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Tourigny wins Brian Kilrea award as CHL coach of the year

67’s head coach Andre Tourigny.
67’s head coach Andre Tourigny.

Two of the three finalists for the CHL’s Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award are former assistants with the Ottawa Senators.

The winner sure appears to be cutting himself a path back to the NHL.

“(NHL teams) are always looking for guys that can communicate with the players and that’s the difference,” Kilrea said Monday when told 67’s bench boss Andre Tourigny had been recognized as the top junior coach in the country. “Right now he’s done a great job of doing that. That’s what it is. It’s getting along with the players.

“The ones in the National league that get along the best, get the most out of their players. So they’ll be looking. I’m sure he’s drawn some attention. That’s two years in a row that (the 67’s) have excelled.”

Tourigny was given the nod for the award over Brad Lauer, the coach of the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings (42-12-6-4), and Stephane Julien, coach of the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix (51-8-3-1).

Lauer was a NHL assistant for seven seasons, including two with the Senators (2009-2011) under head coach Cory Clouston.

The 46-year-old Tourigny spent 10 seasons pacing the plank of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, with whom he won the QMJHL coach of the year award in 2005-06, before becoming Patrick Roy’s assistant with the Colorado Avalanche for two years and Dave Cameron’s right hand man with the Senators in 2015-16.

He returned to junior with the Halifax Mooseheads the next season, then came back to Ottawa to guide the 67’s in 2017-18.

Last year, he led the 67’s to a franchise-record in wins (50-12-0-6) before the team lost to Guelph in the OHL final.

This season, the 67’s came back with a vengeance. They had a 50-11-0-1 mark — including a franchise record 17-game winning streak from Nov. 16-Jan. 10 — before the season was stopped six games from the end of the schedule by the coronavirus.

The 67’s also led the CHL with 296 goals scored and just 164 goals allowed, fewest in the OHL.

“Andre has been the driving force behind the continuous improvement of our hockey club with his nurturing style, relentless attention to detail and ability to marshal players and staff throughout the season,” 67’s GM James Boyd said.

Tourigny’s career marks in junior hockey are impressive.

While only 21 CHL coaches have won 500 games and coached 1000, he is poised to join both groups, currently sitting with 496 victories in 961 career games.

“It’s a tremendous honour for me and my staff to get coach of the year in the CHL,” Tourigny said in a release. “In the CHL you have 60 head coaches and staff who work really hard during the season, so to be recognized by the CHL with coach of the year, me and my coaching staff are really blessed and honoured.

“Our ownership and our management give us all the tools to make that happen, and I want to also thank our players for all of their support and hard work during the season to make it happen.”

Tourigny also picked up a gold medal as an assistant coach with Team Canada at the world junior championship last January and he’ll take over as the head coach of the national team for next year’s global tournament.

Really, outside of winning the Memorial Cup there’s not a lot left for him to accomplish at this level — and the 67’s had as good a chance of doing that this season as anyone.

“When they lost that series to Guelph, I think they sort of used that as ‘we’ll get there this year’ attitude,” Kilrea said. “They all believed they could do it. They all felt that way, and that comes from the coach.

“I know Andre gives a lot of credit to his assistants, but they all work hard, they’re forever going over little details, video and everything.

“They were well-prepared and that’s the difference.”

What impressed Kilrea is the dedication the players showed to the program after the games, when they would go for a workout rather than immediately out to see their parents and girlfriends.

To Kilrea, that showed the respect they have for Tourigny.

“Every time you talked to one of the players, they all said the same thing the last couple of years, they talked about their ‘togetherness,’” Kilrea said. “He’s got them all playing for each other, and doing the little things that make a difference.”

Tourigny is just the second 67’s coach to win the CHL coach of the year award, which was first presented in 1987-88 to Alain Vigneault of the Hull Olympiques and then handed to Kilrea in 1996-97. The award was re-named in Kilrea’s honour in 2003, after he won his 1,000th game behind the 67’s bench.

The list of those who won it and went on to become head coaches in the NHL also includes Ken Hitchcock (Kamloops), Craig Hartsburg (Guelph), Peter DeBoer (Plymouth), Brent Sutter (Red Deer), Dale Hunter (London), Clouston (Kootenay), Bob Boughner (twice, Windsor), Gerard Gallant (twice, Saint John) and Sheldon Keefe (Sault Ste. Marie).

Tourigny should join that group at some point, but for now, he can take pride in being tabbed the best junior coach in the land.

“He deserves it,” Kilrea said. “That team was exciting to watch. They moved the puck and they did a lot of things well. I’m glad for him.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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