskisuo, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs after the 2015-16 season, was nominated two years ago.

"It's a team thing," Shepard said after breaking the single-season shutout record two weeks ago. "It just shows how good those guys have been playing in front of me all year. At the end of the day, the only record that matters to us is Kenny Reiter's and the 2011 team that won the national championship. It is what it is. It's cool, I guess, but that's not what I worry about."

The five finalists for the Richter Award, now in its fifth season, will be announced March 22, with the winner being presented the award April 6 during the Frozen Four in St. Paul.

Bulldogs up for NCHC awards

Five Bulldogs, including the coach, were named finalists for NCHC awards Thursday.

Sandelin is going against St. Cloud State's Bob Motzko and Colorado College's Mike Haviland for Herb Brooks Coach of the Year.

Shepard is up for Goaltender of the Year, along with fellow Richter Award semifinalists David Hrenak, a freshman at SCSU, and Tanner Jaillet, a Denver senior.

Freshman Scott Perunovich is nominated for two awards — Rookie of the Year and Offensive Defenseman of the Year — while his defensive partner, Nick Wolff, a sophomore, is up for Defensive Defenseman of the Year.

Bulldogs senior captain and wing Karson Kuhlman of Esko is nominated for Defensive Forward of the Year and the Sportsmanship Award.

The winners will be honored March 15 during the NCHC Awards Celebration in St. Paul as part of the Frozen Faceoff.

Beaulieu named All-WCHA

Former Duluth East Greyhound Phil Beaulieu, now a sophomore at Northern Michigan, was named to the All-WCHA second team on Thursday.

Beaulieu, who graduated from East in 2014, ranks third nationally among defensemen in points per game. His 39 points in 39 games — 10 goals and 29 assists — are the most points for a Wildcats defenseman since the school's one and only national championship season in 1990-91.

Northern Michigan hosts Bowling Green State in a best-of-three WCHA semifinal series this weekend.

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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