SAULT STE. MARIE, Mi. Lake Superior State hockey held the 37th annual Soo Blueliners Awards Banquet on Thursday, capping off the 2018-19 season.
The banquet was held at the Kewadin Casino and included coaches, players, staff, Blueliner members and families. There was a social and dinner, followed by presentation of awards and speeches.
Senior defenseman Steven Ruggiero was named the recipient of the Gay Blade Award, which is awarded to the athlete who brings laughs, personality and humor to the locker room. Ruggiero also had a career year in 2018-19 with career bests in games played, goals, assists, points and plus-minus. He earned his first WCHA Defenseman of the Week award this season.
Two Lakers were named recipients of the Outstanding Freshman Award – defenseman Jacob Nordqvist and forward Ashton Calder. Nordqvist was a WCHA Rookie of the Week honoree and a two-time WCHA Rookie of the Month. He showed his playmaking ability as he recorded 15 assists, also notching three goals for a total of 18 points on the season. Calder tallied five goals and 17 assists for 22 points in 37 games played. He finished the season ranked second among WCHA freshmen in both assists and points. He was named WCHA Rookie of the Week two times, WCHA Rookie of the Month twice and was a member of the WCHA All-Rookie Team.
Senior forward Gage Torrel was named the recipient of the Jim Howie Unsung Hero Award. He tallied a career-high 25 points on seven goals and 18 assists, while also recording a +20 rating. Torrel scored three game-winning goals and assisted on five others. A four-year letterwinner, he tallied 34 goals and 48 assists for 82 points in 148 games played across his career as a Laker.
This year’s Most Improved Player was awarded to junior forward Brendan McKay. As a freshman, McKay played 12 games without recording a point. As a sophomore he became more of a regular in the lineup — playing in 24 games and tallying one goal and one assist. As a junior this past season, he became a key contributor — playing 36 games and tallying three goals and 10 assists for 13 points, while garnering a +6 rating.
Junior defenseman Collin Saccoman was named the recipient of the Most Valuable Defenseman Award. He was the only player in NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey to tally at least 90 blocked shots, 10 goals and 25 points this season. A two-time WCHA Forward of the Month and three-time WCHA Defenseman of the Week in 2018-19, Saccoman ranked third in the nation with 94 blocked shots and he led all WCHA blueliners in goals.
Senior forward Diego Cuglietta was named the recipient of the Most Valuable Player Award and Most Valuable Forward Award. He led all of NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey with 25 goals scored. His 41 points tied for the third most in the WCHA and his +24 rating was second as he earned All-WCHA First Team honors. A WCHA Forward of the Week honoree, he garnered a point in 25 games and scored a goal in 18. He led the WCHA and was second in the nation with 501 faceoff wins. Cuglietta was named MVP of the Great Lakes Invitational after tallying four goals in the tournament and was also a Hobey Baker Award nominee, tallying 50 goals and 50 assists for 100 points in four seasons as a Laker. He became the 50th player in program history to record 100 career points and the 29th Laker to score 50 career goals. He also received the 100+ Points Award in recognition of the accomplishment.
Senior goaltender Nick Kossoff received the Scholar-Athlete Award in recognition of his academic achievements throughout his four years as a Laker. He has a 3.96 Grade Point Average, while majoring in Kinesiology. Kossoff is a three-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete, a multiple time Dean’s List honoree, and he has had a perfect 4.0 GPA in four of his full-time semesters at LSSU. On the ice, he finished his career with 27 wins, a .913 save percentage, a 2.69 goals against average, 1,868 saves and five shutouts. This past season, he went a career-best 17-8-2 in goal with a 2.42 goals against average, .918 save percentage and 730 saves. His 17 wins were the most by a Laker since 2011-12. He was named to the Great Lakes Invitational All-Tournament Team after backstopping the Lakers’ to their first-ever GLI title. He holds the Lakers’ record for saves in a game with 63 and he is the only goaltender in program history to earn a shutout in his first collegiate appearance. A two-time WCHA Goaltender of the Week this season, Kossoff wants to continue his education by going to medical school following his hockey career.
The recipient of the Soo Blueliners Award was senior forward Anthony Nellis. He is a four-year letterwinner, who tallied 40 goals and 51 assists for 91 points in 148 games played in the Laker Blue and Gold. A 2019 Hobey Baker Award nominee, Nellis had a career year as a senior in 2018-19 — tallying 15 goals, 18 assists, 33 points and a plus 11 rating in 38 games played. An All-WCHA Third Team honoree, he was named a WCHA Forward of the Week and NCAA Third Star of the Week in 2018-19.