The BOTW Player of the Year 2018/19

We have reached the end of the Bison’s regular season and whilst British hockey at the second tier will soon enter yet another crossroads, it is time for BOTW to return to one of its traditions.

Before we start this, there have been some changes to the panel that helps decide this award. I would like to thank Grant King and Jamie Walker who have stepped back from participating this year for their assistance during the last few years of this award. They are replaced by Daren “Bavy” Bavister, the Bison’s matchnight DJ and by Caroline Morris, the editor of the Bison’s matchnight programme who join long standing panel members, Nigel Simmonds and Hannah Driver.

Fans of the Herd and the odd interested outsider nominated a total of 7 players for discussion by the panel however only one player can be the recipient of the “Edjis Brahmanis Trophy”, the most drinkable trophy in sports.

Banners On The Wall Player of the Year 2018/19: #16 George Norcliffe

(c) 5 Hole Photography

Signed from Bracknell, former Guildford junior Norcliffe came to the Bison with minimal fanfare and ends the season with the highest end of season prize that this website can offer. The 25 year old moved to the Bison after an 11 point season with the Bracknell Bees and has more than doubled his points total including key goals in the second leg of the NIHL Southern Cup final. His gritty and determined style of play, his desire to drive the net and his ability on and off the puck have seen him taken to the hearts of Bison fans. The discussion amongst the panel saw a variety of opinions but all were in agreement that whilst any member of the roster this season could arguably have this award, George is a more than worthy winner that has gone to players who will live long in the memory of Bison fans such as Joe Rand, Tomas Karpov, Kurt Reynolds, Dan Davies and two time winner, Aaron Connolly.

About George, Nigel Simmonds said “He skated well, has a blistering turn of speed, great stickwork & has chipped in with some quality goals. Really hope he’ll be back next season”.

Other nominees:

#17 Russ Cowley

After a year away from the sport to finish his PhD, “The Doctor” returned to the ice and to say he was a shock signing when announced in July would be an understatement but it came with questions; how would he be used and more importantly after a year out, could he still go? The answer was an emphatic “yes”. Named captain of the Bison for the season, Cowley has mostly been used as the first line centre and has rewarded fans in Hampshire with a high level, consistent performance and going over a point per game. Hannah Driver mentioned that Cowley was “a fantastic player, a fantastic role model to the younger team members and an excellent, level captain…I hope he chooses to remain with us and continue to pass on his wealth of knowledge”

#2 Adam Jones

The 23 year old Birmingham born defenceman has proven to be the rock at the back for the Bison. Having been part of the Telford side that lost to the Bison in the 2018 national final, Jones was tempted south by Ashley Tait and has proven himself as the Herd’s number one blueliner, the point man on the powerplay and a regular recipient of the man of the match beers. “The unassuming rock at the back, quiet, solid, reliable and dedicated, passionate” said Bavy.

#77 Jay King

Following the demise of the Edinburgh Capitals, Jay King took a risk and headed as far away from his home as he could whilst remaining in the country. Whilst he’s popular for having a big smile on his face and doing the Macarena, the 23 year old Scot has proven to be capable and dependable defensive player for the Herd. 14 points (his highest total in senior hockey) and only 18 penalty minutes means that whilst he’s clearly living his best life, he’s a very good hockey player. Caroline Morris added “He’s certainly proved that he can mix it up when he needs to, will take that shot, and gives his all to the team. Nothing seems to hold back that happy dancing D-man, no matter how many times he gets knocked down.”

#26 Michal Klejna

Much like Richard Bordowski, Michal Klejna was an unknown quantity to Basingstoke fans and British hockey. The 31 year old Slovak forged a productive partnership with Ashley Tait and it’s no surprise that Klejna finished the regular season top of the goals and points columns. (Tait leads the team in assists). Clearly a passionate player, Klejna regularly displays an immense amount of skill and has superb hands that can put a puck onto a sixpence or past the opposition netminder. “Links up well with Ash and is a regular on the PP and PK. Love his desire to win & how much it means to him, when he scores” said Nigel Simmonds.

#28 Alex Mettam

After 5 years at Bracknell, the change of order saw Alex Mettam move his talents to Hampshire. It seemed for many to be a marriage of convenience but Mettam has proven this season that he can compete and be a difference maker. A team with a blueline corps with an average age of 22 needed a backstop who they could have confidence in and Mettam grew into the fact that he really was the go to guy for Basingstoke. Hannah Driver noted “ He has been solid overall this season and has been the stand out player in some games. He has a great partnership with DWE and it’s clear that they have that special NM bond.”

#25 Dan Weller-Evans

Basingstoke and Wales’ favourite son was once again put into the final discussion by his own personal fan club of Swindon fans however this was a different season for Weller-Evans. Whilst injury hit, he has seen more ice time than in previous years including the last weekend of the regular season where he won both games and conceded just 1 goal in 120 minutes of hockey which showed the development in his game. A voice in the darkness last summer, Weller-Evans called on Bison fans to be patient and that the 2018/19 season would not be doom and gloom.

Special mentions:

We’d go into such stuff normally but we’re going to save it for the Curtain Down piece.

A massive thank you to Caroline, Daren, Hannah and Nigel for their assistance. We’ll try and get George his award at Sunday’s game against Streatham. We thank you as ever for nominating your choice this season. Roll on the playoffs!

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