The Mike Richter Award, a relatively new prize, celebrates exceptional achievement in NCAA goaltending. It also rewards players with solid scholastic records and outstanding character.
Mike Richter played for the New York Rangers from 1989 to 2003. During his 14 NHL seasons, Mike won more games with the Rangers than any other goalie. He also represented the United States in three Winter Olympics.
Two organizations created this award to recognize Mike Richter’s contributions to the sport: the newspaper Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation, which aids youth hockey programs. The latter is named after Herb Brooks, who coached the U.S. men’s hockey team to an Olympic gold medal in 1980.
The head coaches of NCAA Division I men’s hockey teams nominate contenders for the Mike Richter Award. In addition to goaltending abilities, they consider athletic potential, academic standing, community involvement and sportsmanship. Freshmen may not be selected.
After the initial list is compiled, a group of reporters, coaches and scouts vote on the semifinalists, finalists and ultimate winner.
The first Mike Richter Award winner was announced during the Frozen Four Tournament in April 2014. It was Connor Hellebuyck of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and he currently plays for the Winnipeg Jets.
Subsequent winners were Zane McIntyre of the University of North Dakota, Thatcher Demko of Boston College and Tanner Jaillet of the University of Denver.
There are 20 finalists vying for the next Mike Richter Award. A standout among them is Michael Bitzer, a senior at Bemidji State University. He already holds the Western Collegiate Hockey Association record for the most shutouts during a college career, and he was a finalist for the 2017 Richter.
Also notable is sophomore Jake Oettinger of Boston University, a semifinalist for this prize in 2017. Jake is a puck handling master and an unflappable presence on the ice. It’s possible, too, that Tanner Jaillet will become the first person to take home more than one Richter trophy.
The 2018 Mike Richter winner will be named at St. Paul’s Frozen Four in April. Until then, college hockey fans can have fun predicting who will bask in the glory of this prestigious award.
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