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Former college players well represented in Final

by Emily Kaplan /
Tim Thomas has given it the old college try. Now he's hoping to win at the next level -- and lead the Boston Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup.

Thomas, the Bruins' star goalie, headlines a list of 13 former college players competing in this year's Stanley Cup Final.

With 11 former collegiate athletes suiting up for the Vancouver Canucks, and two for Boston, a former college player is assured of having his name on the Stanley Cup for the 36th consecutive season.

In this year's Final, there are representatives from 12 different schools and all five NCAA conferences.

Along with Thomas -- a two-time All-American at Vermont who helped lead the Catamounts their first-ever Frozen Four appearance in 1996 -- there are two other Conn Smythe candidates who are also former college players.

Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa is a Bowling Green alumnus while his Canucks teammate, Ryan Kesler, attended Ohio State.

Throughout the entire 2011 playoffs, 112 goals have been scored by former college players, including 10 by Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, a Vermont alumnus, who shares the NHL lead in playoff goals.

Six of the former college players competing in the Stanley Cup Final are used to the spotlight -- they've also participated on the NCAA's biggest stage, the Frozen Four. That list includes Vancouver defenseman Chris Tanev, who did so last season with the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The Canucks' Keith Ballard is the only player in the Final to have won an NCAA championship; he did so twice with the Minnesota Gophers in 2002 and 2003.

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