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Tier I League announces 2002-03 award winners


The United States Hockey League (USHL) announced today that Lincoln Stars forward Ryan Potulny was named the league's Let's Play Hockey Player of the Year.

A North Dakota native, Potulny was the USHL's leading scorer in 2002-03. In 54 games played, the University of Minnesota prospect collected 35 goals and 43 assists for 78 points.

"Ryan is a tremendous player and very deserving of this honor," said USHL Commissioner Gino Gasparini. "He has a terrific future ahead of him."

In addition to collecting Player of the Year honors, Potulny was also named the USHL's Top Forward and selected First Team All-USHL.

A Grand Forks Red River High School product, Potulny burst onto the USHL scene with a 57-point rookie campaign last season as a 17-year-old. His 1.18 career points-per-game average ranks among the league's very best over a two-year span.

"Ryan has been very consistent," said Lincoln head coach Steve Johnson. "He will always have good numbers. What's unique about Ryan is that he has become a very complete player and I think his plus/minus numbers (+32) reflect that. He's got a chance to be a real top-end player."

Potulny will be joining his older brother Grant, who also skated with the Stars, as a member of the Golden Gophers next fall. In two seasons with the Stars, the elder Potulny collected 73 points.

Potulny was joined as a 2002-03 USHL Award Winner by the following standouts:

Top Defenseman - Matt Carle, River City Lancers

An Alaska native, Carle was a defensive rock for the Lancers in 2002-03. The 6-foot, 190-pound University of Denver prospect anchored River City's blue line with a plus/minus rating of +26 to complement his 12 goals and 30 assists for 42 points. Five of his goals came on the power play. NHL scouts have called Carle "probably the smoothest, most effortless looking player in the league."

Top Goaltender - Dominic Vicari, River City Lancers

From Michigan, Vicari has been the USHL's most dominating force between the pipes. The league's leader with 28 victories, Vicari also posted a league high six shutouts to bring his two season total to 12. Vicari has, in two USHL seasons, posted numbers that are among the best ever including 53 wins and a goals-against average of 1.91. A future Michigan State Spartan, Vicari has left an indelible mark on the USHL.

Rookie of the Year - Joe Pavelski, Waterloo Black Hawks

A high school star in his native Wisconsin, Pavelski came to the USHL and became just the second rookie to pace the league in goals scored since 1998-99. His 36 goals and 33 assists for 69 points led the Black Hawks and helped the team claim just its second division title since the USHL became an entirely junior league in 1979-80. Pavelski currently leads all scorers in the Clark Cup Playoffs with three goals and seven assists for 10 points.

Curt Hammer Award - Jake Taylor, Green Bay Gamblers

Presented annually to the player who best reflects the goals of the USHL, his team and the organization, the Curt Hammer Award was presented to a Green Bay Gambler for the first time in defenseman Jake Taylor, who will compete at the University of Minnesota this fall. The 6-foot, 4-inch Taylor was a steady force both on the ice and in the locker room for the Gamblers this season, notching 16 points while anchoring a corps of young blueliners.

Coach of the Year - P.K. O'Handley, Waterloo Black Hawks

General Manager of the Year - P.K. O'Handley, Waterloo Black Hawks

O'Handley returned to the USHL after a coaching stint in the East Coast Hockey League and promptly swept the league's coaching awards after leading Waterloo from the doldrums to the East Division penthouse. This marks just the second time that a Waterloo coach or general manager has claimed league honors.

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