ORONO — It has been a memorable week for University of Maine senior left wing Spencer Abbott.
First he was named the winner of the Leonard Fowle Award given to the most valuable player in New England and the Herb Gallagher Award for the region’s best forward.
Then he signed a professional contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs good for the rest of this season and next season.
Toronto is just 38 miles from his home in Hamilton, Ontario and he joined the Maple Leafs’ AHL franchise, the Marlies, who are also based in Toronto.
Finally, he learned on Thursday he is a Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist meaning he is one of three contenders for college hockey’s most prestigious award.
He joins Minnesota-Duluth senior center Jack Connolly and Colgate University senior right wing Austin Smith.
He becomes the second Black Bear in three years to be chosen a Hobey Baker Award hat trick finalist as Gustav Nyquist was a finalist two years ago.
The award will be presented next Friday in a unique spot: MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.
According to a story in U.S. College Hockey Online, Jon Doehr of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation said the group worked with the Tampa Bay Sports Commission to find an appropriate location and the Air Force base was an intriguing venue because Hobey Baker was a decorated U.S. Army fighter pilot in World War I.
“We’re looking forward to a special ceremony at MacDill Air Base next week that will create an unforgettable experience for the Hobey finalists while also celebrating Hobey Baker’s heritage and accomplishments both on and off the ice,” wrote Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, in an email.
A Black Bear hasn’t won the Hobey Baker Award since Paul Kariya captured the award in 1993, one year after Scott Pellerin had become the school’s first Hobey winner.
Abbott is the 11th different Black Bear to be named a Hobey Baker Award finalist (final 10). Jean-Yves Roy and David Capuano were two-time finalists.
Abbott had been one of 10 semifinalists for the award.
“I’m very excited,” said Abbott while en route to Rochester from Toronto for Friday and Saturday night games against former linemate and roommate Brian Flynn’s Rochester Americans. “To be named among the top three is a great honor. It’s a very special list. The other two guys are very good players. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s up in the air.”
He said when he first came to Maine four years ago, he never anticipated this.
“It’s something you only dream of,” said Abbott who led the nation in scoring with 62 points on 21 goals and 41 assists. He also led the nation in points per game (1.59), assists (41) and assists per game (1.05).
He was the Hockey East Player of the Year and the lone unanimous selection to the Hockey East first team. He was also named to the College Hockey News’ first team which included all Division I players.
Abbott, 23, had at least one point in 29 of 39 games and produced 18 multiple-point games, including eight three-point games.
He had four goals and 27 assists on the power play and had two game-winning goals and six game-winning assists.
He suffered a head injury in a 5-3 win over Boston University in the Hockey East semifinals and missed the 4-1 loss to Frozen Four participant Boston College in the Hockey East final.
But he was cleared to play just hours before the NCAA Northeast Regional loss (5-2) to Minnesota-Duluth and responded by scoring the game’s first goal.
Connolly finished with 20 goals and 40 assists in 41 games, including nine power-play goals and three game-winners. Smith led the nation with 36 goals in 39 games to go with 21 assists. He had seven power-play goals, five game-winners and led the nation with five shorthanded goals.
Abbott credited his linemates, Flynn and Joey Diamond, for their roles in his success.
The trio combined for 64 goals and 93 assists.
“We had a good line. I can’t say enough about those two players. They’re awesome guys and great hockey players. They made me a better player,” said Abbott.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Abbott received a $92,500 signing bonus from the Maple Leafs and has a two-way contract which will pay him a salary based on whether he plays for Maple Leafs or the Marlies.
“There are a lot of wonderful people in the Toronto organization,” said Abbott who hopes to be with the organization for several years.
He won’t dress for the Marlies on Friday night but he said he could make his debut on Saturday.
If he does, he will find himself skating against Flynn, who signed with Buffalo and was assigned to Rochester.
“That’ll be a little weird, for sure,” said Abbott. “It’ll take a few minutes to figure it out.”