Men’s ice hockey end-of-year banquet a last shot at remembering a great year

The men's 2015 hockey squad poses after a tournament win during their 25-win season. Coach Mike McShane also enjoyed his 600th win in 2015.

The men’s 2015 hockey squad poses after a tournament win during their 25-win season. Coach Mike McShane also enjoyed his 600th win in 2015.

Normally Kreitzberg Arena is filled with thousands of screaming fans and bright white ice. But on Sunday April 19, instead of ice and fans, the arena was warm and round tables were set on a concrete surface of the rink.

The maroon and gold balloons tied to the tables, along with the raised-up stage in front of the home team bench, meant only one thing: It was a sign of the end-of-the- year banquet.

For some people, it was their first banquet, and for others, like senior captain Alec Thieda, it was their last.

The Norwich University men’s ice hockey team hosted its annual banquet inside of Kreitzberg Arena. Parents, fans, players, and coaches were all in attendance to officially close out the 2014-2015 season.

“It is always good to see the fans and parents of the other guys in together in one place again for the last time,” said Thieda. “You never know when all these guys will be back together again, so it’s always special to be in the same place at once.”

Norwich hockey play-by-play announcer George Commo was the master of ceremonies for the afternoon event. Being at every game in the stands doing commentary for the Cadets, he knows the players almost as good as anybody else.

“Twenty-five wins for any college hockey team is an amazing accomplishment,” Commo said. “Even though the season did not end the way the players and the fans had wanted, it was still a very special group of individuals.”

Head Coach Mike McShane had more than a few heartfelt words for the players and fans as he reflected on the most recent year of his coaching career.

“This year was one of my most special teams since I’ve been coaching here for the last 21 years,” McShane said. “The leadership from not only the captains but the senior class as a whole was something I haven’t seen, not only here but in all the other places I have coached, like St. Lawrence and Providence.”

The 2014-15 season was also a special one personally for Coach McShane as he enjoyed his 600th career win as a head coach.

The highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of all the end of the year awards. McShane had a surprise for everybody in attendance as he elected to name the traditional Coaches Award after current Athletic Director Tony Mariano.

“It is a true honor to have this award named after me,” Mariano said. “The Coaches Award is traditionally given to the player that exemplifies the true spirit of Norwich hockey and to have that associated with me is surreal.”

Sophomore Tyler Piacentini received the annual Tony Mariano Coaches Award and was presented the award by the athletic director.

“Every time I watch a Norwich hockey game I specifically watch him,” Mariano said. “Even though he’s not the biggest guy out there, he always battles the hardest with anybody on the other team, no matter how big they are.”

Piacentini, a 5-foot four-inch forward and sophomore communications major, improved on his season from his freshman year and emerged as one of the important role players for the team.

“It is an honor and very special to me to be able to receive the first Tony Mariano Coaches Award,” said Piacentini, a South Weymouth, Mass., native. “I go out every night and just try to be the best that I can and work hard and it definitely paid off this year.”

Another award winner was forward William Pelletier, who received the Most Valuable Player Award that was presented by Coach McShane.

“The beginning of the season was filled with question marks and Will was the biggest one with his injury trouble,” McShane said. “We weren’t sure how he was going to perform upon his return but he hit the ground running and never looked back and carried the team all year.”

Pelletier’s 16 goals, along with 25 assists for 41 points, was good enough for a First Team All-American selection. The St. Jean Chrysotome, Quebec, native also led the Cadets in points in just 22 games played.

“It is an honor being voted the most valuable player on a team that is filled with such good players from the top to the bottom,” said Pelletier, a business management major. “I couldn’t have accomplished anything without the good players around me and the coaches.”

The Rookie of the Year award went to freshman Alec Brandrup, a Rochester, Minn. native. Brandrup led all freshmen in scoring as a defenseman with 14 points.

“Even though he is a freshman we expected Alec to contribute right away,” said McShane. “He lived up to his expectations and led the freshman class on the ice.”

The final award presented was to the player who was considered most improved on the ice from the previous year. Senior business management major Gerard McEleney received the award as he had a career year with eight goals to go along with 10 assists.

“Gerard has had his fair share of ups and downs throughout his four years at Norwich,” McShane said. “This year was a career year for him and he emerged as a leader when he took two freshman under his wing on the third line and made them better players.”

The banquet served as an official close for the players and coaches to what seems like a season that “went by too fast” according to Thieda.

“The banquet is definitely a bittersweet thing because you get to have all the guys in one place again but it also marks the end of the season,” agreed McEleney. “This one was a little bit different for me being a senior. We had a good group of hockey players and a better group of guys and I still can’t believe the ride is over.”

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