2015/16 Alliance Year-End Awards

Wow has it been a long time since anything has been posted here. Still feels like yesterday that I was in Toronto taking in the OHL Cup and still doesn’t feel all that long ago that the Alliance playdowns were getting underway during a blizzard in Perth County.

With that said, the 2015/16 season produced some memorable goals and some fantastic games. It is hard to believe that tryouts for next season are getting started in the next week or two.

Before we shut the door on this past season, I thought it would be apt to hand out some season end awards to those deserving of the praise. Some may be obvious while others may be a bit of a surprise. These were not easy decisions for some, but others just stuck out in my mind like a sore thumb that they should be recognized accordingly.

Stanley Cup – Waterloo Wolves

This was an easy one, although it was far from easy for the Wolves. Waterloo battled London tooth and nail down to the end before clinching their third straight Minor Midget Alliance championship. The biggest takeaway from the series was the depth that Waterloo had on their roster. Like guys like Liam Hartman and Mason McMahon missing most of the season and Mitch Hoelscher banged up for the final couple of games, others stepped up to help give Waterloo just enough to claim victory.

Hart Trophy – Owen Gilhula (Huron-Perth Lakers)

Some may debate the selection of Gilhula, but the numbers don’t lie. With Gilhula in the lineup, the Huron-Perth Lakers were a different monster. Just look at the postseason for the Lakers. With Gilhula missing, the Lakers fell in three straight to the Kitchener Jr. Rangers. When their playoff round began, Gilhula returned and Huron-Perth did not lose another game for the remainder of the season.

It wasn’t just their record that makes him the MVP this season. Gilhula only played nine playoff games, yet was able to record a ridiculous 25 points. I sincerely believe that if the Lakers were able to stay healthy for the entirety of the season, we could have seen them taking part in the OHL Cup this season.

Vezina Trophy – Nathan Torchia (Waterloo Wolves)

Torchia was not only the best goaltender in the Alliance, but he’s also proven to be one of the best 2000 born goalies eligible for the OHL Draft this coming Saturday. Torchia had a 1.91 GAA during the regular season and after a rough beginning to his playdowns, he came back stronger and was at his best near the end of the series with Kitchener and throughout the championship final against London. His precise positioning and lightning quick glove and just a couple of the reasons why he will be one of, if not the first goalies heading to the OHL.

Norris Trophy – Owen Lalonde (Windsor Jr. Spitfires)

The consensus top prospect out of the Alliance this season was far and above the best on the blue line over the past six months or so. Lalonde is one of the smartest defenseman I have seen play in the past little while. Very rarely do you see him succumb to pressure on the forecheck and there were no more than a handful of times that I saw him make a poor pass or cough up the puck.

Not only is it his work in his own end, but offensively he’s a constant threat from the point and was the leader of the powerplay from the middle of the blue line. Best defensive player in the league and a name you will hear called very early come Saturday morning.

Conn Smythe – Mitch Hoelscher (Waterloo Wolves)

There were a few options to go when it came to the playoff MVP. Captain Chris Playfair, top centre Alex Gritz or the aforementioned Torchia. But in the end, it was the constant threat posed by Mitch Hoelscher that landed him these honours.

Hoelscher did it not only in the final series, but throughout the playdowns. I can recall at least two if not three baseball style goals he scored just in the first two series alone. Defenders had a difficult time containing him man-to-man and his work down low on the PP set up some nifty goals by Gritz and Spencer Kersten. The Wolves were a deep team as stated above, but Hoelscher was the one who stood above the rest when all was said and done.

Jack Adams – Derick Hare (Sun County Panthers)

This one took a lot of debate as there were numerous coaches who deserved the praise. It was hard to ignore the success Shawn Dietrich had in Waterloo and the resurgence Steve Masse produced in Windsor, but in the end I went with the Panthers bench boss who brought his team from the bottom of the standings to a playoff finals appearance.

I distinctly remember at one point in the season, proclaiming that the Cambridge Hawks were on their way to surpassing the Sun County Panthers in the standings. Boy was I wrong on that front as the Panthers began their charge late in the season.

The Panthers ended the season playing very strong hockey which included some close games against the leagues top teams. Sun County then went into the playoffs and compiled a 9-5-3 record on their way to the finals. That included a huge six game series win over a very talented Elgin-Middlesex squad.

They didn’t win any championships nor were they the flashiest team in the league, but the work Hare, his staff and the players did in the second half of the season should not go unnoticed.

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