A 30-win season, an Interior Division title and hosting the Royal Bank Cup isn’t always easy on the coaching staff.
The Vernon Vipers’ deep and talented roster made it impossible to name an MVP and a Defensive Player of the Year at their award banquet Wednesday night at the Best Western Vernon Lodge. Instead, they named two.
Michael McNicholas and Dexter Dancs were named co-MVPs.
McNicholas led the Snakes with 23 goals and 69 points. He doubled his points from last year with the Nanaimo Clippers.
It was quite the night for the kid from California. McNicholas was also named Most Sportsmanlike player and took Top Scorer award.
“I think a lot of my success is due to my linemates Dancs and (Liam) Coughlin. I play with some skilled guys that see the ice well,” said McNicholas.
Dancs, a North Vancouver product who has committed to the University of Michigan for next fall, was second with 26 goals and 67 points.
Dancs and McNicholas were as reliable as craftsman tools; they always got the job done. The lethal duo played in all but two games for the Vipers.
“One thing about those two guys is consistency, whether you look at their points or their game-in, game-out play, they were always there for us,” said Vipers’ associate coach Kris Mallette.
Their linemate Coughlin wasn’t left hanging Wednesday night. The Bruins fan was named Rookie of the Year with 18 goals and 45 points.
The Defensive Player of the Year was split between the pairing of Josh Bryan and Riley Guenther.
“It’s great playing with Josh. He’s steady and I never have to worry about him back there,” said Guenther.
The Calgary native played 83 games over three seasons for the WHL Prince Alberta Raiders and the Tri-City Americans. The right-handed defenceman had six goals and 23 points this year.
Bryan leads all Vipers’ blueliners with 14 playoff points.
“It’s nice to be recognized with Riley like this. He makes it so easy to play with, he’s a great skater and handles the puck well,” said Bryan.
Mallette works with the dee, and marvels in the work of those two.
“Those two in particular have been extremely consistent in the regular season. They are guys I can lean on at any point, in any situation, five-on-five, penalty kill or the powerplay. They are real, real good kids that get the game,” said Mallette.
All four young men were very humble about the awards, realizing the bigger picture was still at stake.
“The award is nice, definitely, but we all know we are working towards a bigger goal right now and that’s what matters,” said Dancs.
In other awards, Colton Sparrow was named Playoff MVP with eight goals and 22 points.
Kenny Citron won the Sun Valley Source for Sports Most Improved award and Brendan Persley won the Unsung Hero award.
T.J. Dumonceaux won the Fan Favourite and the Rienie Holland Service award alongside Danny Todosychuk.
Goalie Austin Smith won the Blueliners scholarship, Michael Statchuk won the Wayne Buck scholarship and Tyler Povelofskie took the Bill Brown Academic Excellence.
Riley Hunt won the Fan Favourite award in 2012, but now finds himself playing for the Yorkton Terriers.
Hunt, a Revelstoke product, spent his rookie year with the Snakes, then got traded to Salmon Arm for the 2013-14 season. He played Junior B for the Summerland Steam to start this season (12 points in 13G).
“I think it was a good move (by Vipers) for both sides. It clearly worked out because I am back here with Yorkton playing for a national championship.”
Hunt has committed to Harvard and will play for the Crimson in 2015.
His teammate, Josh Ellis also makes a return to the Okanagan. Ellis hails from Kelowna and played with the Westside Warriors in 2011-12, also getting in three games with Vernon.
“I’m excited, my family and friends don’t get to see me play lots out in Saskatchewan. I’m sure there will be some butterflies,” said Ellis.
Another familiar face for Vipers fans will be Mitch VanTeeling of Dauphin. The Kings captain was acquired early in the 2012 season after playing 25 games here.
“The trade was tough at the time, but things have gone well. It’s good to be back, the mountains are a lot prettier than what we’ve got in Manitoba,” said VanTeeling.
VanTeeling had 24 goals and 49 points this year.
For the latest on the Vipers and the RBC Cup, check out vernonmorningstar.com.