BOSTON — Minnesota State’s groundbreaking season continued on Friday when goaltender Dryden McKay won the 42nd Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the best player in Division I men’s hockey.
He became the first Mavericks player to win the award and the first goaltender since Michigan State’s Ryan Miller in 2001 to earn college hockey’s top individual prize.
McKay, a finalist in 2021, is the first player since Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey to win the award in his second season as a Hobey Hat Trick finalist. It was the third consecutive season that a goalie also appeared among the top three vote recipients, the second time that occurred since the Hobey Baker Award introduced the “top three” initiative in 2001.
“I’m just super honored,” McKay said. “It’s very humbling, and I don’t really think it’s sunk in yet, to be honest. I’m just super excited.”
“This is fantastic for him and his family with his mom and dad here,” Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings said. “I’m a big believer that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, and to see him experience this with them being here is incredibly important. That’s a trophy and an honor that’s forever. His name is going to be on it, and then so is our program.”
McKay’s career path has been one of the more unique stories in college hockey. He rewrote the men’s college hockey record books by becoming the first men’s goalie to post 30 shutouts in a career and enters Saturday’s national championship with a shutout in just under a quarter of his appearances.
His 113 wins rank second all-time, and he joined Michigan’s Marty Turco and Steve Shields as the only goaltenders with 100 career wins. McKay passed Shields on that list when Minnesota State won the Albany Regional two weeks ago, and he can finish his season on Saturday with a potential 114th win in the NCAA championship game.
He broke the single-season record for wins by a goalie this year, shattering the previous record set by Turco and Minnesota’s Robb Stauber, and was the only netminder to earn conference goalie of the year. McKay easily repeated as the conference goaltending champion this year in the CCHA, a year after he tied Tony Esposito as the only player to win the WCHA goaltending title three different times.
He joined Stauber and Miller as the only goaltenders to win the award and is the first player from Illinois to claim the trophy. He also was a finalist for the Mike Richter Award for the second consecutive season but lost to Northeastern’s Devon Levi earlier on Friday.
“I was going to be happy either way,” McKay smiled. “Devon’s a great goaltender. He had a great year, and you definitely can’t argue that one.”
McKay’s performances are a big reason why Minnesota State is playing in the national championship game on Saturday night. His performance against Notre Dame in a 1-0 shutout won the Albany Regional for the Mavericks two days after a 4-3 win over Harvard, games that earned him tournament MVP status and a spot on the regional all-tournament team.
After allowing an early goal to Minnesota in the first period on Thursday night, McKay stopped the remainder of the Golden Gophers’ chances en route to a 5-1 win in the national semifinal.
It earned Minnesota State its first national championship game appearance one year after the Mavericks advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time in program history.
“I’m excited for him because everybody has an opinion and everybody’s entitled to an opinion,” Hastings said. “But when you have an opportunity to be around a guy every day, your opinion gets a little more rubber on the road. He’s such a humble young man who goes to work every day and does his business to earn the respect of his teammates. That’s unique because he just goes and does what he’s supposed to do. He’s OK pointing fingers when he gets patted on the back and will point the thumb [at himself] when things aren’t going well. Those are guys you’d like to have in the locker room.”
McKay, an undrafted free agent, is the first Hobey winner unattached to an NHL franchise since St. Cloud State’s Drew LeBlanc won the 2013 award. Vesey, a Nashville draft pick, chose not to sign with the Predators and opted instead for free agency. Jack Eichel, the 2015 winner, was not draft eligible until after his freshman season, at which point the Buffalo Sabres made him the No. 2 overall draft pick.
“I think it’s something that I’ve kind of been battling against since juniors,” McKay said of his status. “There’s always going to be someone that’s thought of as more than you or better than you. I just learned to focus on myself and control my work ethic and being a good teammate, and I have to thank my teammates. We’ve had really good teams since I’ve gotten to Minnesota State. It’s been an awesome journey and the best four years of my life.”
“You think about today’s day and age,” Hastings said, “and they start talking about the analytics of how tall a guy is, what he weighs, about his body comp and what position is played and if that fits or if everyone’s trying to get a little bit of an edge. The one that’s unique about our sport is that what’s between the ears and what’s in your chest and body is hard to put on paper. For me, again, he goes about his business, and I’m proud of the way he handles things both positively and negatively.”