MTU’s Kero tops WCHA award winners list

EDINA, Minn. – March 12, 2015 – Led by six selections apiece for nationally second-ranked Minnesota State and No. 4 Michigan Tech, the league’s top five regular season finishers paced the men’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) postseason all-league teams and individual award winners, as announced today by Commissioner Bill Robertson.

Michigan Tech senior forward Tanner Kero capped a tremendous regular season by being named the WCHA Player of the Year and Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year, complementing his status as the league’s scoring champion. Alaska junior defenseman – and recent St. Louis Blues signee – Colton Parayko repeated as Defensive Player of the Year. Bemidji State freshman Michael Bitzer was tabbed Rookie of the Year, while Minnesota State’s Mike Hastings earned Coach of the Year accolades.

WCHA Player of the Year and Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year – Tanner Kero, Sr., F, Michigan Tech (Hancock, Mich.)

Kero has established himself as one of the premier players in college hockey during a dynamic senior campaign on the ice, while exemplifying the true nature of a student-athlete away from the rink. The senior from Hancock, Mich. captured the WCHA scoring crown with 13 goals, 21 assists and 34 points in 28 conference games. A Hobey Baker Award nominee and All-WCHA First Team selection, Kero enters the postseason tied for 10th in the country with 43 points overall (18 goals, 25 assists), while also ranking among NCAA leaders for plus/minus (tied for fifth at +22) and game-winning goals (tied for third with seven). In the classroom, Kero maintains a 3.72 GPA in mathematics with a concentration in actuarial sciences. He has been honored as a WCHA Scholar-Athlete and earned a spot on the All-Academic team in all three years in which he has been eligible. One of 10 finalists for the 2015 Senior CLASS Award, Kero also volunteers in the Koaches Kids reading program for elementary schools, local youth hockey programs and numerous local charity events in the Houghton, Mich. area.

WCHA Defensive Player of the Year – Colton Parayko, Jr., D, Alaska (St. Albert, Alberta)

Parayko earned his second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year honor after excelling on both ends of the ice. The junior from St. Albert, Alberta ranked third among WCHA defensemen with 20 points (4 goals, 16 assists) in 28 league contests, while tying for third among all league players with 13 power-play points. While finishing with 23 points overall, Parayko also helped anchor a Nanooks’ defense that ranked in the top 25 nationally – including yielding just 1.38 goals per game over a perfect 7-0-1 stretch to end the season. On Tuesday, March 10, the All-WCHA First Team defenseman signed a two-year entry level contract with St. Louis, after he was originally drafted by the Blues in the third round (86th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

WCHA Rookie of the Year – Michael Bitzer, Fr., G, Bemijdi State (Moorhead, Minn.)

Bitzer has been not just one of the best goaltenders in the WCHA, but one of the top netminders in the country during his rookie collegiate campaign. The freshman from Moorhead, Minn. led the WCHA with a .936 save percentage in conference play, while ranking second with a 1.61 goals against average. He ranks sixth nationally (third among freshman) with an overall .932 save percentage, while pacing all NCAA rookies with a 1.76 GAA (fourth overall). Beginning Dec. 12, Bitzer – who also earned a spot on the WCHA All-Rookie team – leads the country with a .948 save percentage and 1.31 GAA, while going 12-4-3 over his final 16 starts.

WCHA Coach of the Year – Mike Hastings, Minnesota State

Hastings was honored by his peers after guiding the Mavericks to the first MacNaughton Cup in program history and a No. 2 national ranking entering the postseason. During Hastings’ third year at the helm, Minnesota State went 21-4-3 for 45 points in league play, posting a .804 winning percentage that is the third-best in WCHA history for a 28-game conference schedule. The Mavericks, who also ascended to the top of the opinion polls for the first time ever, enters the postseason tied for the nation’s best overall winning percentage at .757 (25-7-3).

2014-15 All-WCHA First Team– Forwards: Tanner Kero, Sr., Michigan Tech; Matt Leitner, Sr., Minnesota State; Tyler Morley, Jr., Alaska
– Defensemen: Colton Parayko, Jr., Alaska; Zach Palmquist, Sr., Minnesota State
– Goaltender: Jamie Phillips, Jr., Michigan Tech

2014-15 All-WCHA Second Team– Forwards: Bryce Gervais, Jr., Minnesota State; Alex Petan, Jr., Michigan Tech; Malcolm Gould, Jr., Michigan Tech
– Defensemen: Matt Prapavessis, Sr., Bemidji State; Casey Nelson, So., Minnesota State
– Goaltender: Stephon Williams, Jr., Minnesota State

2014-15 All-WCHA Third Team– Forwards: Blake Pietila, Sr., Michigan Tech; Marcus Basara, So. Alaska; Brendan Harms, So., Bemidji State and Blake Tatchell, Sr., Alaska Anchorage (tied)
– Defensemen: Shane Hanna, So., Michigan Tech; Brock Maschmeyer, So., Northern Michigan
– Goaltender: CJ Motte, Sr., Ferris State

2014-15 WCHA All-Rookie Team– Forwards: Brandon Hawkins, Bowling Green; C.J. Franklin, Minnesota State; Max McHugh, Alabama Huntsville
– Defensemen: Mark Friedman, Bowling Green; Nolan Valleau, Bowling Green
– Goaltender: Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State

(Information Courtesy of the WCHA)