With the Worcester Railers third season coming to an early close because of the COVID-19 pandemic it’s time to move on to the end of season paperwork. Last week saw Former Worcester hockey pros: where are they? 2019-20 final update, and this week we’ve got the “210 Awards”.
For those new to the “210 Awards”, they are a mix of serious and (hopefully) slightly humorous awards named for the moniker this writer uses on many message boards. Just remember, for the most part, these are just one man’s opinion and I like to spread these around a little so one player doesn’t get every award. This season’s winners are:
Best Forward: It doesn’t always go to the player with the most goals, but this season it does with Nic Pierog getting the nod here. His 22 goals led the Railers, and he was second to Barry Almeida in points on the team. His five shorthanded goals tied for the ECHL lead and tied the Worcester pro single-season record.
Best Defenseman: The Railers had a lot of issues on the blue line this season, but one player that clearly stood out as their most solid defenseman was rookie Justin Murray. With head coach Dave Cunniff looking for defensive combinations that worked only one player wasn’t a healthy scratch during that entire time, and that was Murray.
Tough Guy Award: Yanick Turcotte. Next.
Best Single-Game Performance: Ross Olsson‘s Gordie Howe hat trick on January 5th against Jacksonville earns the win here. Originally Olsson wasn’t credited with an assist on Shane Walsh’s second period goal, but the video showed he earned one and it was later changed. Not that it mattered, this writer was calling for that assist during the game and was calling it a Gordie Howe as soon as Olsson scored in the third period. He added a second goal later for good measure.
Most Improved: Drew Callin didn’t register his first point until the end of November, and then went on to finish third on the Railers in goals and fifth in points. Was that improvement because he just started playing better, or because he suddenly had better coaching? Either way, he’s an easy pick here.
Seventh Player Award: I have changed my mind on this one about a dozen times. There are four great choices here and each of them has had their name listed at least twice as I go through this. In fact, just before I mashed the publish button I changed it again, and this tear’s winner is Justin Murray.
Best Mid-season Addition: It was Jamie Russell who signed Shane Walsh in late October, but it was Dave Cunniff that turned him into one of the Railers’ best offensive weapons. A terrible season would have been much worse without him.
The “Mike Moore Award”: For the player that gives 100% every single shift no matter the score or the situation, Ross Olsson gets my vote. Fifth on the team in goals, first in fighting majors, and second in penalty minutes. And always at full throttle.
Rookie of the Year: Tied for third on the Railers for goals and fifth in points, Drew Callin gets the nod over a couple of the very worthy candidates. He’s one of the players that are almost a “must-see” in a Worcester uniform next season if the Railers are going to turn this around.
Most Valuable Player: Sometimes it’s hard to define “most valuable”, especially on a team that finished next to last in the league and at times looked like a bunch of guys that had never played together before. But in the end, it sometimes comes down to the guy fans are talking about as being the reason to keep watching, and that player this season was Ross Olsson.
The 210Sports Player of the Year: Nic Pierog, who was named 210Sports “Player of the Game” six times this season.
So now that we’ve gotten the serious awards out of the way, here are a few that this writer thinks should be handed out…
The “Three Stars award”: Evan Buitenhuis earns the first star, having 24 points (using 5/3/1 scoring) to lead the Railers. Nic Pierog had 19 points for the second star, Shane Walsh 15 for third.
The “Two-By-Two Award”: Dante Salituro, for having the most penalty minutes (24) without being assessed a major penalty. Salituro needed just 33 games to win the award but had the season continued he’d have been passed by at least three other Railers players.
The “Iron Man Award”: No player was in the line-up for all 61 games during the season, so we’ll put this one back on the shelf. Honorable mention goes to Justin Murray who played in 59 of the 61 contests, including the last 51.
The “Man In The Box Award”: We have a four-way tie with Cody Payne, Nic Pierog, Kyle Thomas, and Yanick Turcotte all being in the penalty box five times when a power play goal was scored against the Railers during the 2019-20 season. Turcotte did it in the fewest games played (30), so if there was a tiebreaker used he’d get the nod.
The “Dead-Eye Award”: Justin Murray, for having the lowest shooting percentage of any player with 35 or more shots on goal at 2.4% (2 for 85). The usual minimum for this award is 50 shots, but with the season shortened we’re going to do with 35. Not that it mattered anyway.
The “Buzzer Beater Award”: Nic Pierog for his first period goal on February 9th against Maine that’s officially listed as 19:57 of the period but, because of a clock malfunction, was really at 19:59 and some tenths.
The “Bigfoot Award”: Dylan Sadowy, who set the unofficial Railers record for the longest time listed on the roster without appearing in a game at 34 days. Oddly, the previous mark was set by Chris Rygus earlier this season at 25 days.
The “Whose Jersey Is This Award”: To Nick DeVito, Griff Jeszka, Alec Marsh, and Bryce Nielsen, who all wore the #21 this season for the Railers. Even more amazing, that was also the number assigned to Chris Rygus who never appeared in a game for Worcester.
The “F-Bomb Award”: Railers GM/Head Coach Dave Cunniff, for his rousing speech at the Booster Club’s holiday party where he said, “These guys deserve to win…so let’s go (blanking) win”.
The “Linens Award”: Dante Salituro, who, according to several players, took every single sheet, pillowcase, and towel out of the player apartment he was staying in with three teammates while the Railers were on the road. And not just his stuff, all of it.
The “In Cunniff We Trust Award”: Railers head coach David Cunniff, because fans do trust Cunniff to turn this franchise around and make us Kelly Cup contenders. So, yeah, no pressure Dave.
The “Golden BB Award”: Brent Beaudoin, whose first ECHL goal was the game winner against Adirondack on March 10, 2020.
The “David Haas Award”: The award that goes to the player with the most talent that uses the least of it, and for the first time in long while the committee (and yes, there really is a committee for this award) has decided that there will be “winner’ this season, and it’s Jordan Samuels-Thomas. He looked disinterested for most of the season, playing puck hog in the offensive zone and hardly doing anything in his own zone except waiting for Worcester to gain control so he could lead a rush back to the offensive end. For those that don’t remember IceCats forward David Haas, that’s exactly how he played here.