The votes were in Friday night, and Corey Small was chosen as the 2015 Mike Kelly award winner as the Mann Cup MVP.
Small led the Shamrocks with 25 points – 10 goals and 15 assists – over six games. While games one and two were quiet, he exploded in game three with five goals and became the centre focus of the Shamrocks offense, finding new and creative ways to beat Matt Vinc in the Peterborough Lakers goal.
“Vno’s really good at reading shooters so if you can take that split second to make a hitch and freeze him or take that second to make sure you’re picking that spot it helps,” Small said of his elevated play, and then gave credit to his teammates as the reason for his success.
“I have great teammates,” he enthused. “We play a seven man unit on offense very game. Daryl Veltman and Jesse King are two of the smartest left handed players I’ve ever played with, they do things out there to get me open and they give me great opportunities, they give me that extra time to wind up and shoot the ball. When you have guys like Conway, Duch, Ranger, Dawson, finding me on the left side, it makes it a lot easier and you couldn’t do it without those guys.”
An argument should certainly be made that Shamrocks goaltender Aaron Bold, who boasted a 7.59 goals against average, should have won the award, especially in a series so focused on defense, but the intangibles Small brought could not go unnoticed.
“I wasn’t coming out here for the individual accolades but it’s just a nice thing to go along with [the cup win],” Small said. “I thought Boldy was deserving of that as well, how can you go through a series with a GAA of almost under seven and not get it? He was incredible, so props to him, and everybody played great.”
Bold recognized after game five what an intense series the Mann Cup is.
“This is my first Mann Cup and holy!” he said. “It’s definitely a mental battle more than physical because I think you can push yourself physically if you don’t really think about your body being hurt. Some guys are banged up and I know they’re banged up as well and they’re feeling the same way, and it’s basically who wants it more.”
Bold played exceptionally well and much credit has to be given to his defenders who limited Lakers shots, especially from tricky shooters Curtis Dickson and Shawn Evans.
Those two were a dynamic duo in the MSL’s regular season and playoffs, and Small led the WLA in scoring with 79 points in 18 games.
Head coach Bob Heyes was happy for Small’s accomplishments and his resilience after coming back from a knee injury that kept him out of the 2013 Mann Cup.
“I’ve been with Smallsy since he got here,” Heyes said. “For what the kid’s gone through, kind of being an unknown, to being a star, and not being able to play in our first Mann Cup two years ago because of a blown out knee, and playing the next year and you don’t even think a guy could, means a ton.”