Does anyone remember the inaugural NWHL Awards? Back in 2016, the Boston Pride swept the first-ever league awards, a reflection of the sheer talent that was on that team -- filled with Olympians like Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker.
Now, two years later, the league has grown, including its talent. The talent is also spread pretty well throughout the league, at least in this season sans Olympic players. This parity is somewhat better reflected in the NWHL awards; all four teams had at least two players who won.
The Metropolitan Riveters were the best team in the league during the regular season, so logically, it makes sense that players would take home five awards. Alexa Gruschow was named the Most Valuable Player, as selected by the NWHLPA, a title most certainly deserved after a 22-point campaign. She was also the league's top scorer.
Courtney Burke was selected by media as the NWHL's best defender after a season where she made an impact both defensively and offensively, including potting eight power-play assists.
"All credit goes to my teammates and coaches who helped make us so successful this year and hopefully we can win one more!", Burke said.
Harrison Browne was voted one of the fans' three stars of the season, and it's easy to see why he's developed such a following, with his warm, friendly demeanor.
Finally, Michelle Picard was named the Riveters' winner of the NWHL Foundation Award.
Three Buffalo Beauts players won NWHL awards, including hometown favorite Jacquie Greco, who won the NWHL Foundation award from her team.
Amanda Leveille was voted by media as the league's top goaltender after appearing in all 16 games for the Beauts. She went 12-4 and stopped 457 of 498 shots faced for a 2.53 GAA.
Finally, Buffalo's Hayley Scamurra, another homegrown product, won a pair of awards. Scamurra was named rookie of the year as well as one of the fans' three stars. She registered 14 points (7G, 7A) in as many games this season, her first full season in the league.
"My fellow nominees are all incredible hockey players and all deserve this honor," Scamurra said. "I want to thank my teammates, especially linemates Maddie Elia and Kourtney Kunichika. We've created a team chemistry that has made every player better. Thanks also to our coaches and staff!"
Finally, both Boston and Connecticut had two players each win awards.
Pride captain Jillian Dempsey took home the Denna Laing Award, a fitting tribute to her teammate of 15+ years. Dempsey was honored for qualities of perserverance, sportsmanship and dedication to her sport.
Boston's Lexi Bender was named her team's NWHL Foundation Award winner. For the Whale, that title went to Rachel Ade. Both were honored for applying "the core values of hockey to their community, as well as growing the game and improving hockey culture" and were selected by the league itself.
"The NWHL is built upon living out your dreams and inspiring the next generations to dream even bigger," said deputy commissioner Hayley Moore. "Lexi, Jacquie, Rachael and Shelly have shined [sic] as exemplary models of this. We’re proud of their service and know their communities appreciate their impact."
Finally, Sophia Agostinelli was voted one of the fans' three stars of the season. More than 8,000 fans voted.
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