By Matt Stefano
With another regular season come and gone, it’s been another successful one for the Soo Thunderbirds after finishing first in the NOJHL standings for the third consecutive year. As they begin to prepare for the playoff season, the team held their 2016 awards dinner at Quattro Hotel on Monday night.
FORDY VARCOE AWARD (Most Sportsmanlike Player) – Jaren Bellini & Mark Tassone
The Fordy Varcoe Award for the T-Birds most sportsmanlike player, was shared this year by forwards Mark Tassone & Jaren Bellini.
“It feels great,” said rookie forward Mark Tassone. “We’ve got a great group of guys that came into this season. We’re ready to make a big playoff run and it feels great to get this honour.”
For Bellini, this marked the third straight year he was the recipient of this team award.
“It’s an honour to be named the most sportsmanlike person,” said third year forward Jaren Bellini, who shared the award with Mark Tassone. “Obviously I try to be very disciplined on the ice and I feel like that’s my role on the team.”
JOEY MANCUSO AWARD (Rookie Of The Year) – Darian & Drake Pilon
The Joey Mancuso Award for the T-Birds rookie of the year, was shared by twin brothers Darian & Drake Pilon.
Darian had 15 goals and 39 points through 40 games along with 69 penalty minutes while Drake finished off with 16 tallies and 33 points through 43 contests along with finishing tied with Aiden Salerno for a team leading 80 penalty minutes.
“I think it’s a great honour sharing it with my brother,” said rookie forward Darian Pilon. “It’s a great feeling to support the team and the league in such a positive way.”
“It’s a great honour,” said T-Birds forward Drake Pilon. “Especially for all the names in the past that have been represented through this award and to get it with my brother too is an amazing feeling.”
ZOLTAN “TOOTS” KOVACS AWARD (Hardest Working Player) – Matt Mitchell & Brandon Grandinetti
The Zoltan “Toots” Kovacs Award was shared this year by T-Birds forward Matt Mitchell along with defenceman Brandon Grandinetti.
“It was nice,” said T-Birds assistant captain Matt Mitchell. “To see that all my hard work pays off was nice to see.”
“It’s a great feeling,” said T-Birds assistant captain Brandon Grandinetti. “I definitely had the help of my teammates. It’s easy to work hard and practice when everyone else is doing the same, but being an assistant captain is important to lead by example and that’s what I tried to do this year.”
BEST DEFENCEMAN AWARD – Caleb Boman
Second year defenceman Caleb Boman was named this year’s T-Birds top defenceman as he led all team defencemen with 48 points through 46 games.
“It feels really good,” said Boman. I’m really proud of myself, I’ve come a long way these past few years with the Thunderbirds. But we’re not done yet because we have to keep on rolling through the playoffs and make it to the RBC.”
JOE ROCCHETTA AWARD (Top Scorer) – Matt Caruso
Second year forward Matt Caruso, who was the recipient of this year’s Joe Rocchetta Award as the T-Birds top scorer, led his team with 30 goals and 62 points through 53 games played.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Caruso. “I’ve had some good linemates all year, but it was a great year for our team and I’m glad to get the top scorer.”
TED BROOKS AWARD (Player Excellence In The Community) – Aiden Salerno
Overage defenceman Aiden Salerno, who was acquired from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks back in October, was the recipient of this year’s Ted Brooks Award for player excellence in the community, helping out with activities in Sault Ste. Marie such as Christmas Cheer along with school and hospital visits.
“Ted Brooks, a very honourary man,” said Salerno. “I’m just happy that I got a chance to give back to the community of Sault Ste. Marie and this place really became a home for me and I’m really thankful for it.”
SCHOLASTIC AWARD – Brandon Grandinetti
It was a repeat year for T-Birds defenceman Brandon Grandinetti, who won the T-Birds scholastic player award this season after sharing the recognition last year with goaltender Brian Kment. This also marked the second award for Grandinetti on the evening.
MICKY SARTORETTO AWARD (Players’ Player) – Joey Miller
This year’s players’ player award was named after former T-Birds captain Micky Sartoretto, who was in attendance at Quattro for the T-Birds awards on Monday and led the T-Birds to their first ever Dudley Hewitt Cup title back in 2012.
T-Birds overage forward Joey Miller was the recipient of this year’s Micky Sartoretto Award.
Miller, who was voted upon by his teammates for this award, has set good examples of not only a good player, but being a great leader and role model both at the rink and away from the rink.
SOO GREYHOUND AWARD (Most Valuable Player) – Brett Jeffries
For the third straight year, a Soo Thunderbirds captain was the recipient of the MVP award as team captain and overage forward Brett Jeffries was named the Soo Greyhound Award recipient for this season.
“It’s a huge honour,” said Jeffries. “There have been some really great players in the past that have won this award, so to be in that company is pretty nice.”
With Jeffries being the third T-Bird captain in a row to win the MVP award, he now follows former T-Bird captains Anthony Miller (2015) & Gavin Burbach (2014).
Following the team awards, the night was concluded by recognizing our overage players along with our honouring the T-Birds who have won league awards this season.
(Photo by Matt Stefano)