As 2018 winds down and Christmas is in the rear-view mirror, it allows us time to reflect on the year that’s been while stuffing our faces with leftovers and plenty of chocolate.
The NZIHL season is well and truly over for 2018 and with that comes award season. The league has already named their recipients, which you can find at the end of this article, but Puck Yeah would like to recognize the individual achievements of a few special players that we have enjoyed following this year, starting with…
This goes without saying really. Who has the best hair game in the league? Which player leaves us not only astounded by his skill on the ice but the locks of hair flowing from his helmet.
And the award goes to… Stephen Mawson (Botany Swarm)
The hair is let loose on Spark Arena. Photo: Mike Froger
Some say Mawson is the inspiration for Connor McDavid’s new look.
Best Face Carpet
There isn’t many contenders in the NZIHL for this award. While many sport some form of beard growth that has become synonymous with hockey, only one has a lip sweater that could rival Ned Flanders for the best facial hair offering in 2018.
And the winner of such a prestigious award, is… Joel Rindelaub (Botany Swarm)
Rindelaub played backup for Team USA during the Ice Hockey Classic tour stop in Queenstown. Photo: James Allan
The mask can’t contain that beast either as Rindelaub’s Ron Swanson-esque moustache has been seen on TV numerous times, either as an extra, a food TV host, or even a guest on The Crowd Goes Wild.
Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Excellence
While Puck Yeah follows the NZIHL and the New Zealand Ice Blacks extensively, we like to pay attention to how the wonder women of the Ice Fernz (and Inline Ferns) perform as well.
So in the spirit of introducing a bunch of new hockey awards this year, we asked Gal Gadot and she said it was cool if we borrowed her lasso to honour New Zealand’s best female hockey player of 2018.
Without further ado, Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Excellence goes to… Anjali Mulari!
Not only does Mulari represent New Zealand at a senior level in both inline and ice hockey, but she finished second (behind fellow Ice Fern Caitlin Heale) in the scoring race at this year’s IIHF Women’s World Championship in Spain. Both scored 15 points in 5 games, with Mulari notching up 4 goals and 11 assists.
The ‘Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey’ Brick Wall
Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey was an iconic video game of the mid-90s that featured on the Nintendo 64.
If you don’t remember it or never had the pleasure of playing this gem, it was an arcade hockey game that knew how to turn it up to 11: if a skater was on fire, they could literally set the goal in flames with the puck when scoring. On the other hand, if a goalie stopped five shots in-a-row they would temporarily transform into a brick wall, blocking the entire goal.
While Admirals netminder Csaba Kercso-Magos lifted the Birgel Cup this year, we’re giving this prestigious honour (that we just made up) to… Daniel Lee (Skycity Stampede).
Better luck next time, puck! Photo: Josh Fraser
3 shutouts in a 16-game regular season is an impressive feat – the Lee dynasty could be well and truly upon us come 2019!
The Silky Mitt
Major League Baseball has the Golden Glove for the best defensive player of each position, we have the Silky Mitt – the best goal that highlighted a player’s stick-handling abilities.
If you saw our ‘Top 10 Goals of 2018’ video then this is a no-brainer, the award goes to… Ross Venus (Canterbury Red Devils).
The true mark of a great goal is how effortless the player makes it all seem, but there’s no way I’m pulling that off anytime soon!
The Weekend At Bernie’s
‘What the hell could that be?’ you ask… it’s our award for the single most dominant performance by an individual in any round this season.
In other words, this player was such a standout he left the opposition for dead on the ice – they partied hard, just like the movie.
And the winner is… Matt Schneider (Skycity Stampede).
Photo: James Allan
In round eight against the Red Devils, Schneider ended the weekend with 8 goals and 6 assists, leading the way with his side coming away with the full six competition points.
Those 14 points in two games definitely helped the captain pad his stats and secure the NZIHL’s scoring race from his linemate Mike McRae.
Well that’s our awards wrapped up for 2018, here’s the official awards list:
2018 NZIHL Awards
Birgel Cup Champions: West Auckland Admirals (runner-up: Skycity Stampede)
Finals MVP: Andy Hart, Admirals
League MVP: Paris Heyd, Thunder
Rookie of the Year: Max Hurring, Thunder
Top Scorer: Matt Schneider, Stampede (46 points in 18 games – 22 goals, 24 assists)
Best Goaltender: Daniel Lee, Stampede (13-5 record, .926 SV%, 2.65 GAA, 3 shutouts)
Best Defenceman: Brandon Egli, Thunder (27 points in 17 games – 10 goals, 17 assists)
West Auckland Admirals MVP: Frazer Ellis (25 points in 18 games – 11 goals, 14 assists)
Botany Swarm MVP: Remy Sandoy (7 points in 16 games – 3 goals, 4 assists)
Canterbury Red Devils MVP: Jaxson Lane (8 points in 16 games – 2 goals, 6 assists)
Skycity Stampede MVP: Mike McRae (46 points in 16 games – 19 goals, 27 assists)
Dunedin Thunder MVP: Brandon Egli (stats)
Main photo: Kate Harrison