CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The North American Hockey League (NAHL) announced on Monday that IceRays defenseman Travis Howe has earned the NAHL Community Service Award, and forward Wes Michaud was named to the All-NAHL Team. The two IceRays skaters are the first players in junior franchise history to earn league honors.
“I’m more than honored,” said Howe, who struggled to find words to express his emotions. “It’s such a great award. I’m not going to get the top scorer, but something like this hits home and means a lot. I’ve been in a situation of need before, and somebody has helped me out. So I just want to return the favor.”
“The NAHL is a great league,” said Michaud. “It’s by far one of the most competitive leagues I’ve played in. To get this award really means a lot. I want to thank my teammates, [head] coach [John] Becanic, [assistant coach] Brad Flynn, and the entire organization for helping me change.”
Howe, 21, earned the NAHL South Community Service Award for his over 70 hours off-the-ice in helping the Coastal Bend. Not only did the alternate captain lead his team in these efforts, but how he interacted with the area helped him to earn several strong bonds, including one with eight-year-old Brooke Hester, who worked with the IceRays at the start of the year during the team’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Night to help raise funds for her Stage IV Neuroblastoma treatments. The Falmouth, Mass., native draws inspiration from his experiences both on and off the ice that have helped him keep a focus on helping others away from hockey. In the past, the Howe has needed extra assistance with obtaining hockey equipment and getting places to train to prepare him for this level of hockey, but his largest inspiration came upon arrival to the Corpus Christi area: his initial billet family and IceRays general manager, Pat Dunn.
“Pat Dunn, especially, first comes to mind with everything he has done for me this year,” said Howe. “He and his family have made this the best year of my life. Just seeing people like him go out of his way to help others that don’t need it. He does it. For me to see that I might not be able to help but I can help other people. That makes me feel good about myself giving back, and it’s something I take pride in.”
“Travis was recommended by assistant coach Brad Flynn, and Brad couldn’t have painted the picture any better,” said Dunn. “He was all that Brad had told us Travis was and more. Travis just took this to another level, and that’s an award that you can’t coach. It comes from the heart. This kind of award will pop out more than if he was the most valuable player. It’s going to follow him everywhere.”
“We’re all so happy for this recognition,” said Christine Lanari, IceRays Director of Community Relations. “Travis was incredible with the Corpus Christi community and was the first to jump at the chance to help out. There’s no better person I could see deserving this award than Travis. I hope all the best for him in his future endeavors.”
While his junior career is over, Howe is currently taking his time to enjoy the time away from the sport and be at home with his family. There are a lot of decisions to be made in the coming months about his hockey career and the next stages of his life, but for now he is keeping his options open and enjoying the moment.
“It’s surely something I’m going to carry with me and take pride in, and it’s pretty cool,” said Howe.
Michaud, 19, struggled to find his foothold in the NAHL during the 2013-14 season coming out of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton High School. Like most rookie junior players, the adjustment to style of play, opponent sizes, a new atmosphere, and a new system rattled the young forward, but after getting assistance and focusing on what needed to be done to improve, the forward excelled in his now final junior season, finishing third in the NAHL in goals (30) and scoring (73) as well as fourth in assists (43). He placed first among IceRays skaters in all major categories and set new scoring records in single-season goals, assists, and points, overstepping those records set by Rudy Sulmonte in the 2012-13 season.
“It’s what makes this league special,” said Michaud. “People get opportunities, and it took me wanting to be on the ice, get better and stronger, and listen to the coaching staff and peers on how to help me improve. It took a huge step to make me realize I wasn’t in high school anymore. I had to move on or I wasn’t going to be successful. Without the coaching staff and the whole organization helping me to turn my career around, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
“Wes didn’t have it easy over the course of his two years here,” said Dunn. “He has had a lot of deceptions along the way, but he stuck to it and was rewarded in the end. More importantly, I think him leaving home to come down to Corpus Christi made him mature as a young man, and that’s the biggest thing: his maturity, which also helped him become a better hockey player.”
“Wes is very deserving of the award, and it’s quite an accomplishment when you look at the very talented players in this league,” said John Becanic, IceRays Head Coach. “Again, you see the dominance in the South Division in the awards. I’m proud of Wes and the rest of the players for their individual achievements.”
Thanks to a commitment to Colorado College in November, Michaud will continue his hockey career at the NCAA Division I program starting next season to play at least four more years of hockey. The work both on and off the ice has continued after the IceRays season ended in early April, and his focus remains on adjusting to the collegiate level and his long-term goals.
“I’m looking forward to the beautiful view and town of Colorado Springs,” said Michaud. “Getting back another four years [of hockey] is huge. I’m going to strive everyday to get better and get that professional contract. That’s the ultimate goal, but I’m also going to try really hard in school. I’m obviously excited about that.”
These awards marks the first time that any IceRays player has earned a NAHL league award as well as the first time an IceRays player has swept both the divisional awards and the league awards for a specific category. The IceRays are also just one of four teams to earn multiple NAHL awards this season.
“I think it’s a sign that the team is doing in the right direction,” said Dunn. “It’s always an honor to have some of our players rewarded league-wide. We hope to have many more in the years to come.”
The 2015 IceRays Pre-Draft Camp begins Friday, May 29 from the Taylor Sportsplex in Taylor, Mich. to prepare for the 2015-16 season. Get more information on camp details and stay current with the latest team news by visiting www.goicerays.com. In addition, stay connected with the IceRays on Facebook (/CorpusChristiIceRays), Twitter (@goicerays), YouTube (IceRays TV), Instagram (CorpusChristiIceRays), and Vine (@goicerays).