KALAMAZOO — Eight members of the Western Michigan University hockey team were honored last night at the team’s award banquet, held at the Radisson Plaza Hotel.
Presenting the awards were head coach Jim Culhane along with assistant coaches Chris Brooks, Brendan Kenny and Allan Avery.
Junior right wing Brent Walton was named the Rob Hodge Most Valuable Player and Vic Vanderberg Top Scorer. Walton compiled 50 points ( 21 goals, 29 assists) and spent 15 weeks atop the Central Collegiate Hockey Association scoring charts. An All-CCHA Second Team selection, Walton became the first Bronco in 17 seasons to capture the league’s assists title, recording 24 helpers in 28 games. He currently ranks sixth in NCAA scoring.
Sophomore Ryan Mahrle received Neil Smith Most Valuable Defenseman honors, leading Bronco blue liners with 16 points (5-11). Tabbed CCHA Defenseman of the Week in February, Mahrle scored the decisive goal with 22 seconds left in regulation in WMU’s 4-3 win over Niagara (Nov. 15) and provided the game-winning tally versus Miami (Feb. 5).
Freshman goaltender Daniel Bellissimo earned the Suzanne Klop Rookie of the Year Award. Bellissimo started 35 of 37 games — including 25 straight — and ranked second in the CCHA with 1,011 saves. He recorded 35-plus saves in a game nine times and was Honorable Mention for the CSTV/Commissioner’s Choice Rookie of the Month Award in November.
Sophomore right wing Kevin Labatte and freshman right wing Jeff Pierce were named co-recipients of the Ed Edwards Most Improved Player Award. Labatte displayed a strong second half of the season, scoring five goals over a 13-game stretch. He scored twice in a 5-1 win over Ferris State (March 4), launching a career-high seven shots on goal. Pierce led Bronco freshmen in scoring with 13 points (8-5), striking six times on the power play. He also produced game-winning goals against Ohio State and Alabama-Huntsville.
Senior captain Pat Dwyer earned the Kalamazoo Optimist “Grinder” Award for Perseverance. Dwyer joined the Bronco Century Club on March 12, recording his 100th career point. He scored twice, including the game-winning goal, in the Broncos’ season-opening 5-4 win over Alaska Fairbanks. Dwyer also threaded a pass through the legs of a Michigan player to make the “Plays of the Day” on ESPN’s Sports Center.
Second-year center Paul Szczechura accepted the Catherine Lawson Sportsmanship Award. Szczechura finished second in team assists (23) and third in scoring (29 points) and was ranked among North American skaters in the NHL Scouting Service Report.
Sophomore center Brett John took home the Bill Saunders Plus/Minus and Peter R. Ellis Academic awards. John logged a minus-1 in 10 games this season and recorded a perfect 4.00 grade-point average over the past year as an accounting major.
Coach Culhane also annouonced captains for the 2005-06 campaign. Mike Erickson, a senior next year, has been elected team captain while Walton, Szczechura and Mahrle will serve as assistant captains.
Western Michigan press release here.