Ayers Wins Walter Brown Award

New Hampshire goaltender Mike Ayers was named winner of the 51st annual Walter Brown Award, given annually to New England’s best American-born Division I college hockey player.

Salem State senior defenseman Nick Stauder will receive the Gridiron Club’s third annual Joe Concannon Award, given to the top American-born hockey player from NCAA Division II and III colleges in New England.

Ayers posted a 24-7-6 record for the 2002-2003 campaign in backstopping New Hampshire to a share of the Hockey East regular-season title and the Wildcats’ second consecutive Hockey East playoff crown. He was a first team All-Hockey East selection and was named the league’s co-player of the year along with Boston College junior center Ben Eaves. Eaves was a close second in balloting for the Walter Brown Award, while Merrimack senior goalie Joe Exter finished a strong third.

Ayers posted his sixth shutout of the year with a 1-0 win over Boston University in the 2003 Hockey East championship game at the Fleet Center. It was the first shutout ever in the conference’s title match, and with it Ayers broke the single-season UNH record of five shutouts set by Ty Conklin in 2000-2001. He finished the season with a 24-7-6 record, a 2.20 goals-against average, and a .925 save percentage.

Ayers, from Hingham, Mass., came to New Hampshire by way of Thayer Academy, [nl]Trinity Pawling Prep, and the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League. He is the fourth UNH player to earn the Walter Brown Award, following Bob Miller (1977), Ralph Cox (1979), and Conklin, who shared the award in 2001 with BC’s Brian Gionta.

“Mike has been so good for us and so steady all year long, it’s almost been easy to take him for granted,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “He’s also been a great off-ice leader. A wonderful choice for the Walter Brown Award.”

According to Salem State coach Bill O’Neill, Nick Stauder is one of the most dangerous players in the game, proficient on both offense and defense from his blueline position. He scored 10 goals and collected 25 assists this season in leading the Vikings to a 15-9-3 record and fourth seed in the ECAC East playoffs.

Stauder finished his Salem State years with 26 goals and 56 assists for 82 points in 96 contests. He was twice named a first team all-star by both the ECAC and MASCAC. Before coming to Salem State, he played for the New England Junior Coyotes.

“I knew Joe Concannon very well during my playing days at BU,” said O’Neill. “And I couldn’t be more pleased that Nick is receiving this award that’s named for Joe. Nick has always represented Salem State with dignity and class. He had an outstanding career here and capped it off this year with his best season.”

Other players who received strong support in the balloting for the Joe Concannon Award included junior forward Nick Cote of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts; junior defenseman Lou DiMasi of Norwich; and sophomore forward Sean Pero of Curry.

The 2003 Walter Brown and Joe Concannon Awards will be presented at the New England Hockey Writers’ Dinner on April 16 in Saugus, Mass. Last year, Jim Fahey of Northeastern received the Walter Brown Award and Mike Carosi of Bowdoin was winner of the Joe Concannon Award.