DURHAM, UK – Following the success of the Pro Hockey News all star team of the year for NIHL North Division1 last campaign which was selected by PHN journalists it was decided that the awards this year should include the opinions of coaches, players, officials, and journalists who regularly watch hockey in the division.
Each club in NIHL North Division 1 were allocated up to 5 sets of votes. Each participant in the awards selected their Player and Coach of the Year as well as their all star line of season which included 1 netminder, 2 defenceman and 3 forwards. No one was allowed to vote for anyone within their own organisation in effort to prohibit any favouritism.
The two main awards were the Player and Coach of the year and both of these awards went to members of the Solway Sharks organisation.
Ten different players were nominated in the Player of the Year category however, there was a clear winner as Nathan Salem of the Solway Sharks picked up 42% of those votes cast with his nearest challengers picking up only 11%. Nathan has enjoyed a tremendous season icing for Sharks north of the border he is top points scorer in the NIHL North 1 with 55 points at the time of writing which equates to points per game average of more than 2 points per match which a terrific statistic for any hockey player.
Michael Bowman of the Billingham Stars and Dmitri Zimozdra of the Sutton Sting were joint 2nd in the NIHL North Division 1 Player of the Season. Bowman has established himself as one of the most consistent forwards in the NIHL North set up this term as the former EPL player has been offensively productive all season long for Billingham which his 48 points for the Teesiders illustrates .
Zimozdra’s selection shows how impressive the young netminder has been since he linked up with Sutton part way through the campaign. Dmitri only joined Sutton late in 2012 after being cut from the Sheffield’s Steeldogs roster in the EPL. However Zimozdra has proven himself to be a classy netminder during his short time with Sutton and the agile goaltender’s impressive form led him to pick up a number of votes in both the player of the year category and as the netminder of the all star team.
Moving onto Coach of the Year, Martin Grubb of the Solway Sharks acquired enough votes to secure the award. With Solway winning the league title and cup, Grubb was the natural choice. Grubb has overseen a superb campaign for Sharks as his side have only lost once all season which is a statistic that is hugely impressive and it could well be several years before another side goes through a league campaign with only a solitary defeat.
Runner up in the Coach of the Year was Ian Johnson the owner/coach of the Sutton Sting. Ian has guided Sting to a tremendous 3rd place finish in their first season in the top division in the NIHL North set up finishing ahead of established side such as Blackburn, Whitley, Sheffield and Telford. Sutton have also signed a number of exciting young players and the future for Sting looks extremely bright under the guidance of the ambitious Johnson’s.
Moving onto the all star team –
Four goaltenders picked up votes as the Division’s top netminder Ben Hunt (Telford Titans) and James Flavell (who started the season with the Billingham Stars) both had their admirers however it was Gary Russell of the Solway Sharks and Dmitri Zimozdra who collected the majority of nominations.
Zimozdra just piped Russell to the top netminder accolade though it has to be noted that this was the tightest category in the whole of the awards with many participants struggling to choose between the 2 netminders.
In defence 15 players received nominations with players from almost all the NIHL North clubs being chosen in this category.
John Connolly of Solway and Ritchie Thornton from Billingham picked up the most nominations though to make it onto the top defensive line both players reciveed nominations from almost every other club within the division which shows just how highly thought of both blue liners are.
Ryan Johnson of the Sutton Sting and Chris Arnone from the Blackburn Hawks were selected as the 2nd defensive pairing. Johnson points production for Sting has been highly impressive as he has amassed a total of 37 points from the 28 games he has iced. Chris Arnone may not have been able to match Johnson points wise however the Hawks stalwart is a no nonsense d man who puts in top performances for Blackburn game after game.
Up front, 18 different forwards were nominated, Player of the Year Nathan Salem predictably picked up a great number of votes in this category and was included on the majority of all star lines.
On the top forward line, alongside Salem was Player of the Year runner up Michael Bowman of the Billingham Stars and Sutton’s Chris Sykes. Sykes had only played 18 games for Sting (up to when final votes were cast) however the 31 points he accumulated for Sutton and his superb all round game were enough for the youngster to be named on the top offensive unit.
The 2nd forward line was made up of Simon Butterworth (Sutton Sting) alongside Billingham sharp shooter Stephen Wallace and Whitley Warriors skipper DJ Good. Both Butterworth and Good have picked up more than 40 points this term illustrating their quality while Wallace’s points tally would no doubt have been significantly higher if the former Manchester Phoenix forward had not been out of action due to injury for a significant part of the campaign.
Initially a 3rd forward line was not going to be included in these awards however, once the votes had been cast it became clear that the line should be named after all, given the number of nominations the players on this line secured. Callum Watson (Whitley Warriors) Myles Dacres (Blackburn Hawks) and Adam Reynolds (Solway Sharks) all picked up several votes to ensure their inclusion on the 3rd line. The inclusion of Reynolds on the 3rd forward line shows how much offensive quality there is in NIHL North Division 1 at this moment in time as Adam is the 2nd top point’s scorer in the entire league when votes were cast.
With a 3rd offensive unit being selected a further defensive pairing where needed to play behind them so to speak and Andy Finn of the Billingham Stars and Craig Mitchell of the Solway Sharks are both worthy nominations to be included in the all star team of the 2012/13 campaign.
It has to be noted that d man Max Drakeley of the Trafford Metros picked up a number of nominations despite the fact that he only iced on 6 occasions this season which shows just how highly he is regarded by his fellow players in NIHL North Division 1.
Other players who received multiple nominations and just missed out on a place in the awards included the likes of Rhys McWilliams (Coventry Blaze), Struan Tonnar (Solway Sharks), Declan Balmer (Solway Sharks) Ross Hanlon (Billingham Stars) and Andy Offord (Sutton Sting).
Player of the Year – Nathan Salem (Solway Sharks)
Coach of the Year – Martin Grubb (Solway Sharks)
All Star Team of the Year – 1st line
Dmitir Zimozdra (Sutton Sting)
Ritchie Thornton (Billingham Stars) John Connolly (Solway Sharks)
Nathan Salem (Solway Sharks) Michael Bowman (Billingham Stars) Chris Sykes (Sutton Sting)
Gary Russell (Solway Sharks)
Chris Arnone (Blackburn Hawks) Ryan Johnson (Sutton Sting)
Simon Butterworth (Sutton Sting) DJ Good (Whitley Warriors) Stephen Wallace (Billingham Stars)
Craig Mitchell (Solway Sharks) Andy Finn (Billingham Stars)
Myles Dacres (Blackburn Hawks) Adam Reynolds (Solway Sharks) Callum Watson (Whitley Warriors)
Images courtesy of Colin Edwards – www.cjephotos.co.uk
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