ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Bemidji State University junior goaltender Michael Bitzer has been selected as one of the 10 finalists for the 2016-17 Hobey Baker Award, as announced by the award's committee Wednesday. This marks the second time a BSU player has been named among the top 10 for college hockey’s premiere award. BSU legend Joel Otto was also a finalist in 1984.
Since 1981, the Hobey Baker award has annually been given to the college hockey player who above all others displays outstanding skills in all phases of the game, strength of character on and off the ice, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements.
Bitzer, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Player of the Year and All-WCHA First Team selection, finished the regular season as the league’s goaltending champion, posting the WCHA-best save percentage (.940), goals against average (1.40), win total (20) and winning percentage (.778), while he tied for the WCHA’s lead with five shutouts in association play.
In 39 appearances and an NCAA-high 2,355:22 minutes between the pipes, Bitzer has compiled a record of 22-14-3. He made 912 saves (11th) on 979 shots faced for a .932 (4th) save percentage and owns the nation’s best goals against average with a BSU singe-season record 1.71. Bitzer also has an NCAA-best six shutouts. This season, the All-WCHA First Team selection backstopped a BSU defense that ranks second in goals allowed per game (1.93) and a penalty-kill unit that has been among the top three in the country all season (.880). He is the first BSU goaltender to record at least 22 wins since Steve O’Shea in 1986-87, owns BSU career shutouts record (16), matched his own BSU single-season record with six in 2016-17, and sits atop BSU’s career goaltending lists with a .925 save percentage and a 1.88 goals against average. He is also a four-time defensive player of the week recipient (Oct. 17 and 31, Nov. 14 and Dec. 21) in 2016-17.
Off the ice, Bitzer has been involved as a volunteer gardener with the Bemidji Area Food Shelf. He has also spent time working with the Little Lady Lumberjacks, a youth program geared towards getting girls in the Bemidji area involved in hockey and developing girls hockey in general. He has also served meals at local elementary schools as a part of the “Hockey Opera” project, and helped fellow Bemidji State classmates into the dorms as a part of the BSU campus move in. In addition, he has mentored youth hockey players at Branham Hockey Camps as an off-ice instructor and on-ice goalie coach.
The 2016-17 Hobey Baker Top 10 include: Zach Aston-Reese, Northeastern; Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State; Anders Bjork, Notre Dame; Will Butcher, Denver; Spencer Foo, Union; Tyler Kelleher, New Hampshire; Alexander Kerfoot, Harvard; Tyler Sheehy, Minnesota; Mike Vecchione, Union; and Charles Williams, Canisius.
This year’s top 10 includes seven forwards, two goaltenders, including Bitzer, and a defenseman. Six of this year’s top 10 are seniors, three, including Bitzer are juniors and the University of Minnesota’s Tyler Sheehy is the only sophomore. In addition to Bitzer, Sheehy is the only other finalist hailing from the state of Minnesota.
The ten finalists were selected by voting from all 60 Division I college hockey head coaches and by online fan balloting. Next, the 27-member Selection Committee and an additional phase of fan balloting through the Hobey Baker website at www.hobeybaker.com from March 16-26 will determine this year’s Hobey Baker winner.
The Hobey Hat Trick (three finalists) will be announced March 30 and the Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced April 7 from Chicago, Ill. during the NCAA Frozen Four. The award announcement will take place at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier. The announcement will be televised live on the NHL Network and can be followed on the Hobey Baker website at 6:00 p.m. ET.
For more information on the Bemidji State men’s hockey program, follow the Beavers on Twitter (@BSUBeavers @BSUBeaversmhky), like them on Facebook (facebook.com/BSUBeavers) or sign up for the TXTUpdates from BSUBeavers.com text-messaging system through the "Multimedia" pull down menu on the main page of BSUBeavers.com.
Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).