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Saturday, Jun. 23, 2018
Individual award winners honoured at Hall of Fame Dinner
by Randy Pascal

Special Sudbury sports memories, new and old, were celebrated at the Caruso Club Wednesday evening, as a jammed-packed room gathered for the 48th Annual House of Kin Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Dinner.

And while much of the spotlight shone on those very deserving individuals who were inducted as part of the "Class of 2016", the accolades were shared with recipients of the many individual and team awards that were doled out, recognizing the next generation of athletes creating moments that will last a lifetime.

Twenty-four year old defenceman Ryan Johnston capped off a whirlwind season with a late season call-up to the Montreal Canadiens, suiting up for his first ever NHL game back on April 5th against the Florida Panthers.

"I tried not to do too much offensively, thinking it would be a good start not to have any goals against rather than take some risks," recalled Johnston, who was named Professional Athlete of the Year.

"It's just an amazing experience, just walking into that rink, and having all those crazy fans screaming for you. It's just something that you're never going to forget." Facing future NHL Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, who started his NHL career the year before Johnston was born, provided a recollection that the local hockey product now has seared in his mind.

"It was my second or third shift, and Jagr was coming down on a two on two," said Johnston. "I just turned and tried to lock on to his stick. In my mind, I was just praying that he wasn't going to get an opportunity from it."

A few months earlier, local curler Kendra Lilly was enjoying her indelible moment, her first trip to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, playing vice for the Krista McCarville Northern Ontario rink that would eventually succumb 7-6 to Alberta (Chelsea Carey) in the national final.

"It was like Junior Nationals, only ten times bigger," stated Lilly. "With the TV cameras, the microphones that you're wearing all the time, it's an adjustment. I struggled with it at first, but by the end of the week, I was playing pretty well."

A lifelong skip, the recipient of the Amateur Female Athlete of the Year hardware looked back on a move to third that turned out even better than she first anticipated. "I was pretty nervous switching positions," said Lilly.

"I've always been the one yelling at the girls, telling them what to do," she added with a smile. "To be on the other side was a pretty big adjustment, but it just fits." A perfect fit is something that Collège Notre-Dame grade 10 sensation Nina Kucheran knows all too well, virtually every time she slides in to the pool.

A national caliber swimmer who qualified for the Olympic Trials this spring, Kucheran was named as High School Female Athlete of the Year based not only on her outstanding performance at the OFSAA Swim Championships, but also at OFSAA Cross-Country, where she recorded the best finish of any Sudbury-based athlete, placing 14th in the junior girls race (in a field of 278 runners).

"I'm definitely more serious about the club swimming, just because I've been doing it longer," said Kucheran. "I'm very proud, of course, to represent the school, and I want to do the very best I can for them. I want to succeed just as much for the school, but I get less nervous."

Nerves were certainly in play, and understandably so, as Kucheran ventured into the chaos of Olympic Trials, though there was plenty to be gained from her first meet at that level. "I was a little disapointed with my performance at Olympic Trials, just because I didn't have as many PBs as I thought I would have," she said.

"But it was definitely a good experience, racing with that kind of field. It motivates to want to be there some day." Kucheran would have to share the "swimming" spotlight on this day, as Laurentian sophomore sensation Matt Schouten garnered Import Athlete of the Year kudos.

"My first year here, we had a fantastic season, and this year, we just tried to keep the momentum going," exclaimed the 19 year-old native of Stouffville. Like Kucheran, Schouten capped off his swim campaign with an appearance at Olympic Trials, providing a wonderful springboard for his third year at L.U. come September.

"It was an awesome experience to swim against the best guys in the country," said Schouten. "It really showed me what I need to do to get to the top level that I want to be at. It was a humbling experience, but it definitely gave me something to work towards."

For the multi-sport talent that is Ward Kyle, a repeat winner as High School Male Athlete of the Year based on his prowess in golf, hockey, alpine skiing and badminton while completing his final year at Lockerby Composite, the question has always been whether there was a specific sport that would form that high end goal that the natural athlete wished to pursue at a post-secondary level.

"I tried a bunch of new sports this year," explained Kyle. "I like learning new things, playing a variety of different sports. I don't regret playing so many sports, but I wish I had been more serious about a couple of the sports."

Kyle will have that opportunity, come the fall, when he leaves for the IMG Sports Academy in Bradenton (Florida), focusing on improving his golf game, as he scopes out the options that might be available in 2017.

For Rayside-Balfour Canadians' team trainer Lisa Parisé, the opportunities just keep coming. Recognized as the winner of the Bill Roman Administration Award on Wednesday, Parisé was also named as trainer of the NOJHL First All-Star team, attending the Junior "A" Challenge Tournament, and capping off her season when she was awarded the Dr Tom Pashby Trainer of the Year trophy by the Ontario Hockey Federation.

All of which set the stage for the Roman Award. "I don't even know where to begin," she said. "This is quite an honour. I'm humbled. This is special, because this is the Sports Hall of Fame. The people that I was nominated with have been volunteering for years and years."

A female mixed in with an all-boys team, comprised of players aged 16 to 21, no less, comes with its own share of challenges, though Parisé has clearly established her presence within the environment.

"The challenge is to gain their respect," she noted. "It takes a bit of time to gain that respect. It's about making sure they will come and approach me if there is a problem. Once you gain that respect, it's a lot easier."

A minor pro hockey league career that spanned more than 300 games, combined with four OHL seasons split between the Sudbury Wolves, Belleville Bulls and Barrie Colts, guaranteed Sudbury Minor Midget "AAA" Wolves head coach Shawn Frappier the respect of his young troops, from the moment he walked in the room.

Still, Frappier made sure he had a message to share with his crew that produced one of the largest crop of OHL draftees seen in these parts in recent years. "I'm a pretty hard-nosed guy," he admitted. "I was a lunch-pail player when I played. I was one of those guys that had to work for it every day. That's the one thing I bring to these kids every day."

Frappier walked away with the plaque as Joe Drago Coach of the Year, having now committed to returning behind the bench with the "AAA" Minor Midget Wolves for the 2016-2017 season, with a whole new set of young prospects on hand.

For junior curling national wilver medal winning skip Tanner Horgan, the House of Kin Dinner is becoming old hat. In 2014, Horgan was named as High School Athlete of the Year, coming off a silver medal performance at OFSAA Track and Field, placing second in the shot put.

Last year, he would be joined by Jacob Horgan, Patrick Huska and Ethan Urban, as the Lockerby gold medal winning curling quartet were acknowledged for their win at the all-Ontario championships.

This time around, it was the Sheridan Family Team of the Year designation that would come his way, teaming with younger brother Jacob, Maxime Blais and Nick Bissonnette in walking away with a silver medal at the M & M Meats Canadian Junior Championships, all at a time when the team still has several years of junior curling eligibility remaining.

"It was never in the plan to go first in the round robin at nationals, and then go straight to the final - not this year," said Horgan. "Maybe some day, but not this year. Looking at the season as a whole, it was just leaps and bounds ahead of every other season to date."

Ironically, it was the mid-season addition of Bissonnette to the fold that Horgan acknowledged as the single biggest turning point this year. "The addition of someone who was a little more new to everything than we were, brought some freshness, and an incredible work ethic."

The Dr Fred Sheridan High School Team of the Year went to the St Charles College Cardinals' football programs, as the juniors and seniors duplicated a degree of success, capturing SDSSAA banners and giving Superior Heights from Sault Ste Marie a good go in the NOSSA finals.

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