© — Star file photo
Chad Jones is shown in this undated photo.
CORNER BROOK The Colemans Western Kings grabbed the lion’s share of the silverware when the provincial major midget hockey league handed out its awards during a banquet in Mount Pearl Saturday night.
Kings forward Ian Skinner got the nod as the league’s most gentlemanly and effective player for the 2012-2013 Newfoundland and Labrador Major Hockey League campaign, while teammate Chad Jones was selected top defenceman, Jordan King won rookie of the year and coach Angus Head was picked as the coach of the year with the coaches on the respective franchises voting on the various awards.
St. John’s Privateers puckstopper Chris Smith was chosen the top goalie, Cody Drover of the Central Ice Pak was the league’s Most Valuble Player and two other awards — the top scorer and best Goals Against Average — will be decided on statistics from the regular campaign. Those two awards can’t be handed out until a game between the Ice Pak and St. John’s Maple Leafs that was postponed earlier in the year has been played and that should happen this weekend.
Skinner, who holds down third spot in the scoring race, has collected 21 goals and 19 assists for 40 points in 24 games while only accumulating 10 penalty minutes.
“He’s one of the guys this year, among many of them, who came with a great determination that you know what this is his last year and he’s putting everything he got into it,” coach Angus Head said of his skilled sniper who is a leader both on and off the ice.
Jones, a hard-nosed defender who likes to punish opposing forwards, had five goals and 10 assists in 22 games. The robust rearguard had two power-play goals and a game-winning goal to show for his efforts, and he brought an element of toughness and physicality as evident by his 84 penalty minutes, which was the third highest on the team.
“As far as I’m concerned Chad Jones is the most valuable player in the league, but that’s another story,” Head said.
Jones is a feared rearguard who wears the C for the Kings, and a lot of people around the league have trouble believing Jones is only a kid when they look at his brute strength.
“He’s by far the strongest kid in this league heads over everybody and every team has a fear of playing against him,” he said. “When he’s on the ice they just won’t go in his corner. You’ll see guys give up the puck or pass it off because they know he’s coming across the ice.”
King was impressive in his rookie season with the Kings with nine goals and 21 assists, two of his goals ended up being game-winners. His 30 points in 24 games was good enough for seventh spot in the league’s top scorers with only one more game to go.
“He’s bringing it all to the table and I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him,” the coach said of the talented rookie forward. ““He’s been a great impact, he’s a a very gifted kid and he’s certainly going to get bigger if he’s like his father.”
Head guided the Kings to a regular season record of 19 wins and five losses for 38 points, which put the Kings into a tie for top spot with the St. John’s Privateers (17-3-1-3), but the west coast squad had more wins so it gave them first place overall and a showdown with the Central Ice Pak in a best-of-seven semifinal series that starts with the first two games at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook — Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 17 at 10 a.m.
The Kings may very well add more silverware with power forward David Budgell leading the scoring race with 41 points (18G, 23A) and only one player — MVP Cody Drover of the Ice Pak — capable of catching him. Drover is three points behind with 18 goals and 20 helpers, so he’ll need to have a four-point game against the St. John’s Maple Leafs in the final game of the regular campaign to overtake the big winger.
Head took over the Kings last season when coach Ben Fitzgerald resigned late in the regular season when he saw the Kings were having trouble finding somebody to fill the role. He returned behind the bench this season and has been able to keep his team on the winning track despite running into challenges with injuries, suspensions and tough opposition around the league.
With about 20 years of coaching under his belt, Head kept his charges focused for the final weekend tournament in Mount Pearl where they clinched top spot with four-straight wins, including a huge 5-3 triumph over the second-place St. John’s Privateers in the first game of the showcase tournament at the Glacier.
Some observers of the major midget scene were thinking the Kings would be in tough heading down the stretch after Quebec Major Junior Hockey League star Jordan Kennedy went down with a shoulder injury. Such wasn’t the case as Head was able to motivate other key cogs in the machine to bring their game to the next level. Kennedy has since been released by the Kings so he could rejoin the Gatineau Olympiques.
Kings GM Leonard Smith said Head was a great choice for the award and deserves a lot of credit for turning the Kings into a contending team on the provincial major midget scene. Smith has been impressed with how the coach has been able to get the players really focused on playing good hockey as a cohesive group. He also likes how Head has been able to keep the team on a winning track with the players also doing quite well on the academic side with excellence in the classroom.
“He came on board and everybody is focused. Everybody really wants to be a team and do as best they can,” Smith said of his coach. “They are a focused team. They’ve really changed.”