Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Top marks for top players

MHSAA recognizes hockey talents who also score high in classroom

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Fort Richmond's Jessica Kaminsky and St. Paul's Liam Bilton were recognized as the top high school hockey players in Manitoba Monday.

Kaminsky's honour was extra special. She was the first female player to win the Ed Belfour award, a fact that nearly left her at a loss for words when it came up.

"I actually didn't know that -- is that true? That's pretty crazy," she said, her nervous face melting into a big smile in front of reporters at an awards and scholarship presentation at Sport Manitoba.

The Manitoba High School Athletics Association expanded the award, named after former NHL goaltender Ed Belfour, to include a female player this year and Kaminsky was a worthy selection.

Not only was she captain of the Fort Richmond team, pouring in 47 goals in just 15 games this past winter, but the talented forward also was a part of the Pembina Valley Hawks club that won the national female AAA midget gold medal at the Esso Cup in Charlottetown, P.E.I. this past spring.

The LaSalle product wouldn't change a second of her Grade 12 year and joked that she spent more time at the rink than at home last season.

"It was a lot of work, there weren't many days off, you'd go from practice to practice," said Kaminsky, who managed to put up a 90 per cent average in school between hockey. "It was fun. It's been a great year."

Kaminsky's next stop is Union College, an Ivy League school, where she'll play with the Dutchwomen (Div. 1) in the fall.

Bilton's Crusaders were double champions last season, winning both the city and provincial titles. You'd be hard pressed to draw up a better year for a Grade 12 player ending his high school career, a reality Bilton was clueing into Monday.

"Having the individual success as well as the team success, it's perfect," he said. "We had a good year; we had great playoffs -- won (both titles). It feels pretty good."

Bilton was a Winnipeg league all-star, St. Paul's leading scorer and the club's most valuable player.

His next hockey game will be in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. The Grade 12 student is expected to sign with the Winnipeg Blues later this month, he said, as wants to get a couple years of MJHL hockey under his belt before trying his hand in the U.S. college ranks.

Marc-Andre Simard of College Gabrielle-Roy was the big winner on the scholarship front Monday, picking up the Ken 'Friar' Nicolson award ($1,000). He was also the male recipient of the Alexander Josephson memorial scholarship ($2,000), given to players who demonstrate strong leadership and a high scholastic aptitude.

Goaltender Taylor Morriseau of Dakota was the female recipient of the award.

St. Mary's Academy captain Megan Porath picked up the D'Arcy Bain/Fred Stevenson scholarship ($500), while Kelvin captain Devyn McFadyen earned the Sami Jo Small scholarship ($1,000). Garden City's Beverley Lunney and Neepawa's Tieler Fenning Cox were named the female and male recipient of the Winnipeg Jets Friends and Alumni scholarships ($1,000 each).

The connective tissue between the eight student winners Monday: They all excelled at hockey and in the classroom, and all were heavily involved in extra-curricular activities (volunteering, coaching) outside of school.

"I think the one common thing between everyone is that we get that from our parents," Lunney said. "My family has always tried to show me that being involved in other ways was important."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 15, 2012 D4

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