The 2019 CWHL Awards ceremony took place this evening at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens). A total of four players and two coaches from the Toronto Furies and Markham Thunder were nominated for awards.
Victoria Bach of the Markham Thunder and Sarah Nurse of the Toronto Furies were both nominated for Rookie of the Year. Laura Fortino of the Markham Thunder was nominated for Defenceman of the Year (that’s what the CWHL calls it, to be clear). Natalie Spooner was nominated for CWHL MVP, and Toronto head coach Courtney Kessel and Markham head coach Jim Jackson were both nominated for Coach of the Year.
Victoria Bach walked away with well-deserved Rookie of the Year honours. While Sarah Nurse made a fantastic case for ROTY, it was impossible to deny Bach held the edge when it came to the numbers—she led the Thunder in scoring, tied for second in goals in the whole league, and came in fourth in the CWHL in points. Bach scored a lot in the NCAA, and it has been a true pleasure watching her transfer that skillset to the CWHL with this kind of success.
In his second year as head coach of the Markham Thunder Jim Jackson won Coach of the Year, beating out both Toronto’s Courtney Kessel and Calgary’s Ryan Hilderman. After coaching the Thunder to a Clarkson Cup winning season where they finished fourth in the regular season (14-7-7), Jackson improved on his record this season by leading his team to a third place finish in the regular season (13-11-4) and a semi-final loss.
In her rookie season as a CWHL coach, Kessel brought her team to their first .500 season in team history (14-14-0), good enough for a playoff spot after a disappointing sixth place finish in 2017-18 (9-17-2). She coached them to a five-game win streak down the stretch to make the playoffs, and then to a Game One victory against Calgary on home ice, despite several injuries and Team Canada running away with the Furies’ offensive stars for a crucial weekend during the Rivalry Series. CWHL coaching awards make as much sense as NHL coaching awards, in other words.
The league’s Humanitarian of the Year award was presented to Mike Bartlett, Head of Community Affairs for MLSE and former CWHL governor.
The awards ceremony also included former Leafs Nik Antropov and Glenn Healy, to present the Goaltender of the Year award to Calgary Inferno goalie Alex Rigsby as representatives of the NHL Alumni Association. Maple Leafs President and Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan presented the CWHL MVP award to Canadiennes de Montréal forward Marie-Philip Poulin.
The 2018-19 CWHL season comes to a close this Sunday at noon with the Clarkson Cup Final between the Calgary Inferno and les Canadiennes de Montréal. The game takes place at the Coca-Cola Coliseum in Toronto, or you can catch it live on Sportsnet, Sportsnet NOW, TVA and the NHL Network.