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Foote a surprising MVP

Defenceman Cal Foote seemed to be the most surprised person in the Kelowna Community Theatre when MC Bill Barnes called his name.

On a team loaded with players who had monster seasons, Foote was singled out as the most valuable on the Kelowna Rockets.

During his brief acceptance speech, Foote pointed to leading scorer Kole Lind (96 points), electric Dillon Dube and Carsen Twarynski, who shattered season-best 20-goal season with a team-high 45 as deserving recipients.

"I was surprised when I got it because we have so many great players," said Foote.

"There were three guys that were in the running for it, and I know they had a great season. Credit to them, they played real well this year."

But it was Foote, the leader of a unheralded defence corps, who walked away with the honours. Foote finished the season with 19 goals and 70 points, both two shy of club records.

It was Foote's second major award of the day. He was also named the team's top defenceman for a second straight year.

He joins Gavin McLeod, Luke Schenn, Tyson Barrie and Damon Severson as back-to-back winners of the award. Scott Hannan won it three straight years.

It's doubtful he'll have a chance to equal Hannan's record. It's expected the first round Tampa Bay draft choice will begin his pro career next season.

It was a whirlwind year of sorts for Foote, who started the year being drafted by the Lightning, then was named the Rockets' 23rd captain.

"It was definitely a little bit different at the start being named captain," said Foote.

"Our supporting cast, all the assistant captains and the rest of the players made it a whole lot easier for me. It was nice to have everyone by my side."

The year also included a gold medal as a member of Canada's world junior hockey team.

Defenceman Gordie Ballhorn, who is also the leaving after the season, also heard his name called multiple times. Ballhorn was the team's plus-minus winner (plus 37), the unsung hero and also co-winner of the humanitarian award along with another multiple-winner in Twarynski.

The 20-year old Twarynski was also named the team's most improved player, an award which rarely goes to a graduating player.

But, the native of Calgary, who has inked a three-year entry level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, had a monster breakout year, scoring more goals this season (45), than his previous three combined (43).

Lind took home the statistical award as top scorer, leading the club with 96 points. Wil Kushniryk was named the top scholastic player, Conner Bruggen-Cate best defensive forward, Leif Mattson most sportsmanlike because, as he said, he doesn't fight, and Kaeden Korczak rookie of the year.

Dillon Dube was honoured at the end of the evening by team president and GM Bruce Hamilton with the newly-created President's Award.

Hamilton said the award was created to recognize exceptional accomplishments within the organization.

Dube was presented with the award after becoming the first Rocket player ever named to represent Canada at back-to-back World Junior tournaments.

"It was unbelievable for that to get recognized. I wasn't expecting anything like that, and it was pretty incredible for Bruce and the Hamilton family to recognize that," said Dube.

"I'd like to thank them and Lornie (head scout Frey) for bringing me in at such a young age. I've developed a lot as a person here, and I think that shows what they've done for me."

He said they have allowed him to become the kind of player I wanted to be.

The Rockets get back to work Monday to prepare for a first-round playoff meeting with the Tri-City Americans. The opening two games in the series will be played Thursday and Saturday at Prospera Place.



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