Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The PIPE-ies: Top Team

After a week of collecting nominations from our audience and media colleagues, last night on TPS we made it official. The nominees in all 10 categories were announced and now the voting for the winners can begin.

After the jump, the names of the nominees in the category of Top Rookie during 2013-14 in their respective league and why they are worthy of consideration.

In alphabetical order, the nominees for Top Rookie of 2013-14 are...

Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

Photo: Andy Devlin
The Oil Kings were not expected to reach the heights that they did this year as many believed the loss of several key players might usher in a rebuilding season. However, with Curtis Lazar, Henrik Samuelsson, Griffin Reinhart and Tristan Jarry all taking another step forward in their development, the team actually improved. A strong supporting cast included Riley Kieser, Reid Petryk and Ashton Sautner while youngsters like Aaron Irving, Dysin Mayo and Brett Pollock stepped up. The club destroyed their competition in the Eastern Conference playoffs but needed to rally from a 2-0 game deficit and 2-0 scored in game three against Portland in the final. They did and then used the same come-from-behind mentality at the Memorial Cup as they outlasted Val d'Or in a pair of marathon overtime games and then knocked off the favorited Guelph Storm. 

Finland U20 (IIHF)

Photo: IIHF Images
Over the last decade a clear top-4 has emerged at the World U20 level of hockey; Canada, Russia, Sweden and the United States. No country other than those four had even won a medal at the event since 2007 and not since 2001 had someone else captured the gold. with the 2014 tournament being held in Sweden, the hosts were the consensus favorite while the Finns were considered the best of the non--top-4 countries. Finland went 2-0-1-1 through the opening round, good for 2nd in their pool, and had to match up with the Czech Republic in the playoffs, beating them 5-3. Their semi-final opponent was Canada, a perennial favorite who has been looking to end their own WJC drought. Finland not only beat Canada but did it soundly; 5-1 led by Teuvo Teravainen's 3 points. Finland went on to face Sweden, their hockey rival, in what will likely go down as one of the best nights in Finnish Hockey history. Teravainen struck for another 3 points but it was defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen that delivered the death blow to Sweden; an overtime goal that stunned the 12K fans in Malmo. 

Indiana Ice (USHL)

Photo: USHL
Two teams finished neck-and-neck in the regular season standing and as you might expect, the same two clubs met in the Clark Cup final. In both instances the Indiana Ice and the Waterloo Black Hawks were in a dead heat. Separated by just two regular season points and so the Black Hawks had the benefit of home ice advantage throughout the USHL playoffs. Waterloo won game 1, Indiana took both game 2 and 3 while the Hawks would grab game 4 forcing a 5th and deciding game. Even in the deciding game, the lead changed hands three times but it was Brian Pinho who scored the eventual Series clincher for Indiana as the Ice scored two third period goals to claim the title. The Ice roster included Aidan Muir (EDM) and 2014 draftees Dwyer Tschantz (STL) and Josh Jacobs (NJD). Indiana also won despite serious off ice distractions around the team. 

Texas Stars (AHL)

Willie Desjardins' club ended the playoffs the same way they did the regular season; on top. The Texas Stars reached 106 points and scored 274 goals while limiting the opposition to only 197 goals. Veteran forward Travis Morin led the league in scoring with 88 points. Curtis McKenzie broke into the league this past year and ended up being the top rookie scorer with 27 goals and 65 points. Desjardins himself earned a NHL Head Coach job with the Vancouver Canucks thanks to the way his team performed in 2013-14. Finally, the Stars won their final series against St. John's by a lopsided 4-1 margin.

Union College Dutchmen (NCAA)

Photo: ESPN
As one of our media colleagues described in his argument in favor of the Dutchmen: "Not just because they won the title -- they didn't lose a single game after January, which is insane. That's 16-0-1 in their last 17 games. Perhaps even more insane, after a 4-4 tie (the one tie during that span) on Feb. 15, they went 12-0 and only had ONE game where the opponent was within one goal. Every other game was at least a two-goal differential. The only one-goal game they played in that time span was 5-4 vs. BC at the Frozen Four -- and the only reason that game was within a goal is because BC scored with less than 5 seconds remaining to make it 5-4. So nobody was even coming close to beating them. Also as impressive -- that team played 42 games last season, and if you take away ENGs, their worst loss all year was a one-goal loss." All of that with only one player on the roster who had been drafted by a NHL team, Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI). 

We are collecting votes for the next week until Tuesday August 19th when we announce the winners of the 2014 PIPE-ies. If you want to cast your vote, let us hear it. Tweet us at @TPS_Guy and @DuckMillard and include the hashtag #TPSAwards in your vote.   

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