(Article courtesy of Roy Lang III, Shreveport Times) One opposing coach says Greg Pankewicz is a sick hockey player. In 21st Century hockey terminology, sick is about as good as it gets or simply the Best of the Best. The veteran Colorado Eagles forward garnered 47 of a possible 48 votes en route to dominating Best Player honors in the Central Hockey Leagues 2005 Best of the Best poll. He is just a very, very gifted hockey player that has played at the NHL level and rightfully so, Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs head coach Scott Muscutt said. I dont think anybody did Greg Pankewicz a favor to get there. He is good enough to be there. Hes just a sick hockey player.
Pankewicz, who also collected the Hardest Shot, and the Eagles own the CHLs best record so it should come as no surprise they won a league-high six categories in the annual survey of players, coaches and broadcasters. Rookie Tyler Weiman was voted the Best Goaltender and Ryan Tobler the Best Power Forward. Colorados fans also received accolades as the best in the league while the Budweiser Events Center was named the Toughest Place to Win.
Pankewiczs talent more never more evident this season than at the 2005 CHL All-Star Game in Laredo, Texas. Driven by the fact his 20-year-old teammate was in net, the veteran scored five goals and collected nine points on the night. Thats ridiculous, Muscutt said. Anytime you bring the leagues best together and a guy stands out like that, I think that speaks volumes. There was no loafing for the former NHLer at the showcase event; he had plenty of reason to be motivated.
Everyone knows Ive taken a liking to Weiman, Pankewicz said. I didnt want Tyler to be shell-shocked. Wanted to get him a comfortable lead, hes only in for 20 minutes. It all worked out well. Weiman, a fifth-round draft pick by the Colorado Avalanche has been a pleasant surprise to say the least for the second-year CHL franchise. The rookie leads the league in every goaltender category, compiling a 28-5-5 record with a 1.77 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage. He has already tied the CHL record with eight shutouts.
Coming into this year we didnt know what we had. I dont think anybody knew, Tobler said. No one expected him to put up the numbers hes put up. Its awesome. Hes stolen us hockey games on nights when we havent been sharp. Hes giving us a chance "
Weiman credit Pankewicz for making him feel welcome to professional hockey. Whatever he says you have nothing but the utmost respect for, Weiman said. You want to live and learn by his examples hes been to the places you want to go the NHL. Whatever Greg says to me I try to learn from it.
Don Parsons, the CHLs leading goal scorer (48), was the only player to garner the hat trick this year. The Memphis RiverKings legend was named the Smartest Player, Best Stickhandler and the Best on the Power Play. The awards come during a special season for Parsons, who has collected his 1,000th career point and moved to the top of Memphis all-time scoring list.
The Mudbugs succeed where they normally do in categories that have nothing to do with raw talent, but rather grit and determination. Dan Wildfong, the pest whose job is to get the opposing players, coaches and fans to hate him, surprisingly was named the Best Leader. He leads Bossier-Shreveport in every major offensive category and has been dominant when it counts this season. More than half of his 29 goals have come in the third period, overtime or a shootout.
The guy you hate to play against and love to have on your team, said Colorado forward Ryan Tobler. We dont play them enough, but we play them enough to know who he is and know enough to not like him very much.
Wildfongs honor was just one of four for the organization. Muscutt has his team headed toward its second straight Northeast Division title and was again named the Best Coach while his club repeated as the Hardest Working Team. Even the teams most loyal supporters got in on the act, taking home the Best Booster Club award.
Wildfongs award comes in the midst of a whirlwind season for the veteran. With the teams leading scorer and three of the best veterans ever to play for the organization gone for the 2004-05 season, the Mudbugs had some glaring holes to fill. They were forced to fill tangible roles, and the oh-so-important needs that are impossible to measure. Wildfong took them all on.
When he pulls that jersey over his head, it doesnt matter who he plays for hes going to play the same. He has a lot of pride in what he does. I like the way he plays, Pankewicz said. He competes every shift, doesnt take a shift off. You go through a 60-minute hockey game and he just doesnt go away. This year hes tamed it down a little bit because theyve needed a little more offense for him. Hes not afraid of anybody. Hes got some character.
Brad Lukowich, the only remaining NHLer in the league knew the Mudbugs were going to be tough after the first game of the season. We look at Shreveport as the team to beat in this league, said Lukowich, a member of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. They arent a big team, but their smallest guy was running our big guys. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. Our team can take a lesson from them.
Beside Pankewicz and Parsons, the only player to collect more than one honor was Amarillos Dave Rattray. The 32-year-old Edmonton native was named the Best Defensive Forward and the Best Player on Face-Offs. Derek Hahn (Most Underrated Player) and Stomp (Best Mascot) joined Rattray as winners in Amarillo.
Jason Duda, the leading scorer in the league this season was named the Best Playmaker. Hes a smart player, thinks the game out well, Wildfong said. Hes always in the right spot at the right time. Together with teammate Travis Clayton, Duda and the Wichita Thunder have the second best record in the league and have already clinched a playoff spot in the Northern Conference.
The Thunder fans drew perhaps the most infamous honor the Most Annoying Fans. Thats a compliment in a way, Wildfong said. When you hate to play against someone, it makes it tough. They are always yelling something at you and the glass is really low there so you can hear them. It sparks their team.
Memphis forward Phil Aucoin emerged from an incredible crop of young players this season to be named the Best Rookie. He scored a goal in overtime against us that showed us this kids the real deal, Muscutt said. From that point on, we made sure we kept a thumb on him. We didnt want him to sneak through us again.
The team and geography changed for defenseman Bernie John this season, but his play remains as steady as ever. The Corpus Christi veteran was named the Best Offensive Defenseman. You really have to watch him, hes a really smart D, Wildfong said. Hell let you come, almost hit him and then hell be gone the other way. Hes one of the best puckhandlers in the league put those things together and that makes him a threat whenever he takes the ice. The Rayz collected three more wins: Ryan Carter (Best Penalty Killer), The Sting Team (Best Dance Team) and the AmericanBank Center (Best Arena Music).
Oklahoma City was another organization to grab four awards. Tyler Fleck (Best Body Checker) and Ben Buckland (Best PA Announcer) won individual honors while the Ford Center won for Best Arena and Best Locker Rooms.
Laredo forward Brent Cullaton, currently playing the AHL, was named the leagues Best Skater. New Mexico tough guy Shawn Legault was a repeat winner as the leagues Best Fighter. Guys give him room, Kenny Goetz said, referring to the fact Legault has collected more than 40 points this season a career high for the 6-foot-3 winger. Thats pretty neat for a guy coming from that background.
As the CHLs roster restrictions tightened, it made it tougher for teams to keep enforcers but according to Goetz, it hasnt diminished their importance. And Legault has adjusted his game. You dont have to have a 6-foot-5 killer on your team like it used to be. You have to have a guy that is willing to defend his teammates it serves a purpose, Goetz said. Its even more important now to be able to play. That doesnt mean you have to go out and score and produce points, but you have to be able to skate, you have to be able to play good defense, you have to be a character guy you have to bring something to the table other than the fighting.
2004-2005 CHL "Best of the Best" Poll Results
Individual team polls completed by players, coaches and public relations/broadcasting staff, listing their top three selections in each category. All first place votes counted as three points, all second place votes counted as two
points, and all third place votes counted as a single point. Top three vote-getters in each category listed.
1 - Best Overall Player
Greg Pankewicz, Colorado, 15-1-0=47
Don Parsons, Memphis, 1-5-3=16
Travis Clayton, Wichita, 1-2-4=11
2 - Best Skater
Brent Cullaton, Laredo, 7-0-0=21
Riley Nelson, Colorado, 3-3-1=16
Randy Murphy, New Mexico, 1-3-1=10
3 - Best Stickhandler
Don Parsons, Memphis, 2-2-2=12
Michel Beausoleil, Oklahoma City, 2-1-1=9
Derek Hahn, Amarillo, 1-1-3=8
4 - Best Playmaker
Jason Duda, Wichita, 6-1-1=21
Greg Bullock, Corpus Christi, 1-4-5=16
Travis Clayton, Wichita, 2-3-1=13
5 - Smartest Player
Don Parsons, Memphis, 3-4-1=18
Todd Marcellus, Tulsa , 2-2-2=12
Greg Pankewicz, Colorado, 2-2-1=11
6 - Best Goaltender
Tyler Weiman, Colorado, 12-2-0=40
Ken Carroll, Bossier-Shreveport, 3-6-3=24
Scott Reid, San Angelo, 1-4-5=16
7 - Most Underrated Player
Derek Hahn, Amarillo, 3-2-1=14
Jason Bermingham, Tulsa, 1-3-1=10
Dan Wildfong, Bossier-Shreveport, 1-0-4=7
8 - Best on Power Play
Don Parsons, Memphis, 10-0-1=31
Travis Clayton, Wichita, 2-4-2=16
Jason Duda, Wichita, 2-1-2=10
9 - Best Penalty Killer
Ryan Carter, Corpus Christi, 2-3-1=13
Matt Turek, Lubbock, 2-2-1=11
John McNabb, Austin, 2-1-2=10
10 - Hardest Shooter
Greg Pankewicz, Colorado, 8-0-4=28
Derek Landmesser, Memphis, 1-4-2=13
Ted Crowley, Memphis, 3-1-0=11
11 - Best Defensive Forward
Dave Rattray, Amarillo, 6-1-0=20
Matt Cressman, Odessa, 1-3-1=10
Jan Melichercik, Lubbock, 1-2-0=7
12 - Best Offensive Defenseman
Bernie John, Corpus Christi, 7-3-1=28
Derek Landmesser, Memphis, 4-6-3=27
Paul Esdale, Wichita, 4-5-3=25
13 - Best Defensive Defenseman
Derick Martin, Lubbock, 3-3-2=17
Matt Frick, San Angelo, 2-1-2=10
Brad Williamson, Colorado, 2-1-1=9
14 - Best Player on Face-Offs
Dave Rattray, Amarillo, 5-0-1=16
Dan Gravelle, Tulsa, 1-3-0=9
Greg Bullock, Corpus Christi, 1-2-0=7
15 - Best Bodychecker
Tyler Fleck, Oklahoma City, 6-3-0=24
Derick Martin, Lubbock, 1-4-2=13
Dominic Periard, Corpus Christi 2-3-0=12
16 - Best Fighter
Shawn Legault, New Mexico, 6-2-2=24
Derek Parker, Wichita, 4-0-0=12
Ryan Shmyr, Rio Grande Valley, 1-3-1=10
17 - Best Power Forward
Ryan Tobler, Colorado, 7-2-1=26
Chad Woollard, Fort Worth, 2-2-2=12
Shawn Legault, New Mexico, 1-2-4=11
18 - Best Leader
Dan Wildfong, Bossier-Shreveport, 4-2-2=18
Greg Pankewicz, Colorado, 2-2-2=12
Forbes MacPherson, Bossier-Shreveport, 3-1-0=11
19 - Best Rookie
Phil Aucoin, Memphis, 9-4-2=37
Mike Lukajic, Topeka, 3-3-5=20
Tyler Weiman, Colorado, 4-3-1=19
20 - Best Coach
Scott Muscutt, Bossier-Shreveport, 7-2-0=25
Chris Dashney, Lubbock, 3-4-3=20
Ray Edwards, San Angelo, 4-2-2=18
21 - Best Fans
Colorado Eagles, 7-2-2=25
Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, 4-3-3=21
Oklahoma City Blazers, 3-3-3=18
22 - Most Annoying Fans
Wichita Thunder, 10-2-0=34
Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, 3-3-2=17
Laredo Bucks, 1-1-4=9
23 - Toughest Building To Win In
Budweiser Events Center, Colorado, 7-3-2=29
CenturyTel Center, Bossier-Shreveport, 6-3-2=26
Laredo Entertainment Center, Laredo, 1-3-4=13
24 - Hardest Working Team
Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, 7-4-1=30
San Angelo Saints, 4-3-0=18
Lubbock Cotton Kings, 2-3-4=16
25 - Best Arena
Ford Center, Oklahoma City, 9-3-1=34
Budweiser Events Center, Colorado, 5-6-1=28
CenturyTel Center, Bossier-Shreveport, 1-2-6=13
26 - Best Locker Rooms
Ford Center, Oklahoma City, 7-2-1=26
CenturyTel Center, Bossier-Shreveport, 3-6-4=25
Budweiser Events Center, Colorado, 2-3-3=15
27 - Best Team Logo
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, 4-2-3=19
Laredo Bucks, 4-1-3=17
Odessa Jackalopes, 3-3-1=16
28 - Best Team Uniforms
Tulsa Oilers, 4-3-1=19
Laredo Bucks, 3-2-1=14
Corpus Christi Rayz, 4-0-1, 13
29 - Best PA Announcer
Ben Buckland, Oklahoma City, 6-4-1=27
Glen Norman, Austin, 3-3-0=15
K.C. Loop & Ken Kinder, Tulsa, 1-1-4=9
30 - Best Mascot
Stomp, Amarillo, 5-2-4=23
Clawed, Bossier-Shreveport, 5-2-1=20
Fang, Austin, 2-3-2=14
31 - Best On Ice Promotions
Memphis RiverKings, 3-2-2=15
Oklahoma City Blazers, 2-2-2=12
Lubbock Cotton Kings, 1-4-0=11
32 - Best Dance Team
The Sting Team, Corpus Christi Rayz, 8-2-0=28
Brahmas Dancers, Fort Worth Brahmas, 6-3-2=26
The Eagle Chicks, Colorado Eagles, 2-2-3=13
33 - Best Arena Music
AmericanBank Center, Corpus Christi, 3-2-1=14
Laredo Entertainment Center, Laredo, 2-2-2=12
Municipal Coliseum, Lubbock, 2-2-1=11
34 - Best Arena Concessions
Tingley Coliseum, New Mexico, 4-1-2=16
Budweiser Events Center, Colorado, 2-3-2=14
Ector County Coliseum, Odessa, 2-2-2=12
35 - Best City
Austin, Texas, 5-6-1=28
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 4-7-0=26
Corpus Christi, Texas, 2-3-1=13
36 - Best Host Hotel
Albuquerque Marriott, New Mexico, 7-5-0=31
Omni Bayfront, Corpus Christi, 4-4-1=21
MCM Elegante, Odessa, 4-1-2=16
37 - Best Booster Club
Mudbug Boilers, Bossier-Shreveport, 5-2-1=20
Bucks Booster Club, Laredo, 3-3-1=16
Crazy Apes, Amarillo, 3-1-2=13
38 - Best Press Box
Lubbock Cotton Kings, 4-3-0=18
Oklahoma City Blazers, 2-2-5=15
Amarillo Gorillas, 2-2-3=13