B1G Ben! Gophers' Meyers named Big Ten Player of the Year
The former Fargo Force star was honored by the conference for leading the Minnesota Gophers in points despite missing five games while at the Olympics. Defenseman Brock Faber and coach Bob Motzko also grabbed individual awards from the conference.
MINNEAPOLIS — Whenever the current Minnesota Gophers hockey season ends and the expected bidding war among NHL teams for the services of Ben Meyers begins, the forward will have at least one more impressive accolade on his resume.
On Tuesday, Meyers – a junior from Delano, Minn., and a standout for the USHL’s Fargo Force before he got to college hockey – was named Player of the Year in the Big Ten.
Despite missing five games in February while he was in China playing for Team USA at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Meyers leads the Gophers in goals (16) and points (36) as the team heads into Saturday night’s conference playoff championship game versus Michigan at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
Meyers, who is an undrafted free agent, has attracted the attention of numerous NHL teams, with officials from the Minnesota Wild on hand at the Gophers’ playoff opener on Saturday, March 12. He is expected to sign a maximum rookie contract at the conclusion of the current season and forgo his remaining college eligibility.
"I've said recently, he's like a piston. His work ethic and his physical strength, his skating ability and how he competes never changes," Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said in an interview with Big Ten Network. "You hope that when he makes players around him better, that's what they can take from him. His compete level in practice and in games never wavers, and that is such a special quality."
When the awards were announced via Big Ten Network on Tuesday morning, Meyers learned he had some Gophers company among the winners of major conference honors. Defenseman Brock Faber, who also made the American Olympic team, was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, and Motzko was named Coach of the Year among the conference’s seven programs.
Faber, a sophomore from Maple Grove, Minn., becomes the third Gopher honored by the Big Ten for defensive prowess after Mike Reilly won the award in 2014 and 2015 and Jake Bischoff grabbed that accolade in 2017.
For Motzko, it is the sixth time in his 17 seasons as a college head coach that he has been named the best in his conference. During his 13 seasons at St. Cloud State, Motzko was honored by the WCHA twice and by the NCHC twice. He has now won the Big Ten accolade twice in his four seasons with the Gophers, in 2020 and 2022. True to his nature, Motzko praised the players for navigating the storms of the season.
"We always use words like 'resilient' and 'next man up' and all these but our guys just rolled with any punch they got thrown at them and kept going," Motzko told Big Ten Network. "I'm a little superstitious that we're talking about it now because we've still got the most important games of the year coming up. But it's just been an excellent group of young men to be around."
Ohio State rookie goalie Jakub Dobes was named the conference’s top goalie. Dobes and Michigan defenseman Luke Hughes shared the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year award after a vote by a panel of coaches and media representing all seven teams in the conference (The Rink Live received a ballot and voted on the awards).
Meyers and Faber were named to the Big Ten first team. Freshman forward Matthew Knies was named to the second team along with junior defenseman Jackson LaCombe. Senior forwards Blake McLaughlin and Sammy Walker, and junior goaltender Justen Close, received honorable mention in the league awards. Knies was also a unanimous selection to the all-freshman team.
The Gophers won the Big Ten regular season title with a 18-6-0 record in conference play.