Mason Stewart’s phone wasn’t ringing back at home as a teenage hockey player in Washington State.
It took a tip from a teammate’s father to begin a three-and-a-half-year, 186-game run with the Yellowstone Quake of the North American 3 Hockey League.
“I stayed at home playing Double-A and a teammate’s dad owned the rink in Kent,” Stewart said. “He knew the [Yellowstone] coach because they came up to sign his son.”
While watching out for his sons, Max and Ian, Lexi Doner also suggested a local defenseman was worth a look.
“Seventeen-year-old Mason Stewart could not imagine living and playing in Cody, Wyoming,” Stewart said this week. “But I was fortunate enough that I knew somebody who put me in that position.
“I wasn’t getting any calls. I wasn’t the seasoned player that I was now.”
Still, Stewart was a find for the Quake, who went from the bottom tier of the NA3HL to the top tier in his first full season with the team and remained there.
Stewart completed a successful run in Cody this spring.
“Obviously, I wanted to do whatever we could to get back to Chicago and the [Fraser Cup] national tournament for the third straight season,” Stewart said. “Anything less would have been a major disappointment.
“We wanted to get to Chicago to show what we created was for real. I think we did that.”
The Quake again represented the widespread league’s Frontier Division as playoff champion when it came time to bring all the division champions together at the end of the season.
Stewart received individual attention as well as the NA3HL Defenseman of the Year.
“I was not worried about individual honors,” the 21-year-old from Maple Valley, Washington, said. “As long as we had team success, as leader of the team, I feel like it was a successful season for me.”
Stewart led the league with 66 assists in 47 games and led all defensemen with 79 points, more than doubling his output from a year ago.
The Quake fell just short of the Fraser Cup semifinals, losing out on a second-place tiebreaker in pool play, becoming the odd team that wins its final two playoff games only to be eliminated.
“We beat Binghamton, the regular-season champion, 4-3, then the next night we played the defending champion [Granite City Lumberjacks] and beat them in overtime. We needed to beat them in regulation.
“I wasn’t going to let a tiebreaker ruin everything. We were such a young team. I’m really proud of everything we accomplished.”
A leader to the end, Stewart scored the overtime game-winner in his final game, a 2-1 win over the Lumberjacks, a team going on to the semifinals.
Stewart plans to continue his hockey career in the fall at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Stewart’s honor was among the major postseason awards given out by the NA3HL.
Brad Becker from the Binghamton Junior Senators was named Most Valuable Player and Forward of the Year while Todd Sanden from the North Iowa Bulls was named Coach and General Manager of the Year.
Becker became the league’s all-time leading scorer while leading the league with 116 points and sharing the league lead with 53 goals.
Sanden guided the Bulls, who were also selected as the Organization of the Year.
The other awards included: Goaltender of the Year, Drew Scites, Great Falls Americans; Rookie of the Year, Cole Ouellette, LA Nordiques; Academic Achievement Award, Austin Cody, Evansville Jr. Thunderbirds; Community Service Award, Tyler Meyers, Texas Brahmas; Leadership Award, Fletcher Chun, Point Mallard Ducks.
Becker, Stewart, Ouellette and Scites were joined on the all-NA3HL first team by Metro Jets forward Connor Inger and Alexandria Blizzard forward Logan Nelson.
Ouellette is on the all-rookie team with La Crosse Freeze forward Clayton Lackey, Yellowstone forward Riley Buller, Binghamton forward Eric Melso, Texas defenseman Cameron Bickford and Yellowstone goalie Reid Waszczenko
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc