Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - Submitted by Ellie-Marie Watts
The Proski Newcastle North Stars held its annual presentation at Club Macquarie, Argenton, on Wednesday, August 17.
North Stars players, coaches, management, sponsors, volunteers and fans took time out to reflect on the season so far, and to recognise that the job is not done yet.
Just two weeks remain in the 2016 Australian Ice Hockey League season.
The North Stars will play its final games in the regular season at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium this weekend (August 20-21) - against Adelaide Adrenaline (Saturday) and Melbourne Mustangs (Sunday).
While the North Stars have cemented their spot in the AIHL Finals, to be played in Melbourne August 27-28, this weekend's games are still important to win.
The points gained from winning the games will determine where on the AIHL ladder the North Stars will finish their season, and who they will face in the August 27 semi final.
Currently, the North Stars sit fourth on the ladder with 48 points behind CBR Brave (51 points), Perth Thunder (54 points) and Melbourne Ice (63 points). Six points are available to the North Stars this weekend, mathematically meaning they have a chance of ending their season with 54 points.
In the AIHL, the teams that finish first and fourth on the ladder will face each other in a semi final and the third and fourth placed teams will face each other in a second semi final.
The winner of the two semi finals, both played on the Saturday, face each other the following day in the grand final.
At Wednesday night's presentation, Newcastle North Stars general manager Garry Dore spoke about the dedication of the players this year and praised the team of people that have helped players off the ice.
North Stars coach Andrew Petrie reflected on the season, saying that many fans of the sport believed that, after winning the championship last year, the North Stars would not be as dominant this season.
"Last year we stayed pretty level," Petrie said.
"This year, we've had some ups and downs. But what it has shown is that we have gears. And when the going gets tough, we can kick it up a gear and lift."
Petrie and assistant coach Joey Theriault announced the award winners, with the 'big' one - most valuable player - going to import and AIHL scoring leader Connor McLaughlin.
McLaughlin, who has scored 33 goals and made 25 assists to gain 58 points, sits eight points clear of the second leading scorer - Wehebe Darge from Adelaide.
Petrie said that, while difficult to single out one player as being most valuable, he decided the winner based on "who we couldn't have done without this season".
"It's been an honour and a pleasure to watch you play," Petrie said.
"He battles for every piece of ice, for every single puck, he takes every shot. You couldn't have asked for a better import."
For a second year running, defenseman Mat Lindsay won the Tony Huntley Award for Best Australian Player.
Fellow defenseman John Kennedy won the Best Defensive Player Award.
Pat Nadin, who has played with the North Stars for two seasons, was awarded Most Improved Player. Nadin, who has risen through the ice hockey ranks with the North Stars club, has had an outstanding season having scored seven goals and making three assists.
The Most Dedicated Player Award went to two North Stars this year - captain Robert Malloy and goaltender Dayne Davis.