Former Fairbanks Ice Dog Mike Phillipich, a senior forward at the Air Force Academy, earned the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award as announced over the weekend by the Hockey Commissioners Association (HCA) in Washington D.C.
The award was established by the HCA in honor of former Army player Derek Hines, who was a “consummate team player and team builder.” Hines played at Army from 1999-2003 and was a four-year letterwinner as well as a co-captain his senior season. He was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan in September 2006.
“I cannot begin to express what it means to win an award named after such an amazing individual like Derek Hines,” said Phillipich, who played two seasons for the Ice Dogs from 2003-05. “I was honored to be considered for the award and this is truly humbling. My teammates inspired me to give my all every day and I simply attempted to return the favor to them.
“It's hard to be singled out from such a brotherhood of friends and teammates, any of which would fit the bill for this award. Derek Hines gave everything he could for those around him. My contributions to my team seem miniscule in comparison to the sacrifice he made for our country. I'm privileged to be compared to this fellow member of the Armed Forces.”
Phillipich, a right winger from Lansing, Mich., was one of just five players in Air Force history to be a two-year team captain. He was the MVP of the 2007 Atlantic Hockey Association Final Four as a sophomore as Air Force claimed it first ever conference championship and berth in the NCAA Tournament. As a junior and senior, he captained the Falcons to two more AHA tournament championships and NCAA appearances.
A systems engineering management major, he carries a 3.77 overall grade-point average and a 3.87 GPA in his major. His has been on the dean's list every semester and is a three-time academic all-conference selection
A finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, Phillipich was also named to the Lowe's All-American team, recognizing excellence in academics, athletics, character and leadership.
The winner of the Derek Hines Award was chosen by sports information directors from the six conferences.