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2023 USA Hockey Annual Award Winners Announced

By USA Hockey, 05/25/23, 12:55PM MDT


Winners to be honored as part of USA Hockey's Annual Meeting, which runs from June 7-10 in Denver

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – USA Hockey will host its 2023 Annual Meeting from June 7-10 in Denver. The four-day event provides USA Hockey’s various councils, committees and sections the opportunity to conduct the business of the national governing body and celebrate accomplishment.

USA Hockey will honor its service award recipients, players of the year, and other top award recipients during the President’s Awards Dinner on June 9.

Honorees include William Thayer Tutt Award winner Steve Palmacci (Arlington, Mass.), Builders Award recipient Ron DeGregorio (Salem, N.H.) and Distinguished Achievement Award winner Rand Pecknold (Bedford, N.H.).

Other award winners include Excellence in Safety Award recipient Phil Johnson (Fargo, N.D.), Chet Stewart Award winner Steve Stevens Sr. (Spokane, Wash.), John Beadle Adult Member of the Year Ace Malette (North Yarmouth, Maine) and Walter Yaciuk Award recipient Jack Witt (Muskegon, Mich.),

Player of the year award recipients include Adult Player of the Year Karen Ota-O'Brien (Coconut Creek, Fla.), Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year Caroline Harvey (Salem, N.H.), Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year Cole Knuble (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Dave Peterson Goaltender of the Year Jacob Fowler (Melbourne, Fla.), Jim Johannson College Player of the Year Logan Cooley (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Disabled Athlete of the Year Alex Gullingsrud (Red Lake Falls, Minn.).

In addition, Brian Fishman Fellow Michael Reedy (West Dundee, Ill.) and Brendan Burke Intern Kevin Braeunle (Lansdale, Pa.) will also be recognized.

William Thayer Tutt Award – Steve Palmacci

An institution in the Massachusetts hockey community, Steve Palmacci has dedicated over 40 years to USA Hockey as a volunteer at all levels.

Through the years, Palmacci’s continued commitment to grow the game at the grassroots level and create opportunities for new and young players to play hockey has been apparent in each endeavor he has championed.

Palmacci served as the registrar for Massachusetts from 2011-2022, while also spending time on the ADM Committee (2014-2016) and both the SafeSport and Long Range Planning Committees (2012-2014). Prior to his USA Hockey appointment, the Arlington, Massachusetts, native was the president of Massachusetts Hockey (2007-2011), serving on the Mass Hockey Executive Committee for 17 years (2005-2022).

In 2016, Palmacci was inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame after receiving the Massachusetts Hockey Presidents Award the year prior.

In partnership with the Boston Bruins Foundation, Palmacci also spearheaded the creation of the Mike Cheever Grow Hockey Grant, a program designed to fund local organizations aimed at increasing participation in youth, girls and disabled hockey programs. Since its inception in 2007, more than 100 grants have been awarded to local Massachusetts programs helping make the sport of hockey more accessible to thousands of children across the state.

Palmacci was also a driving force in expanding the Massachusetts Hockey State Tournament, a move designed to help raise the level of competition among programs of all sizes across the state, as well as give as many players as possible the opportunity to be involved in the tournament.

Palmacci’s journey as a volunteer began in the 1980s when his children began skating with the Arlington Youth Hockey program. He served as a coach within the program, while also rising to the ranks of vice president and president of Arlington Youth Hockey as well. In 1990, he took on his first role within Massachusetts Hockey, serving on both the tournament and discipline committees for five years.

From 1995-2007, he also served as the District 9 registrar. Palmacci also helped start the District 9 Girls League, which has since expanded state-wide and is now known as the Middlesex Yankee Conference Girls Recreational League.

Builders Award – Ron DeGregorio

Ron DeGregorio has helped shape American hockey for more than 50 years as one the most prominent volunteers in the history of USA Hockey. He has been at the forefront of the creation and development of programs that have changed the fabric of hockey both in the United States and around the world.

DeGregorio’s career with USA Hockey began in 1973 when he was named registrar for the New England District. As registrar, DeGregorio oversaw the reorganization of the district into several smaller, more manageable affiliates. He was first elected to the USA Hockey Board of Directors in 1975 and was the organization’s first vice president of youth hockey. In the 1980s, he served as treasurer of USA Hockey. In 1995, he was elected as a vice president and the international council chairperson, positions he held until being named president in 2003. DeGregorio served as president of USA Hockey from 2003 until his retirement in 2015. He served as co-chairman of the board of directors for USA Hockey from 2015-21.

Among his most influential accomplishments was the creation of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. The NTDP has developed into a revered program that has significantly enhanced elite player development in America, as well as U.S. success in international competitions.

DeGregorio was also instrumental in the establishment of USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which was launched in 2009. The widely-acclaimed model is today used as the basis for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s athlete development program, and has led to increased growth and player retention at the youth level across the country.

Among other signature programs, DeGregorio also championed the implementation of USA Hockey SafeSport as well as USA Hockey’s Progressive Checking Skill Development Program. His leadership is also evident in the insurance and risk management arenas and in use of technology, including the push to online player registration and online education modules in coaching and officiating education.

The Salem, New Hampshire, native was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. He was distinguished with the National Hockey League’s Lester Patrick Trophy in 2002 in recognition of his outstanding service to ice hockey in the United States.

Distinguished Achievement Award – Rand Pecknold

Serving as head coach of the Quinnipiac University men’s ice hockey team since the start of the 1994-95 campaign, Rand Pecknold has overseen the Bobcats rise from an NCAA Division III program to the 2023 NCAA Division I national championship. In 29 seasons behind the Quinnipiac bench, Pecknold has compiled an overall record of 615-337-103, making him the winningest active men’s division I head coach.

The 2022-23 season proved to be a historic season for Pecknold and the Bobcats, culminating in its first NCAA national championship. The team finished with an overall record of 34-4-3 (W-L-T), making it Quinnipiac’s all- time winningest season.

Since transitioning to Division I prior to the 1998-99 season, Quinnipiac has won seven ECAC Hockey regular-season championships, one ECAC Hockey tournament championship, two MAAC regular-season titles, and one MAAC tournament championship. Pecknold has also guided the Bobcats to nine NCAA tournament appearances and three NCAA Frozen Fours, finishing as national runner-up twice and national champion in 2023.

Pecknold was awarded the Spencer Penrose Award as the top NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey coach in 2016 and has been a finalist for the award six times.

Pecknold has served on U.S. national team staffs three times, most recently as head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team in 2023. Under the guidance of Pecknold, the U.S. won a bronze medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship. His prior experience in roles on U.S. coaching staffs were as an assistant on the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team which earned a silver medal in the 2018 IIHF U18 Men’s World Championship and the U.S. Men’s National Team that competed in the 2017 IIHF Men’s World Championship.

As a player, the Bedford, New Hampshire, native led Connecticut College to the 1990 ECAC South Championship and set school season records for goals (17) and points (47) by a defenseman his senior year. He earned First- Team All-ECAC South honors and a spot on the Division III All-England Team. Playing as a forward for two seasons, he led the Camels in goals as a junior (23) and sophomore (19).

Excellence in Safety Award – Phil Johnson

Dr. Phil Johnson has spent parts of the last three decades as team physician for the U.S. National Junior Team in the IIHF World Junior Championship, with the 2023 tournament, where the U.S. captured bronze, being his 16th and final tournament.

The Fargo, North Dakota, native played a role in an additional eight medal-winning U.S. National Junior Teams, including Team USA’s run to the gold medal in 2021 in Edmonton. He was also part of U.S. gold medal- winning squads at the 2017, 2013 and 2010 World Juniors. Additionally, Johnson was on staff for the U.S. National Junior Teams that won silver in 2019 and bronze in 2016, 2011 and 2007.

Johnson also served as the team physician for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2019 IIHF Men’s World Championship, 2018 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team and several Under-17 and Under-18 international competitions since 2000.

He also served as the chief medical officer for the 2009 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship in Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota.

Johnson completed his U.S. Olympic physician training in 1999 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and continues today to serve as a medical supervisor for the IIHF.

A 1984 graduate of University of North Dakota’s Medical School, Johnson completed an internship at St Luke’s hospital in Fargo, North Dakota, and spent five years in residency as an orthopedic surgeon at Michigan State University-Kalamazoo. He was the chief resident during his final year of residency. Additionally, he completed a sports medicine fellowship at The University of Western Ontario.

Chet Stewart Award – Steve Stevens Sr.

A longtime official and volunteer with USA Hockey, Steve Stevens Sr. has dedicated nearly half a century to officiating and officiating development in his home state of Washington. His passion and hard work has had an indelible impact on officiating not just in the Pacific Northwest, but across USA Hockey as a whole.

An official himself since 1981, Stevens patrolled the ice for an impressive 38 years, prior to hanging up the skates in 2019. During that time, the Spokane, Washington, native served as the Pacific District Referee-In-Chief from 2004-2018.

During his time as referee-in-chief, Stevens was a passionate advocate for inclusion within the officiating ranks, initiating a district female officiating development camp, which helped the female officiating sector skyrocket during his time at the helm. Under Stevens, the Pacific District also was the first district to have a designated official who could communicate with deaf/ hard of hearing players via sign language, and also was the first district to designate an official exclusively for the Disabled Hockey section.

Within the Pacific Northwest Amateur Hockey Association (PNAHA), Stevens was elected vice president from 2002-2006 and served as referee-in-chief of the association for 24 years until 2006. He also managed officials for the NorPac Junior Hockey League from 2000-2018, before being appointed an officiating advisor and evaluator of the USA Hockey officiating program.

Additionally, Stevens earned an advanced level coaches card while serving as a house coach for the Spokane Amateur Youth Hockey Association (SAYHA) in the late 1970s, and in 1988 served as SAYHA board president.

A mentor to many young officials and players throughout the years, Stevens still assists with the recruitment and development of officials in both the Pacific Northwest and across the nation.

John Beadle Adult Member of the Year – Ace Malette

A passionate advocate for adult hockey, Ace Malette is an instrumental figure in the growth of adult hockey within the Maine Amateur Hockey Association.

Malette, who currently serves as the commissioner of the Greater Portland Industrial Hockey League, an adult hockey league based in Maine, was the first ever adult director on the MEAHA board. In this role, he established an integral foundation for adult hockey in the state of Maine. While no longer on the board, his impact continues to be felt, as Malette works to welcome adult players from all skill levels into the hockey community.

Established in 2005 by Malette, the Greater Portland Industrial Hockey League started with just 12 teams and one sheet of ice. Following exponential growth over the next decade, Malette made the important decision to have his league join USA Hockey, helping the GPIHL tap into numerous resources to keep up with the league’s growth.

Malette is also a Level 4 certified USA Hockey coach, and has been a head coach for 10U to 18U teams for over a decade. In addition, he serves as a goalie coach and power skating coach, while also skating as an official.

A hockey player most of his life, Malette still plays goaltender with the Greater Portland Industrial Hockey League and uses his hockey experience, combined with his volunteer work, to continue to help grow the game in the state of Maine.

Walter Yaciuk Award recipient – Jack Witt

Jack Witt has been involved in hockey at the grassroots level as a coach and volunteer for nearly 40 years. Witt has played a key role in furthering the development of USA Hockey’s coaching education program since beginning his coaching career in 1984.

Witt grew up in Muskegon, Michigan, where he fell in love with the game playing pond hockey as there was no organized youth hockey in the area at the time. In 1984, he began his involvement in coaching with Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Over 15 seasons, Witt coached at every level from Learn- to-Skate to 16U until 1999. From 1986-1995, he served as a board member of Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey, and in 1992 became president. In 1995, he was elected to the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association Board of Directors. During his time with Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey, he attended his first USA Hockey coaching clinic in 1986, and his first Level 4 clinic in 1990. In 1996, Witt became a USA Hockey CEP instructor.

Witt was appointed Michigan Coach-in-Chief in January 2000 and served for more than 20 years in the position until February 2021. Since 2002, he has been a member of the USA Hockey Playing Rules Committee.

Witt was also a member of the USA Hockey Officiating Task Force from 2021-22, and currently is on the USA Hockey Youth Council subcommittee.

Witt received the USA Hockey President’s Award in January 2023, recognizing his service and outstanding contributions to the organization.

Adult Player of the Year – Karen Ota-O'Brien

Karen Ota-O’Brien’s path to hockey began in Florida, lacing up the skates over 25 years ago after moving to the Sunshine State. Inspired by her love for the game and lack of women’s hockey league in her area, Ota-O’Brien co-founded the Florida Women’s Hockey League (FWHL). Conceptualized on the back of a bar napkin during a night out with friends in 2002, Ota-O’Brien has grown the league to an impressive 14-team league ranging in all skill levels from cities across the state.

As a way to build inclusion through the sport, she also spearheaded the start of a weekly Girls Night Out skate, aimed at bringing women of all levels to play at rinks in the tri-county area of south Florida.

As a player, Ota-O’Brien’s has been skating with her team, the Lucky Pucks, for decades, and alongside her teammates, has been competing at USA Hockey’s Adult Women’s National Championships annually. At this year’s Nationals, her team posted an undefeated record on its way to a championship title. The Lucky Pucks Organization also swept the Florida State Championships in the novice, recreational and C divisions.

Ota-O’Brien’s generational impact on women’s hockey in Florida has earned her recognition by the NHL, being named a 2023 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award Finalist, an honor given each year by the NHL to someone who has positively impacted their community, culture, or society through hockey.

Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year – Caroline Harvey

Caroline Harvey’s performance at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship was one of the most prolific by a defender in history. The Salem, New Hampshire, native led the tournament with 14 points (4G, 10A) while helping the U.S. earn its 10th gold medal ever at the Women’s World Championship.

In the gold-medal game against Canada, Harvey, who earned the directorate award as the top blueliner in the world championship and was named to the Media All-Star Team, tied the game at 3-3 with 5:40 gone in the third period as the U.S. went on to a 6-3 victory.

Her 14 points were the most ever by a defender in a single women’s world championship and the fifth-most points in a single tournament all time. A two-way defender, she led the U.S. in time on ice, logging 19:54 per game.

As a freshman at the University of Wisconsin in 2022-23, Harvey recorded 39 points (13G, 26A) in 41 games, second among all NCAA defenders. She was a key part of the Badgers capturing their seventh NCAA Division I women’s hockey national championship, including scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of the national semifinals.

An ACHA All-America Second Team selection, Harvey also earned recognition as USCHO Co-Rookie of the Year and WCHA Rookie of the Year. She was also selected to both the All-USCHO First Team and USCHO All-Rookie Team.

Additionally, Harvey played for the U.S. Women’s National Team in the 2022- 23 Rivalry Series.

Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year – Cole Knuble

Cole Knuble, the 2023 recipient of the USHL’s Curt Hammer Award for outstanding performance, leadership, pride and determination, helped lead the Fargo Force to the 2023 Clark Cup Finals.

Knuble, who served as alternate captain of the Force, finished the 2022-23 regular season tied for seventh in points (66) and goals (30) across 57 games. The University of Notre Dame commit also ranked third in +/- (+31), eighth in assists (36) and 12th in points per game (1.16).

An All-USHL First Team selection, Knuble helped the Force to a 40-14-4- 4 (W-L-OTL-SOL) record as the USHL regular-season champions and took home USHL Forward of the Week honors following the Conference Finals. The Grand Rapids, Michigan, native finished the Clark Cup playoffs leading all skaters in goals and tied for third in points (7) across nine games. He also notched two game-winning goals and two power-play markers during the playoffs.

The forward also served as captain of the 2022 U.S. Junior Select Team that won the 2022 World Junior A Challenge. He led Team USA at the tournament in points (9) and assists (6) in six games and was named tournament MVP and to the 2022 World Junior A Challenge All-Star Team.

Additionally, Knuble played for Team White in January’s BioSteel All-American Game in Plymouth, Michigan, that showcased the top American prospects eligible for this June’s NHL Draft.

Dave Peterson Goaltender of the Year – Jacob Fowler

Jacob Fowler, the 2023 USHL Goaltender of the Year, backstopped the Youngstown Phantoms to the club’s first-ever Clark Cup championship, going undefeated in the finals to bring home the title.

A Melbourne, Florida, native, Fowler led all USHL goaltenders with a 2.28 goals against average and .921 save percentage through the 2022-23 regular season. Additionally, he finished the regular season with a 27-9-3-1 (W-L-OTL-SOL) record to lead all USHL goaltenders in wins and was tied for the league-lead in shutouts with five. Fowler also wrapped this year’s regular season ranked fifth in saves (1,029).

A seven-time USHL Goaltender of the Week honoree, Fowler was named the Clark Cup Most Outstanding Player and finished the playoffs 8-1-0-0 (W-L- OTL-SOL). He topped all netminders in the playoffs in wins, goals against average (1.36), save percentage (.952) and saves (273) and had one shutout.

Fowler, who was named All-USHL First Team, was also a member of the 2022 U.S. Junior Select Team that won the 2022 World Junior A Challenge in December in Cornwall, Ontario. The Boston College commit posted 1.75 goals against average and .918 save percentage through four games with a perfect 4-0-0-0 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record.

Additionally, Fowler played for Team White in January’s BioSteel All-American Game in Plymouth, Michigan, that showcased the top American pros- pects eligible for June’s NHL Draft.

Jim Johannson College Player of the Year – Logan Cooley

Logan Cooley burst on to the college hockey scene during the 2022-23 season, making his presence known on the ice as a freshman at the University of Minnesota. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native played a commanding role in the Gophers’ offense, helping lead the team to the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four, including a title game appearance.

Cooley was second in the NCAA in points (60) and led the nation in assists (38), while also registering six game-winning goals for Minnesota. He paced the Gophers offense, topping the team in points, goals and assists and led all NCAA players with a plus-38 rating.

Cooley was named a Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist, being recognized as one of the top three players in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey, while also garnering All-America West First Team honors, along with being named to the NCAA Frozen Four All-Tournament Team and All-Big Ten First Team.

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft also represented Team USA at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, helping the U.S. to a bronze medal. He registered a team-leading 14 points (7G, 7A), good for second overall in the tournament and a spot on the Media All-Star Team.

Disabled Athlete of the Year – Alex Gullingsrud

Alex Gullingsrud’s doctors say he is “the closest thing to a miracle they’ve ever seen.”

The 10-year-old sled hockey player from Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, was diagnosed with chondroblastic osteosarcoma, a highly aggressive form of bone cancer, in August of 2021, at the age of eight.

Over the course of nine months, Gullingsrud underwent intense chemotherapy, scans, transfusions, major surgery to remove the tumor in his pelvic bone, amputation of his right leg, a revision surgery, and lung surgery.

In March of 2022, Alex and the Gullingsrud family received the incredible news that Alex was cancer-free, and in July had the opportunity to “ring the bell,” signaling the end of his treatment, at Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo, North Dakota.

In November of 2022, he tried sled hockey for the first time and fell in love with the game. A member of the Fargo-Moorhead HOPE, Inc. Hurricanes Sled Hockey Team, sled hockey has been a life-changing outlet for Gullingsrud, from the strong bonds he’s built with his coaches and teammates, along with the ability to stay active and competitive.

Outside of his return to sports - which also includes wheelchair baseball, swimming, fishing and hunting - Alex is a model volunteer in his community. He has helped out Meals on Wheels in Red Lake Falls, as well as the Red Lake County Food Shelf. He also helped guide a fellow patient at the Fargo Sanford Hospital through their own amputation operation and how to get through a difficult time. He is a ref and volunteer at local sled hockey tournaments and helps at a local youth basketball camp as well. During his treatment when he couldn’t participate in physical education class, he helped kindergarten students practice writing and reading. His volunteer work also included visiting local nursing homes and assisting the residents.

In February of 2023, the NHL’s Minnesota Wild invited Gullingsrud to center ice prior to a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets as the game’s official flag bearer for Diversified Hockey Celebration night at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Through his perseverance, courage, and positive attitude, Gullingsrud’s story has become a source of motivation and hope for anyone experiencing hardships in their life.

2021-23 Brian Fishman Fellow – Michael Reedy

As the 23rd Brian Fishman Fellow, Michael Reedy played an integral role in the communications department for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program during the 2022-23 season after spending his first year with USA Hockey’s communications department in the national office during 2021-22.

His tenure with USA Hockey was highlighted by a stint on the communications staffs for both the 2022 U.S Olympic Men’s Hockey Team and U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey Team, traveling with both to Beijing for the Olympic Winter Games.

The West Dundee, Illinois, native also served as the public relations lead for the 2022 U.S. Junior National Team and digital content lead for the 2022 Under-18 Men’s National Team. Reedy was also the main contact for the 2022-23 U.S. National Under-17 Team, handling all public relations and digital content for the team.

Reedy is a 2020 graduate of Ferris State University where he earned his undergraduate degree in sports communication. While at FSU, he worked in the athletic communications office and also served as an on-ice hockey reporter and color commentator for the university’s hockey program.

2022-23 Brendan Burke Intern – Kevin Braeunle

Kevin Braeunle was a key member of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program staff during the 2022-23 season, serving as the 12th recipient of the Brendan Burke Internship.

Braeunle was involved in all aspects of hockey operations at the NTDP in Plymouth, Michigan, including serving as the hockey operations manager for the 2023 U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team as it brought home gold from the 2023 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship. He also played a large role in running the NTDP evaluation camp that took place in March.

The Landsdale, Pennsylvania, native’s responsibilities included interfacing with both the U.S. National Under-18 Team and U.S. National Under-17 Team at the National Team Development Program, national teams, international events and player development camps. He also gained exposure to USA Hockey’s American Development Model and coaching education program.

Braeunle graduated from Temple University in 2021 with a degree in business administration. He previously spent the 2021-22 season as the director of hockey operations for the Bemidji State University women’s ice hockey team, where he was responsible for all team operations, including pre-scouting opponents and coding live games. Additionally, Braeunle was on staff as an assistant coach for the University of Pennsylvania men’s ice hockey team for the 2021-22 campaign.

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