Air Force senior forward Mike Phillipich is the winner of the third annual Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award, announced Friday by the Hockey Commissioners’ Association.
The award was established by the HCA in honor of former Army player Derek Hines, who was a “consummate team player and team builder.” Hines played at Army from 1999-2003 and was a four-year letterwinner as well as a co-captain his senior season. He was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan in September 2006.
“I cannot begin to express what it means to win an award named after such an amazing individual like Derek Hines,” said Phillipich. “I was honored to be considered for the award and this is truly humbling. My teammates inspired me to give my all every day and I simply attempted to return the favor to them.”
On the ice, Phillipich was just the fifth player in Air Force history to be named team captain for two seasons. As a sophomore, he was named MVP of the Atlantic Hockey tournament as the Falcons landed their first NCAA tournament appearance.
As a junior and senior, he has continued to lead his team to two more NCAA tournament berths. This season he excelled as a defensive specialist, leading forwards in blocked shots and becoming a primary penalty-killer.
“Mike excels in everything he does,” says Dave Toller, Air Force’s Sports Information Director. “As an administrator in college athletics, it’s a great comfort to have a student-athlete like Mike, the kind of individual that always makes the right decisions and puts the U.S. Air Force Academy in such high esteem.”
Phillipich, a 24-year old native of Lansing, Mich., owns a 3.77 overall GPA and ranks second out of 73 systems engineering management majors. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Phillipich, who plans to work in the acquisitions field in the Air Force after graduation, is also an off-ice leader within the Academy. As a sophomore he was named course cadre for the Self-Aid and Buddy Care (SABC) program, making him an instructor for the incoming class.
Each of the six NCAA Division I hockey conferences submitted a nominee for the award that goes to the student-athlete who personifies Hines’ spirit and relentless commitment. The winner was chosen by sports information directors from the six conferences.