With NIHL2 South (Wilkinson) returning to the single league format this season, we thought the time was right for them to have their own awards this year!
Having consulted with our learned friend and fellow pundit Dave Carr, we decided to adopt the same style of awards as they have in Pro Hockey News which have been so successful for the last 8 years in NIHL1. You can see this year’s NIHL1 (Britton) award winners here (LINK).
We created a panel of the coaches and senior players (with all teams in the league being equally represented) to cast their votes. There were no restrictions on non-British trained players and the only rule was that you couldn’t vote for anyone within your own club.
We had an overwhelming response from those we contacted, and a huge thanks to everyone for getting your votes back to us within the deadline (some without even being chased!).
Player of the Year
Richard Facey (Solent Devils)
With 50% of the votes, Solent’s veteran forward Richard Facey was a landslide choice in this category.
After two stellar seasons with the Devils in South 1, Facey stayed with the team as they dropped down a division this season. And, right from the get go, he showed his class on the ice as he regularly put up multiple-point nights. He was chosen as the EIHA’s Player of the Month in November, and probably could have picked up the award in a number of other months too.
He was the only player in the league to break the 40 goal and 80 point barriers, and one of only three to score more than 40 assists, as the 29-year-old made the game look totally simple at times. Equally adept at scoring goals or creating them, Facey oozes quality on the ice – and will hope to help the Devils to playoff glory later this month.
Coach of the Year
Andrew Hemmings (Guildford Phoenix)
There was also a clear winner in the coach of the year category, with Guildford’s player-coach Andrew Hemmings garnering over 50% of the votes.
In his first season as a head coach at senior level, Hemmings took a Guildford side with an average age of just 21 – making them one of the youngest in the league – and moulded them into a top-six side in their very first season in the league. His side was arguably one of the best organised over the season, with strong systems that the team all clearly understood and bought into. The Phoenix comfortably qualified for the playoffs ahead of a number of teams with vastly more experience, which was a true testament to Hemmings’ coaching abilities as well as the levels of playing talent in the side.
Talking of playing talent – not only did Hemmings lead the side as a coach, but his play on the ice was also fantastic and he narrowly missed out on a place in the top two lines of players. The former Guildford Flames, Basingstoke Bison and Bracknell Bees forward showed why he has over 500 EPL games on his CV as he tallied 15 goals and added 33 assists for 48 points to lead his team in scoring, good enough for 12th overall in the league.
All-Star Team – Line 1
Netminder – Chris Douglas (Slough Jets)
Chris Douglas proved to be a superb line of defence for Slough this season as he helped the Jets surprise many by finishing seventh and making the playoffs. His performance in crucial upset wins over Peterborough, Chelmsford and Bracknell made his overall CV all the more impressive. Douglas notably stopped 53 of 54 shots against the Phantoms, and his aggressive OT penalty shot save against the Hornets will be one that Jets fans will remember for a long time. “Disco” finished the season with a save percentage of just under 90, despite being peppered with 1,155 shots during the season.
Defenceman – Dom Hopkins (Oxford City Stars)
Dom Hopkins secured 44 points this season, which is a tally that would make plenty of forwards in South 2 envious. When you recall that Hopkins is blue-liner, his exploits become all the more impressive. His work as a d-man has won the plaudits of his peers, and his intimidating height only adds to his worth. And even more to his credit, he spent just 10 minutes in the penalty box. That boded well for the Stars, as the more time Hopkins spent on the ice, the better for the team.
Defenceman – Alex Staples (Oxford City Stars)
The Stars had plenty of stars on their blue line this season, as our other defenceman is Hopkins’ teammate Alex Staples. An experienced d-man who filled in as captain a few times for Oxford City this season, Staples led by example as the Stars allowed a mere 55 goals this season. And Staples helped Oxford in the offensive zone as well, notching 19 assists. Strong positioning help him make his role look easy as he always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Forward – Richard Facey (Solent Devils)
Richard Facey, already our Player of the Year, made sure his presence was felt by blue liners and goalies everywhere this season. Facey scored 43 goals, and also showed that he could share the puck around as well, picking up 42 assists. In total, Facey earned an average of 3.27 points per game. As one of the alternate captains, his experience was vital as Solent gave Oxford a run for their money at the top of the table, while also fighting off pressure from Bracknell and Chelmsford.
Forward – Lukas Smital (Slough Jets)
Lukas Smital’s influence on Slough’s brilliant season cannot be too strongly stated. As player-coach, Smital took over a club that finished last in the previous season, and after a slow start to this season, turned them into a playoff team. The experienced Czech forward played all over the ice this season, rushing up the boards with blinding speed at times and even playing on the blue line during power plays. He scored 20 goals and assisted on 47 others in 23 games, often looking a class above his opponents.
Forward – Kamil Kinkor (Oxford City Stars)
Kamil Kinkor was chosen as the EIHA’s December Player of the Month, but he wasn’t just good in December, as he stayed consistent throughout the season. The mark of a good forward is to create goals in any way possible, and Kinkor did just that, scoring 38 and assisting on 37. What makes his season even more impressive is that he was returning from a serious leg injury that only allowed him to play 10 league games last season.
All-Star Team – Line 2
Netminder – Christian Cole (Solent Devils)
A cornerstone of the Solent team, netminder Cole stayed with the Devils as they dropped down to NIHL2 this season – and was a huge factor in the Gosport side finishing second in the league. “Chico” had a save percentage above 92% and added three shutouts as the Devils finished just one point behind Oxford in the final standings, with the Solent defence backstopped by Cole also proving to be the second best in the league as they conceded just 58 goals.
Defenceman – Carl Graham (Bracknell Hornets)
After splitting last season between the Bracknell Bees in the EPL and Chelmsford Chieftains in NIHL1, the 34-year-old blueliner dropped down to NIHL2 this season and joined the Hornets. A classy puck-handler with great positional awareness, “Scooter” Graham helped his side secure third place in the league standings. His veteran presence should also be a big help for his side in the playoffs.
Defenceman – Luke Reynolds (Slough Jets)
Brought in from the Milton Keynes Thunder of NIHL1 mid-season, veteran defenceman Reynolds added both quality and experience to a relatively young Jets side. He contributed offensively with six goals and 11 assists, while also being stable at the back as well. Reynolds played a big part in the Jets’ rise up to seventh place in the league standings.
Forward – Josh Ealey-Newman (Bracknell Hornets)
After making the drop down to NIHL2 together with the Hornets, 19-year-old forward Ealey-Newman impressed hugely this season with 31 goals in 25 matches – one of only four players to break the 30 goal barrier – showing his goalscoring prowess. He also added 14 assists for a total of 45 points, as he played a big role in the Hornets finishing the season in third place. Ealey-Newman also “played up” 21 times for the NIHL1 Bees where he added a further three goals.
Forward – Josh Oliver (Oxford City Stars)
Playing his ninth consecutive season at senior level for the Stars, 25-year-old Oxford native Oliver was a key part of the side’s offensive juggernaut that rolled over the league this season. Along with Facey, Ealey-Newman and team-mate Kinkor, Oliver was the fourth and final player in the league to bag 30 goals, while he also added 21 assists to finish the campaign with 51 points – a personal best for the youngest of the three Oliver brothers who have represented the Stars.
Forward – Grant Bartlett (Chelmsford Chieftains)
After sitting a lengthy ban following a match penalty for fighting in Chelmsford’s second game of the campaign, Bartlett redeemed himself in the second half of the season with some quite brilliant offensive output. His tally of 28 goals and 27 assists for 55 points in just 14 games – at a rate of almost four points a game – showed without doubt what a gifted player Bartlett is.
All the categories were hotly contested this season and so notable mentions must also go to Forwards: Steve Fisher (Bracknell), Shaun Yardley (Peterborough), Ross Brears and Cam Bartlett (Chelmsford), Olly Shone (Bristol) and Mike Whillock (Oxford); Defencemen: Sam Jackson (Haringey), Jack Tarczycki and Harvey Hind-Pitcher (Bracknell) and Alex Cole (Solent); and NM Sonny Phillips (Chelmsford) who all narrowly missed out.