Three Manitoba Junior Hockey League members were named as finalists for the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s year-end awards. Falling into categories of Coach, Rookie and Goaltender of the Year, Kelvin Cech of the Winkler Flyers, as well as Carter Loney and Matt Lenz of the Steinbach Pistons were hand-picked as representatives from the MJHL from the 10 CJHL member leagues.
Despite the three MJHL delegates not receiving recognition as winners in either of their categories, the acknowledgement of finishing as finalists certainly provides some solace in the COVID-19 shortened season.
Flyers head coach Kelvin Cech earned the MJHL Coach of the Year award after taking over a 23-32-5 Winkler team that missed the postseason in 2018-19, and turned the team into a 38-17-5, playoff-bound, third-place powerhouse. The former UBC Thunderbirds assistant coach took over in Winkler for 2019-20 and put up a 30-point improvement from the past season and was three games into his opening round playoff series with the Virden Oil Capitals before Hockey Canada shut down the season. Billy McGuigan of the Summerside Western Capitals took home the CJHL top coach award.
Loney, 17, put up 16 goals and 50 points in 52 games for Steinbach, while leading all players born in 2002 in scoring league-wide. The Division I University of Minnesota Duluth commit skated for Canada West at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge, and played in the CJHL Prospects Game, finishing testing as the top-performer. Carleton Place Canadians goaltender Devon Levi earned the CJHL top rookie award.
Lenz, 20, was tops in the MJHL, finishing the 2019-20 season with a 29-4-4 record, a 2.13 goals against average and a .922 save percentage – all tops across the league. In his second season with the Pistons, Lenz earned the league’s top goaltender honour, while suiting up as a first-team all-star netminder. A Division I Mercyhurst University commit for the 2020-21 season, Lenz – much like Loney – fell to CJHL Rookie of the Year Devon Levi as the country’s top Junior A netminder.
Alongside the Coach of the Year, Top Goaltender and Rookie of the Year awards, the CJHL presented three other recognitions, including: MVP (Devon Levi), Top Defenceman (Michael Benning) and Top Forward (Kent Johnson).