These kind of blog posts are never fun because it means the season is over, and earlier than hoped. But it’s also fun to look back on what a great year it really was for the Rivermen.
Coming into this season, my first full one in the BCHL, I knew there were high expectations for this club, and I think it’s safe to say the team lived up to those expectations. Getting the chance to land with a first-class organization with a staff dedicated to excellence in every sense of the word makes it a comfortable, fun, and rewarding team to be with. Winning the Rivermen’s first ever division title, and the Ron Boileau Memorial Trophy as the top team in the regular season are two incredible accomplishments. And to see this team grow as a group and as individuals has been very rewarding.
The team is moving on six graduating players:
Captain Mitch McLain – In his second year with the Rivermen he led the team in points with 60, and power play goals with 7. A fierce competitor, he left everything he had on the ice.
Austin Azurdia – With an “A” on his jersey, AZ continued to be a big moment player for the Rivermen. With 42 points in the regular season and another 10 in the playoffs, he was a massive part of this team’s offence and also committed himself to good d-zone play, routinely blocking shots and doing whatever it took. One of the most exciting players to watch, I will miss being able to call some pretty special moments
Zach Urban – Zach was an incredibly important part of this team’s defence. A veteran player with plenty of experience, he helped guide the rest of the blueline and was a huge acquisition early in the season. A smart, incredibly realiable player, he also did a lot of things that you might not notice that were so important. Vocal on the ice and on the bench, he was a true leader for this team and possesses qualities that aren’t easy to replace.
Tyson Witala – Brought in mid-season, the veteran forward became an instant big addition to the Rivermen’s offence. Incredible poise with the puck and a smart, offensively talented forward, Witala found instant chemistry with the team and was nearly a point per game in the playoffs, elevating his game even more when it mattered most. I was thrilled when the PG native came to the Riv and he didn’t disappoint, finishing his junior career in excellent form.
Jakob Reichert – His fourth season in the BCHL was definitely his best. With 44 points he by far had his best offensive output of his career and turned it up even further in the playoffs with 14 points in 12 games. A true power forward, Reichert displayed his good hands too, especially impressive for his big frame. With punishing hits, Reichs is a complete player in every sense of the word and Bowling Green has a special player coming to them.
Lyndon Stanwood – Like Witala and Urban, Stanwood joined the team mid season and proved a big asset in goal. Finishing his junior career with a solid team in front of him, Stanny posted a 6-1-1 record with a 2.48 GAA and a very impressive .919 save percentage with the Rivermen. Beyond his play on the ice, Stanny is one of the most positive people I have ever met. His attitude is infectious. More than a good goaltender, Stanwood is a great person and brought a lot of immeasurable qualities to the team.
The Riv are losing several other players to college this season, and I’ll have a lot more on them and the rest of the team in the coming days and weeks on here. What made this Rivermen team so special is the sense of family that was present from day one. It was clear this was a great group of players and along with the staff here, made me feel extremely welcome. It’s tough to say goodbye even if it’s just for now to those moving on, but so much also lies ahead for everyone.
The team handed out year-end awards Monday night:
MVP – James Robinson
Top Forward – Matt Ustaski
Top Defenceman – Zach Urban
Unsung Hero – Brock Crossthwaite
Energy Player of the Year – Austin Azurdia
Fan Favourite – Mitch McLain
Most Community Minded – Kevan Kilistoff
Most Improved – Jakob Reichert
Most Committed – Tanner Johnson
Again, this was a very special group and while many will be back again next year, many have played their last game in a Rivermen jersey. It was a special year and I can’t thank everyone enough. All the best to those graduating players. We will miss you but you will continue to make this team proud!