Grant Cruikshank, Jack LaFontaine and Taylor Ward have all been nominated for the Hobey Baker Award. (Contributed)

Grant Cruikshank, Jack LaFontaine and Taylor Ward have all been nominated for the Hobey Baker Award. (Contributed)

Three former Penticton Vees nominated for prestigious college hockey award

The Hobey Baker Award is given to the top player in college hockey

Three former Penticton Vees are in the running for college hockey’s biggest award.

The nominees for the Hobey Baker Award were announced Monday (Feb. 1) and forward Grant Cruikshank , goaltender Jack LaFontaine and forward Taylor Ward have all been nominated.

The Hobey Baker is awarded each year to the top player in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Notable past winners include Paul Kariya, Brendan Morrison, Jack Eichel and Cale Makar.

Each Vees player was selected in the first group of nominees as one of the top 50 players from the NCAA this year.

READ MORE: Four Penticton Vees crack NHL draft watch list

Cruikshank, who played for the Vees from 2016-18, is in his junior season at Colorado College where he wears the ‘C’ on his jersey as a co-captain.

The Delafield, Wisconsin native has registered six goals and two assists for eight points in 10 games this season with the Tigers. In three seasons with the program, he’s amassed 28 goals and 43 points in 84 games.

Cruikshank spent two seasons with the Vees, producing 43 goals and 31 assists for 74 points in 82 games, including a BCHL championship trip to the RBC Cup in 2017.

Ward, who played with the Vees from 2015 to 2018, has been a standout in his time with the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The Kelowna native has scored 33 goals and 67 points in 83 games over his three-year tenure with the Mavericks. This season, Ward has eight goals and five assists in 16 games while being named an assistant captain with the program. Ward played three full seasons in a Vees jersey, scoring 36 goals and 41 assists in 162 games and joining Cruikshank in 2017 as a BCHL champion and a trip to the RBC Cup.

LaFontaine manned the crease for the Vees in the 2018/19 season. He’s since gone on to become one of the best goaltenders in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), leading the University of Minnesota to 13 wins in his 16 appearances this season. The Mississauga, Ont. native has an impressive 1.38 goals against average, .948 save percentage and three shutouts in those 16 contests. LaFontaine is currently in his senior season with the Golden Gophers and wears an ‘A’ on his jersey.

LaFontaine was a key contributor in his season with the Vees, winning 30 games with a 2.19 GAA and a .923 save percentage with 3 shutouts in 45 games played.

The top-10 finalists for Hobey Baker Award will be announced Wednesday March 17, and fans have a chance to voice their opinion on who should make the cut until March 7. Head to hobeybaker.com/vote to cast your vote.

The final three candidates, titled the “Hobey Baker Hat Trick”, will be released on April 1, with the award winner being named April 9.

READ MORE: Penticton Vees forward ranked among top NHL prospects



jesse.day@pentictonwesternnews.com

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