CHICAGO, IL - University of Wisconsin senior forward Aidan Cavallini (Barrington, Illinois) has been named the 2017 Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award winner, as announced tonight by the Hockey Commissioners Association (HCA) at the Frozen Four in Chicago.
The award was established by the HCA in honor of former Army player Derek Hines, who was a "consummate team player and team builder." Hines played at Army from 1999-2003 and was a four-year latter-winner as well as a co-captain his senior season. He was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 1, 2005 in Afghanistan.
"He came into this year not being a regular player," observed Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato. "At the start of the year he was in and out of the lineup and never complained. All he did was get ready, be positive and do things right in practice, waiting for his chance. When he got his chance, he kept showing more and more and more."
Entering December of his senior year, Cavallini had never scored a goal for the Badgers. That changed on December 9 when, in a 7-4 win against Big Ten rival Michigan, the drought ended. After the game in which Cavallini scored the first of his six goals this season, he observed, "I think some of my teammates were more happy than I was, honestly."
Said Coach Granato after the game, "It was like we won the Stanley Cup. There's a character person and a teammate that you can only love if you're part of it, and they were probably more excited about that than anything up to that point this season."
Cavallini comes from a distinguished hockey family with his father, Gino, and uncle, Paul, both college hockey alumni (Gino at Bowling Green and Paul at Providence.) Each of the brothers appeared in more than 500 NHL games including a stint as St. Louis Blues teammates.
Off the ice, Cavallini is a finance major who has earned Big Ten All-Academic status in each of his first three full seasons. He has also engaged in a number of volunteer activities in the Madison community. But it is his impact on his teammates that says the most about him.
Said teammate Tim Davison, "Aidan Cavallini fits all the characteristics of being a great teammate. There is no question that he is fearless leader and a great competitor. He absolutely hates to lose and can take over the locker room when things need to be addressed. As someone who did not play a lot his first three years, he never complained and accepted whatever role he was given. This year, when he took on a bigger role, he didn't a big head about it. He took the opposite approach; it humbled him and he worked even harder this past season to keep his spot and contribute to our team's success."
Cavallini played in 85 career games with 6 goals and 10 assists for 16 points. This year he was 6-6-12 in 32 games. The other finalists for this year's award were Geoff Fortman of Canisius (Atlantic Hockey); Davis Jones of Alaska (WCHA); Jared Kolquist of Merrimack (Hockey East); Brenden Kotyk of Minnesota Duluth (NCHC); Devin Tringale of Harvard (ECAC Hockey).
The Hockey Commissioners Association coordinates the honor. Each of the six hockey conferences nominates a player to a national ballot. From there, sports information directors from each conference vote on a winner, "who displays exemplary sportsmanship, is supremely competitive, intelligent and extraordinarily conditioned with an unmatched work ethic. The contributions of this individual, on and off the ice, cannot be measured by statistics alone."
Recipients of the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award
Year - Recipient/Class/Position/Institution
2007 - Dan Shribman, SR, Forward, Dartmouth College
2008 - Chase Podsiad, SR, Defenseman, Army West Point
2009 - Mike Phillipich, SR. Forward, U.S. Air Force Academy
2010 - Jordan Pietrus, SR, Forward, Brown University
2011 - Kyle Schmidt, SR, Forward, University of Minnesota-Duluth
2012 - Bobby Farnham, SR, Forward, Brown University
2013 - Kyle Murphy, SR, Forward, Providence College
2014 - Brice O'Connor, SR, Defenseman, University of Maine
2015 - P.J. Musico, SR. Goaltender, Penn State University
2016 - Matt Vidal, SR. Forward, College of the Holy Cross
2017 - Aidan Cavallini, SR. Forward, University of Wisconsin