Graduating 20 year-olds Clayton McEwan (left) and Erik Cooper pose with their awards (Randy Emery photo)
A nice-sized crowd of parents, players, volunteers and fans at the Riverbelle last night to send off this year's edition of the Smokies at the annual year-end banquet.
Along with the meal came the annual awards ceremony -- 3 Smoke Eaters (Erik Cooper, Clayton McEwan and Lyndon Stanwood) were honoured multiple times, while Cooper and McEwan were also given mementoes in commemoration of their graduation from junior hockey.
All in all, it was a nice send-off for a group that's been through tribulations over the course of the 2011-12 season, and I can genuinely say there was a real sense of optimism in the room last night in anticipation of what lies ahead come 2012-13. The Smokies' spring camp (set for Mar. 30-Apr. 1 at Cominco Arena) will be the first step in working toward a playoff berth next year.
Here are the award winners as selected by the Smokies' coaching staff, and fans:
Most Improved: Brent Baltus
Top Scorer: Erik Cooper
Most Dedicated: Lyndon Stanwood
Most Inspirational: Clayton McEwan
Fan Favourite: Lyndon Stanwood
Ed Shelly Memorial Award: Adam Wheeldon
Top Rookie: Garrett McMullen
Top Defenseman: Clayton McEwan
Most Valuable Player: Erik Cooper
Personally, I can't wait until the start of next season. Head coach Bill Birks mentioned it at last night's event, and I agree with him in that this club has built a solid, hard-working core that will have a season of BCHL experience under their belts come next fall. To a man, this is an honest, dignified group the community can be proud of; I know personally even after tough defeats each and every time I needed a player or a coach for comments they were available every time, and if it weren't for a rash of injuries the second half might well have had the sustained momentum we saw through January and the early part of February.
Thanks to all of the players, coaches, executive and volunteers for all of your hard work over the course of the season, and to the fans for staying loyal to this team as it continues to build for the future.
Programming Note: Expect to see slightly more attention paid to the KIJHL playoffs on this blog over the next few weeks; any and all Smokies news will of course be here too. Following the conclusion of the playoffs I'll be taking some time to a) take a break and b) overhaul the blog in advance of the 2012-13 season. Thanks for reading as always!