Panthers Stars Awarded

Despite getting the win they needed on Sunday, the results didn’t go the way of the Panthers, and unfortunately, they would finish this EIHL season in 9th place and miss out on playoffs. Although it wasn’t to be for the Panthers, I think I speak for every fan when I say how incredibly proud I am of this group of players and staff. When I saw that the Awards night was open to the fans, I knew I had to attend. It was an emotional night, to say the least, but it was a beautiful send-off to this special group of people. I’ll go through who won each award and give my own thoughts. 

Before any awards were given out, CEO Omar Pacha gave an incredibly touching speech about the season as a whole and a very open insight into the Adam Johnson tragedy. He expressed how proud he is of the players, the fans, and the coaches for their resilience and perseverance. Panthers’ DJ Ken Feast mentioned this later in the evening, stating that “Omar lives and breathes Panthers,” and just from this speech, you could see this. Although Omar isn’t always in the media’s attention or putting himself in the limelight, the work he puts in behind the scenes should never go unnoticed, and I, for one, am so thankful for everything he does for our beloved club.

The Nottingham Building Society Player of The Year Award – Carl Neill 

Neill has been a minute muncher all year long for the Panthers, logging a massive 1094 minutes throughout the whole season. Neill finished the season as Panthers’ top-scoring defenseman with 1 goal and 25 assists. Despite Carl only scoring one goal, it was shortlisted as the goal of the year! Carl Neill has had a great impact both off and on the ice and is fully deserving of this award.

Best British Player – Jordan Kelsall 

In what has been turbulent for our Brit pack, with Josh Tetlow, Logan Neilson, and Ollie Betteridge all missing significant game time with injuries, Kelsall has managed to stay healthy and been a huge asset to the Panthers coaching staff. Jordan has seamlessly moved from forward to defence when needed and stood up for his teammates if necessary. He is such an underrated player for the Panthers, and the way he speaks about the sport, club, and Nottingham, I can really see him being a future captain of the club.

Goal of the Year – Otto Nieminen

Nieminen would pick up his first award of the night for his powerplay marker against Sheffield. For me, this is an underrated goal. The composure, the accuracy, and for it to be against the best team in the league just add to the quality.

Team Spirit Award – Mike Caruso

Captain Caruso perfectly embodies what it means to be a Panther, and we as fans are so fortunate that he is our captain. The coaching staff left it late to name the captains for this season, with Panthers #2 being given the ‘C’ on January 19th. Since then, Caruso has seen an upturn in form and been pivotal for this Panthers team. For me, this was one of the easiest awards to pick a winner for.

Fan’s Player of the Year – Otto Nieminen

A second award of the night for Otto Nieminen, and it’s the highly coveted Fan’s Player of the year. Nieminen led the Panthers in goals and points but still brought a solid defensive game. Otto’s effort never faltered, and it’s clearly something that has resonated with the Panthers fans. Nottingham was clearly a great fit for Otto as he recorded a record-high points total for himself. 

Most Entertaining Player of the Year – Westin Michaud

Westin was a shoe-in for this award for me. Westin’s brilliant personality comes out so much on and off the ice, and you can tell how much he loves playing the game and loves being around the team. I think everyone has a favourite Michaud moment from the season; there are genuinely so many. Not only is his personality infectious, but his on-ice play is also so entertaining. He totalled 36 assists and constantly dazzled with his quality. I got the chance to meet and speak with Westin while he was injured one game, and he is genuinely a super nice guy who gave me so much of his time, which I’m so grateful for.

Most Valuable Player – Hugo Roy and Otto Nieminen

The coaching staff couldn’t separate these two players, and neither can I. They have been paired together for most of the season and have really found some chemistry together. Their skills complement each other so well, and it’s clear to see why they have had so much success together this season. Of course, they have scored a bunch of goals this year, but their defensive game has never been neglected, with the two being some of the best two-way players in the league.

Player’s Player of the Year – Hugo Roy

Another award for Hugo, which is thoroughly deserved. I have said a lot about Hugo Roy already, but for me, his speed really sets him apart from the rest of the league. A special player who I hope to see back in a Panthers jersey next year.

The night ended with some touching videos from the season which really took the fans on a rollercoaster of emotions. To see all the players and staff stood on the stage watching these videos really hit home for me how special this group is. I don’t think we will ever see anything like this again. Huge credit has to go to everyone, but especially to the coaching staff of Jonathan, Rick, and Kevin for the way they have expertly handled this unprecedented season. It’s clear to see the respect the players have for these three, and to hear their words about the players, each other, and the fans brought tears to many eyes in the Arena. Thank you to everyone at the Panthers; you all deserve special mention, but from the bottom of my heart, there are so many of you, thank you for everything you have done. It means the world to me and the rest of the fans. It’s been a privilege to watch and follow this amazing team all year long. I can’t wait to do it all again next season. 

*Article provided by Joe Maciag (Ice Hockey Correspondent).

*Main image @PanthersIHC an emotional but great night awarding the Panthers season achievements.

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