Hogard named Thunder MVP

And the Oscar goes to . . .
Okay, okay, so it wasn’t quite the Academy Awards, but the Borderland Thunder’s awards banquet Sunday night at the local Legion was meaningful nonetheless.
And when all was said and done, Kurt Hogard was the big winner, collecting the trophies for top defenceman and most valuable player in front of his peers and family, who had come in from Thunder Bay to attend the banquet.
Hogard certainly is no stranger to awards, having been named the SIJHL’s top defenceman last year. He said an award that recognizes an individual can only be reached through a team effort.
“It feels pretty good because I go out and I work hard, and I just try to help the team out,” remarked Hogard, who amassed six goals and 36 assists in 46 games over the 48-game regular season.
“It’s nice to get recognized individually, but it’s a team game,” he stressed. “Without the team, there wouldn’t be any individual awards.”
“I think that Hogie has just improved,” said Thunder head coach Dave Allison. “He has become more of a student of the game and gives us great leadership and brings a calming effect, and he can raise his level and his intensity when he has to.
“He just looks to do the right thing and make the game look simple,” he added.
Steven Sus, meanwhile, was named the team’s most improved player Sunday night and the 17-year-old was at a loss for words.
“It’s an honour to get an award like this. I was surprised and I wasn’t really expecting to get anything, so I’m pretty happy,” said Sus, who is notoriously quiet on bus rides and in the locker-room.
He finished the regular season with 13 goals and 10 assists in 33 games.
Next up was the scoring leader award, which didn’t have any drama as Aaron Boyer had sealed up that honour with 21 goals and 28 assists over the regular season.
“I knew I was going to get it, so I wasn’t sitting there and sweating like it was the Oscars or something, but it’s nice to get it,” said Boyer, nicknamed The Franchise, who was seventh overall among the SIJHL’s top scorers behind six Fort William First Nation North Stars.
Spencer Bodnar led the league with 37 goals and 44 assists in 43 games.
“When you’re labelled the scoring leader, you can’t go out there and not score,” Boyer remarked. “The brunt of the goals have got to come from me and [Josh] McAndrew.
“We’ve got to step it up, then everyone else will follow.”
David Gooch would step up next after being named the most dedicated player. He was surprised, but honoured, when his name was called.
“I’m just privileged. The guy that won it last year was my roommate, Rob Scales. He busted his balls everyday in practice, in the gym, and in the game, and it’s a privilege to get it after he did,” said Gooch, who collected four goals and nine assists in 44 games as a defenceman.
“This was a total surprise,” he added.
Allison was up next, and would provide what surely was the evening’s most memorable moment as his eyes looked like two sinks about to overflow.
Allison, presenting the most popular player award, got emotional as he referred to four veterans—Ian Lockman, Clayton Windigo, McAndrew, and Hogard—who will not be a part of the Thunder next year.
“Those four have showed up every day and have worked hard to improve and are good kids, and you just have to appreciate that,” Allison said afterwards.
“It’s tough to see a big, tough guy like Dave go up there and put his heart out, but everyone has so much respect for Dave,” said Hogard. “And when he shows that much emotion for us, then it really means a lot to us.”
Dennis Morrison wound up winning the award and was almost taken back when he heard his name called.
“I was actually really surprised because I didn’t think I would get an award, but I was happy, though,” said Morrison, who had 17 goals and 22 assists during the regular season.
Rounding out this year’s winners was Tyler Gordon, who was named rookie of the year. But like his pre-game routine, where he looks at the team’s logo and not his number, Gordon cares more about championships than individual recognition.
“I won one last year at the Air Canada Cup, where I was named the top goaltender in the whole tournament [with the Kenora Midget ‘AAA’ Stars], but in the long run, we didn’t end up winning the national championship and that’s what I care about—championships.
“I could care less how many times I get my name on a plaque,” added Gordon, who sported a 16-7-1 record before being sidelined with health concerns, though it is hoped he can return to the Thunder lineup for the playoffs.
“It’s just another plaque on the wall. I’m not like other guys, who go around and gloat about it. A ring on the finger is what I ultimately want,” stressed Gordon, who has a .918 save percentage and six shutouts (which is still tops in Canadian junior hockey).
Allison admitted the decision made by the Thunder coaching staff and administration over choosing the award winners was strenuous at best, but having to make tough decisions is a testament to how many players make contributions to the team.
“It’s extremely tough to make these choices. There’s just no question to that,” he remarked. “But I think the biggest thing with each award is too look at the consistency that they’ve had.
“These guys that have had individual accolades tonight is a direct result form everyone else helping them, and their ability to help other people,” Allison noted. “So they are all really winners.”