IceDogs announce 2014 award winners

Niagara IceDogs Player

With the 2013-14 IceDogs season having come to an end on Tuesday night, the team announced its 2014 IceDogs Award Winners at a team dinner on Wednesday night.

The award winners were as follows.

Top Overage Player
The IceDogs Overage Player of the Year for 2014 was Eric Ming. Ming was an early season pickup from the Kitchener Rangers and was tremendous for the IceDogs all season, finishing second on the team with 32 goals in 49 games with the IceDogs. Ming was also strong for the ‘Dogs in the playoffs leading the team with 5 points in 7 games. In addition to his production, Ming also provided some veteran leadership, finishing the season as the lone overage player on the youngest team in the CHL. With his OHL career finished, Ming will now be moving on to Queens University where he will continue playing hockey and complete his schooling.

Rookie of the Year
The IceDogs Rookie of the Year for the 2014 season went to Vince Dunn. Dunn joined the IceDogs this season after having been drafted by the IceDogs in the 6th round of the 2012 OHL Priority Selection and spending last season with the Thorold Blackhawks. The 17 year old Lindsay native was certainly worth the wait for the ‘Dogs, leading all IceDogs rookies in points with 33 in 63 games, second among IceDogs defenceman behind only Luke Mercer. The 33 points were also the most by an IceDogs rookie defenceman since the team moved to Niagara.

Most Sportsmanlike
The most sportsmanlike IceDog for 2014 went to Brendan Perlini. Perlini enjoyed a breakout season for the IceDogs, putting up 71 points in only 58 games for the IceDogs, finishing second in points, while leading the team with 34 goals. A potential top 10 pick in the upcoming NHL draft, Perlini showed exactly the type of skill the IceDogs were hoping for when he was acquired from the Barrie Colts for Mitchell Theoret last season. On top of this, Perlini accomplished this while picking up only 36 minutes in penalties despite often being matchup against teams most physical, shutdown players.

Humanitarian Award
Anthony DiFruscia was named the IceDogs 2014 Humanitarian of the Year. The sophomore IceDogs forward enjoyed a solid second season providing some grit on the top line and picking up 25 goals and 27 assists for 52 points in 67 games, to go along with 140 penalty minutes. The solid season on the ice was topped off the ice with the Thorold native making a team leading 20 appearances throughout the season at various locations throughout the Niagara Region. DiFruscia always showed a fantastic attitude throughout these appearances, visiting schools, hospitals and a variety of community events with a smile on his face and a willingness to do whatever he could to make someone’s day.

Heart of the Team and Top Defenceman
The 2014 Heart of the Team and Top Defenceman awards went to captain Luke Mercer. A fourth year, career IceDog, Mercer was named the IceDogs captain in November after the trade of fellow veteran defenceman Jesse Graham to Saginaw. The move also left Mercer as the lone IceDogs defenceman who had more than a season of experience coming into this season. Mercer embraced the role, leading IceDogs defencemen with 39 points in 61 games. In addition to his offensive production, Mercer was also counted on to log big minutes on the IceDogs blueline, often matching up against the oppositions top offensive talent. In addition to his on ice production, the 19 year old Toronto native also provided a great deal of leadership for the young IceDogs squad both on and off the ice.

Most Valuable Player
The Niagara IceDogs Most Valuable Player for 2014 is Carter Verhaeghe. The Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick was simply outstanding for the IceDogs in 2013-14, putting together a breakout season that saw him nearly double his point production from 44 points in 2012-13, to a team leading 82 points in 65 games this season. The career high point total also saw Verhaeghe easily set career highs in goals (28) and assists (54). Verhaeghe was counted on to step up and help fill the void left by the departure of veterans such as Ryan Strome and Brett Ritchie and did so as well as anyone could have hoped. His efforts this season saw him rewarded immediately after the season, with the Waterdown native signing an entry level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who then assigned him to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies for the remainder of the season.

The awards luncheon officially closed out the 2013-14 Niagara IceDogs season, which saw the youngest team in the CHL put together a number of memories in the final season at the Jack. With such a young team, very little was expected of the IceDogs from outsiders, but the ‘Dogs refused to quit at any point in the season and showed a great deal of fight. That drive led them not only to a playoff birth, but within a game of the second round as the 7th seeded IceDogs pushed a veteran North Bay squad to the limit in their second round series. With all but overager Eric Ming eligible to return for the IceDogs next season, the experience of this season is sure to do wonders for the IceDogs as they begin a new chapter in their history at the Meridian Centre next season.

Kevin Legros
Kevin Legros is the Executive Editor of LocalSportsReport.com and the Managing Editor of the OHL Blog. He follows all local sports in the Niagara Region including the Niagara IceDogs, where he has been a season ticket holder since the first season. Kevin was involved in the process of planning for the IceDogs new home arena, the Meridian Centre, which included sitting as a member of the Mayor's Task Force Committee, the St. Catharines Entertainment and Sports Complex Advocacy Committee and the Meridian Centre Fundraising Task Force Committee.