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2015 USAH Annual Award Winners Announced

By USAHockey.com, 05/28/15, 10:55AM MDT

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2015 Annual Congress to be Held June 3-6 in Colorado Springs

USA Hockey will host its 2015 Annual Congress June 3-6, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The four-day event provides USA Hockey’s various councils, committees and affiliates the opportunity to conduct the business of the national governing body and celebrate accomplishment. This year's event will feature two dinners, including a gala that will honor Ron DeGregorio, who is retiring as president of the organization, and also the 35th anniversary of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.

USA Hockey will honor its service award recipients and various players of the year on June 3 at its annual Night of Tribute Awards Dinner, while the other top awards will be presented during the President's Awards Gala on June 5.

Wednesday’s award recipients include Adult Member of the Year Pat Weber (Eagle River, Wis.), Adult Player of the Year Scott Ferris (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year Brianna Decker (Dousman, Wis.), Bob Johnson Award winner Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Chet Stewart Award winner Gerald Moran (Gaylord, Mich.), College Player of the Year Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass.), Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year Kyle Connor (Shelby Township, Mich.), Dave Peterson Goaltender of the Year Eric Schierhorn (Anchorage, Alaska), Disabled Athlete of the Year Matthew Murray (Buffalo, N.Y.), Excellence in Safety Award winner, Dr. Chip Burke (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Walter Yaciuk Award winner Matt Walsh (Waunakee, Wis.).

President’s Awards Gala honorees on June 5 will include Builders Award recipient Peter Lindberg (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Distinguished Achievement Award winner Butch Johnson (Hayward, Wis.) and Wm. Thayer Tutt Award recipient Ted Cunniff (South Boston, Mass.).

See recipient biographies below.

Night of Tribute Award Recipients

Pat Weber
Adult Member of the Year

Pat Weber has been an integral part of the Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships since its inception back in 2005, serving as the local event director. From laying out and plowing rinks to rallying local support, Weber is the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. This year, the lifelong Eagle River, Wisconsin, resident and volunteer fire chief spearheaded the tournament’s temporary relocation to the Eagle River Derby Track when the usual locale, Dollar Lake, was out of commission. As a dedicated supporter to the game of ice hockey, Weber served nine years as the president of the Eagle River Recreation Association and even longer on the ERRA Board of Directors. He also spent time as a local youth hockey coach, and serves both as a member of the board of directors and the president for the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2009, Weber was also inducted into the hall of fame as a builder and promoter. During his time with ERRA, Weber was the auction committee chair and his efforts helped raise funds and construct new high school and youth locker rooms. Devoted to all facets of the game and well respected by the Eagle River community, Weber’s encouragement and support helped Northland Pines receive a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association varsity girls hockey program. Weber has been playing hockey for nearly 60 years and is still at it today, playing in a no-checking adult league in Eagle River.

The Adult Member of the Year Award is presented to an individual who has made outstanding contributions during many years of service to the ice hockey community as an adult player and/or volunteer.

Scott Ferris
Adult Player of the Year

An Arizona native, Scott Ferris was first introduced to ice hockey when he was 14 years old by attending a Phoenix Roadrunners game. The minute the puck dropped Ferris knew hockey was for him. Following the Roadrunners game, he put on skates, picked up a stick and soon realized he was a natural. Today, Ferris has spent more than 20 years teaching adults to play and cherish the game at the Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, Arizona. He and local standouts Kurt Goar and Adam Mims recognized there were opportunities for youth to learn to play but nothing to fulfill such desires in adults. Under his direction, the Tuesday night adult rookie class was created and became an Oceanside staple with more than 35 adults attending each week. The class, along with his intermediate adult hockey skills class, runs year round and everyone is welcome. With the popularity came the creation of the Oceanside’s Adult D-League designed specifically for ARC participants to begin playing organized hockey. Every Sunday, teams meet for formal games, and then take to the arena’s outdoor patio for postgame activities. Away from the rink, Ferris is an attorney and partner at Dyer & Ferris, LLC located in Phoenix, Arizona. 

The Adult Player of the Year Award, presented by Labatt Blue,  is presented annually to an individual who performed exceptionally during the past year as a member of a U.S. adult hockey team or as a participant at an adult hockey event in the United States.

Brianna Decker
Bob Allen Women's Player of the Year

Playing in the IIHF Women’s World Championship in Malmo, Sweden, in late March, Brianna Decker recorded five goals and six assists to lead the U.S. to the gold medal for the fifth time in the last six world championships. She was named the U.S. Player of the Game on two occasions, including following a three-goal, four-assist performance against Russia and versus Canada in the gold-medal game where she scored the game-winning goal. Decker, who was second overall in tournament scoring and served as an alternate captain on the U.S. squad, was named one of Team USA’s top three players of the tournament and also earned a spot on the media all-star team. In November, Decker served as an alternate captain for Team USA at the 2014 Four Nations Cup in Kamloops, British Columbia, where the U.S. finished second. She picked up two goals and an assist for three points in four games in the tournament. She was twice named the U.S. Player of the Game. In her first Canadian Women’s Hockey League season, Decker led the Boston Blades and finished second in league scoring with 32 points (16G, 16A), despite playing in only 12 games. She registered at least one point in 11 of her 12 games and had nine multiple point games, including a seven-point effort (3G, 4G) in her first game of the season.  She was the only player in the league to average more than two points per game and more than one goal per game. Her plus-25 rating also tied for the league best. In three postseason games, she led all players with three goals and eight points to help the Blades capture their second Clarkson Cup in three years. She was named the top forward of the Clarkson Cup.

The Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year Award is bestowed annually on a top U.S. women’s hockey player at the international, collegiate, high school or club level.

Auston Matthews
Bob Johnson Award

Serving as alternate captain, Auston Matthews lent his talents to the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team during the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s Under-18 World Championship to help the squad capture its sixth title in seven years. His dominating performance, notching a tournament-best 15 points (8G, 7A) in seven games and ranking in the top-five of nearly every major statistical category, earned him the Directorate Award for Best Forward and a spot on the media all-star team. A two-time U.S. Player of the Game during the event, Matthews was also selected as MVP and one of Team USA’s top three players of the tournament. Matthews was also a member of the U.S. National Junior Team that participated in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. The youngest team member, he tallied three points (1G, 2A) in five games. Additionally, Matthews played one exhibition game for the U.S. Men’s National Team in April and contributed one goal in a 4-1 victory over Austria. With the Under-18 Team from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, Matthews collected nine points (3G, 6A) in four games to help the U.S. earn first-place at the 2014 Four Nations Tournament. He also tallied nine points (3G, 6A) for the second-place contingent at the 2015 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament. Matthews rewrote some of the NTDP record book in 2014-15, surpassing Patrick Kane’s single-season goals (52) and points (102) records, notching 55 goals and 117 points. His 62 assists rank him second on the single-season list. Matthews completed his NTDP career with 79 goals and 88 assists for 167 points in 104 games. His career totals rank in the top-five all-time at the NTDP. Eligible for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, he is considered the top-rated prospect in his class.

The Bob Johnson Award recognizes excellence in international hockey competition during a specific season of play.

Gerald Moran
Chet Stewart Award

Impacting amateur hockey in Michigan for more than 40 years, Gerald Moran’s presence has been especially significant within the officiating community. Moran first became involved with the USA Hockey Officiating Education Program as a registered official in 1983. He was also the Michigan Officiating Program seminar coordinator for six years. Moran still today helps share his wisdom as an instructor at all levels of USA Hockey’s officiating seminars. Aside from on-ice officiating and instructing, the Detroit native served 11 years as an off-ice official for the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings. Following retirement from the auto industry, Moran has spent the last nine years as the officiating database coordinator for both USA Hockey and the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association. Prior to officiating, Moran coached for 10 years at the Mite, Squirt, Peewee and Bantam levels. He also spent five years with the Southfield Hockey Club, serving separate terms as director, vice president and president and held various positions within MAHA, including council member, district registrar, district director and director at large. Moran’s interest in hockey began in high school where he played three seasons of varsity hockey at Detroit Catholic Central High School. During his senior year, his team won the first-ever state high school hockey championship conducted in Michigan.

The Chet Stewart Award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the USA Hockey Officiating Education Program during many years of service to the hockey community as an official and/or volunteer.

Jack Eichel
College Player of the Year

Boston University forward Jack Eichel finished the 2014-15 season leading the nation with 26 goals and 45 assists for 71 points in 40 games. He also led the country with 45 assists, 1.77 points per game, 1.12 assists per game, 23 power-play points and a plus-51 rating. Eichel’s play earned him a number of accolades, including the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Eichel was also awarded the Hockey East Player and Rookie of the Year awards, becoming only the second freshman to collect both. He was also named a Hockey East First-Team All-Star. The North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, native helped the Terriers capture the Hockey East Championship, and he racked up 11 points to set a new Hockey East single tournament record. For his efforts, Eichel was chosen as the Hockey East Tournament MVP and named to the All-Tournament Team. The First-Team All-American also recorded the most points ever for a Boston University freshman and helped lead the Terriers to the national championship game for the first time since 2009. Eichel also represented his country as a member of the 2015 U.S. Men’s National Team that captured bronze at the International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship in Ostrava and Prague, Czech Republic, in May. He played 10 games and contributed two goals and five assists for seven points. He also served as captain of the U.S. National Junior Team that participated in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal, Quebec, and Toronto, Ontario, in December 2014 and January 2015. He tallied a goal and three assists in five games. Eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Eichel is projected as a top-two pick.  

The College Player of the Year Award annually recognizes an individual’s outstanding performance during the U.S. college hockey season.

Kyle Connor
Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year

Youngstown Phantoms forward Kyle Connor was the United States Hockey League scoring champion with 80 points in 56 regular-season games. He led the USHL with nine game-winning goals, his 46 assists ranked second in the league and his 34 goals were fourth. Connor notched multiple points in 23 regular-season games and was named USHL Forward of the Week five times during the 2014-15 season. The Shelby Township, Michigan, native helped lead Youngstown to a 40-14-6 (W-T-OTL) record and a league-leading 86 points to capture the team’s first-ever Anderson Cup as the USHL’s regular-season champion, as well as the Eastern Conference Championship. His offensive numbers also helped his team record a league-best 233 goals during the regular season. Connor is Youngstown’s all-time leading scorer with 195 points (82G, 113A) in 174 career games. Internationally, Connor captained the 2014 U.S. Junior Select Team that competed in the 2014 World Junior A Challenge in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, last December. He collected a goal and an assist in four games to help the U.S. claim its sixth tournament title in seven years. Connor, who is eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, will attend the University of Michigan in the fall.

The Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year Award is presented annually to an exceptional U.S. citizen playing junior hockey in the United States.

Eric Schierhorn
Dave Peterson Goaltender of the Year

Eric Schierhorn played in 43 regular-season games for the United States Hockey League’s Muskegon Lumberjacks and finished with a 26-13-4 (W-L-OTL) record to help his team to an Eastern Conference playoff berth and its first-ever appearance in the Clark Cup Final. In 12 postseason games, Schierhorn stopped 407 shots and finished with a .915 save percentage. In the regular season, Schierhorn led the USHL with a .927 save percentage, as well as 1,325 saves. His 107 goals against tied for first among goaltenders with at least 2,500 minutes of time in net. The Anchorage, Alaska, native also appeared in the 2015 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, helping Team East earn a 7-4 victory over Team West. Schierhorn was named USHL Goaltender of the Week on three occasions. Internationally, Schierhorn was a member of the U.S. Junior Select Team that won the 2014 World Junior A Challenge in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, in December. It was the sixth title in seven years at the tournament for the U.S. In three games, Schierhorn was 3-0-0-0 (W-OTW-OTL-L), and compiled a tournament-best 0.97 goals against average and .959 save percentage. Scheierhorn, who was named to the all-tournament team and notched one shutout in the opening game against Switzerland. He also got the starting nod in the championship game and made 22 saves to help the U.S. to a 3-2 victory over Denmark in overtime. Schierhorn, who is eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, will attend the University of Minnesota following the conclusion of his USHL career.

The Dave Peterson Goalie of the Year Award is presented annually to a top U.S. goaltender at the international, professional, collegiate or junior level.

Matthew Murray
Disabled Athlete of the Year

A true champion of the game, Matthew Murray continues to display his love for hockey even after retirement. In April, Murray skated in his final game for the Buffalo Sabres sled hockey program and helped the squad claim the 2015 USA Hockey Adult Sled Hockey C Division National Championship. Since then, the 22-year-old has assisted the International Paralympic Committee with its digital media efforts during the 2015 Sled Hockey World Championship. This season, Murray also managed the intermediate team for the Buffalo Sabres sled program, as well as handling social media for the organization. Murray was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at three years old. Unwilling to let his disability define him, Murray’s parents allowed he and his able-bodied twin brother, Daniel Jr., to play golf and baseball. The boys also took an interest in hockey, and despite reservations from their parents, were allowed to play. Matthew and his brother played able-bodied hockey until Matthew needed a wheelchair and that’s when the Murrays found sled hockey, and throughout his career, Murray amassed more than 30 medals, including first-place finishes at both the 2006 and 2007 USA Hockey Youth Sled Championship. An active volunteer, Murray has helped organize numerous sled hockey fundraisers, including spearheading a charity game with the University at Buffalo men’s ice hockey team. He is also involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, participating in various walks and rallies to benefit the organization.

The Disabled Athlete of the Year Award recognizes a disabled athlete that has displayed incredible dedication to disabled hockey in the United States.

Dr. Chip Burke
Excellence in Safety Award

An orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, Dr. Charles “Chip” J. Burke III is well known throughout the hockey community. Burke is past president of the NHL Team Physicians Society and served both on the Executive Committee of the NHLTPS and the Injury Analysis Panel of the NHL. One of Burke’s most notable contributions to professional hockey was developing the NHL Concussion Program, the world’s largest study investigating the effects of head injuries in sports. Burke has had a lengthy affiliation with USA Hockey, including serving on the organization’s Safety and Protective Equipment Committee for the last 15 years. In 2002, Burke was appointed the team physician for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team that competed at the XIX Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was also named U.S. National Men’s Team physician for the 1991 Canada Cup. Burke graduated from Harvard University where he earned a varsity letter in ice hockey, and the University of Cincinnati Medical College. He completed a residency program in orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and a fellowship in traumatology at the AO International Institute in Graz, Austria. Board-certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, Burke is clinical associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Department of Orthopedic Surgery. He is a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy Association of North America, and the American Medical Association.

The Excellence in Safety Award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to make hockey a safer game for all participants.

Matt Walsh
Walter Yaciuk Award

Matt Walsh has been a key contributor to the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program, serving as the Central District Coach-in-Chief and authoring the Coaching Education Program clinic curriculum guidelines that have been used for almost two decades. As Coach-in-Chief for 18 years (1995-2013), Walsh was responsible for coordinating and implementing coaching seminars over a six-state area. During that time, he was also instrumental in rewrites of the CEP manuals and the development of several other USA Hockey coaching publications. Walsh also traveled to Veruimaki, Finland, to represent the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program at the 2003 International Ice Hockey Federation World Development Camp. Over the course of his career, Walsh has helped evaluate and select players to represent the Central District at the USA Hockey 15, 16 and 17 Select Festivals held each summer and also coached those teams. While working for the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association, Walsh was the head coach for Team Wisconsin for six years (1991-96; 1998-99) and served as an assistant for two years (1988-90). He also coached his sons, Connor, Nathan and Sammy as part of the Janesville Youth Hockey Association. Walsh also spent many years coaching at the collegiate and high school levels. Most recently, he spent almost three seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin. He was also the head coach at Stoughton High School (1991-93) and an assistant coach at Madison Lafollette (1989-91) and Madison Memorial (1987-89) high schools.

The Walter Yaciuk Award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated a consistent commitment and contribution to the education and development of USA Hockey coaches.

President's Gala Award Recipients

Peter Lindberg
Builders Award

Among the architects who pour themselves into building a better game for thousands of kids, many of whom they never meet, Peter Lindberg stands out as one of the best. In the late 1960s, Lindberg moved his family to Edina, Minnesota, and he signed on as a coach in the Edina Hockey Association. At the same time, Lindberg put his law degree to use as partner in a local firm. His avocation and profession would soon intermingle, but first, he accepted an appointment to lead Edina’s player evaluation process. He continued to coach, grooming future state champions. It wasn’t long before Lindberg was appointed to the Edina Hockey Association board of directors, eventually becoming district president within what was then known as the Minnesota Amateur Hockey Association. In 1983, he was named president of MAHA, a platform from which he grew the game throughout Minnesota while also serving as a USA Hockey director. At the same time, Lindberg was in the midst of building a distinguished law career as chief judge of Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District. USA Hockey wasn’t about to overlook his exceptional judicial acumen. After Lindberg’s MAHA presidential term, he was invited to dive headlong into service as USA Hockey’s first and only Legal Council chairman, a role in which he remained until his retirement in June 2014. As chairman, Lindberg helped draft every bylaw and governing document used by USA Hockey. He also oversaw every consequential legal matter on behalf of American hockey and worked closely with the United States Olympic Committee to ensure compliance with the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, providing important legal protection for athletes. Lindberg was a true pioneer in sports law, being appointed to the newly formed Court of Arbitration for Sport in 1995 as one of only 200 worldwide arbitrators. At the same time, Lindberg continued building a solid legal structure for USA Hockey’s players, parents, coaches and volunteers. Following his retirement, he was voted USA Hockey director emeritus and presented with Minnesota Hockey’s Donald Clark Award in recognition of his outstanding service over five decades.

The USA Hockey Builders Award is presented to the architects of USA Hockey -- leaders who have distinguished themselves through their dedication, vision and love of the game. The award recognizes the contributions of men and women who have helped share the blueprint for an organization that today is more than one million strong.

Butch Johnson
Distinguished Achievement Award

William “Butch” Johnson moved across the state with his family to Park Falls when he was six, and rose from humble beginnings to become a timber magnate and one of hockey’s preeminent figures in the United States Hockey League. In the early 1970s, his father, William Sr., started the Johnson Timber Company in Hayward, Wisconsin, and Butch eventually took over the business in 1986 and led the company to new heights. He and his wife Pat settled in Hayward in 1975 with their six kids and remain there to this day. As his kids got older, Johnson met P.K. O’Handley who coached one of his son’s hockey teams. Johnson struck up a friendship with O’Handley and was ultimately convinced to buy the North Iowa Huskies in Mason City and Johnson’s 18-year career in hockey began. In addition to North Iowa, Johnson became owner of the Waterloo Black Hawks in 1997, and at one time also guided USHL franchises in Cedar Rapids and Topeka, along with an America West Hockey League team in Billings, Montana, and an amateur baseball team in Waterloo. Johnson’s leadership was evident with several projects, including the building of the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. That experience and business acumen proved to be invaluable to the USHL and led Johnson to serve in various capacities with the league, including president for seven years and two terms as chairman of the board of directors. During his tenure, Johnson was a driving force in the emergence of the USHL as the preeminent Tier 1 league in the United States. Subsequently, the league honored him with its Distinguished Service Award in 2007. A former member of the Board of Directors at USA Hockey, Johnson also made his mark in his home state, serving on several local and statewide boards and committees, including the Hayward School Board, Wisconsin Lottery Board, State Fair Park Board, and Wisconsin Racing Commission. A big man with an even bigger heart, Johnson has strong ties to the community and is active with many charitable endeavors. 

The Distinguished Achievement Award is presented to a U.S. citizen who has made hockey his or her profession and has made outstanding contributions on or off the ice to the sport in the United States.

Ted Cunniff
Wm. Thayer Tutt Award

A South Boston hockey inspiration, Teddy Cunniff helped shape the game in Massachusetts and beyond with more than 30 years of dedication still on display at Frank Murphy Memorial Rink alongside Southie’s Pleasure Bay. As a player, a coach and so much more, Cunniff advanced the legacy of those who brought the game to him at M Street Park in the 1950s. His greatest contributions came at the arena bearing his first coach’s name, that of a hero firefighter who died in the line of duty, but not before teaching Cunniff and his brother, John, the joys of hockey. Cunniff brought that same zeal to the South Boston Youth Hockey League, serving as president, vice president and coach of countless teams at every level over four decades of dedication. But those labels fall far short of capturing Cunniff’s colossal contribution to the game. Whether he was sharpening skates, finding equipment for a child in need or sharing the wisdom gained from his brother’s professional and Olympic coaching career, Cunniff was a wellspring of hockey passion, a true ambassador for the game. As a coach, Cunniff led teams to 17 state championships and five national titles. As a player, Cunniff was a schoolboy hockey legend, scoring 13 goals in a single game for South Boston High School. He was inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in November 2014. His has truly been a hockey life, and to his hockey brethren, it seemed that Cunniff was always at the rink, always building a stronger foundation for the game. But an entirely separate team knew otherwise. That team was Boston’s Local 17. It was with that team, away from the rink, that Cunniff served 40 years as a sheet metal worker, helping build the city by day while building its hockey players on nights and weekends.

The Wm. Thayer Tutt Award is presented to a volunteer who, during many years of service, has displayed selfless dedication to the enhancement of ice hockey at the grassroots level in the United States.

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