Cuglietta named MVP at 35th annual Blue Liners Banquet; captains announced

Junior forward Diego Cuglietta was named team MVP for the 2017-18 season at the Soo BlueLiners Banquet on May 3rd.

SAULT STE. MARIE — Junior forward Diego Cuglietta took home the Most Valuable Player award at the 2018 Soo Blue Liners Banquet, held at the Christopher Columbus Hall in Sault Ste. Marie on May 3rd.

The native of Kamloops, British Columbia was named MVP by his teammates at the 35th annual banquet put on by the Blue Liners.

Cuglietta finished the season tied for 2nd on the team in scoring with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points.  Sophomore Max Humitz matched Cuglietta’s mark, and both were passed by only senior J.T. Henke.

To this point in his Laker career, he has 25 goals and 34 assists for 59 points.  Cuglietta has been a presence in all aspects of the game, as his 12 career special teams goals (8 power play, 4 shorthanded) would indicate.

Breaking from his tradition of waiting until shortly before the season starts, head coach Damon Whitten announced the team captains for the upcoming season, of which Cuglietta was named co-captain, along with Gage Torrel.  Assistant captains were also named, in Anthony Nellis and sophomore defenseman Collin Saccoman.

Taking home the Jim Howie Unsung Hero Award was junior forward Torrel.  Torrel, an assistant captain this season, had been named Outstanding Freshman and Most Valuable Forward in his freshman year.  Although his production dipped off a bit from his first two years, his presence and leadership on the ice was felt by his teammates and coaches.

For the second consecutive year, the Most Improved Player award was presented to a freshman.  Forward Chase Gamelin, a native of Soo, Michigan, followed Brendan McKay as the recipient, who won last year as a freshman.  Gamelin, who did not play until early November, made the most of his time in the lineup, eventually accumulating three assists.  Among them was an assist on a game winner by Anthony Nellis that allowed the Lakers to sweep Alaska Anchorage on the road late in the season.

The Most Valuable Defenseman award was given to a man quite familiar with the award.  Senior Kyle Chatham won the award for the third consecutive year.  A native of Belleville, Illinios, Chatham first was named MVD his sophomore year, the season in which he also was named Most Improved Player.  Following the season, he had a brief stint with the ECHL’s Reading Royals.  Not much of a scorer, Chatham nonetheless did have at least one memorable offensive moment this season, where he drilled a shot from the blue line late in the third period of a tie game to earn the Lakers a win over Ferris State.

The Gay Blade Award, which has held many different interpretations through the years, has been awarded to the player that keeps a positive attitude during the year in recent seasons.  This year’s recipient was Laker newcomer Steven Ruggiero.  A draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, Ruggiero came to the Lakers via Providence College (Hockey East).  As a transfer, he had to sit out until the mid point of the season, but made himself known both on the ice and in the locker room.

The Outstanding Freshman Award went to Hampus Erikkson, one of three rookie forwards for Lake Superior this season.  Erikkson, who hails from Forsbacka, Sweden, led all freshman in scoring with 4 goals and 6 assists.  He was one of eight players on the team to score double digit points.  Listed at 6’6″, Erikkson was the tallest player on the team this season.

For the third straight year, the Most Valuable Forward was a member of the 2019 graduating class.  Anthony Nellis followed in the footsteps of Torrel (2016) and Mitch Hults (2017) with a fine effort on the ice.  His 19 points were fourth most on the team this season.  Among his 12 goals were two game winners late in the season, both of which came on the road at Alaska Anchorage.  A native of Breakyville, Quebec, Nellis has improved his goal output each season, from four his freshman year, to 9 last year to his 12 this season.

Receiving the BlueLiners Player of the Year was leading scorer J.T. Henke.  Henke, who led the team with 27 points, ends his Laker career with 79 points in three seasons.  After playing his freshman year at the University of Maine (Hockey East), he transferred to Lake Superior, where he quickly became a force in the Lakers’ lineup.  Among his accomplishments are finishing 1st or 2nd in scoring each year he has played for the Lakers, as well as scoring the most recent hat trick for Laker player.  This was the second year he was named BlueLiner Player of the Year, after last season.

In addition to the regular awards, pucks were presented to players for either scoring their first goal or earning their first win (in the case of goaltenders) as a Laker.  The three seniors in attendance (Chatham, Ryan Renz and Aidan Wright) each gave speeches, addressing their time in the Laker program.