LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Yale captain Ray Giroux was named the ECAC Player of the Year today at the annual ECAC Awards banquet. Giroux, who was also voted Best Defenseman, finished 12 points ahead of the runner-up, Rensselaer’s Eric Healey, in balloting by league coaches.
Giroux is the first defenseman to win the award since Daniel LaPerriere of St. Lawrence in 1992, and just the eighth since its inception in 1968.
“Sometimes defensemen don’t get a lot of recognition, so it’s nice to win it from back here,” Giroux said. “But it’s a reflection of the entire defense [and] the coaching staff, and from top to bottom, everyone deserves a pat on the back.”
“I wanted to put Ray’s name down for every category,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor on voting for the league awards. “Any MVP for a team makes everyone around them a lot better. Ray Giroux has held the bar high for our whole program this year.”
Other league hardware handed out today included Taylor receiving the Coach of the Year Award. Taylor guided his Bulldogs to the regular-season ECAC title after being voted in the coaches’ preseason poll to finish in the tenth position.
“Some years things fall into place, and the best coaching jobs are sometimes done in the years when you don’t get all the accolades,” said Taylor. “The timing, and above all else the chemistry of the players, play a role. You can coach, coach and coach, but if you don’t have the players out there doing the job, we as coaches don’t get our backs patted.”
“I’m happy for him because he’s gone through some tough times as well,” said Giroux. “He’s always been the hardest-working coach in the nation, and it’s a testament to his resiliency that we won the title.”
Brown’s Roger Grillo was second in the voting after taking the Bears from a 12th-place finish last year to fourth this year. Both coaches are in contention for the Spencer Penrose National Coach of the Year Award.
Clarkson’s Buddy Wallace received the Best Defensive Forward Award, finishing two points ahead of Princeton’s Syl Apps III.
“It was a surprise to me,” said Wallace. “Here I was not thinking that you could get recognized for something like this. I mean, I just go out every day and do my best.
“I was shocked that I was in the running,” he added. “Coach always told me that defense was the key. I worked on trying to be a good defensive player because I knew that I wasn’t the greatest offensive player.”
“He’s played wing, he’s played center, and he’s played defense — he’s played everything but goal,” said Clarkson head coach Mark Morris. “But his number-one position is forward, and sometimes you don’t get accolades for that position. He wins key faceoffs, he doesn’t say a lot, but every team that we play knows that they are going to face Buddy Wallace.”
A pair of Clarkson freshmen won the Rookie of the Year Award. Forward Erik Cole and defenseman Willie Mitchell tied for the award, finishing ahead of Harvard’s Chris Bala, Colgate’s Cory Murphy and Vermont’s Andreas Moborg.
“This is kind of a feather in the cap,” said Mitchell. “I thought that this award was something that my roommate (Cole) should have brought home himself.
“It’s a great honor; I just don’t know what to say,” he added. “I just go out and work my hardest and try to get to the goal of the national championship. If things like this happen it just is something that is because of the team succeeding.”
“At the start of the year I didn’t come around like I wanted to,” said Cole. “I’ve always had aspirations to play for Clarkson, and now those dreams are a reality. And to win the Rookie of the Year along with my roommate is an honor.”
“They are mature beyond their years, not only in their play, but off the ice,” said Morris. “I know that they are two of most talented guys that I have ever coached this early in their careers, and they have a bright future ahead of them.”
“Lo and behold, here’s this 6-4, 215-pound defenseman with all kinds of skill,” said Morris about finding Mitchell on a recruiting trip in Saskatchewan. “It just so happens that it was a good match, and he winds up at Clarkson.
“(Cole) is a fine talent and a an explosive forward and we can use him in any situation,” added Morris. “He’s a tremendous competitor, and our tribute to him is that Cole is becoming a great all-around player.”
The Dryden Award for Goaltender of the Year went to Yale’s Alex Westlund. He finished 17 points ahead of Cornell’s Jason Elliott.
“Any award like this is a reflection on how everyone else is doing their job,” said Westlund. “I think at least for me, that’s the best way to say it all.
“This is just icing on the cake,” he added. “I just hope we’re standing with the hardware at the end of the weekend.”
“We were blessed with an outstanding goaltender who had an outstanding year,” said Taylor. “To put it plain and simply, statistics don’t lie.”
The ECAC All-Star teams were also announced at the luncheon. On the first team, the ECAC’s leading scorer, Eric Healey, Brown’s Damian Prescott and Yale’s Jeff Hamilton were named as the forwards. Giroux and Princeton’s Steve Shirreffs were named as defensemen, and Westlund the goaltender.
The second team was comprised of Cornell’s Jason Elliott in goal and Brown’s Jimmy Andersson and Clarkson’s Mitchell on defense. Chris Clark of Clarkson, Paul DiFrancesco of St. Lawrence and Jeff Halpern of Princeton were the forwards.
The ECAC All-Rookie Team is comprised of Cole and Mitchell, Harvard’s Steve Moore and Chris Bala, Colgate’s Cory Murphy, and Vermont’s Andreas Moborg and Andrew Allen.