LAFAYETTE, La. — Wow! It’s the end of my third regular season here at The Sin Bin. Once again, it’s been an absolute blast writing about the fun and friendly SPHL for the best fans in all of hockey! Once again, it’s time for the league to dole out the hardware. Once again, I’m going to be opinionated.
Y’all know the drill. The league hands out awards for MVP, Coach of the Year, Goalie of the Year, All-SPHL Teams, Trainer and Equipment Manager of the Year, and team office with the best coffee and donuts.
We have everything except Broadcaster of the Year. Don’t worry, boys. I have something special planned for y’all. Special, not SPECHL, special.
Alright, let’s do this.
Athletic Trainer and Equipment Manager of the Year
Honestly, y’all, I have no idea. Not a single, solitary clue. I do know this: Y’all don’t get to enjoy hockey every weekend from October through June without these dedicated professionals. Period.
What I do here is pick a team at random, throw darts at a board, flip a few coins, and come up with our award. I hear the commissioner has a Ouija board just for this purpose.
So congratulations to the Dawgs dynamic duo of Gavin Bechtol and Travis Johns from your Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs for being our Trainer and Equipment Manager of the 2017-18 season!
Bechtol came to the Dawgs this season from the ECHL Kalamazoo Wings, and the profession runs in his blood – his father is the equipment manager for the AHL Tuscon Roadrunners.
Johns has been the team’s trainer since its inception. His background was in football and soccer before seeing the light and converting to hockey.
Seriously, all of the equipment managers and trainers have our sincere thanks for the incredible job you all do all season long. There’s always a plate for y’all at the tailgate!
Alright… time to move on to the on-ice people. The league starts with the first-year guys; I’ll follow suit.
F: Jacob Barber (Birmingham Bulls) – This product from UW-Stevens Point led all SPHL rookies in goals, assists, and points with 24 goals, 29 assists, and 53 points.
F: Daniel Tedesco (Mississippi RiverKings) – A former teammate of Pensacola’s Garrett Milan at St. Cloud State, Tedesco split time between the SPHL and ECHL, but scored an insane 33 points (16G/17A) in only 21 games. That’s an 88-point season pace if you’re counting.
F: Justin Greenberg (Peoria Rivermen) – My compadre Kristen Wooten would love this pick. The Miami (Ohio) alum has been a point-per-game playmaker in his rookie season and showed plenty of maturity in his decision making.
D: Michael Chen (Knoxville Ice Bears) – Chen has been fun to watch this season. Plays solid D on the backcheck, but has good speed and hands to make plays in the offensive zone.
D: Cody Smith (Peoria Rivermen) – The Norwich (VT) product is the latest in the long line of excellent Rivermen defensemen. Smith began the year in Huntsville before being traded to the Rivermen, where he wound up 2nd in plus/minus for all rookies (to teammate Kevin Patterson)
G: Tomas Sholl (Evansville Thunderbolts) – I still can’t believe Macon waived this guy. Anyway, the guy who STILL hasn’t lost in regulation since December 2nd will get mentioned a few times in this article. Read on.
Rookie of the Year
I know… you think I’m going to name Sholl here. You would be wrong. Dan Tedesco gets my nod for the league’s top rookie. Tedesco has had nine multi-point games this season, six of those getting three or more points. Also, Tedesco had back-to-back hat tricks and closed out the season with a nine-point weekend.
All-SPHL First/Second Teams
Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty, y’all. Some tough decisions are coming up, but I’m up for the challenge.
F: Jake Hauswirth (Fayetteville Marksmen) – Maybe I’m a bit sentimental, but Ol’ Man Hausy needs some stick taps. He did everything except take tickets at the door on game night.
F: Berkley Scott (Knoxville Ice Bears) – It’s the captain of clutch himself. This year, Kevin Swider can walk across the locker room and hand Scott his namesake trophy. Seventy points – first time in five years.
F: Jake Trask (Macon Mayhem) – The winner of our People’s MVP competition, Trask came within an eyelash and a booger of becoming the second 70-point scorer this season.
D: Dave Pszenyczny (Peoria Rivermen) – Love him or hate him, I don’t care. D-Cheesy gets the job done. Y’all like D-Cheesy? I just made it up.
D: Brandon Pfeil (Macon Mayhem) – The best stay-at-home guy in the league. Pfeil is a rock on the blue line while not taking many penalties.
G: Tomas Sholl (Evansville Thunderbolts) – Keep on reading…
F: Alec Hagaman (Peoria Rivermen) – He’s become the toughest guy to play against in the league. Set a career high in scoring with 26 goals, 35 assists, and 61 points.
F: Garrett Milan (Pensacola Ice Flyers) – The league leader in assists with 51, Milan is fearless in the dirty areas despite his 5’8″ frame.
F: Sy Nutkevitch (Huntsville Havoc) – A model of consistency, Nutkevitch opened the season scoring points in his first 13 games of the season and finished the season with a five-game point streak.
D: Daniel Gentzler (Macon Mayhem) – Gudger has continued to improve over his three SPHL seasons. This season he scored a personal best 44 points in 49 games with a plus-14 rating.
D: Stuart Stefan (Huntsville Havoc) – Is it really an All-SPHL team with Stu? The iron man has played in 363 consecutive games. This year, Stefan set a personal best with 29 assists and came to within a point of his career high of 43 points.
G: Gordon Defiel (Pensacola Ice Flyers) – Despite battling through injuries in the second half of the season, Defiel was spectacular when healthy, consistently putting in quality starts in the pipes.
And now… time for the individual awards.
Coach of the Year
The second hardest decision I’ve had to make regarding awards season. I know some of you are thinking Jean-Guy Trudel, but for me to give him a third COY award he’d have to coach Peoria to 85 points.
Next, Kevin Kerr? Sorry, your Mayhem dropped seven points. Jeff Bes? Points for pulling off the Bonar trade, but nah. Detulleo? Maybe next year.
I wanted to give this award to Jeff Pyle, but despite the 25-point improvement, coaches of the year don’t go 0-11-2 in the middle of the season.
Moving on down the line, Landmesser is a no. Sixty points may have given Jamie Hicks the COY in his first season, but not a seventh-year guy. Congrats on the 200 career wins, though.
So I’m left with Dan Bremner and how he turned around Roanoke in the second half of the season and Jeff Carr‘s excellent job with Knoxville’s rebuild. Like I said, a tough choice but I made it.
My Coach of the Year for 2017-18 goes to… Ice Bears bench boss Jeff Carr. I expected the Ice Bears to decline, but Carr proved up to the task in his first year as a head coach.
I’ll make this early prediction – Brems will be COY in 18-19.
Defenseman of the Year
Fun Fact: Throughout Dave Pszenyczny‘s 417-year career, he’s never scored 50 points in a season. Never say never, D-Cheesy. You did it!
Goaltender of the Year, and Most Valuable Player
I had my mind made up well before last week’s piece I wrote on Tomas Sholl. Sholl led all SPHL goaltenders in GAA and SV% before going up to the ECHL and becoming utterly dominant. When your team goes winless in thirteen straight games after your call-up, you’re pretty valuable.
Finally, by special request, Broadcaster of the Year
I have my mind made up, but you’re going to have to wait until Saturday.
Our congratulations go out to the league and its teams for a great 14th season of good ol’ southern-fried hockey. Let’s have a fun postseason, y’all!