By Matt Stefano
With the 2020-2021 season officially in the books, the Soo Thunderbirds have decided to announce their team award winners on Thursday night.
And one player who heard his name get called twice on Thursday night, was graduating forward Parker Morgan.
STAFF AWARD: DON STARES
The Thunderbirds Staff Award has only been in the team’s trophy case for four years.
And for the second time in four years, the Thunderbirds Staff Award was awarded to Don Stares.
Stares, who works as a security guard during the Thunderbirds home games, was also the winner of the team’s Staff Award back in 2019.
Chris Carr (Equipment Assistant) was the first recipient of this award back in 2018.
Thunderbirds Equipment Manager Dom Buonomo was then named the winner of this award just last season in 2019-2020.
JOEY MANCUSO AWARD – ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: CONNOR TOMS
Toms had an outstanding rookie season with the Thunderbirds in 2020-2021, as he led all NOJHL rookie blueliners in scoring with 18 points in 19 regular season games.
The seventeen-year-old also led all NOJHL defencemen in assists (14), power play assists (7) and shorthanded goals (2).
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native became the first defenceman to win the Joey Mancuso Award since Wyatt Villalta did back in 2017.
FORDY VARCOE MEMORIAL AWARD – MOST SPORTSMANLIKE PLAYER: CALEB WOOD
After being acquired in a trade from the Soo Eagles during the 2020 offseason, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Caleb Wood ended his junior hockey career with some good numbers as a member of the Soo Thunderbirds.
The twenty-one-year old forward finished second in team scoring this past season with 10 goals and 23 points in 21 regular season games.
Wood, who averaged just over a point per game (1.10) this past season, also ended the season with only 10 penalty minutes.
JOE ROCCHETTA MEMORIAL AWARD – TOP SCORER: COOPER SMYL
Thunderbirds second-year forward Cooper Smyl led the club in scoring this past season with 17 goals and 24 points in 19 regular season games.
Smyl, who had a team-leading 17 goals, also passed his goals total (16) from one season ago.
The eighteen-year-old also led the Thunderbirds in game winning goals this past season with 3.
DEFENCEMAN OF THE YEAR: DYLAN PARSONS
Thunderbirds defenceman Dylan Parsons finished this season with 2 goals, 11 assists and 13 points in 21 regular season games.
Parsons, who came over to the Thunderbirds in a trade from the Pickering Panthers back on November 18, 2019, also tied his goals total (2) from one season ago.
His 11 assists this season, were also the second most among all Thunderbird blueliners, as he finished just three assists behind Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Connor Toms.
MICHAEL DOAN MEMORIAL AWARD – MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: TYSON DOUCETTE
For the fourth consecutive year, a Thunderbirds rookie was the recipient of the Michael Doan Memorial Award.
And this years recipient was Thunderbirds rookie forward Tyson Doucette.
Doucette, who entered the NOJHL as a sixteen-year old this past season, scored 5 times and set up 6 others in 20 regular season games.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also did a great job staying out of the penalty box as he finished this past season with only 4 penalty minutes.
The only other player on the team that finished with less penalty minutes than him, was goaltender Scott Young (0 penalty minutes).
Doucette, who scored 5 goals in his first season in the Thunderbirds, scored more goals than he had during the 2019-2020 season as a member of the GNML’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds.
Doucette becomes the fourth straight rookie to win the Michael Doan Memorial Trophy, following Cooper Smyl (2020), Max Techel (2019) and Nolan Ford (2018).
ZOLTAN TOOTS KOVACS MEMORIAL AWARD – HARDEST WORKING PLAYER: PARKER MORGAN
After signing with the Thunderbirds during the 2020 offseason, forward Parker Morgan finished the 2020-2021 season with 6 goals and 4 assists in 21 regular season games.
Morgan, who also scored a pair of shorthanded tallies this past season, finished tied for the league-lead in shortanded goals with 2.
JOHN L. COHEN MEMORIAL AWARD (SPONSORED BY TRADERS STEEL) – SCHOLASTIC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JACOB DOUCETTE
This year’s Scholastic Player of the Year Award was awarded to defenceman Jacob Doucette, who signed with the Thunderbirds during the 2020 offseason.
This past season, Doucette studied Engineering (online) at the University of Windsor while staying in town play for his hometown Soo Thunderbirds.
Doucette becomes the second straight defenceman to win the team’s Scholastic Player of the Year Award, following Nolan Ford (2020).
SOO SPORTS AWARD – PLAYERS PLAYER: PARKER MORGAN
Forward Parker Morgan was the winner of this year’s Players Player Award, as he proved to be a good role model for the Thunderbirds both on and off the ice.
Morgan, who showed great character on this year’s team, also served as the one of the team’s assistant captains.
SOO GREYHOUND AWARD – MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: ALEX BUGEJA
Thunderbirds goaltender Alex Bugeja finished the season with a record of 9 wins, 2 losses and 2 shootout losses in 13 regular season games.
The West Vancouver, British Columbia native also had a 2.37 goals against average and had a league-best .936 save perceantage.
Bugeja, who signed with the Thunderbirds during the 2020 offseason, also had on a five-game winning streak this past season, which lasted from November 29, 2020 – February 28, 2021.
Bugeja became the first goaltender to win the team’s Most Valuable Player Award since Joel Horodziejczyk did back in 2014.