Former King up for prestigious award

Neal Broten of the University of Minnesota won the Hobey Baker award in 1981, the first year that the now annual award was given out to NCAA college hockey’s top player. Cole Caufield; meanwhile, won the award last year after a tremendous season with the University of Wisconsin Badgers.

Baker was considered the first American star in ice hockey by the Hockey Hall of Fame and he was also an accomplished American football player. He was a member of three national championship teams, for football in 1911 and hockey in 1912 and 1914, and helped the St. Nicholas Club win a national amateur championship in 1915.

During World War I, he served with the 103rd and the 13th Aero Squadrons before being promoted to captain and named commander of the 141st Aero Squadron. Baker passed away in December of 1918 at the age of 26 after a plane he was test-piloting crashed, hours before he was due to leave France and return home.

Throughout the years, the names of Jack Eichel, Cale Makar, Paul Kariya, and Johnny Gaudreau have won the award. Now just more than 40 years after the first Hobey Baker Award was given out, a sniper from Gilbert Plains is a nominee. Enjoying a fantastic season with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, Gilbert Plains’ Riese Gaber has been named a nominee to win the award.

In his sophomore season, Gaber is tied for the team lead with 22 points and leads the way with nine goals and five powerplay tallies. Gaber has also recorded a point in 15 of 21 games this season, he’s riding a five-goal point streak.

“It feels pretty good, just to hear my name along with Hobey Baker, it’s very special,” said Gaber. “There is a long way to go and I don’t really expect much to come out of it but it is nice to be recognized. I’m just going to put my head down here and try to finish this season strong.”

In eight games this season, Riese has already topped his point total from last year when he notched 21 points. Two years removed from being the Player of the Year in the United States Hockey League with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, Riese’s ability to use his speed to his advantage and find the back of the net is a talent that not many possess at the Division 1 level.

“I have something to prove every single night to a lot of people and myself as well,” said Gaber. “The biggest thing is just bringing it night in and night out and not taking my foot off the gas here.”

Gaber isn’t the only Fighting Hawk to be nominated for the prestigious award as he’s joined by Jake Sanderson who is heading to the Olympics to play with Team U.S. next month. Sanderson also has 22 points, he was taken fifth-overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2020 Draft.

“No surprise at all, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a top-three finalist, I believe he should be and will be,” said Gaber. “We’ve become really good friends over the past couple of years, it’s really special to play with him. He’s a true pro.”

While Gaber is having a great season, he believes he has a lot left in him as the Fighting Hawks try to win another Penrose Cup. The team’s games this weekend have been postponed because of COVID-19 concerns so next up is a trip to Kalamazoo for a pair of games next weekend against Western Michigan. At 8-2 in conference play, the Fighting Hawks have a six-point lead on Western Michigan for the top spot in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Gaber’s also tied for fifth in conference scoring. Leading the way is his former teammate with the Steinbach Pistons in Drew Worrad who has 27 points.

The Hobey Baker’s popular fan-voting is now underway and will run until Sunday, March 6 at midnight. That means you can vote for Gaber by heading to Vote for Gaber.