ANDRE Payette capped a successful first full season in charge at Sheffield Steeldogs in the English Premier League by scooping the coach of the year award from the journalists who cover the sport.
The 35-year-old Canadian has led the Steel City’s part-time club to an English Premier League Cup final as well as sustaining an unexpected title challenge for most of the season, impressing members of Ice Hockey Journalists (UK).
The Steeldogs - in only their second year - will look to turn around a 6-3 deficit in the Cup final when they travel to Guildford Flames on Wednesday night and are well-placed to finish the regular season in third place.
It marks a remarkable transformation when compared to the previous season, which saw Steeldogs finish eighth and exit the play-offs at the first time of asking.
Payette said: “It makes me very proud and honoured to have won this award.
“My life is hockey and being a coach as well as still being able to play is kind of like a dream job for me - to win such an award in my first full year as a coach is wonderful.
“It’s more like an award for the whole club because I could not do it without my players and the people who own and run the club - they have both put a lot faith in me and what we are trying to do here.
“Our target was to break into the top six and it looks like we might end up in third. To do that and reach the EPL Cup final is a fantastic achievement.”
In further good news for the club, Janis Ozolins took the EPL player of the year, thanks in large part to the 50 goals he has plundered so far.
He said: ““It’s a great thing to win. I’m very surprised and this isn’t something I expected. I haven’t enjoyed hockey like this for quite a few years.”
Steeldogs’ goaltender Ben Bowns was voted in as the first-choice netminder on the EPL First All-Star Team, with defenceman Ben Morgan making it into the Second All-Star line-up.
In the Elite League, the only Yorkshire success was Jeff Legue being voted into the First All-Star Team for the league after another successful season.
Braehead Clan’s Jade Galbraith took the Elite League player of the year, while Doug Christiansen took the coach of the year award after leading Belfast Giants to the regular season league title.
Full Awards list
Elite League All-Star First Team: Stephen Murphy (Belfast); Jeff Mason (Belfast), Corey Neilson (Nottingham); Jade Galbraith (Braehead), Jeff Legue (Sheffield), Shea Guthrie (Coventry)
Elite League All-Star Second Team: Craig Kowalski (Nottingham); Jeremy Rebek (Belfast), James Jorgensen (Braehead); David Beauregard (Nottingham), Robert Dowd (Belfast), Rene Jarolin (Edinburgh)
Elite League Coach of the Year: Doug Christiansen (Belfast)
Elite League Player of the Year: Jade Galbraith (Braehead)
English Premier League All-Star First Team: Ben Bowns (Sheffield); Chris Allen (Peterborough), Paul Dixon (Guildford); Janis Ozolins (Sheffield), Nathan Rempel (Guildford), Leigh Jamieson (Milton Keynes)
English Premier League All-Star Second Team: Mark Lee (Guildford); Ben Morgan (Sheffield), David Savage (Guildford); Martin Cingel (Manchester), David Longstaff (Guildford), Darius Pliskauskas (Slough)
English Premier League Coach of the Year: Andre Payette (Sheffield)
English Premier League Player of the Year: Janis Ozolins (Sheffield)
Best British Netminder (Phil Drackett Memorial Award): Stephen Murphy (Belfast)
Best British Defenceman (Alan Weeks Trophy): Mark Richardson (Cardiff)
Best British Forward: Robert Dowd (Coventry)
Best British (Under-21) Young Player (Vic Batchelder Memorial Award): Robert Farmer (Coventry).