Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Whalers close season with awards banquet

The Plymouth Whalers finished the 2005-2006 season with an awards banquet held last night at Ginopolis on the Ice Restaurant inside the Compuware Sports Arena.

Plymouth general manager and head coach Mike Vellucci was succinct in summing up the feelings for his team at the banquet.

"Working with this team was the most fun I've had in fifteen years of coaching," Vellucci said. "Sometimes in January and February, the season drags on. But I didn't feel like that this year.

"This year's team got no respect around the league. Nobody except John Vigilante made an all-star team. We got very little mention on the Coaches' Poll and no consideration for Rookie of the Year.

"But in playing the way our team played this year, they earned everyone's respect."

The following players received awards:

REGULAR SEASON MOST VALUABLE PLAYER, LEADING SCORER and ALICE IAFRATE AWARD (OVERAGE OF THE YEAR) – Outgoing captain Vigilante (Dearborn), who scored 24 goals with 53 assists for 77 points this season. Vigilante (pictured above) finished his career in Plymouth sixth on the team’s all-time career list in scoring (245 points), ninth in career goals (93), fifth in career assists (153) and third in career games played (254). Vigilante signed as a free agent with the Nashville Predators last December.

BEST DEFENSEMANSteve Ward, who scored 14 goals with 33 assist for 47 points and 90 penalty minutes in 67 games.

SCHOLAR-ATHLETE – Overage defenseman Mike Letizia, who carried a B average at Schoolcraft Community College. Letizia finished his career in Plymouth fifth overall on the Whalers’ all-time games played list with 247 and has signed as a free agent with the United Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs.

TOP ROOKIE – Center Chris Terry, who scored nine goals with 19 assists for 28 points in 64 games.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER – Second-year left wing Tom Sestito, who scored 10 goals with 10 assists for 20 points and 176 penalty minutes in 57 games. Sestito is one of the Whalers eligible to be selected in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

HARDEST WORKER – First-year right wing Jared Boll, who scored 19 goals with 22 assists for 41 points and 205 penalty minutes in 65 games. Boll was a fourth-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets last July.

BARBARA ANN KARMANOS COMMUNITY GOALS AWARD – Second-year goaltender Justin Garay, who played an integral part in the Compuware Sports Arena’s Learn-to-Skate Program and worked tirelessly in the Whalers’ community relations events over the course of the 2005-2006 season.

PLAYOFF MOST VALUABLE PLAYER – Third-year left wing James Neal, who led the Whalers in scoring in the playoffs with nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 13 games. Neal is a 2005 second-round pick of the Dallas Stars.

This season, Plymouth won their eighth West Division title since 1994-1995 in going 35-28-1-4. After winning their Western Conference quarterfinal series in seven dramatic games against the Windsor Spitfires, the Whalers were eliminated in six games by the Guelph Storm in the Western Conference semifinals.

NEXT UP: Plymouth will be participating in the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection on Saturday, May 6. The Whalers pick 13th in the first round.

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