Wednesday, 27 February 2019

The Best Are Named

It's always an exciting time when Canada West names their distinguished players of the year. The four main categories include the Player of the Year, the Rookie of the Year, the Coach of the Year, and the Student-Athlete Community Service Award which recognizes the player whose contributions in the community were the best seen this season. Among all of the awards, the Player of the Year Award comes with an obvious sense of accomplishment, but the Community Service Award is always one that I feel has the prestige of being a true honour thanks to all the people the winner has affected. There were definitely some favorites regarding who would win these awards this season, so let's waste little time and get to the winners.

Player of the Year

There's little debate on this award, but one of her teammates was certainly in the conversation. Alex Poznikoff of the Alberta Pandas is this year's winner as she led the conference in goals (15), assists (22), and points (37) in being part of the highest-scoring line in the nation with Autumn MacDougall and Kennedy Ganser as well as helping Alberta claim top spot in Canada West and a top-three national ranking all season long. Only in five games this season was she held off the scoresheet, and she was lethal on special team play with four power-play goals and three shorthanded markers. There's no denying that Poznikoff was this season's most dynamic player in Canada West, and her being named as the Player of the Year is well-deserved!

Rookie of the Year

What is there isn't to say about Breanne Trotter's season? Trotter's first campaign in Canada West saw her post nine goals and 11 assists in 28 games to put her firmly in fifth-place in Canada West scoring and she led the Mount Royal Cougars in scoring. What makes this feat a little more amazing is that she was held off the scoresheet in 14 games this season - half of the Cougars' games! Despite the streaky nature of her scoring, Trotter was also a big-body force in games this season, using her size and speed to carry pucks to the net and set teammates up. Trotter was a big part of the reason that Mount Royal was able to record their best finish in Canada West ever at fifth-place, and she looks to be a big part of this Cougars team for the next four years!

Coach of the Year

Again, it's hard to argue with success, and this man just keeps churning out success like it's coming off a conveyor belt. Alberta Pandas head coach was named as Coach of the Year today, marking the sixth time he's been named to the accolade (2000, '02, '03, '04, '11, '19). Not only did he coach the Team Canada U18 women's team to a gold medal in Japan earlier this season, but his team was one of the best defensive squads in Canada West history in surrendering just 24 goals in 28 games while compiling a 19-5-4-0 record. The Pandas finished the season ranked #1 in U SPORTS, and head coach Howie Draper is a large part why the Pandas have been one of U SPORTS most accomplished teams since their founding in 1997.

Student-Athlete Community Service

This year's winner is Anna Purschke of the Mount Royal Cougars, and she is doing some amazing work in Calgary. First off, Anna had six goals and three assists on the ice for Mount Royal this season as she helped the team finish in fifth-place, their highest finish in team history, while she posted a 3.75 GPA this year. What makes her incredible work on the ice and at school so remarkable is the amount of time she spent helping others. Purschke spent more than 100 hours volunteering in her community this season with Hockey Education Reaching Out Society (HEROS) and with Special Olympics Calgary where she worked with the snowshoeing team on weekends!

From the HEROS website, "Hockey Education Reaching Out Society (HEROS) is a volunteer-driven charity that uses the game of ice hockey to teach life-skills and empower marginalized youth.... [They provide] free programs to youth of all backgrounds from a grade four level, right up to post-secondary. We provide opportunities for personal growth through sport training, educational development, and scholarships guiding participants to become constructive citizens and future community leaders." The currently have 20 programs in nine cities across Canada: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Sunshine Coast, Surrey, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and it's pretty clear that Anna Purschke plays a big role in helping youth in Calgary in a very significant way!

These four players are now eligible for the U SPORTS national awards in the categories for which they won, and that awards gala happens in Charlottetown on Wednesday, March 13. There will likely be some other excellent players up for the U SPORTS Player of the Year award and the U SPORTS Rookie of the Year award, and there are always some exceptional student-athletes who have done amazing work in their communities to better everyone. I will go out on a limb and suggest that Howie Draper's season likely makes him the favorite for U SPORTS Coach of the Year, but Isabelle Leclaire of the Montreal Carabins could be a winner based on Montreal's season.

In any case, there were some remarkable efforts this season in Canada West, particularly from these four individuals, and I'm glad they're getting the recognition for those efforts that they deserve.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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