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UND launches KawaHobey website, promoting Jordan Kawaguchi as Hobey Baker Award candidate

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Fighting Hawks forward Jordan Kawaguchi brings the puck to the edge of the goal line in the Mavericks' as Omaha netminder Isaiah Saville (31) blocks his path Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

UND head coach Brad Berry approached Jordan Kawaguchi at practice this week to tell him what was about to happen.

The UND athletic department was planning to launch a website pushing Kawaguchi to win the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey. Knowing that Kawaguchi isn't one for attention -- the junior forward is more comfortable out of the spotlight -- Berry first wanted to make sure it was OK.

"I grabbed him (Tuesday) knowing this campaign was coming out," Berry said. "Out of respect to him, I asked him, 'Here's what's coming, are you good with it? This is what we do to show the rest of the nation. Are you good with us throwing this out there?'

"He said, 'I want to do whatever's best for the team. Whatever you think coach.'"

With that, UND launched its #KawaHobey site, www.fightinghawks.com/kawahobey , hoping to aid Kawaguchi's candidacy.

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"He's a humble guy," Berry said. "He'd never toot his own horn. But at the end of the day, we have one of the best players in the nation in our group here."

Kawaguchi is the nation's second-leading scorer with 45 points in 33 games, trailing only Jack Dugan of Providence, who has 52 points.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound forward from Abbotsford, B.C., ranks in the top six nationally in points (45), assists (30), primary assists (23), game-winning goals (5), home points (30), game-winning points (13), multi-point games (15) and three-plus point games (6).

Aiding Kawaguchi's candidacy is that the Fighting Hawks have had team success. They won the Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular-season champions last weekend and are ranked No. 1 in the Pairwise Rankings and No. 2 in the national polls.

Kawaguchi is on track to be UND's first Hobey Baker Award finalist since goalie Zane McIntyre in 2015. McIntyre finished in the top three of the voting that year, but lost out to Boston University's Jack Eichel, who has gone onto NHL stardom with the Buffalo Sabres.

Kawaguchi is perhaps UND's best shot at winning since Matt Frattin in 2011. Frattin finished in the top three, but Miami's Andy Miele won it that year.

UND has only had two winners of the award, which began in 1981. Forward Ryan Duncan won it in 2007 and forward Tony Hrkac won it in 1987.

Last weekend, UND recognized Mark Taylor, who was named the national player of the year by College Hockey News in 1980, the year before the Hobey began.

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UND concludes the regular season this weekend at Omaha (7:07 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday, Baxter Arena). It hosts a first-round NCHC playoff series next weekend. Its opponent is yet to be determined. The Fighting Hawks also are a lock to make the NCAA tournament.

The top 10 Hobey Baker Award finalists will be announced in two weeks. Final voting will be done after the NCAA regionals and the Hobey will be presented on April 10 in Detroit.

No. 2 UND at Omaha

When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Baxter Arena, Omaha.

TV: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

Webcast: NCHC.tv.

Records: UND 25-4-4 (16-3-3 NCHC); Omaha 13-16-5 (7-12-3).

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UND's Jordan Kawaguchi flips a backhander past Huntsville's Lucas Bahn and goalie Mark Sinclair in the second period at Ralph Engelstad Arena Saturday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

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