Early in the second period of last Saturday's tie at Spartan Stadium, Mike Cammalleri scooped up a loose puck at the Michigan State blue line, twirled around defenseman Joe Markusen as if Markusen were a Maypole and glided in on goalie Ryan Miller, drifting almost to the goal line waiting for Miller to flop before flipping the puck top shelf. He would score again in the third period, lifting a backhander over Miller's glove, plus he had an assist, decisively winning the first skirmish between two of this year's Hobey Baker Award candidates. "Mike makes you make mistakes," says Miller, the defending Hobey winner. "He's really smart. I didn't think he had that much time left [on that first goal], and he outwaited me. I knew he was a player to respect coming in, and I know to respect him even more now."
Miller is still the chalk to repeat as the Hobey winner, and Cammalleri figures to put up vote-catching numbers, but because two of the biggest underclass studs from 2000-01 decamped to either the NHL ( Wisconsin's Dany Heatley) or the Canadian juniors ( Boston College's Chuck Kobasew), the rest of the field is open. One contender is Minnesota senior blueliner Jordan Leopold, the WCHA defensive player of the year last season and a 1999 second-round draft pick of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. In four games against North Dakota's Travis Roche, who tied Leopold for the scoring lead among defensemen last season, Leopold had four goals and two assists.
Colorado College senior center Mark Cullen, like every other Minnesotan born to a hockey coach, has been on the ice since he could walk. Mark's father, Terry, would hose down the backyard behind the family house in Morehead and let it freeze so his three sons—Matt is a center for the Mighty Ducks, and Joe is a junior center at Colorado College—could skate. Dad also installed lights for night sessions. Mark has deft puck control and is well-suited to coach Scott Owens's wide-open style. Defenses will have difficulty marking both him and sophomore linemate Peter Sejna.
In the low-wattage ECAC, which hasn't produced a Hobey winner since Harvard's Lane McDonald, in 1989, Dartmouth defenseman Trevor Byrne, who had five goals and 21 assists as a sophomore last season, needs only to increase his production to emerge as a dark-horse candidate.