It was a night to remember as the National Lacrosse League honored a legend and handed out plenty of hardware at the 2015 NLL Season Awards & Hall of Fame Ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 29 in Toronto. Finalists were recognized at the live awards show with a list of winners announced that included league MVP Shawn Evans from the Calgary Roughnecks and the Saskatchewan Rush’s Ben McIntosh as Rookie of the Year.
The event culminated with a tribute to Terry Sanderson along with his induction into the NLL Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Sanderson, who passed away in 2014, entered as the 24th member of the Hall of Fame. Terry’s son Josh Sanderson, who plays for the Toronto Rock and won an award of his own, accepted on his father’s behalf as Sanderson became just the fifth coach/general manager in history to receive the league’s highest honor.
2015 NLL Season Awards finalists (winners in bold):
Teammate of the Year Award Presented by Western Union: Jarrett Davis (Saskatchewan Rush), Joel McCready (Vancouver Stealth) & Josh Sanderson (Toronto Rock)
McCready had a career year with personal highs in goals (30), assists (21) and points (51) in 18 games played with the Stealth as the team’s fourth-leading scorer. McCready’s 30 goals tied for 22nd-most in the league while his 51 points ranked inside the NLL’s top 40 for scoring. The sixth-year pro also recovered 50 loose balls and had a .240 shooting percentage, sixth-best in the league among players with 10 or more goals. McCready had three or more points in 10 games played and registered six hat tricks. The St. Catharines, Ont. native, who played collegiately at Cornell University, was selected in the second round (18th overall) of the 2008 NLL Draft.
Pinty’s Wingman of the Year Award: Shawn Evans (Calgary Roughnecks), Josh Sanderson (Toronto Rock) & Dhane Smith (Buffalo Bandits)
Sanderson tied for the league lead and tied the NLL single-season record with 83 assists while finishing sixth in the scoring race with 102 points (19+83). The 38-year-old helped the Rock to a first-place finish and eventual East Division title as the team’s leading scorer. The 18-year NLL veteran had 13 points in one game, which marked the highest single-game output in the league this year, and had at least one point in all 18 games played including 11 games with six-plus points. His 90 loose balls were fifth-most among NLL forwards. The Orangeville, Ont. native, who was a second-round (16th overall) selection in 1997 NLL Draft, won the NLL Player of the Month award for January and won Wingman of the Week three times during the regular season.
Shoeless Joe’s Shot of the Year: Miles Thompson (Georgia Swarm) (WATCH)
Sportsmanship Award: Kyle Buchanan (New England Black Wolves), Jordan Hall (Rochester Knighthawks) & Curtis Hodgson (Vancouver Stealth)
Buchanan recorded zero penalty minutes for the second-straight season and was one of only two NLL players who recorded no penalties while playing in all 18 regular season games. The 27-year-old posted 25 goals, 37 assists and 62 points for New England, all of which ranked second on the team, while his 98 loose balls were second-most among all NLL forwards. Buchanan has registered just two penalty minutes during his three-year NLL career spanning 45 games. The Nepean, Ont. native, who played collegiately at Robert Morris University, was a sixth-round selection (48th overall) in the 2012 NLL Draft.
Executive of the Year: Scott Loffler (Buffalo Bandits), Lewis Staats (Rochester Knighthawks) & Bruce Urban (Saskatchewan Rush)
Media Person of the Year (The Tom Borrelli Award): Steve Ewen (The Province)
General Manager of the Year: Steve Dietrich (Buffalo Bandits), Terry Sanderson (Toronto Rock) & Curt Styres (Rochester Knighthawks)
Sanderson laid the foundation for Toronto’s first-place 14-4 finish in 2015. The lacrosse legend, who passed away suddenly this past November, built the Rock team that went 7-2 at home and away, scored the third-most goals (230) and allowed the third-fewest (185). The East Division champions had three players in the league’s top 15 for scoring, both goalies in the top four of goals against average, and eventually advanced to the Champion’s Cup Finals. Sanderson first served as an NLL head coach in 2000 and began coaching the Rock in 2004, where he won the Champion’s Cup in 2005. The Orangeville, Ont. native worked as an assistant for three years before reuniting with the Rock in 2009 as Toronto’s GM and assistant coach. His return was highlighted by a championship win in 2011.
Head Coach of the Year (Les Bartley Award): Mike Hasen (Rochester Knighthawks), Derek Keenan (Saskatchewan Rush) & John Lovell (Toronto Rock)
Lovell coached Toronto to the league’s best record at 14-4 with a 7-2 record both at home and on the road. The Rock allowed the third-fewest goals (185) while scoring the third-most (230) as the team eventually advanced to the Champion’s Cup Finals as East Division champs. Toronto started the season with a 9-1 record and did not lose back-to-back games all year. The second-year head coach served as an assistant coach for the Rock for seven years before taking over head coaching duties in 2014. From Elora, Ont., Lovell has over 30 years of coaching experience spanning across all levels of lacrosse.
Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Corbeil (Saskatchewan Rush), Steve Priolo (Buffalo Bandits) & Kyle Rubisch (Saskatchewan Rush)
Rubisch, who is now the four-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year and first player in league history to win the award four times, led all NLL defensemen with 36 caused turnovers, good for second-most overall. The fifth-year pro had six points (1+5) and 23 penalty minutes in 18 games played, while his 118 loose balls ranked fourth among all defenders and non-faceoff men. The backbone of the Rush’s defense, Rubisch was part of the Rush’s defense that allowed only 177 goals, second-fewest of any NLL team, and helped goalie Aaron Bold lead the league with a 9.44 goals against average. The Brampton, Ont. native played collegiately at Dowling College and was the second overall selection in the 2010 NLL Draft.
Transition Player of the Year: Joey Cupido (Colorado Mammoth), Karsen Leung (Calgary Roughnecks) & Brodie Merrill (Toronto Rock)
Cupido ranked sixth among among NLL transition players in goals (16), seventh in points (31), and ninth in assists while primarily playing a defensive role in 18 games played. The fourth-year pro led the league with 40 caused turnovers and had 117 loose balls, fifth-most among non-faceoff men, eighth-most among transition players, and tied for 12th-most overall. With 16 goals on just 43 shots, Cupido’s .372 shooting percentage ranked first among all NLL players with 10-plus goals. Cupido also tied for second in the league with four shorthanded goals. The Hamilton, Ontario native was Colorado’s fifth-round (38th overall) selection in the 2011 NLL Draft. He was named to the NLL All-Rookie Team in 2013 and became the first NLL player drafted in the fifth round or later to receive the honor in a decade.
Goaltender of the Year: Aaron Bold (Saskatchewan Rush), Brandon Miller (Toronto Rock) & Matt Vinc (Rochester Knighthawks)
Vinc, now the three-time reigning Goaltender of the Year, ranked tied for first in save percentage (.803), second in goals against average (9.62) and saves (655), tied for second in wins (10) and third in career-high minutes played (1003:58). Vinc made 40-plus saves in seven games played and allowed 10 or fewer goals in 10 games including a league-record two goals allowed in one game. Under Vinc’s leadership, the Knighthawks allowed a league-low 173 goals en route to a 12-6 record. The 10-year NLL veteran is the only goalie in league history to win the Goaltender of the Year award five times (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 & 2015). The St. Catharines, Ontario native, who played collegiately at Canisius College, was a first-round selection (6th overall) in the 2005 NLL Draft.
Rookie of the Year: Ben McIntosh (Saskatchewan Rush), Jeremy Noble (Colorado Mammoth) & Miles Thompson (Georgia Swarm)
McIntosh led all rookies in goals (37), assists (49) and points (86) during the regular season and tied for second with 69 loose balls. McIntosh’s 37 goals were tied for the 12th-most among all NLL players while his 86 points and 49 assists both tied for 14th-most overall. The first-year pro helped Edmonton to a first-place finish in the West Division and eventual Champion’s Cup win. He posted two or more points in all 18 of his games played this year, had 11 games with four-plus points and scored hat tricks in five games. The Coquitlam, B.C. native, the first overall pick in the 2014 NLL Draft out of Drexel University, won the NLL Rookie of the Month award in both January and April.
Most Valuable Player: Ryan Benesch (Buffalo Bandits), Shawn Evans (Calgary Roughnecks) & Mark Matthews (Saskatchewan Rush)
Evans set the new NLL single-season scoring record with a league-high 130 points, tied the league record with 83 assists, and had 47 goals which were sixth-most overall. The 10-year veteran led the league in shorthanded goals (5) and power play assists (31) while his 96 loose balls ranked third among forwards, 12th among non-faceoff men and 21st overall. Evans scored at least two goals in 15 of 18 games played including nine hat tricks, had four or more points in every game, and four-plus assists in 13 games. Evans first won the NLL MVP award in 2013. The Peterborough, Ont. native, who played collegiately at Bellarmine University, was the second overall pick in the 2005 NLL Draft.
All-Pro First Team
Forward- Shawn Evans (Calgary Roughnecks)
Forward- Ryan Benesch (Buffalo Bandits)
Forward- Mark Matthews (Saskatchewan Rush)
Transition- Joey Cupido (Colorado Mammoth)
Defense- Kyle Rubisch (Saskatchewan Rush)
Goaltender- Matt Vinc (Rochester Knighthawks)
All-Pro Second Team
Forward- Josh Sanderson (Toronto Rock)
Forward- Cody Jamieson (Rochester Knighthawks)
Forward- Adam Jones (Colorado Mammoth)
Transition- Brodie Merrill (Toronto Rock)
Defense- Steve Priolo (Buffalo Bandits)
Goaltender- Aaron Bold (Saskatchewan Rush)
Forward- Ben McIntosh (Saskatchewan Rush)
Forward- Miles Thompson (Georgia Swarm)
Forward- Jeremy Noble (Colorado Mammoth)
Forward – Eli McLaughlin (Colorado Mammoth)
Defense- Robert Hope (Colorado Mammoth)
Goaltender- Alex Buque (Colorado Mammoth)
NLL Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Terry Sanderson
Sanderson served as an NLL head coach for seven seasons with Albany from 2000-2001, Montreal in 2002, Ottawa in 2003 and Toronto Rock from 2004-2006, which included a Champion’s Cup win in 2005. He finished his head coaching career with a 51-49 record. Sanderson was an assistant coach for Buffalo Bandits (2004), Philadelphia (2007) and won the Champion’s Cup in 2009 with the Calgary Roughnecks (2008-2009). Sanderson served as the Rock’s general manager for five seasons (2010-2014), an impressive tenure highlighted by a Champion’s Cup victory (2011), along with two East Division titles (2010 & 2015). The Orangeville, Ont. native played in the original NLL for Syracuse (1974) and Quebec (1975). Sanderson passed away suddenly this past November at the age of 62, leaving behind an iconic lacrosse legacy.