August 23, 2014
148
Games Today




WPHL announces "Best of the Best"

by Jason Cohen
March 19, 2001 - Western Professional Hockey League (WPHL)

2001 Western Professional Hockey League "Best of the Best" IV

Jason Cohen

Tupelo's Jason Firth, Austin's Brett Seguin, New Mexico's Randy Murphy and Bossier-Shreveport's Ken Carroll and Dan Wildfong are the big winners in the Western Professional Hockey League's Fourth Annual "Best of the Best" survey.

Coaches and players from each of the league's 13 teams were canvassed in 38 categories. The results were compiled by the WPHL with assistance from Austin American-Statesman beat writer, In the Crease contributor and Zamboni Rodeo author Jason Cohen.

In the coaching category, veteran Bill McDonald of Lubbock and second-year man Brent Hughes of Austin joins Odessa's Don McKee in a three-way tie. McKee, a Canadian juniors and college veteran, has made his Jacks this season's feel-good team.

"I think Donny McKee deserves to be the coach of year," Hughes said. "It's an honor to be in the company of both those guys."

Firth was voted Best Player Overall as well as Smartest Player. His 100 point-plus season is just another day at the office -- the veteran center once registered 162 in the United League.

"You've got to pay attention and focus on him," Ice Bats defenseman Derek Nicolson, a former teammate of Firth's in Thunder Bay, says. "He just sits in the weeds and waits, plays perimeter, jumps in, knows when to be at the net, when to be here, when to be there. He knows when to shoot and when to pass. He doesn't shoot unnecessarily. That's why he's got the best shooting percentage in the league."

Ken Carroll, whose club plays Tupelo a dozen times this year, confirms Nicolson's take. "I think it's his patience, and the intelligence he brings," the goalie says. "He doesn't waste a lot of energy." As for his own accolade as Best Goaltender, Carroll prefers to deflect attention to the Mudbugs system. "It comes down to the way our team plays a defensive game," he says. "Our defense has been great all year, and it's showing in my stats and Chad [Lang]'s stats."

Best Defensive Forward and Best Penalty Killer Dan Wildfong is a big part of that commitment. "He's like Denis Savard out there," Carroll says of his point-per-game, 200 PiM teammate. "He just doesn't stop working at all, whether it's in our zone or the offensive zone."

Given Tupelo's high-powered attack of Firth, Brant Blackned and Barry McKinlay (voted the #2 offensive defenseman, and the guy with the hardest shot), other T-Rex players can be lost in the shuffle. Fourth-year WPHLer Joe Van Volsen was recognized as the league's second most-underrated player, behind Kelly Smart.

"He's got great speed and he's real gritty," says Fort Worth coach Todd Lalonde, who has watched Van Volsen since their Ontario Hockey League days. "He plays with such edge and competitiveness that it's contagious for his whole team. I think it's real close between him and Smart."

Smart can't be too underrated -- he was also picked as second best player overall and #1 faceoff man. The young pivot, who has also logged time with the IHL Houston Aeros the past three seasons, does it all for Austin.

"You don't get many guys who can play both defensive hockey and offensive hockey and be top notch in both areas," Hughes says. Adds Brett Seguin, "he's probably been our most consistent guy the whole year." Best Playmaker and Stickhandler Seguin, who has been an All-Star in each of his three WPHL seasons as well as the last two in the CHL, "never takes the night off," Hughes says. "He has a burning desire to win. And he sees the ice great. He's like Wayne Gretzky. He'll know when a player will be in a spot, then he makes the pass to get it there."

Monroe's Jason Renard stakes a claim as the most feared player in the WPHL, taking both Best Fighter and Best Bodychecker. New Mexico's Mark Desantis and Tupelo's Regan Harper were named, respectively, Best Offensive and Best Defensive Defenseman.

After Harper, the Lubbock Cotton Kings provided both the #2 and #3 rearguards in veteran Brandon Carper and rookie Derek Holland. "They're extremely complete defensemen," Don McKee says. "They both bring offensive and defensive strengths. They both have very very heavy, hard hard shots. Carper especially loves to jump up and become the second or third man on the rush. And they're both able to play the physical game as well as the technical and tactical game."

In what could be an early preview of a tight race for the season- ending honor, Odessa's Konrad McKay edged out Carroll as Best Rookie. The undersized forward, who came to Odessa via the Philadelphia Flyers organization, leads the Jacks in scoring, but also plays a physical game while averaging over 60% a night on face-offs.

New Mexico had the third-best player overall in wily Peter Ambroziak, while teammate Randy Murphy was voted Best Skater and Best in a Shootout. Murphy is a truly dangerous speedster, but Bill McDonald also praises "his knowledge of the game -- how he sees the ice. As a guy who coaches against him, he's a player you really have to be concerned with."

The guy who fits that definition for McDonald's team is Kyle Reeves, who has shown a better-rounded game this year while leading the WPHL in goals. Reeve's skill was well represented in final polling, earning him Most Accurate Shooter honors. "He's got one thing a lot of players don't have, and that's an NHL shot," McDonald says. "He knows the game and knows how to get in the holes. If you can shoot the puck the way he does you're going to get a lot of goals." With the WPHL playoffs just around the corner, everyone in the "Best of the Best" will be working hard for those.

Results By category

Best Overall Player
1 Jason Firth, Tupelo
2 Kelly Smart, Austin
3 Peter Ambroziak, New Mexico

Best Skater
1 Randy Murphy, New Mexico
2 Bill Newson, Amarillo
3 Darren Dougan, Monroe

Best Stickhandler
1 Brett Seguin, Austin
2 Randy Murphy, New Mexico
3 Jason Firth, Tupelo

Best Playmaker
1 Brett Seguin, Austin
2 Jason Firth, Tupelo
3 Ron Newhook, Amarillo

Smartest Player
1 Jason Firth, Tupelo
2 Dale Henry, Bossier-Shreveport
3 Kelly Smart, Austin

Best Goaltender
1 Ken Carroll, Bossier-Shreveport
2 Grant Sjerven, Odessa
3 Johnathan Forest, Austin

Most Underrated Player
1 Kelly Smart, Austin
2 Joe Van Volsen, Tupelo
3 Peter Cava, Lubbock

Best on Power Play
1 Jason Firth, Tupelo
2 Kyle Reeves, Lubbock
3 Jean Blouin, San Angelo

Best Penalty Killer
1 Dan Wildfong, Bossier-Shreveport
2 Kelly Smart, Austin
3 Rob Giffin, Monroe

Most Accurate Shooter
1 Kyle Reeves, Lubbock
2 Brant Blackned, Tupelo
3 Jason Firth, Tupelo

Hardest Shooter
1 Barry McKinlay, Tupelo
2 Jason Smith, Monroe
3 Kyle Reeves, Lubbock

Best Shooter in Shout-Outs
1 Randy Murphy, New Mexico
2 Jean Blouin, San Angelo
3 John Hanson, Lake Charles

Best Goaltender in Shoot-Outs
1 Ken Carroll, Bossier-Shreveport
2 Steve DeBus, New Mexico
3 Grant Sjerven, Odessa

Best Defensive Forward
1 Dan Wildfong, Bossier-Shreveport
2 Matt Cressman, Monroe
3 Jason Campbell, Bossier-Shreveport

Best Offensive Defenseman
1 Mark DeSantis, New Mexico
2 Barry McKinlay, Tupelo
3 Jason Smith, Monroe

Best Defensive Defenseman
1 Regan Harper, Tupelo
2 Brandon Carper, Lubbock
3 Derek Holland, Lubbock

Best Player on Face-Offs
1 Kelly Smart, Austin
T2Konrad McKay, Odessa
T2Darren Dougan, Monroe

Best Bodychecker
1 Jason Renard, Monroe
2 Brad Wingfield, Corpus Christi
3 Jeff Greenlaw, Austin

Best Fighter
1 Jason Renard, Monroe
2 Jim Sprott, Bossier-Shreveport
3 Clint Cabana, Fort Worth

Best Power Forward
1 Dan Price, Austin
T2Dale Henry, Bossier-Shreveport
T2Justin Cardwell, Fort Worth

Best Rookie
1 Konrad McKay, Odessa
2 Ken Carroll, Bossier-Shreveport
3 Daniel Tetrault, Austin

Best Coach
T1Bill McDonald, Lubbock
T1Don McKee, Odessa
T1Brent Hughes, Austin

Best Fans
1 Austin Ice Bats
2 Lubbock Cotton Kings
3 Corpus Christi IceRays

Most Annoying Fans
1 Corpus Christi
2 Lubbock
3 Lake Charles

Toughest Building to Win in
1 Austin
2 Corpus Christi
3 Bossier-Shreveport

Best Arena
1 Bossier-Shreveport
2 Lubbock
3 Tupelo

Best Locker Rooms
1 Bossier-Shreveport
2 Lake Charles
3 Tupelo

Best Team Logo
1 Amarillo
2 Odessa
3 Corpus Christi

Best Team Uniforms
1 Amarillo
2 Corpus Christi
3 Monroe

Best Building Atmosphere
1 Lubbock
2 Austin
3 Corpus Christi

Best PA Announcer
1 Lake Charles
2 Monroe
3 Corpus Christi

Best Mascot
1 Bossier-Shreveport
2 Austin
3 Tupelo

Best On-Ice Promotions
1 Lubbock
2 Austin
3 Lake Charles

Best Building Music
1 Lake Charles
2 Lubbock
3 Austin

Best City
1 Austin
2 Corpus Christi
3 Lubbock

Best Arena Ice Quality
1 Bossier-Shreveport
2 Monroe
3 Lubbock

Loudest Building
1 Lubbock
2 Corpus Christi
3 Austin

Best Press Box
1 Lubbock
2 Bossier-Shreveport
3 Amarillo

• Discuss this story on the Western Professional Hockey League message board...
Digg this story
• Add to Del.icio.us


Western Professional Hockey League Stories from March 19, 2001


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.