Leading the Soo Greyhounds to the best record in the Canadian Hockey League – and best in franchise history – got Drew Bannister his first professional head coaching job.
Bannister spent the 2018-2019 campaign as the man in charge of the American Hockey League’s San Antonio Rampage.
It also got him recognition as Sault Ste. Marie’s sportsperson of the year.
On Tuesday, the 45-year-old Bannister was named winner of the coveted H.P. Broughton Trophy at the Rotary Sports Awards Dinner at the Marconi Club.
The former Hounds head coach edged out fellow nominees Mitchell Stadnyk, a football player at the University of Western Ontario, and the Sault College Cougars men’s hockey team in voting done by a committee including sports media and local sports enthusiasts.
Bannister was named Canadian Hockey League coach of the year in late May of 2018, weeks after balloting had ended for the 2018 Broughton.
But voters made sure to honour the former Greyhounds player and NHLer this time around.
Bannister led the Greyhounds to a sparkling 55-7-3-3 (wins, losses, overtime losses, shootout losses) record.
In winning the Hamilton Spectator Trophy as OHL regular season champions for the fifth time in franchise history, the Greyhounds scored a league-high 317 goals, while allowing a league-low 186.
The team won a franchise-record 23 straight games and enjoyed a record unbeaten-in-regulation streak of 29 straight.
The Soo’s 27-game home ice winning streak was the second-most in OHL history.
The club went on to eliminate Saginaw, Owen Sound and Kitchener – in a dramatic double-overtime, seventh-game win – to become Western Conference champions.
However, the Soo was beaten in six games by Hamilton in the OHL finals.
Bannister was also named OHL coach of the year and was hired by the Rampage, top farm club of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, shortly after the season ended.
He completed his three-year Hounds career with a combined record of 136-50-13-5.
Stadnyk, 22, was a starting defensive tackle for the University of Western Ontario. He was absent on Tuesday due to graduation ceremonies and was represented by former St. Mary’s Knights and Sault Sabercats teammate Ray Duplin.
Named an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) second team all-star following the 2018 season, Stadnyk helped the Mustangs win the Vanier Cup, the Canadian university championship, in 2017.
The team lost the 2018 Vanier Cup title game to the Laval Rouge et Or, snapping its 23-game winning streak in the process.
A six-foot-two, 250-pounder, Stadnyk was thought to be the smallest starting defensive tackle in the OUA. He graduated having won two Yates Cup championships, emblematic of Ontario football supremacy.
In 2014, he was chosen for Team Ontario’s junior squad, which competed at the International Bowl in Arlington, Tex.
The year after, he was named to Team Canada and again played in the International Bowl in Arlington.
As a member of the Knights high school program, he won league MVP honours in both junior and senior football.
Stadnyk is also a former Ontario Varsity Football League (OVFL) all-star as a member of the Sabercats varsity team.
Meantime, coached by Mike Hall, the Sault College Cougars made history in 2019.
They became the first Canadian team to win the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division 3 National Championship in Frisco, Tex.
In their first official season in the ACHA, the Cougars entered the 2018-2019 tourney as the North Region’s No. 1 seed, posting a 21-0-1 (wins, looses, ties) record against D-3 competition.
They also headed for Texas with a 23-2-1 mark overall.
Employing a puck-possession style, Sault College featured a roster dotted with speedy, skilled players, including numerous Sault natives.
Not only was winger Ryan Vendramin named tournament MVP, before that the Cougars captain was chosen the North Region’s MVP with a stat line of 55-41-96 in just 24 games.
Vendramin and defenceman Andrew Barbeau were also named to the North Region’s first all-star team. Goalie Drew Gregory made the second team while centre Max Khull and defenceman Tristan O’Flynn were third-team selections.
At the nationals, the Cougars dominated their opposition. They won three straight round-robin games before beating Fairfield University of Fairfield, Conn., 6-2 in the semifinals.
They went on to defeat Grand Valley State University from Allendale, Mich., 12-3 in the title game.
The Cougars will move to D-2 for the 2019-2020 campaign.
Meantime, a number of other athletic awards were also handed out on Tuesday.
Jordan Robinson-Wright of Korah won the prestigious Walter Lowe Trophy, given annually to the top male high school athlete in the city.
The other nominees included: Jacob Bumbaco (St. Mary’s), Ethan Johnson (Superior Heights) and Nathaniel Collins (White Pines).
Liam Morassut of Superior Heights was presented with the coveted B’nai B’rith Award, given annually to the graduating student best combining athletic ability with academic achievement.
Joseph Catches (White Pines), Luke May (Korah) and Dale Armstrong (St. Mary’s) were also nominated.
Korah won the Ross Winslade Trophy, presented to the secondary school accumulating the most points, based on performance, for boys and girls sports combined.
Top athletes from several individual sports were also recognized.
Korah’s Ryan Talvitie won the badminton award. The group of nominees also included Damon Dubas/Frankie Lepore (St. Mary’s), Tristan Sacchetta (Superior Heights) and Ethan Bowman (White Pines).
Basketball honours were shared by Bishop Whitmell of White Pines and Matt Kment of Korah. Brennan Mitchell (St. Mary’s) and Connor Malmloff (Superior Heights) were also nominated.
Mark Keenan of Superior Heights grabbed the cross-country running award. Behari Gashay-Barbare (White Pines), Ben Suopera (Korah) and Mason Chitaroni (St. Mary’s) were also nominated.
Josh Hales of Superior Heights received the curling nod. Hales edged out Talvitie, Bryson Petingalo (White Pines) and Devon Conway (St. Mary’s).
Football honours were presented to Korah’s Jacob Jurich. Nick Pagnotta (St. Mary’s) and Brennan Fisher (Superior Heights) were also nominated.
Dale Armstrong of the Knights won the hockey award. Ethan Johnson (Superior Heights), Mateo Perri (Korah) and Caden King (Central Algoma Secondary School) also received nominations.
Two athletes tied for soccer honours. That award was shared by Luke May (Korah) and Aidan Sicoli (St. Mary’s).
Gabe Spina (Superior Heights) and Yasin Ahmed Mohamed (White Pines) were the other nominees.
Liam Morassut of Superior Heights topped the group of nominees in track and field. Josh Marrello (St. Mary’s), Brett Pearce (White Pines) and Caleb Wood (Korah) were also in the running.
Wrestling honours were handed to Robbie Guzzo of St. Mary’s. The group of nominees also included Cole Stevens (CASS), Gavin Smith (Superior Heights) and Kohle Kennedy (Korah).
Meantime, for their many contributions, Steve Baum and Shawn MacDonald were inducted into the Russ Ramsay High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Both of their coaching careers span roughly 25 years, Baum in volleyball and MacDonald in basketball.