With the Coronavirus restrictions meaning an early end to ice hockey activity this season the Building Craftsmen Dumfries Solway Sharks had to postpone their planned Players Awards Night, traditionally held at the end of the season. With tentative plans afoot to hold an event before the new season starts, restrictions allowing, the Sharks Committee, Supporters Association and coaching staff decided to present the awards virtually, announcing the winners one award a night over the past week on the club and supporters social media channels.
First awards to be announced were the supporters club awards. Stuart Brown of the Solway Sharks Supporters Association said, “We held voting for the awards at what turned out to be the last NIHL game of the season, and nearly everyone in the large crowd participated, casting their votes anonymously. We counted and verified the votes since play has stopped, and although the voting was close there was a clear winner in each category. I would like to thank the fans for their votes and congratulate the worthy winners on their awards. It is disappointing that we haven’t been able to hold our usual awards night but keeping everyone safe is the most important thing right now, and hopefully we can present actual awards as soon as restrictions allow.”
First up was the supporter’s defender of the year, which was won by Liam Stenton. 18-year-old Liam, who played his second season on the blue line with the Sharks, has had a fantastic season and been a fan favourite with the Sharks as well as with the Glasgow Clan, who he played for as part of the affiliation between Sharks and the Glasgow club. Contributing 19 points from 19 games in the NIHL and 18 points from 14 games in the SNL Liam added to the goal tally of the team as well as playing his defensive role.
Next to be announced was the supporters forward of the year, which went to Slovakian winger #19 Peter Gapa. Peter has been in tremendous form all season and came up with some important goals and huge performances throughout the season. He has been a real fan favourite with the Sharks fans young and old in the two seasons he has been with the Sharks, always delivering entertaining hockey and always having time for the supporters
The supporter’s player of the year is always a prestigious award and it has been won by some exceptionally good players in the past. There were lots of votes cast for this award, but one clear favourite emerged and again the award went to Slovakian sharpshooter #19 Peter Gapa. Peter has been a standout player all season, putting in huge performances and becoming a real leader on and off the ice throughout the season and is a real favourite with all Sharks supporters and a very deserving winner of the Supporters Player of the year.
Next up were the club awards, starting with the announcement of the Most Improved Player Award for the 2019/20 season. This award, decided by the team coaching staff, went to a player who was in his first full season in senior hockey and another player who turned 18 during the season. He came with good numbers from junior hockey and continued that impressive form with over a point per game in the NIHL and over 2 points per game in the SNL in his rookie season. He started on a number of different lines as the team looked for chemistry and consistency in the line up and finally found his place on the wing with Peter Gapa and Scott Henderson where he impressed and stayed for the majority of the season and ended up with a huge 83 points in all competitions and showed a massive improvement over the course of the season. The winner of the Most Improved Player for 2019-20 season was awarded to Ewan Anderson, playing is his first season as a Shark.
The Top points scorer award goes to the player who scores the most points over the course of the season and includes goals and assists in all competitions. The winner of the Top Points Scorer was not only top points scorer for the Sharks but was also top points in the NIHL North 1 league and second to a Sharks team mate in the SNL.
In the NIHL he scored a very impressive 35 goals and 34 assists in just 23 games and in the SNL he contributed 21 goals and 23 assists in 15 games. He was also the top scorer in the NIHL cup with 28 points in 7 games. Totalling a massive 141 points in just 45 games he really showed his worth to the team. The winner of the Top Points scorer Award for the 2019/20 season (and his 3rd so far) is #19 Peter Gápa. Massive congratulations go to Peter on such an amazing season.
The Coaches Player of the year award is selected by the coaching staff and is awarded to someone who may not necessarily be the player that puts up the most points but is a team first player and is valuable to their team.
This year the award goes to Gordon Horne, a player who throughout the year played his way into having an important role in the line up and especially on the penalty kill. He was very much an unsung hero in the way he was happy doing the little things which make a huge difference to any team. He initially started as a fringe player but his attitude, effort and exceptional commitment from the beginning of the season saw him being thrown in to take key face offs and play on any line and for that the coaches have recognised the value he has added to this team.
Coach Jamie Thomson commented, “Gordon is a player I’ve known for a long time so at the start of the year when we were looking for depth in the squad it made sense to bring him in. As the season progressed it was clear we had an abundance of talent going forward scoring goals but in tight situations we were lacking a little bit of grit and defensive awareness and that’s were we found him to be at his best and there were many nights he came up big for the team in these situations. From the coaches’ point of view its vital that these players get the appreciation they deserve not just the big goal scorers. He comes ready to play every night and has a great team first mentality that myself and Martin insist on from all our players and fully deserves this award.”
The final award to be announced was the Players Player of the year award for the 2019/20 season. This award is voted for by the players and is always recognised by them as the most prestigious award as it is voted for by their peers. There were lots of different players who received votes for this award but it quickly emerged that this was a two horse race with there being only one vote difference in the end in favour of the winner, our #10 Liam Stenton.
Liam has been one of the most consistent performers for the Sharks despite only turning 18 during the season. He has shown outstanding maturity in his performances and his hugely consistent and competitive showings that have impressed everyone this season. Stenton played 40 games for the Sharks in all competitions and contributed 42 points, as well as appearing 10 times for Glasgow Clan in the Elite league and got his first 2 career points at that level. He represented Great Britain under 20’s at the World Championship in Vilnius, winning a silver medal and contributing 2 assists to the teams success. It has been a breakthrough season for the young defenceman and that has clearly impressed his team mates enough to win this prestigious award.
Discussing the awards Head coach Martin Grubb told us, “It has been unfortunate that due to the current pandemic that we had to postpone our awards night, but we wanted to ensure the players were recognised and able to share the awards night with our fantastic supporters online. The supporters awards were voted for by our fans and I know there was a lot of tough decisions to be made by them but they have chosen excellent winners and I know the players really want to win the awards from the supporters as they mean a lot to them and the team. The club awards were difficult to select as everyone has contributed to our success this season, but we made the difficult choices and the winners are all very worthy of their awards. It was great to see a selection of players winning awards and congratulations must go to them all. Ewan Anderson really improved over the course of the season and became a vital member of that line with Gapa and Henderson and that says a lot for him at a young age. Gordon Horne is a guy who just does everything you would want as a coach, he does the little things well and is fully committed to his team and I am really happy to be able to recognise him as he has worked so hard all season. Peter won 3 awards and the supporters love him and its not hard to see why and his numbers speak for themselves, so he was rightly recognised. Liam Stenton won the supporters best defenceman and I think the experienced D core we had helped him along with his excellent partnership with Stuart Kerr and of course his EIHL experience did him no harm at all. Liam also won the Players Player of the year and there is no greater honour than being voted for by your teammates and although there was only one vote in it he is definitely deserving of that award after such a breakthrough season at only 18 years old.
I would like to thank all the supporters who voted, liked and commented on our social media posts and also all my players for the season they gave us and the commitment they showed. Everyone stay safe – and rest assured we are planning for next year and hope to see you all soon.”
Keep up to date with developments by following the Solway Sharks and the Supporters Association on facebook and twitter, and check our website regularly for up to the minute news. www.solwaysharksdumfries.co.uk
Photo credit: Helen Hobbins Photography