U Sports MHKY: SMU’s Balmas wins rookie of the year, while season awards are given out

The best of U Sports men’s hockey have gathered in Halifax for their respective national championship tournaments. However, before the hockey gets underway, the players and coaches who stood out among the rest were honoured for their seasons.

SENATOR JOSEPH A. SULLIVAN TROPHY (Player of the Year) & Goaltender of the Year: Taran Kozun Saskatchewan

Taran Kozun, the former professional netminder is the first player ever to claim both awards in the same season. It’s his second time earning the goaltending honours, however, his inaugural time being named the best player. 

Taran Kozun (Liam Richards)

Kozun was exceptional for the Huskies this season and was by far the best player throughout the regular season. Although he also stood out in the playoffs, the shining, game stealing play of the University of British Columbia’s Rylan Toth overshadowed him. 

The former WHL champion had Canada West’s top save percentage at .931, which included 5 shutouts and 17 wins. Kozun also added a goal to his stat line, when he fired a rink long shot into the empty net of the Calgary Dinos.

Kozun and the Saskatchewan Huskies open their hunt for the 2020 U Cup on Thursday when they take on the Cinderella story Western Mustangs in the quarter-final. 49 Sports previewed the Huskies on THIS LINK. 

CLARE DRAKE AWARD (Rookie of the Year): Mitchell Balmas, Saint Mary’s

The former QMJHL journeyman made a massive impact in his first season of U Sports hockey. After finishing off his junior career, he joined the huskies and burst onto the scene this year, as he led St. Mary’s scoring this year. His 17 goals and 36 assists weren’t only good enough for the Huskies scoring title, but also got him second in the AUS charts. 

Mitchell Balmas is having a strong rookie season with the Saint Mary’s Huskies.
Michel Balmas (Jason Malloy/ Saltwire Network)

Balmas is the third straight player from the AUS to be awarded the honour, which is somewhat ironic as Clarke Drake, whom the award is named after only coached in Canada West, and the Edmonton golden Bears arena is named after the famed bench boss. 

SMU will take on the Guelph Gryphons in the first round of the U Cup, so make sure to read up on them right here!

DEFENCEMAN OF THE YEAR: Nikolas Brouillard, McGill

He has been a key piece of the McGill defence for a while now. The former ECHL and AHL pro has excelled against fairly lesser competition in the OUA. He has never won the award before this, but his contributions to the steady defence of McGill are undeniable. 

Image result for nikolas brouillard nhl
Broulliard when he attended Maple Leafs training camp (TheAHL.com)

However, it’s not just his defending which stands out, as he posted 23 points this season, good enough to rank fifth in OUA defensman, as well as be in the top 10 highest scoring blueliners across all of U Sports.

The award adds another bragging right to his cabinet, which he can put next to pro experience and NHL pre-season camp opportunities. 

McGill is not in the 2020 U Cup presented by Cavendish Farms.

R.W. PUGH FAIR PLAY AWARD (Most Sportsmanlike Player): Levi Cable, Saskatchewan

Ok, so this is a crazy stat. 18 penalty minutes in 5 years of U Sports hockey. That’s exactly what Levi Cable has done throughout his university career, as the senior is a well-deserved recipient of this award

Levi Cable (Liam Richard/ Saskatoon Star Phoenix)

In all of the time that he has outside on the penalty box, Cable has been able to consistently post 20 points seasons through his time in U Sports. One only has to look as far as this past year, as he potted 10 goals and 14 assists for a 24 point campaign. 

He and the Saskatchewan Huskies, who recently won the Canada West championship begin their U Cup campaign against the Western Mustangs. The preview for the Huskies is posted above in the section regarding player of the year, Taran Kozun.

DR. RANDY GREGG AWARD (Student-Athlete Community Service): Liam Maaskant, Acadia

It may not be the flashiest award, it is one of, if not the most important. Maaskant, a fifth-year engineering student in Acadia is a shining example of what a great student-athlete looks like. 

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Maaskant volunteering (U Sports)

First off, he is an engineering student, a field which is often very demanding of its students and not always the most friendly to those pursuing Varsity athletics, however, Acadia’s Maaskant has made it work. 

He is a three-time academic all Canadian, a feat which is noteworthy in itself. While being a student and an athlete has it’s time commitments and tolls, Maaskant has found time to volunteer in the Wolfville community, which benefits many of the people who watch his games, as well as others.

FATHER GEORGE KEHOE MEMORIAL AWARD (Fox 40 Coach of the Year): Ryan Medel, Toronto

Ryan Medel has had quite a life in U Sports. He played two very successful years with the Carleton Ravens, before moving behind the bench to hone the craft of coaching. He finished off his playing career at the beginning of 2010 and was the assistant of the coach of the Ravens in the fall. He stayed with the Ravens for six seasons but was never offered the head coaching position. 

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Ryan Medel (Varsity Blues Athletics Dept.)

In 2017, he became the head coach of the Toronto Varsity Blues. Three years later, he is named the top coach in all of U Sports. 

Medel led the blues to a top of the conference place in the OUA West, as he led helped them match a program-best 21 win season. While his side was upset by the eighth seed western mustangs in the first round, his season is still something that warrants attention. 

Although he was honoured at the dinner before the U Cup competition, Medel’s Blues are not competing. 

Other than the highlighted awards, U Sports also released all-star teams honouring the accomplishments of various players countrywide.

Table from USports.ca
Table from USports.ca

Cover Image: U Sports

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