Red Deer Rebels take home awards

The man who many credit with leading the Red Deer Rebels to a Central Division title this past season has been honoured with another award.

Darcy Kuemper, who lead all Western Hockey League goaltenders in 2010-2011 with 45 wins a 1.86 goals against average and 13 shutouts (which tied a league record for shutouts in a single season), walked away from the recent WHL Awards banquet in Calgary with not one, but two trophies.

Kuemper beat out Spokane net minder James Reid to snag the Del Wilson Goaltender of the Year award and he also won the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy, given to the league’s most valuable player.

“It’s a great feeling and something I never would have expected at the start of the year,” said Kuemper, who was named the CHL Goalie of the Week three times over the course of the year, the only goalie in the CHL to do that. “But to have it now is a great feeling and I can’t thank my teammates and coaches enough for all they’ve done for me.”

In winning the Player of the Year award, Kuemper finds himself in some lofty company as only a handful of goalies, including former Rebel Cam Ward in 2003-2004, have ever won the trophy, named in honour of the four Swift Current Broncos who died tragically when their bus crashed on a snowy highway in 1986.

“So many good players have won the award in the past and it’s pretty amazing to be on the same trophy as them, and hopefully I can follow in their footsteps,” Kuemper told the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, the daily newspaper in his hometown. “It’s hard to believe I deserve it with so many other great players in the league and so many guys with great seasons. With the season Tyler Johnson (who finished in second in the MVP voting) had, it’s hard to see myself as more deserving than him. But with that being said, it’s a great honour and I’m very appreciative of all the people who voted for me.”

The award came as no surprise to Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin.

“Our expectation of him, coming into camp as a 20-year-old, was for him to be one of the top goaltenders in the league,” said Wallin, who lost out to Spokane`s Don Nauchbar for the Coach of the Year award. “He really took advantage of that opportunity and what I really noticed about Kuemps this season was just a more confident, even keel approach.”

Kuemper, who was originally taken 45th overall by the Spokane Chiefs in the 2005 bantam draft before the Rebels picked him in a trade in 2007, was the model of consistency this past year, losing back to back games just twice in 62 regular season games played.

In addition to his weekly honours from the CHL, Kuemper was also named the best junior goalie in Canada for January and he’s the first goalie since Justin Pogge did it with Calgary in 2005-2006 to win both the MVP and the best goalie award.

The 20-year-old, who is the WHL`s nominee for the CHL Player of the Year award (which will be handed out during the Memorial Cup in Mississauga later this month) is expected to sign soon with the Minnesota Wild, which drafted him in the sixth round in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Kuemper, though, wasn’t the only Rebel to come away with some hardware from the awards banquet.

Defenseman Mathew Dumba, who hails from Calgary, took home the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy, handed out annually to the league`s best rookie.

It marks the second straight season that a Rebel has won the rookie of the year award, as standout Ryan Nugent-Hopkins won the trophy last season.