USA Hockey

NWHL Awards recognizes the top players this season

The National Women’s Hockey League recognized the top players on Tuesday with the the second annual NWHL Awards.

There were six awards given out: The Most Valuable Player, chosen by the NWHL Players Association, the Best Defender, chosen by the media, the Best Goaltender, chosen by the media, the Denna Laing Award, chosen by the NWHLPA, the NWHL Fans’ Three Stars of the Season, chosen by fans and the NWHL Foundation Award, chosen by the league’s general managers.

The Boston Pride, who were 16-1-0 this season were recognized as the 2016-17 regular season champions and Brianna Decker was honored as the league’s Leading Scorer (she went 14-17-31 in 17 games.)

Here are the recipients of the 2017 NWHL Awards.

Most Valuable Player: Brianna Decker, Boston Pride

“Being selected by her peers as MVP for the second year in a row is a well-deserved honor for Brianna,” Bobby Jay, Pride head coach said. “Outside of her obvious skills – skating, passing, shooting – what separates her from others is her extreme competitiveness and drive. She so badly wants to win and be the best player all the time. She practices like she plays in every game.”

Best Defender: Megan Bozek, Buffalo Beauts

“Although she’s known for her booming shot, Boz is much more than that,” said Beauts assistant coach Craig Muni. “She’s outstanding in both ends of the ice. She’s difficult to play against, controls the pace of a game, rushes at will and quarterbacks our power play. She is a team leader whose international experiences have been invaluable to our rookie defenders.”

Best Goaltender: Katie Fitzgerald, New York Riveters

“Katie has been great for us all season,” Sis Paulsen Riveters assistant coach said. “I’d seen her play at St. Cloud State and knew what she was capable of. She’s a great person and always very supportive of our other goalies, Sojung Shin and Sarah Bryant. They push each other, and the result is that we’ve had strong goaltending all season. Katie has always had a strong worth ethic. Now her confidence is high.”

Denna Laing Award: Ashley Johnston, New York Riveters

To the player who most exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to her sport

“Ashley is our captain and leader on and off the ice,” Wiseman said. “When you see her commitment in getting from her day job hours away to our practices and games, it shows how dedicated she is not just to the Riveters, but women’s ice hockey. She’s a role model. We’re very proud of her.”

The NWHL Fans’ Three Stars of the Season: Anya Battaglino, Connecticut WhaleHarrison Browne, Buffalo Beauts; Rebecca Russo, New York Riveters

“To be selected alongside two of the league’s brightest stars, Harrison and Rebecca, is such an honor,” Battaglino said.

[More from Excelle Sports: NWHL transgender player Harrison Browne to undergo a physical transition at end of season]

“They are both such amazing pioneers and have done so much to move our sport forward and develop deep connections with our fans. The fans are the lifeblood of the NWHL and their support is the reason we are able to chase our dreams. Thank you for all of the love, the support, and the fun. The league is made better every single day by our fans and I couldn’t imagine this journey without them.”

NWHL Foundation Award: Alyssa Gagliardi, Boston Pride; Kelsey Neumann, Buffalo Beauts; Elena Orlando, Connecticut Whale; Michelle Picard, New York Riveters

“Every player in our league is an incredible advocate for the game, but this season Alyssa, Kelsey, Elena and Michelle are among the very best,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan. “We are proud that they are part of the NWHL and grateful for their service to women’s hockey.”

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