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UND captain Colton Poolman is one of three finalists for the NCHC player of the year award.

DENVER, Colo. — Colton Poolman's offensive point totals aren't as high as they were a season ago.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference coaches think his impact has been even greater, though.

The league's coaches voted Poolman, a University of North Dakota junior defenseman and the team's captain, one of three finalists for NCHC player of the year award Thursday. The others are St. Cloud State defenseman Jimmy Schuldt and Minnesota Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard. The award will be handed out at the NCHC's annual awards banquet next week in St. Paul.

Poolman and his teammates were on the ice Friday in Denver, taking on the Pioneers in a first-round NCHC playoff series at Magness Arena. The Pioneers scored in the first period and the third period for a 2-0 victory.

Poolman has five goals and 17 points in 33 games for the Fighting Hawks, while registering a plus-9 rating. The East Grand Forks Senior High graduate is generally handed the assignment of slowing down the opponent's top players.

Poolman also is a finalist for the NCHC's defensive defenseman of the year award.

UND has one other major award finalist as well.

Senior Rhett Gardner is a finalist for the NCHC's defensive forward of the year — an award he won last season as a junior. The other finalists are St. Cloud State sophomore Blake Lizotte, Miami senior Josh Melnick and Minnesota Duluth sophomore Justin Richards.

Gardner, UND's top shutdown centerman, leads the nation with 522 faceoff wins and has been one of UND's top penalty killers.

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