The Western Hockey League handed out its annual awards Wednesday, but the Tri-City Americans came up empty as Justin Feser and Mitch Topping were runners-up in their respective categories.
“It’s an honor to be nominated and that’s important to remember,” said Tri-City general manger Bob Tory, who was in Calgary, Alberta, for the awards ceremony. “Our players realize that the journey and doing the job on and off the ice is more important than awards.”
Feser, the Western Conference’s nominee for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL Player of the Year, finished second to Adam Lowry of the Swift Current Broncos.
Lowry, the first Swift Current player to win the award since Sergei Varlamov in 1998, had 45 goals and 43 assists (88 points) in 72 games. He finished 12th in WHL scoring, had a plus-18 rating and 102 penalty minutes.
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Lowry, a native of Calgary, had a season-best 21-game point streak and was the WHL Player of the Month for December. H also was an Eastern Conference first-team All-Star.
Feser, from Red Deer, Alberta, was hoping to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Brendan Shinnimin, who won the Four Broncos last year.
Feser finished fourth in league scoring with 106 points (44 goals, 62 assists), a plus-20 rating, 57 penalty minutes and had a hand in 43 percent of the Americans’ scoring.
He was most effective in the second half of the season with 25 goals and 42 assists, holding the team together after starting goalie Eric Comrie was lost to a season-ending hip injury.
Feser, who set the WHL Iron Man record at 321 consecutive games, also was a first-team Western Conference All-Star.
Topping, who was nominated for Humanitarian of the Year, finished second to Cody Sylvester of the Calgary Hitmen.
Sylvester, from Vernon, British Columbia, established the Chance to Play program that helped raise funds ($17,312) to support local minor hockey.
“I’ve had the opportunity to play hockey all my life and wanted to do something in my final year to give back to the Calgary community and the people who have supported me during my time with the Hitmen,” Sylvester said in a news release. “Chance To Play will provide kids, who may not otherwise have the opportunity, with the experience of playing hockey so they can have the chance to follow their dreams like I did.”
Topping, from Red Deer, has been involved in many charitable organizations in the Tri-Cities, including Habitat for Humanity, school reading programs, working with animals at the Humane Society, helping area youth learn to skate and play hockey, hospital visits, signing events, Salvation Army Kettle Drive and Special Olympics.
Topping and Feser also formed Making Awareness a Top Priority to Fes Out Muscular Dystrophy. Their efforts raised $14,656 for MDA. Their original goal was $2,500.
“We appreciate their attitude and their effort whether they are recognized or not,” Tory said of his players.
The Eastern Conference swept all but two of the awards — Top Rookie went to Portland’s Seth Jones, while Spokane’s Brenden Kichton was named Top Defenseman.
Tory will remain in Calgary for today’s WHL bantam draft. The Americans pick 15th overall in the first round.
“It’s hard to know who will be available,” Tory said. “We will try and add quality players to our program and get them signed. We ask a lot of our players and it’s not for everyone.”
The WHL Award Winners
WHL Player of the Year, Four Broncos Memorial Trophy
Adam Lowry (Calgary, Alberta), Swift Current Broncos
WHL Rookie of the Year, Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy
Seth Jones (Plano, Texas), Portland Winterhawks
WHL Goaltender of the Year, Del Wilson Trophy
Patrik Bartosak (Koprivnice, Czech Republic), Red Deer Rebels
WHL Defenseman of the Year, Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy
Brenden Kichton (Spruce Grove, Alberta), Spokane Chiefs
WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year, Brad Hornung Trophy
Dylan Wruck (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Edmonton Oil Kings
WHL Scholastic Player of the Year, Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy
Josh Morrissey (Calgary, Alberta), Prince Albert Raiders
WHL Coach of the Year, Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy
Ryan McGill, Kootenay Ice
WHL Executive of the Year, Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy
Bob Green, Edmonton Oil Kings
WHL Humanitarian of the Year, Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy
Cody Sylvester (Vernon, British Columbia), Calgary Hitmen
WHL Marketing / Business Award
WHL Scholastic Team of the Year
WHL Top Official, Allen Paradice Memorial Trophy