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Pogge Named Top Goalie, MVP in WHL

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
May 3, 2006

CALGARY (CP) -- Calgary Hitmen goaltender Justin Pogge was named the Western Hockey League's most valuable player and top goaltender for the 2005-06 season.

"It's a big honour receiving these two huge awards,'' said Pogge in a video statement played at the annual league awards luncheon Wednesday.

Pogge had an outstanding season, his last in the WHL.
(Getty Images/NHLI)

Pogge wasn't at the luncheon as he was travelling back home from Latvia, where Team Canada is preparing for the world championships. Pogge played in the third period of a 4-3 exhibition loss to Belarus on Tuesday night, giving up two goals.

The 20-year-old from Penticton, B.C., posted a 38-10-2-4 record during the WHL regular season with 11 shutouts, a 1.72 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.

He credited his teammates for helping him post such impressive statistics.

"I couldn't have done anything without them standing in front of me,'' Pogge said.

Everett Silvertips forward Peter Mueller was named the league's top rookie. The top defenceman honour went to Kris Russell of the Medicine Hat Tigers. Russell was also named the WHL's most sportsmanlike player.

Moose Jaw Warriors overage forward Troy Brouwer won the WHL scoring title with 49 goals and 53 assists in 72 games.

Medicine Hat's Will Desjardin was chosen coach of the year, while Vancouver's Scott Bonner earned executive of the year.

Pogge won the Four Broncos Trophy as the league's MVP ahead of Western Conference finalist Justin Keller, a Kelowna Rockets forward.

"He's one of my good buddies,'' Pogge said. "It's good to be there right with him.''

The Hitmen finished second in the league in the regular season with a 47-18-3-4 record.

Pogge's record in the post-season was 7-5-1-0 with a 2.54 GAA, a .911 save percentage and two shutouts. The Hitmen lost to the Moose Jaw Warriors in seven games in the second round of the playoffs.

Calgary coach and GM Kelly Kisio said the awards were well deserved for Pogge, who also led Canada to a gold medal at the world junior men's hockey championship in Vancouver in January.

"Obviously on the world stage, you saw Justin do his thing with the world junior championships,'' Kisio said. "Throughout the year he was great for us. "He was probably the best goalie in the league and probably the best player most of the time.''

Russell, who played on the world junior team along side Pogge, also commended Pogge for his efforts this past season.

"He stepped up for Team Canada,'' said Russell. "He's a great guy.

"He's an awesome goalie and he deserved those awards.''

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Pogge to a contract just prior to that tournament after drafting him in the third round (90th overall) in 2004.

The Hitmen acquired Pogge from the Prince George Cougars at the January trade deadline during the 2003-04 season and Pogge blossomed in Calgary. He wasn't invited to the Canadian junior team's development camp last summer, but won the starting job outright at the December selection camp.

The last player to win both the WHL's MVP and top goaltender award was Cam Ward of the Red Deer Rebels in 2004. Ward is currently the starting goaltender for the Carolina Hurricanes in the NHL playoffs.

Vancouver Giants goaltender Dustin Slade was the finalist for the goaltender award.

Mueller beat out Brandon Sutter of the Red Deer Rebels for rookie of the year.

"It's a great honour,'' Mueller said. "At the beginning of the year, I never thought this would happen, but if you have good teammates along side of you, good things can happen.''

Russell, who won top defenceman honours over finalist Paul Albers of the Vancouver Giants, thanked the Tigers.

"They believed in a five-foot-nine, 145-pound 16-year-old,'' said Russell. "The experiences I came out with this year, it's been unreal with winning a gold medal and taking a couple awards home today. It shows how great a team we had this year.

"When you have a great team, individuals get recognized.''

Desjardins was chosen coach of the year ahead of Don Hay of the Vancouver Giants.

"It's a great award to receive,'' Desjardins said. "There are so many great coaches in our league.

"When you look at the quality of coaches, I find it pretty unbelievable I got it. You look at Don Hay and you look at Brent Sutter _ you look at so many guys in our league that are so good.''

Bonner, who won executive of the year over Chad Lang of Moose Jaw, gave credit to his Giants coaching and scouting staffs and players.

"I think it's more a reflection of players playing well and the coach getting the most out of the players,'' said Bonner.

The league's scholastic award went to Brennan Wray of the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Kootenay Ice was selected the scholastic team of the year.

Saskatoon's Wacey Rabbit was given the league's humanitarian award for work in the community. Kyle Rehman was voted the league's best official.

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