BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — After posting a 6-1-2 record over the course of January, including a 2-1-1 record over ranked teams, three members of the Wildcat hockey team have been named Players of the Month as announced by the WCHA Tuesday afternoon.
Named Goaltender of the Week in two consecutive weeks to start the calendar year, Nolan Kent was named January's Goaltender of the Month while a pair of forwards in Darien Craighead and AJ Vanderbeck were recognized for their offensive efforts in Forward and Rookie of the Month honors.
Highlighting the box score in seven of the team's nine games, including five multi-point games, Darien Craighead is the league's January Forward of the Month. To open 2020, he posted a team-high 13 points over the nine game stretch, including eight goals and a hat trick to conclude the first month of the year. His point total led both his team and the WCHA while it ranked third nationally. With 1.44 points per game and 0.89 goals per game, he led the league in both categories and ranked fourth overall in the nation in goals per game while being one of only 12 collegiate players to record a hat trick and was just the second in the WCHA to hit the mark in January, behind teammate Vincent de Mey. His point streak began at then-No. 11 Bowling Green with the first goal of the series. Craighead then bookended the weekend in Ohio with an overtime thriller, finding twine with less than a minute to go in the extra period to earn the sweep. Earning player of the week honors for the first time in his career, the senior posted four points in the Last Frontier, including a two goal night to lead the Wildcats to the 4-2 victory, to eclipse the 100-career points mark (now 45-58-103).
Joining the team at the start of the new year, AJ Vanderbeck was named Rookie of the Month by the WCHA for his contribution to the Wildcat offense though his first month in a Wildcat sweater. In eight games played, Vanderbeck posted nine points, on two goals and seven assists, including a power play game-winner at Alaska to conclude their two-week road trip. He led all WCHA freshman in points and ranked fifth overall in the conference. Vanderbeck's seven assists led all Wildcats in January and was the second-most in the WCHA among freshmen while his 0.88 assists per game was fourth overall. Finding the back of the net on two power play opportunities, he ranked first in the category among freshmen in the league while his plus-eight on-ice rating was first for his class and fourth in the WCHA, behind three teammates. He was previously named Rookie of the Week following his five point weekend at Alaska behind a game-winning goal and four assists.
Nolan Kent, the backstop for the Wildcats for the better portion of January, went 5-1-1 in eight games played while boasting a .919 save percentage. Turning aside 217 shots on the month, Kent averaged 2.58 goals against and spent 441:17 minutes in the crease. His save total was the second-highest in the league and ranked 11th in the nation while his 5-1-1 record was third among league netminders and seventh overall. Kent opened the year up with a huge road sweep over then-No. 11 Bowling Green to help the Wildcats to their third-straight victory over a ranked opponent. Following their trip to Ohio and a home series sweep over Alaska Anchorage, Kent earned consecutive Goaltender of the Week honors, the second and third of his career. He also picked up a tie and his only loss of the month when the Wildcats traveled to top-ranked Cornell part way through the month. Dating back to the last game of 2019, Kent is now 1-1-1 at the last line of defense over No. 1 teams.
The monthly award is the first of all three's careers while they are the second, third and fourth of the year for the Wildcats, respectively with Vincent de Mey having previously earned the Forward of the Month honors for October.