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Friday, March 23, 2007

Batovanja a finalist for Hines Unsung Hero Award

Senior Mike Batovanja of the Michigan Tech hockey team has been nominated for the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award, as announced by the Hockey Commissioners' Association (HCA).

The honor is named in memory of the former Army player who died courageously in combat in Afghanistan, and will be presented for the first time April 6 at the 2007 NCAA Men's Frozen Four.

"Although I never knew Derek Hines, I admire the lasting impression he left on those he touched," said fourth-year Huskies' head coach Jamie Russell. "Mike Batovanja would certainly honor Derek's memory as he possesses so many of the qualities Derek had."

Batovanja has been a mainstay in the Huskies lineup ever since transferring from the University of Findlay after his freshman campaign. Named to the College Hockey America All-Rookie Team with the Oilers in 2003-04, Batovanja chipped in 13 goals and 31 assists in 146 career games between the two programs. He racked up five points this season and led Michigan Tech in hits, despite missing three games due to numerous injuries.

A team co-captain this year, and an alternate captain in the 2005-06 slate, Batovanja owns a 3.50 cumulative grade-point average in business administration with a concentration in marketing. The winger was a three-time member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) All-Academic Team and was recognized as a WCHA Scholar-Athlete in his final collegiate season.

He also donated his time by working with the Copper Country Junior Hockey Association and reading in local elementary schools as part of the Koaches' Kids program.

"Mike has exemplified fearless leadership on and off the ice throughout his career at Michigan Tech," reflected Russell. "He played through excruciating pain this entire season and was a real inspiration for our team. Mike is a shining example of all that is good in our game. His unselfish and humble manner should make our team, university and community proud."

Each of the six NCAA Division I hockey conferences submitted a nominee for the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award to honor the nation's "consummate team player and team builder."

Hines, a former Army captain, was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan last September. He was a four-year letterwinner for the Black Knights, graduating in 2003 after serving as the team's co-captain in his senior season.

The Unsung Hero Award will go to the nominee who best personifies Derek's spirit and relentless commitment as defined by the following description.

"This award recognizes a fearless leader and beloved fan favorite who always places his team first," said HCA president Tom Anastos. "Displaying exemplary sportsmanship, he's supremely competitive, intelligent and extraordinarily conditioned with an unmatched work ethic. The contributions of this individual, on and off the ice, cannot be measured by statistics alone."

Nominees were judged by a panel comprised of the sports information directors from the six NCAA Division I conferences along with representatives of Army athletics and the Hines family.


Photo: Batovanja signing a poster at the annual Skate with the Huskies event - courtesy MTU Photo Services

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