The NPHL announced its annual awards winners Wednesday morning, and once again, there was a strong Fort St. John presence.
Senior Flyers forward Rick Cleaver was named co-MVP along with Braden Gamble, goaltender of the Manning Comets, and Flyers Head Coach Andrew Leriger was named Coach of the Year.
For Cleaver, this is his third straight MVP. Cleaver’s stat line of 22 goals, 17 assists, and 39 points was down considerably from the 2016-17 season when he led the league in scoring with 31 goals and 63 points. Still, he finished second in scoring to Cedric Harvey of the Falher Pirates, who had 41, and was once again the most reliable player on a Flyers team that has championship aspirations.
“It’s a little surprising to be honest with you," Cleaver said.
"I had a bit of an up and down year. Last year, our line clicked and we were on fire, but this year was more of an up and down year and a grind."
At 34, Cleaver is one of the older players in the league, but doesn’t play like it.
“I like the challenge and the fact that I am getting older, but I’m still able to produce and be one of the better guys in the league," he said.
Leriger wasn’t surprised that Cleaver was the MVP.
“He’s physically in shape all the time. He’s so strong and thinks the game so well, he’s such a big asset to us and he keeps himself in good shape and healthy,” said Leriger.
For Leriger, it was his second straight year winning Coach of the Year, and it came as a bit of a surprise.
“I actually expected (Chris) Stevens to win it because of what he’s done in Dawson Creek. But I’ll take it,” Leriger said.
He said that he doesn’t coach for the personal awards, but was grateful for the recognition.
“At the end of the day, we’re all volunteers and everyone does their best. We all want to win but it’s good to be recognized for what you’ve done,” Leriger said.
Cleaver also won Best Left Wing in the NPHL, and was named to the West Division All-Star team. Flyers right winger Jeff Shipton and defenceman Reid Campbell made the team as well.
The Flyers are currently in the midst of the West Division playoffs, and are in the driver's seat with three games remaining. Their next game is in Grande Prairie on Thursday, Feb. 15.