Alex Rauter was as close to the Hobey Baker Trophy as you can get last summer – and at a New Jersey legend’s dining room table no less.
The former Chatham standout skater chuckled at the experience this week after his Cornell team had gotten off the ice and finished a team meeting; and the table-top encounter with the coveted award remained lodged in Rauter’s hockey memory banks ever since.
“I was training with Johnny Gaudreau and we played in a charity tournament in South Jersey last August,” Rauter recalled. “So, we went back to his parent’s house and right there on the table is his Hobey Baker Award (from 2014). It was pretty awesome to just see it there. He had his Gold Medal from the World Junior Tournament (2013) and some sticks from his days at Boston College.
“I didn’t touch his Hobey Baker at all, it might be bad luck,” Rauter laughed. “But, it was a goal for me. I wanted to have a big year at Cornell. It was in the back of mind all along.”
Last week that vision’s possibility became reality when Rauter, a senior co-captain at Cornell, was one of five New Jersey natives to be nominated for the prestigious 2018 Hobey Baker Award.
Named after former Princeton hockey legend Hobey Baker, a World War I heroic pilot who perished test-flying a plane, “The Hobey Baker” is awarded each year to the top National Collegiate Athletic Association’s hockey player.
Vote for the 2018 Hobey Baker Award Here
Gaudreau, a magnificent skater and dazzling playmaker at Gloucester Catholic now staring with the Calgary Flames, was the first-and only-New Jersey native to win the coveted Hobey Baker Award (2014) after leading the nation in scoring for Boston College.
“Johnny Hockey” is evolving into “Johnny Legend” in his home state, and relished his own Garden State background while extending the best to his fellow Jersey nominees.
“I am very thankful that I was able to play and get great coaching in my home state of New Jersey,” said Gaudreau, who also garnered the Lady Byng Trophy last season and has 54 points through 46 games for the Flames this winter. “It prepared me to play at Boston College and now in the NHL. It is always great to see an increase in the amount of players coming from New Jersey and playing in various NCAA programs across the country. I wish the Best of luck to all of this year’s nominees for the Hobey Baker.”
Joining Rauter among the select group of national nominees are:
Ross Colton, Vermont – The sophomore from Robbinsville was a member of the Hockey East All-Rookie team last year and a fourth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Lighting in the 2016 draft. He posted 11 goals and two assists for 13 points through 12 games for the Catamounts this winter.
Cole Maier, Union College – a Second Team Star-Ledger All-State pick at Don Bosco Prep in 2012 when he finished with 33 points while leading the Bergen County school to a 23-4-1 record. The Pequannock native, an ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team in 2015-2016, currently has 22 points on eight goals and 14 assists for Union.
Josh Melnick, Miami of Ohio – Hailing from Annandale, Melnick was a First Team Star-Ledger All-State selection in 2013. The former Delbarton star closed his high school career in 2013 with 117 points and helped guide the Green Wave to their sixth straight NJSIAA Private championship. Melnick was a member of the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team in 2017.
Matthew Weis, Ohio State – The Freehold native was a Big Ten All-Freshman selection in 2014-15 for the Buckeyes and entered his senior season this winter with 85 career points in 99 games, tying him for 10th in the nation among NCAA skaters returning this campaign. Weis was a member of the gold medal-winning Team USA U-19 World Junior Championship squad.
“I think it’s pretty awesome for New Jersey hockey,” said Maier, who left Don Bosco and skated at Taft for two years before heading to Union. “I was a bit surprised when I heard I was a candidate for the Hobey Baker award. I found out from a text from a friend. But it’s pretty cool. It is super to see the growth of hockey in New Jersey, especially the past few years. It seems like every ECAC game you play there are Jersey guys on each team.”
Melnick, a Star-Ledger Second Team pick along with Maier in 2012, also acknowledged his Jersey foundation.
“It means a lot,” said Melnick, who’s totaled 73 points on 26 goals and 47 assists in 93 games at Miami of Ohio, said of his nomination. “It was quite a surprise for me and it’s a huge honor for myself and the other four from New Jersey. I’m happy for all of them as well. I know I’ve worked hard and am grateful for where I am now and thankful for everyone that helped me along the way. I remember as a kid playing with Alex (Rauter) on the Bridgewater Bears and Matthew Weis with the Rockets.
“My dad texted me the night they were announced, and it made me think a bit about the path that allowed me to get here. Delbarton was a special time. If I had any advice for younger players, I’d tell them nothing substitutes for hard work. Just being nominated for the Hobey Baker is such a huge honor.”
One aspect remains the same with these players – they know and are proud of their Garden State hockey roots.
“I loved playing high school hockey,” recalled the 6-2, 200-pound Maier, who began skating at Floyd Hall Arena in Little Falls when he was five. “What I remember the most is playing games against Delbarton. They were always great games. Playing against guys like Kenny Agostino, Johnny Gaudreau at Gloucester Catholic and my teammate Connor Leen. Those days were special. Those three players were dominant, and I learned a lot playing against and watching them especially.
“When you saw them go on and do so well, you realize that New Jersey is a growing hockey hotbed.”
Rauter certainly agreed with that assessment.
“We always talk about the great duals we had in high school hockey all those years,” said Rauter, who left Chatham after his junior year to attend Choate after totaling 159 points (81-78) at the Morris County school. “It is unreal how much the game is growing and there is so much great hockey in New Jersey. It’s a tribute to the talent and the coaches.”
Rauter, now a 6-1, 183-pound senior co-captain who has 13 points in 16 games thus far for Cornell, began his hockey career not as a burgeoning scoring protégé, but at the other end of the ice.
In nine games in goal during his freshman season at Chatham, Rauter posted a 2.69 goals-against with two shutouts. He was an eye-popping plus-112 as a forward for the Cougars.
“When I started playing hockey I was a goalie,” recalled Rauter, who skated last summer at the San Jose Sharks development camp. “My favorite player growing up was (New York Rangers goalie) Mike Richter. At the end of one season we weren’t scoring much, so I moved up to play some forward and the scoring part kind of stuck with me. I was a rink rat, a hockey nerd. I just love the game.”
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Alex Rauter #4 of the Cornell Bug Red battles Matt Nelson #6 and Colton Phinney #33 of the Princeton Tigers during the first period at Hobey Baker Rink on January 13, 2017 in Princeton, New Jersey. Cornell won 5-1. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
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