ST. PAUL (AP) -- Hours before he received the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey, Minnesota's Jordan Leopold anxiously paced back and forth in his hotel room.
He was nervous, but not so much about winning the award.
"Let me put it this way, when you're an athlete, you don't like giving speeches," Leopold said with a laugh.
Putting off the NHL for another season with the Golden Gophers, Leopold accomplished as much as he could hope in his senior year.
He led the nation's defensemen with 20 goals and 46 points. He was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American for the second straight year. And he picked up the Hobey Baker in front of 3,000 people in his home state.
But Leopold's season isn't done yet. The Gophers play Maine Saturday night in the NCAA championship.
"There couldn't be any other sweeter memory than taking that hardware home," he said.
Until this season, his career hadn't gone the way he wanted. His freshman year, the Gophers finished 15-19-9. And he didn't experience the NCAA tournament until last season, when Minnesota lost to Maine in the first game of the East regional.
"It was frustrating because when you come into a program like Minnesota, you expect to be in the Frozen Four," Leopold said. "But that didn't happen, and we needed to build the program."
Coach Don Lucia persuaded him to stay another year.
"He made his decision quickly," Lucia said. "He felt it would be important for him to be a captain and to lead the team and to give himself a chance to mature a little bit. He felt there was a little unfinished business."
Leopold, who beat out finalists Darren Haydar from New Hampshire and Mark Hartigan of St. Cloud State for the award, became Minnesota's fourth recipient in its 22 years.
Leopold has the chance to be the first Minnesota winner to also take home an NCAA championship in the same year.
"I've never won a team trophy. I've won individual awards my whole life," Leopold said. "Nothing would compare to a national championship trophy."
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