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BUFFALO, N.Y. — UMass defenseman Cale Makar was named the 2019 recipient of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as men’s college hockey’s most outstanding player.

Makar is just the fourth sophomore and seventh defenseman to earn the top individual honor in NCAA men’s hockey, which has been awarded since 1981.

Makar helped the UMass hockey program reach unprecedented heights this season as the Minutemen will play in the national championship game for the first time in school history Saturday. Makar is also the first Hobey Baker Award winner for the program.

Makar has 49 points through 40 games, which ranks first among defensemen and third overall in men’s college hockey, with one game left to play. He is the highest-scoring defenseman in the NCAA since Wisconsin’s Brendan Smith put up 52 points in 2009-10.

The 20-year-old Calgary native was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche fourth overall in the 2017 NHL draft. Makar was also named ESPN’s No. 1 NHL-affiliated prospect in the 2018-19 midseason top 50 and could join the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup playoffs after Saturday’s college hockey final.

The UMass blueliner beat out fellow Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalists Jimmy Schuldt of St. Cloud State and Adam Fox of Harvard. All three finalists were defensemen, a first in the history of the award.

Makar and the Minutemen will take on defending champion Minnesota Duluth in Saturday’s national championship game at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

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