BOSTON – Senior forward Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.) and sophomore defenseman Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) of the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team were named semifinalists for the 58th annual Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England.

Butler and Kessel were among a group of 16 semifinalists selected by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston, as announced by president Steve Grogan on Feb. 1. In total 11 players from Hockey East were selected.

Butler, the leading scoring in Hockey East, ranks fourth nationally in scoring at 1.44 ppg. A two-time Hockey East Player of the Week, he has a league-best 14 goals in conference play. Butler was named Hockey East Player of the Month in November and has scored in 20 of 25 games including seven-straight.

Kessel leads all of Hockey East and ranks second nationally in defensemen points. His 1.17 ppg ranks third nationally behind only Brendan Smith of Wisconsin and Thomas Dignard of Yale. Kessel has scored in 15 games this season with eight multi-point games. He has also anchored a defense that has allowed two or fewer goals on 11 occasions.

The Wildcats have a storied tradition in the Walter Brown Award history that includes seven former Wildcats that have earn the Walter Brown Award including Bob Miller (1977), Ralph Cox (1979), Ty Conklin (2001), Mike Ayers (2003) Steve Saviano (2004) and most recently Kevin Regan (2008)

“The balance and competitiveness we’ve seen throughout college hockey in the East this year has been superb, and that balance was especially evident during the process of nomination and evaluation for the Walter Brown Award,” remarked Gridiron Club Hockey Awards Committee chairman Tim Costello.

“Once again, not every player who received serious consideration was able to make the cut. We will be tracking all of these excellent semifinalists closely through the stretch run and playoffs.”

The Gridiron Club will announce the finalists and winner of the 58th Walter Brown Award in March, following league playoffs and before the start of NCAA Tournament play.

The No. 13-ranked Wildcats return to action Friday, Feb. 5 at No. 16 Maine. Game time at Alfond Arena is 7 p.m.

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