The Professional Hockey Players’ Association has named Mike Liambas the American Hockey League’s Western Conference Built Tough award winner. The award is voted by players within the PHPA and presented to individual players from the AHL and ECHL’s Eastern and Western Conferences who are regarded as the toughest in their conference, a player who is there for his teammates, and helps makes his team the most challenging to play against.
Press Release via PHPA:
(Niagara Falls, ON) The Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016-17 PHPA Built Tough Award as voted by the player Membership of the PHPA.
The PHPA Built Tough Award is presented to one player from the American Hockey League’s Eastern and Western Conferences and one player from the ECHL’s Eastern and Western Conferences who are considered by their peers to be the toughest in their respective conference. A player who is always there for his teammates and helps make his team one of the most challenging to play against.
ECHL Eastern Conference: Brandon McNally, Cincinnati Cyclones
Known for his combination of toughness and skill, Brandon McNally posted a career high 16 goals and 18 assists in 68 games split between Cincinnati, Utah, and San Diego during the 2016-17 season, while amassing 188 penalty minutes and 10 fighting majors. The 6’2, 218 pound forward from Saugus, Massachusetts split the 2015-16 season between the American Hockey League and ECHL after four years at Dartmouth College.
“For me, the team comes first, and I think a lot of guys have that mentality in the league,” said McNally, “It’s nice to know people in the league recognize that I try to be there for my teammates. I play hard every single night and I’m willing to stand up for my teammates.”
ECHL Western Conference: Derek Mathers, Allen Americans
Derek Mathers lead the ECHL with a whopping 274 penalty minutes while posting 7 goals and 5 assists for 12 points in 59 games, helping the Allen Americans to a first place finish in the Mountain Conference. Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, Mathers has accumulated at least 100 penalty minutes in each of his four previous seasons split between the ECHL and American Hockley League.
“I’m glad my teammates and peers recognize me for being there for them,” said Mathers. “It’s always nice being recognized, especially when it’s those you play with who are voting.”
AHL Eastern Conference: Justin Vaive, Rochester Americans
Standing 6’6 and weighing 240 pounds, Justin Vaive amassed 90 penalty minutes during the 2016-17 season while adding 3 goals and 9 assists. After being drafted by Anaheim in 2007, Vaive spent four years at Miami University and has spent the past six season primarily in the AHL split between Rochester, Bridgeport, Hartford, and San Antonio.
“You go into a season not expecting to be acknowledged or rewarded for whatever you do on the ice whether that’s scoring, or assists, or just being there for your teammates,” said Vaive. “All the other guys that were up for this award clearly deserved it. Our team was a skilled team and I was able to add that toughness element to our skilled roster. I also played against all the guys that were up for the award and they were all obviously deserving of it, and brought pretty much the exact same thing I did to the table.”
AHL Western Conference: Mike Liambas, Milwaukee Admirals
Playing in his 6th full season at the pro level, the 5’10, 203 pound Mike Liambas lead the AHL in penalty minutes with 149. His play didn’t go unnoticed as Liambas made his NHL debut on December 3rd with the Nashville Predators. After beginning his career in the ECHL with Cincinnati, Liambas has played for Orlando, Rockford, and Milwaukee, often as one of the league leaders in penalty minutes. He also contributed 3 goals and 8 assists which was a career high in points in a single season.
“I’m pretty vocal on the ice and I play a hard and honest game,” said Liambas. “I don’t take too many penalties or take advantage of guys on other teams outside the rules or the code of the game. When guys on the other team are saying you’re tough to play against and that you play the game the right way, it’s is good to hear, especially when you’re playing a style that is sometimes controversial. It’s really cool to see the guys you battle against put your name in for an award like this, I appreciate it.”
Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.