MADISON, Wis. – In its first season in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Alaska turned in its highest conference finish in five years, placing third in the standings, and on Tuesday five Nanooks were recognized by the league’s coaches and sports information directors for their excellence on the ice.
The Nanooks took home two of the WCHA’s top laurels, highlighted by senior center Cody Kunyk (Sherwood Park, Alberta/Business Administration), who was named the league’s Player of the Year, and sophomore defenseman Colton Parayko (St. Albert, Alberta/Business Administration), who was selected as the Defensive Player of the Year. In addition, both were named to the All-WCHA First Team.
Kunyk finished the regular season of his senior campaign as the WCHA’s scoring champion, accruing 34 points on 17 goals and 17 assists in Alaska’s 28 conference outings. In the 34-game regular-season slate, he scored a single-season career-high 42 points, including a WCHA-best 22 goals to go with 20 helpers. Kunyk recorded five multiple-goal outings this season, including a career-best four goals in Alaska’s 7-2 triumph over Alaska Anchorage on March 7. That mark was achieved by only three other collegians this year.
“He’s had a great year and is a big part to how our team has been playing this season,” head coach Dallas Ferguson said. “It’s always nice when a player of his caliber returns for his senior year to graduate and has arguably his best season as a Nanook. I’m certainly proud of Cody’s accomplishments and glad to see him being recognized for his efforts this year.
A Hobey Baker Memorial Award candidate, he leads the nation with seven game-winning goals, scoring six power-play and two shorthanded tallies and owns a stellar +14 plus/minus rating. Kunyk ranks 13th all-time on the program’s scoring list with 132 points (60-72—132) in 145 career games.
“He’s a great player and he’ll leave here graduated and move on to professional hockey,” Ferguson said. “I certainly feel he’s going to be a guy who plays hockey for a long time. Obviously it’s a great season he’s had so far and he want to keep going here in the playoffs but it’s certainly an honor for him to be recognized.”
In a vote by the league’s 10 head coaches, Parayko was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Year in his second year with the Nanooks. Parayko finished the regular season as one of the leading offensive defenseman in the conference, ranking tied for third with 18 points (4-14—18) in the WCHA’s 28-game schedule. In the entirety of the 2013-14 campaign, he tallied 23 points (4-19—23) and led all defenders with 19 assists.
“Colton [Parayko] brings both elements of the game to his game,” Ferguson said. “He’s big in stature, so he defends very well with a long stick. He has good instincts so his positioning is really good most nights.”
Defensively, he is always matched up with opponents’ top lines as a consistent starter on Alaska’s first defensive line, as well as a leader in ice time. He has blocked a nation’s second-best 2.65 blocks per game (90) and owns a solid +17 plus/minus rating. The Nanooks are 13-5-0 this year when Parayko records a point, compared to their 4-8-4 mark when he goes without a point. He has five multiple-point outings this year and scored all four of his goals on the power play.
“For a sophomore to win this award, with the competition in the league, speaks volumes to his season so far. Colton is a great player and he’s continuing to get better like he did from his freshman to sophomore year. It’ll be interesting to see where he can get to, he’s a guy destined to play professional hockey and he’s a professional person and student and everything he does, he does it the right way.”
Joining Kunyk and Parayko on the list of the WCHA’s best were senior left wing Colton Beck (Langley, British Columbia/Business Administration), sophomore center Tyler Morley (Burnaby, British Columbia/Business Administration) and freshman right wing Marcus Basara (Port Moody, British Columbia/Business Administration).
“Both Colton [Beck] and Tyler have had great seasons,” Ferguson said. “Anytime you can be recognized and is a voted-on recognition, it tells you a lot that you’re making an impact on other people. Colton’s had his best season as a Nanook and Tyler as a sophomore has had a great season. For those two to be recognized in the category of the top-9 forwards in our league, we’re extremely proud of them as a program.”
“With Marcus coming in as a freshman, there’s a lot going on in a freshman’s head when making the jump from junior hockey to college hockey,” Ferguson said. “He’s done an excellent job in continuing to get better and I know his spirit is in everything he does and he didn’t come in too high or too low, he came in pretty even keel and had a solid season.”
Beck was named a Second Team All-WCHA member after ranking fourth in conference play with 30 points (11-19—30). For the season, he was the team’s second-leading scorer with 36 points (13-23—36), which also ranked fourth. His 19 assists during WCHA competition and 23 total assists both ranked second among league players.
This year’s captain for the Nanooks had three two-goal games and 10 multi-point outings, including six games with two or more points over the final four weeks of the season. He tied his career-best outing on Oct. 25 with four points on two goals and two assists to lead Alaska back from a 4-1 deficit to defeat Mercyhurst, 5-4. He also scored five power-play goals and one shorthanded score.
Morley was awarded Third Team All-WCHA accolades after ranking fifth in WCHA play with 29 points (15-14—29), including the fourth-most goals with 15. On the season, he scored 34 points (17-17—34) to place tied for sixth while his 17 goals, which was seven better than his rookie season, ranked him sixth.
A Central Collegiate Hockey Association All-Rookie member last year, Morley tallied three two-goal outings and had nine games with two points or more. In games which he had multi-point performances, the Nanooks went 8-2-0. He also scored thrice while on the power play.
Basara was named to the All-Rookie Team after turning in one of the best rookie campaigns in the league. He was the league’s second-leading freshman scorer in Alaska’s 28 conference games with 21 points (9-12—21) as his nine goals ranked tied for first. Including non-conference games, Basara was second with 24 points (11-13—24) and his 11 scores also ranked second among rookies.
He turned in seven two-point games in his first season as a collegiate hockey player and struck twice on the power play. Basara ended the regular season with a +9 plus/minus rating.
Other top awards presented Thursday included Lake Superior State freshman Alex Globke (Rookie of the Year), Minnesota State freshman Cole Huggins (Goaltending Champion), Alabama Huntsville’s Chad Brears (Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year) and Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels (Coach of the Year).
Alaska opens up the WCHA playoffs Thursday night as the No. 3 seed and will play host to intrastate rival and sixth-seeded Alaska Anchorage in a best-of-three series to determine one of the four participants in the WCHA Final Five.
First Team All-WCHA
F Cody Kunyk (Alaska)
F Matt Bailey (Alaska Anchorage)
F Matt Leitner (Minnesota State)
D Colton Parayko (Alaska)
D Zach Palmquist (Minnesota State)
G C.J. Motte (Ferris State)
Second Team All-WCHA
F Jean-Paul Lafontaine (Minnesota State)
F Colton Beck (Alaska)
F Garrett Thompson (Ferris State)
D Scott Czarnowczan (Ferris State)
D Kevin Czuczman (Lake Superior State)
G Cole Huggins (Minnesota State)
First Team All-WCHA
F Tyler Morley (Alaska)
F Zach Lehrke (Minnesota State)
F Johnny McInnis (Minnesota State)
D Matt Prapavessis (Bemidji State)
D Jason Binkley (Ferris State)
G Kevin Kapalka (Lake Superior State)
WCHA All-Rookie Team
F Alex Globke (Lake Superior State)
F Marcus Basara (Alaska)
F Kyle Schempp (Ferris State)
D Shane Hanna (Michigan Tech)
D Ruslan Pedan (Bemidji State)
D Sean Flanagan (Minnesota State)
G Cole Huggins (Minnesota State)