Brett Hawrys of the Armstrong Shamrocks corrals a loose ball in Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League action against the Kamloops Venom.

Brett Hawrys of the Armstrong Shamrocks corrals a loose ball in Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League action against the Kamloops Venom.

Junior lacrosse products collect league honours

Armstrong Shamrocks' sniper Brett Hawrys earns Top Rookie, while Vernon Tigers' veteran Joey Klein collects TOJLL Top Defender.

Hockey or lacrosse – Armstrong’s Brett Hawrys gets asked that question all the time.

It’s a fair question for an athlete who excels in both sports.

“I don’t have a preference over the two. Whatever season I’m in, that’s the No. 1 sport right then,” smiled Hawrys. “Both help the other sport out. You get some hand-eye coordination from lacrosse that you can use in hockey and it keeps you in shape all year round.”

And while the 17-year-old Pleasant Valley Secondary student is enjoying a solid rookie hockey season with the KIJHL North Okanagan Knights, posting 13 points in 32 games, it is in the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League where he really stood out this year.

Hawrys led the Armstrong Shamrocks with 56 points (28 goals and 28 assists) in 15 games, earning the league’s Rookie of the Year Award.

“It was an honour for sure. It’s a pretty amazing thing to be singled out as one of the top players,” he said.

Added Shamrocks’ head coach Pat Nelson: “I’m not surprised he got Rookie of the Year. He’s just a great athlete and we were expecting him to do well. He settled in well and played well with his teammates.”

At the other end of the lacrosse spectrum is Joey Klein, a no-frills defender with the Vernon Re/Max Tigers who collected the TOJLL Top Defenceman Award.

Klein, now 21, ended a five-year campaign with the Cats by scoring a goal and three assists in 10 regular-season games, helping his team advance to the playoff semifinals.

“He has come through our five-year program and excelled every year,” said assistant coach Rich Zecchel. “He’s tough to beat 1-on-1 and he’s always aware of what’s going on around him.”

Added head coach Myles Brumpton: “He exemplifies what it takes to be a floor general. He displayed patience, consistency and resolve whenever he is on the floor.”

Also winner of the Tigers’ Top Defender award, Klein had a slight misunderstanding with Zecchel over the league award.

“When Rich called me, I thought he was talking about that (team award), so I was pretty surprised,” laughed Klein, now in year three of an apprenticeship with Jespersen Electric.

Klein is especially appreciative of the recognition because he says defenders usually don’t get much credit.

“Defence never gets the glory. I’ve never been good at scoring goals, so I got stuck with stopping them. You play against the same teams again and again so you get to know the top scorers and it’s fun to try and stop them.”

There is one other bonus about being a defender, added Klein: “You don’t have to run as much.”

Other TOJLL awards went to Tyler French of the Kelowna Raiders (Top Scorer and League MVP) and Andrew Copeland of the Kamloops Venom (Top Goalie).