NEW YORK - The stars were out last night at Radio City Music Hall in Midtown Manhattan for the 2014 XHL Awards. And for the second consecutive year, the brightest star of all came from the Toronto Fire.
Center Brandon Bochenski of Toronto won the Hart Trophy for league MVP, following former Fire goalie Alex Auld's Hart victory last season to give the Fire back-to-back Hart Trophy winners.
"This is an incredible honor," said Bochenski. "I've always tried to play the game the right way and play hard, but I never imagined I'd win this award. It's hard to express how much this truly means."
Bochenski anchored Toronto's offense and led the league in scoring with 48 goals and 71 assists for 119 points on the year. He edged out goal leader and Conn Smythe winner Devin Setoguchi of the XHL Cup champion Greensboro Swordsmen by just one vote. Henrik Sedin of Vancouver came in third.
In other awards, top-scoring defenseman Olivier Fortier (19 goals, 47 assists, 66 points) of Vancouver edged out favorite Erik Karlsson to win the Norris Trophy for top defenseman.
"I couldn't have done this without my teammates," said Fortier. "We accomplished a lot this year, and I hope to continue that even further next year."
The Vezina Trophy for top goaltender was the easiest race to call as Brooklyn netminder Reto Berra, who went 41-11-8 with a league-leading 2.54 GAA and .924 save percentage, got four votes to win the award in his first full season.
"It feels great to win this in my home city, and it is quite an honor." said Berra.
Another goalie picked up an award as Philadelphia's James Reimer barely edged out Greensboro winger Nazem Kadri to win the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year. Each player received three votes and the tie was broken by the commissioner. The 25-year old went 34-8-5 with a 2.62 GAA and a .921 save percentage in his rookie year.
"It's a great honor, and I hope to build on it." said Reimer. "I want to thank my teammates for helping contribute to such a great season, and I hope we can go deeper next year."
Greensboro added to their collection of trophies this season as winger Nick Schultz won the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward. Schultz narrowly defeated teammate Setoguchi thanks to his 57 blocked shots - second in the league behind Setoguchi - and his +11 rating.
Finally, Joseph Fisher, GM of the Philadelphia Wildkatz, took home the GM of the Year award. Under Fisher's watch, the Wildkatz went from a team that missed the playoffs two consecutive seasons to Patrick division champs as well as Eastern Conference regular season champs. Thanks to excellent drafting and shrewd trading, Philadelphia was able to turn the tide. And while a first round exit isn't what they hoped for, expectations are high for the Wildkatz in 2015.
The awards mark the official end to the 2014 XHL season, but the action won't be stopping any time soon as the offseason is now underway, starting with the Draft, which will be held next month.
2014 XHL DRAFT
Date TBD - All times Eastern
2014 XHL Draft - Honda Center, Anaheim, CA - 8 PM - NBCSN, TSN, RDS