NAHL announces 2020-21 season awards
The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced the remainder of its awards for the 2020-21 season. The selections are based on performance during the 2020-21 regular season, as voted upon by the league’s 23 Head Coaches.
The 2020-21 season awards include: All-NAHL Team, Most Valuable Player, Forward of the Year, Defenseman of the Year, Vaughn Hockey Goaltender of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, General Manager of the Year, Executive of the Year and Organization of the Year, along with the Apex Learning Virtual School Academic Achievement Award, Leadership Award and Community Service Award. Here is a look at the winners:
2020-21 All-NAHL 1st Team
Forward: Jay Ahearn, Johnstown Tomahawks
Forward: Cole Hanson, New Mexico Ice Wolves
Forward: Payton Matsui, Aberdeen Wings
Defense: Nico DeVita, Aberdeen Wings
Defense: Grant Docter, Minnesota Wilderness
Goalie: Jake Sibell, Aberdeen Wings
2020-21 All-NAHL 2nd Team
Forward: Clayton Cosentino, Aberdeen Wings
Forward: Braiden Dorfman, Shreveport Mudbugs
Forward: Charlie Schoen, Janesville Jets
Defense: Vincent Corcoran, Wichita Falls Warriors
Defense: Luke Gramer, Bismarck Bobcats
Goalie: Luke Pavicich, Kenai River Brown Bears
2020-21 Most Valuable Player and Vaughn Goaltender of the Year: Jake Sibell, Aberdeen Wings (Watch Highlights)
Sibell, 21, put an assault on the NAHL record book this season. The 6’2/206 lbs. native of Isanti, MN, appeared in 47 games during the 2020-21 season and set a new NAHL single-season record with 43 wins, posting an incredible 43-2-1 record. The Niagara University recruit also set NAHL single-season records for goals against average (1.19) and save percentage (.952). His 11 shutouts this season tied the NAHL single-season record. He was named the NAHL Goaltender of the Month four times. During the 2016-17 season, he played in the NAPHL for the Omaha AAA 16U team.
2020-21 Forward of the Year: Payton Matsui, Aberdeen Wings (Watch Highlights)
In his lone NAHL season, Aberdeen Wings forward Payton Matsui, 21, was the offensive catalyst for the league’s top team and offense during the regular season. The 5’8/160 lbs. native of Lakeville, MN, led the league in scoring during the 2020-21 regular season, recording 65 points (27 goals, 38 assists) in 56 games played. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks commit also led the NAHL with 10 game-winning goals and tied for the league lead in shots on goal with 172 during the season. He was named the NAHL’s Central Division Star of the Week three times and finished the regular season with 12 points in his final eight games.
2020-21 Defenseman of the Year: Grant Docter, Minnesota Wilderness (Watch Highlights)
In his lone NAHL season, Minnesota Wilderness defenseman Grant Docter, 20, pulled off the rare feat of leading his team in scoring from the blueline during the 2020-21 season. The 5’11/175 lbs. native of Golden Valley, MN, led the Wilderness with 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists) this season, which was also tops for all NAHL defensemen. Docter, who is committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Michigan Tech University in the Fall, was named the NAHL’s Defenseman of the Month for March, recording 12 points in 13 games played. Doctor recorded at least one point in nine of the 13 games during the month, which helped the Wilderness clinch a playoff spot in the Central Division.
2020-21 Rookie of the Year: Jay Ahearn, Forward, Johnstown Tomahawks (Watch Highlights)
Ahearn, 20, made quite the impact in his first junior season in the NAHL. The 5’11/180 lbs. native of Staten Island, NY, finished 2nd in league scoring during the 2020-21 season, which included a league-leading 31 goals. Ahearn was also 2nd in the NAHL in points per game among qualifying players at 1.19. In January of 2021, Ahearn was named the NAHL Forward of the Month, putting up 15 points (11 goals, 4 assists) in just eight games played during the month. Soon after on February 18, 2021, Ahearn announced his commitment to play NCAA Division I hockey for Niagara University. He was also named the East Division Star of the Week twice during the 2020-21 regular season.
2020-21 Coach and General Manager of the Year: Scott Langer, Aberdeen Wings
Aberdeen Wings head coach Scott Langer guided his team to an unprecedented regular season in 2020-21, shattering several NAHL records. The Wings established new NAHL records for wins in a season (51) and points in a season (103), which was all done in only 56 games. The Wings winning percentage of .920 was 2nd all-time in NAHL history, as were the team’s four regulation losses. In the middle of doing all this, Langer became the all-time winningest coach in NAHL history with his 603rd win back on January 2, 2021. In addition, a total of 13 players on the Wings 2020-21 roster this season were committed to play NCAA Division I hockey. In addition, the Wings had four out of six players on the All-Central Division team and also had the NAHL’s Most Valuable Player and Goaltender of the Year, along with the Forward of the Year and the Community Service Award winner.
2020-21 Executive of the Year: Bill McCoshen, Janesville Jets
McCoshen is the Founder, President and Managing Partner of the Jets, and also Chairman of the North American Hockey League Board of Governors. During the 2020-21 season, which was the Jets 12th season as a member of the NAHL, the team had another successful season on the ice and in the Janesville community. McCoshen hired head coach Parker Burgess from Nichols College in the NCAA. The team went onto win the Midwest Division regular season title with a record of 31-13-4. In addition, the Jets 13 players on the 2020-21 team with NCAA Division I commitments. McCoshen, who was inducted into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016, has also been the driving force surrounding the Jets community efforts, which includes the push for a new arena in the area, and continued partnerships with the Salvation Army, the Boys & Girls Club, Junior Achievement, Janesville Youth Hockey, Wisconsin School for the Blind, and Visually Impaired, and dozens of other schools and local organizations. In the boardroom, McCoshen helped NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld navigate the league’s way through an unprecedented season due to Covid, helping to develop new league protocols and assist with team’s having to rework their schedules, which ultimately saw all teams complete a full season including the Robertson Cup Playoffs and Championship.
2020-21 Organization of the Year: Aberdeen Wings
Led by Owner and Governor Greg Odde and Head Coach/General Manager Scott Langer, the Aberdeen Wings took another step forward as an organization in 2020-21. With the uncertainty of Covid present throughout the NAHL landscape, the Wings continued to have success on the ice, in the community, and at the Odde Ice Center. The Wings, who are the defending Robertson Cup Champions from 2019, set numerous NAHL regular season records in 2020-21 and did it all in front of an average of 1,414 fans per game, which pushed capacity at ranked 2nd in the NAHL this season. The Wings also continued to be a presence in the community, as it remained an important part of the junior hockey experience to the players and staff as the Wings teamed up with local schools, partners, hospitals and non-for-profit organizations. In addition, the Wings were one of the NAHL leader with 13 players from the 2020-21 with NCAA Division I commitments.
2020-21 Apex Learning Virtual School Academic Achievement Award: Jaxson Ezman, Janesville Jets
As a senior in high school in 2020-21 Jaxson took all AP classes and for the year had a 4.0 GPA. His HS cumulative GPA was a 3.94. With his academic abilities and hockey talent Jaxson secured an NCAA Division I commitment to Princeton University this season. This was especially difficult with not being able to take in-person classes at high school. The Jets had their eight high school players participate in “Flight School.” Three times a week for 2.5 hours, the high school players were required to attend. Jaxson never missed a flight school day and assisted fellow teammates in their academics, helping tutor and teach various subjects to his peers. He is also an NAPHL alum, having played for the Madison Capitols 18U and 16U teams from 2017-20.
2020-21 Leadership Award: Luke Mountain, Maryland Black Bears
This season, Maryland Black Bears forward and captain Luke Mountain personified all the qualities you look for in a leader—Grit, intensity, team cohesiveness and flexibility. In addition, Luke worked to continuously improve his game with tremendous strides in his points total, +/- and points per game. His ability to rally his teammates lead to the Black Bears 1st playoff appearance in the team’s history. He is a student of the game and leads by example. Luke embraces a key team concept, “Know it off the ice, Show it on the ice.” As the only player to spend all three years of his Junior Hockey career with the Maryland Black Bears (est. 2018), Luke is a true culture carrier. He is, by far, the fan favorite. This season, fan attendance was impacted negatively due to COVID and the team was forced by regulation to play home games at a distant arena. Black Bears fans made it clear they would travel wherever the team went because they did not want to miss any games in Luke’s final season. “Luke has been a great ambassador to our program and the NAHL on and off the ice,” said Maryland Black Bears’ Head Coach Clint Mylymok. “He really naturally embraced a leadership role in the community and is beloved by our fans for many reasons. He has been here since Day 1. Words cannot describe the impact he’s had on our team. He is always there for us and our fans and staff as well as his teammates. He is highly respected within our league because of his determination and competitive nature. No one leads more effectively than Luke Mountain.” Committed to University of Vermont next fall, Luke’s example to the players and fans will have a long and positive impact on the Black Bears, the surrounding community and the NAHL.
2020-21 Community Service Award: Clayton Cosentino, Aberdeen Wings
Costentino has spent the last two seasons in the NAHL with the Wings. He served as team captain in 2020-21 and is well known in the community for being not only a leader, but a great representation of the Aberdeen Wings. This season was a little more complicated with COVID regulations, but Cosentino and the Wings did what they could to continue to give back to the community with volunteer hours. The usual focus for the team has been making a difference in the community within school programs, appearances at the School for the Blind, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, helping victims of domestic abuse, waiting tables for community theater, and spreading awareness by participating in the Out of Darkness Suicide Prevention 5k. “As a hockey player you are always moving to new locations to play for new teams. This means that you have to start fresh everywhere you go and it’s not easy meeting new people when all you know is your house and the rink. Serving in the community gives me the opportunity to connect and get plugged in with people who I would never have met otherwise and create new relationships and friendships,” said Cosentino. During his time in Aberdeen, Cosentino was able to serve in the community by helping out at his local church and reading books for kids. While he does this on his own, he truly believes that his most important contribution of all and what he finds the most value in, was being a face for the Wings at community events. He enjoys giving back by doing services, but more importantly he loves putting the time in and creating relationships. His goal is to put faces and personalities to the jersey numbers the fans see on the ice. His goal is to create a deepened sense of connection between players and community. His selfless attitude makes those around him want to give back. “Clayton has always put others and the community ahead of his own personal time. He is the first to want to be out in the community representing the Wings logo.” said Head Coach Scott Langer. “Clay represented us with class and dignity throughout a year that was tough to navigate. Clay is the face of this team and motivates those around him to do better.” This year, Cosentino also won the Aberdeen Wings Odde Community Service Award, named after the Odde family who have a passion for giving back to their community.