by Lisa McRitchie on 05/02/12 at 11:30 PM ET
The WHL season is not quite finished, but most of the hardware has already been awarded. Wednesday afternoon the WHL held their awards luncheon in Calgary where the Edmonton Oil Kings and Oiler prospect Tyler Bunz all walked away happy. Bunz took home the WHL goaltender of the year award, the Oil Kings were named the scholastic team of the year and Oil Kings’ GM Bob Green was named WHL Executive of the Year the Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy.
Being named WHL goaltender of the year could not have been much of a surprise for Bunz after breaking and setting records with the Medicine Hat Tigers, having a career season and winning a number of goaltender awards throughout the regular season. Twice Bunz was named Vaughn CHL goaltender of the week (Mar. 26 – Apr. 1 and Oct. 24 – Oct. 30) beating out all other CHL goaltenders in the 60 teams. Bunz was also named WHL goaltender of the month for the month of February.
While he has yet to make his professional debut, Bunz has had the opportunity to sign his first professional contract with the Oilers and to spend some time with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL. The games will come.
Bunz played four seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers and leaves the team holding the winningest goaltender honours with 115 regular season victories. He also closes out his junior hockey career with a 39-17-2-3 record for season with a 2.57 GAA and 0.921 SV%. He also led the league for goaltender assists with 5. Not too shabby at all.
Before Bunz can settle into his off-season routine he will make the trip to Shawinigan Quebec for the CHL awards where Bunz is also up for goaltender of the year honours. Then, the preparations for what will likely be a season with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL will begin. If things go as suspected, Bunz will replace starter Olivier Roy with the Thunder while Roy will move on to backup in Oklahoma City. Yes, Nikolai Khabibulin has only a single year remaining on his contract, but don’t expect Bunz or Roy to step into the NHL this year.
Oil Kings GM Bob Green was the mastermind behind the year’s dominant Oil Kings team, a team that will only improve for next season. Of course it was more than Green making the scouting decisions and the decisions to work with the Oilers to develop European prospects Martin Gernat and Kristians Pelss, but the level of success this “new” team has seen in such a short span of time (4 years) is truly incredible.
Even more impressive is that the team was able to achieve winning success while also earning educational success. “Every one of our players have seen success on and off the ice this season and this is a reflection of that.” said GM Bob Green “We owe a lot to our Education Advisor Roger Castle and the staff at Salisbury Composite High School who go above and beyond with their commitment to our player’s education.”
The transition from Bantam and full time school to Junior and part time school is not always easy, but the Oil Kings have clearly done well working with their players both on and off of the ice.
The WHL finals kick off Thursday night in Edmonton where the Oil Kings will host the Portland Winterhawks in back to back games. The Oil Kings swept their first two series and needed only 5 games to move past the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Portland Winterhawk’s record isn’t much different, playing only 15 games through the post season.
This WHL finals matchup should be closer than the Oil Kings’ other series, but I said that for the Eastern Conference finals against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The Oil Kings do have a team that can go the distance but only time will tell.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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