Poulin, CWHL Stars Shine at Annual Awards Ceremony

Jerred Bapty
BarnBurner Sports Writer

@CaptainBapty

Saturday, March 23, 2019


TORONTO, ON – Marie-Philip Poulin was onstage as much as she was seated at the CWHL Awards on Friday March 22nd at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. She made the trip to the stage three times throughout the ceremony to accept three prestigious awards and began to run out of things to say for an acceptance speech. 

And understandably so. 

“It’s very honouring to be honest,” she told reporters at the end of the night. “You can see the talent spread out over the six teams. So to be able to get [all these awards], it’s quite the honour. It’s very touching actually.”

Sportsnet’s Caroline Cameron was the event’s gracious host, who’s wit and charm sparked laughter and applause from the audience every time she spoke. Each of the six teams had a video tribute that was introduced, along with Cameron, by a young female hockey player from the local community. 

Canadian Women’s Hockey Legend Angela James made an appearance to present her award, along with former CWHL players Tessa Bonhomme and Cheryl Pounder, Glen Healy and Nik Antropov, Brendan Shanahan, and, of course, Cassie Campbell-Pascall.

The room was filled with past and current hockey stars from all forms of the game. Here are the award winners in the order they were given out. 

Rookie of the Year – Victoria Bach, Markham Thunder

The first award to be presented was the Rookie of the Year award, which was given to Victoria Bach of the Markham Thunder. Bach was the top scoring rookie in the 2018/19 season and finished 4th in league scoring with 19 goals and 32 points. She also led the league in powerplay goals with fellow nominee Sarah Nurse. Bach joins an elite class of rookies to win the award, including Poulin, Courtney Birchard (Kessel), Ann-Sophie Bettez, Brianna Decker, and teammate Laura Stacey. 

“It’s an amazing accomplishment,” she said. “I think a lot of that has to go to my teammates. They really welcomed me with open arms and made the transition for me easy. We have a great group of leaders on our team… and just to be mentioned with all the other previous winners of this award is a big accomplishment for me so I’m super excited.” 

Along with Nurse of the Toronto Furies, Rebecca Leslie of the Calgary Inferno was also nominated. 

“I think both of them have contributed to their team’s success,” Nurse told me about her fellow nominees on the red carpet. “Victoria with Markham she’s really led the way for that team so [she’s] really had a great season.”

Coach of the Year – Jim Jackson, Markham Thunder

The second member in a row of the Markham Thunder to win an award, Jackson coached the Thunder for his second season and got them back into the Clarkson Cup Playoffs. Markham managed to push their season to three games against Les Canadiennes de Montreal, but they fell in that third game. This is the second time a Thunder coach has won the award, Tyler Fines won back in 2016 when the team played out of Brampton. 

“We’ve always stressed teamwork here with the Thunder,” said Jackson about the award. “As the coach, you look for all the support from all the girls and the coaching staff. So, to be up there and accept the award as coach of the year, it goes out as a team. We’re going to develop; we’re going to get better and hopefully next year we’re on the stage and in the Clarkson Cup.”

Thunder GM Chelsea Purcell also commented on both Bach and Jackson’s wins, saying, “I’m very proud of both Victoria and Jim for the win tonight… Bach had an outstanding rookie season and deserved to win, while Jim always says this is a coaching staff award, not just a head coach award and it truly is. Cherie and Kevin had a huge part in the success and growth of our team this season. Jim, I believe, deserved it last season, so it’s nice to see him get it this year.”

Ryan Hilderman, who is the 3rd coach in 3 years for the Calgary Inferno, was also nominated along with the Toronto Furies Head Coach Courtney Kessel. She brought the Furies back into the playoffs and worked with one of the youngest rosters in the league. Toronto went on a tear to close their season, winning 5-straight games to clinch a playoff spot and a game 1 of their playoff series against Calgary to make it a 6-game win streak. 

Angela James Bowl – Marie-Philip Poulin, Les Canadiennes de Montreal

This Bowl is given out annually to the top scorer in the CWHL during the regular season. Poulin finished the year with 23 goals and 26 assists for a 50-point campaign, the most since Meghan Agosta’s incredible 80-point season in 2011/12. She also led the league in powerplay assists (8), game-winning goals (6), and plus/minus (+39). Poulin’s name is etched onto this trophy for the 3rd time in four years, the most of any player in CWHL history. 

Humanitarian of the Year Award – Michael Bartlett, Head of Community Affairs, MLSE

Bartlett is a known ambassador of the CWHL at MLSE and helped push for the vision of women’s hockey in Canada. He is a major part of the partnership between the CWHL and MLSE with them hosting all the CWHL All-Star games and back-to-back Clarkson Cups, as well as the partnership of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Furies. Campbell-Pascal presented the award as a previous winner in 2014. 

Goaltender of the Year Award – Alex Rigsby, Calgary Inferno

As one of the top goalies in the league and a rookie, Rigsby took home this award over Montreal’s Emerance Maschmeyer and Shenzhen’s Noora Raty. She finished the season with just 2 regulation losses and a 2.04 goals against average. 

Rigsby commuted from her home in Wisconsin for games with the Calgary Inferno, but that didn’t faze her at all during the season. 

“It was a totally different experience,” she told reporters. “I’m so happy I made the decision. It’s been a great opportunity [to] play in more games because I think that was something that was lacking [for me] in the past… The team’s been so welcoming throughout the whole year and I honestly couldn’t ask for a better experience with them.”

When asked about the idea of bringing more Americans to the CWHL she said, “I think they see how excited we are with our experience here and how prepared we feel for games… and that’s for us a big component. When we’re not preparing with Team USA, we’re preparing for Team USA.” She continued. “Hopefully we can get some more teammates from the US side up to Canada and it was a great start this year I think with having three teammates on Calgary, we have [Megan] Bozek, and Hilary Knight, so its’s a great first step.”

Perhaps we’ll see more Americans follow the footsteps of the likes of Brianna Decker and those mentioned who decided to come North. 

Jayna Hefford Trophy – Marie-Philip Poulin, Les Canadiennes de Montréal

This award is given to the player voted the best in the CWHL by her peers. For the 3rdtime in the four years this trophy has existed, Marie-Philip Poulin is its keeper. She was up against Brianne Jenner of the Calgary Inferno and her teammate and goalie Maschmeyer. 

Her acceptance speech was short and sweet this time, having already gone up once, but touching none-the-less. 

“It’s quite the honour being alongside ‘Masch’ [and] ‘Jenny’ and congratulations on such amazing seasons. It’s been amazing to play against you Jenny [and] play with you Masch, thank God!” She joked. “It’s really an honour coming from you [the players]. Playing against you, playing together. It’s an honour.”

Defencewoman of the Year – Erin Ambrose, Les Canadiennes de Montréal

Ambrose put up career numbers in goals (6), assists (18), and points (24) this season and led all defencewomen in assists and points. She credited the move from Toronto to Montreal two seasons ago as a real turning point in her career both on and off the ice and had high praise for one of her teammates for being a big part of that change. 

“Everything about Poulin is the best,” she said. “What she’s done in her career so far, I can’t even explain how much of an impact she’s [had] on the woman’s game. She deserves everything that she gets, she works her tail off every single day and I honestly don’t think there’s anyone who works harder. There’s not a better leader in the game of hockey that I’ve come across and to have somebody so humble that I get to be around every day, I mean, there’s a reason why I was even able to be up for an award and Marie-Philip Poulin is a big reason for that.”

Ambrose was nominated alongside Laura Fortino of the Markham Thunder and Kacey Bellamy of the Calgary Inferno. 

CWHL MVP Award – Marie-Philip Poulin, Les Canadiennes de Montréal

The third award of the evening for Poulin came as no surprise. Captain Canada led her team to a second-place finish and another Clarkson Cup Final, despite an injury in the last game of the season. This is another award she’s won for the 3rd time in four years to also make her the winningest player of the MVP award in CWHL History, surpassing her coach Caroline Oullette. 

When asked about her status going into Sunday’s game, she said, “It’s going to be a day-to-day decision and we’ll see tomorrow how I feel at practice.”

This award was the battle of three captains as Rebecca Johnston from Calgary and Natalie Spooner from Toronto were also up for MVP. 

Chairman’s Trophy – Calgary Inferno

The Inferno captured the regular season title with a final record of 23-4-1 and 47 points. Hilderman coached his team into the second-highest scoring team in the league and finished the season on a 5-game win streak. This is the second Chairman’s Trophy in franchise history for Calgary, and their second in 3 years. 

Final Thoughts

If there’s one thing that sums up the 2019 CWHL Awards night, it’s the word team. Every single award winner thanked their teammates, crediting the group for allowing such individual success. Unity in sport is so important and it was on full display at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on a Friday night.  

 

Let me know what you think!

Twitter: @CaptainBapty

Email: jerred@barnburner.ca