Friday, April 29, 2005

Kearney named NAHL MVP

Taormina honored as Rookie of the Year

Soo Indians goalie Jason Kearney was named the North American Hockey League's Most Valuable Player Thursday night at the Banquet of Champions in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Kearney’s play sparked a turnaround in the fortunes of the Indians after he was acquired from the Texarkana Bandits in November. The Indians stumbled out of the gate with a 2-7-1 mark, but brought it to 7-9-2 thanks to a good performance at the NAHL Showcase against the EJHL.

Kearney, a native of Gibsonia, Penn., posted a 24-8-3 record with a league-leading six shutouts. His 1.82 goals against average led the NAHL and his .922 save percentage trailed only the .923 mark of Bozeman’s Matt Cleveland, who also played 13 fewer games.

Texarkana defenseman Matt Taormina (Washington Township) was named NAHL Rookie of the Year. The 5-foot-10, 183-pounder stepped right into the Bandits lineup and became an impact player for the club.

Taormina was second in scoring among all NAHL defensemen this season and fifth in team scoring with 14 goals and 30 assists for 44 points. He was the only rookie to get an All-Star selection, being named to the second All-Star Team, and he was also selected to the NAHL All-Rookie team.

Texarkana head coach Jon Cooper won top coach honors. Cooper is a former HoneyBaked midget major AAA, Metro Jets Jr. B, Capital Centre Pride (NAHL) and Lansing Catholic Central High coach.

Soo forward R. G. Flath won the NAHL Community Service Award. A four-year member of the Indians, Flath has demonstrated outstanding leadership and citizenship as part of a Soo club that has long been more than just a hockey team, but also a community service organization. On a team that as a whole accumulated over 1,200 hours of community service this season -- an average of over 50 hours per player -- Flath, from Park City, Utah, contributed twice as many hours as the average. The list of his activities is extensive as he participated in four United Way/Soo Indians Benefit Spaghetti Dinners, worked at Sault Hockey Association Tournaments, the United Way Chili Cook-offs, the Halloween Community Hunted Houses, Valentine’s Day activities with local long-term care patients, as well as countless others.

Typical of the Soo captain’s involvement was his work in the Indians March Reading Month activities. Flath single-handedly organized the entire club -- all the members of the Indians organization visited eight elementary schools and over 30 classrooms to emphasize to the children in the community the importance of reading. As part of the program, each classroom was entered into a drawing to win a pizza party and a skate with the team and Flath was responsible for working with local businesses to acquire the donations of the pizza, drinks and ice time. He also volunteered each Tuesday and Thursday mornings for the pre-school “Learn to Skate” program at Pullar Stadium in Sault Ste. Marie.

Tom O’Brien of the Youngstown Phantoms won the Academic Achievment Award. He carried a perfect 4.6 grade point average in all advanced college placement classes. He achieved a 1540 score on his SATs this year and has received an academic scholarship from Notre Dame University.

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