Since the regular season is done I thought I'd take a few moments of everyone's time to hand out my awards to the players.
Rookie of the Year:
There's little doubt in my mind that the best freshman player(s) during this season have been Jay Beagle and Billy Smith (I couldn't pick between them so its "kiss yer sister" for this award). As is the case with almost every rookie in the WCHA it took some time for Jay to adapt to the D-1 game but he's shown in the second half of the season that in the future he could become an impact player on the team. I think Billy Smith though hit the ice running and throughout the season showed us all what he is capable of doing over the next three years. He's got quality skills with the puck on his stick and can really wheel about on his skates; in time we should see him become a dependable scorer. I'm heartened by the play of all the freshman. Shane Lovdahl has shown us his rocket of a shot on the Power Play. Mat Robinson really sees the ice well and along with his skating ability could begin next year to put up numbers. His passing is excellent. Adam Corrin contributed nicely on the penalty kill for much of the year with his quick feet and hands. And I think that Matt Jolly may well earn much more ice time next season. When he's been able to crack the lineup he's played with energy and played well enough to create scoring chances.
Most Improved Player:
With Chris Tarkir being the leading scorer as a sophmore it's awfully damn hard to ignore him as most improved but I've been struck throughout the year with the very steady, very solid play of Luke Beaverson. He makes few mistakes in his own zone and under Shyiak this year we've seen a Luke that can find another gear and carry the puck. I've also noticed that he plays with emotion at appropriate times (ie... getting in someones face when necessary). His physical play in the defensive zone has been excellent. Like I said in my last entry; I think we'll see bigger and better things from him in the next couple of years. I hope so 'cause I like yelling "Luuuuuuuke".
Heart And Soul:
This award goes to the player that best personifies the metaphor of "leaving it all out on the ice". By the end of the 03-04 season every UAA fan could easily see that Curtis Glencross was THE heart and soul of UAA's team. When he took the ice often the tenor of a whole game could change and Curtis did that with nothing but his pure will. He is the inspiration for this award and without thought to any other player I have to say that Justin Johnson is fully qualified. How many different ways can I praise JJ for his play? He never quits. He is usually effective (regardless of the situation). He's been one of the great UAA penalty killing forwards in a class alongside ex-players like Brian Kraft. JJ is just so physically intense ... I stand by my comparison of him with Chicago Bears middle-linebacker Mike Singletary.
Most Valuable Player:
If I'd been writing this blog two years ago Curtis Glencross would have gotten this award hands down. Last year I would have probably made it a tie between Nathan Lawson and Martin Stuchlik. This year though the award goes to nobody. Because nobody has been the MVP. This isn't intended as a "slam" to the team. It's just clear in my mind that nobody has stood out. I'm enamored with the play of several guys but the lack of production across the board negates anyone being eligible for MVP. An MVP should have numbers.