Ferris for Hobey Baker

The clutch gene

Becoming a candidate for the Hobey Baker award takes an uncommon trait that stems from dedication, leadership and a little bit of luck.

When I was walking out of the locker room on Jan. 22 after a post-practice interview with Ferris hockey head coach Bob Daniels, the ice wasn’t quite empty.

Forty-five minutes after practice, Ferris forward Garrett Thompson stood in the crease with a pile of pucks at his feet. Halfway between the goal line and blue line sat a small orange plastic crate.

Two pucks already sat defeated in the bottom of the basket.

Thompson scooped and sauced a puck toward it, attempting to land it in through the top. The first few flew past it toward center ice, where junior forward Justin Buzzeo corraled the errant shots.

Ten shots in, Thompson nicked the side of the basket, but remained relatively unsatisfied. Twenty-two shots in, Thompson planted one off the front of the basket.

After exhausting his pile, Thompson skated around and gave the basket a small kick before attempting to fly a few more into it from various locations. He flipped one up in the air from four feet out and plunked it in the bottom. A sigh of relief ensued and the tension in his face loosened as he skated off the ice with Buzzeo.

Thompson has recently garnered the honor of becoming a candidate for the Hobey Baker trophy, which is given annually by the NCAA to the nation’s top male hockey player.

It is donned with the likeness of Steve Christoff, who played for the 1980 US Olympic hockey team, better known as “The Miracle on Ice” team.

The senior forward is tied for the team lead in points with 11 goals and 12 assists. His 23 points are good for fifth place in the WCHA.

Though he does not lead the nation in categories, he has an intangible skill that professional teams cherish coming out of college: he is clutch.

Thompson is the first and only Bulldog to score a goal in the NCAA Div. I National Championship game.

On Jan. 10 in Big Rapids, the Bulldogs were consistently stuffed by Michigan Tech’s defense. Midway through the third period in a 0-0 tie, Thompson popped out to the top of the zone and ripped a slap shot past Tech goaltender Jamie Phillips for the game-winning goal.

It’s the clutch trait that comes from those long post-practice workouts that is deserving of a shot at the 2013-2014 Hobey Baker award.