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Society Announces Unsung Hero Award Recipients

Providence, RI (3/9/2014): Members of the Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society will again join with the Rhode Island Interscholastic League in honoring six of this year’s outstanding student athletes with the fourth annual Rhode Island Reds “Unsung Hero” Awards during the league’s championship game at Brown University’s Meehan Auditorium this Friday, March 14.

Recognized for their “unsung hero” performances for this year’s awards in the women’s divisions will be Abbie Torres, goalie for Cranston/Co-op; Olivia Lucas, defense for Barrington; and Kelly Kraunelis, forward, also of Barrington.

Men’s division awards will go to Matthew Wilson, goalie for Mount Hope; Dylan Gastel, defense for the Wheeler School, and Rudy Branca, forward for Cranston East/West Co-op.

The three category awards are named in honor of former R. I. Reds’ greats Gil Mayer (goaltender), Ferny Flaman (defense) and Chuck Scherza (forward).

The awards will be presented by R. I. Reds Heritage Society directors Andre Mayer and Rick Scherza, sons of Gil Mayer and Chuck Scherza, and Laurie Fletcher, daughter of the late Ferny Flaman.

The selection committee was made up with representatives from the hockey coaches association, the RIIL and the R. I. Reds Heritage Society. Criteria for nominations of senior high school students only were a player’s contributions to high school hockey; demonstrated acts of sportsmanship, leadership and community involvement; academic performance; talent and ability; challenges coping with personal obstacles and hardships.

“We were not looking necessarily at possible All-Staters or super stars, but more towards unsung heroes,” said Tom Mezzanotte, RIIL’s executive director, in making the announcement. “It is a different approach to honor what you might call a silent MVP.”

Rick Scherza, the R. I. Reds Heritage Society’s liaison with RIIL, underscored the awards’ purposes: “We are interested in those kids who plug it out every day and contribute to their team because they love the game of hockey.”

Profiles of all six (6) recipients follow:

Women’s Division

Ferny Flaman Award: Olivia Lucas, Barrington

Known to many in her community as “Ms. Barrington Hockey” because of her strong leadership and love of the game, Olivia is always the first to help a discouraged, struggling, or injured player. She hasn’t missed a practice or game in her four years. After losing both her father and her grandfather before her senior season Olivia dedicated her senior season to their memory. Her character, leadership, and talent - along with her dedication to the team and the sport helped her to excel despite her personal losses. Younger players regard her as both personal and hockey mentor. Opposing coaches and players respect her as one of the top women defensemen in the state.

Chuck Scherza Award: Kelly Kraunelis, Barrington

Kelly exemplifies quiet leadership by example. The Barrington senior consistently demonstrates a genuine respect for officials, coaches, and opponents. Kelly’s unselfish style is evidenced by the fact that she is her team’s assist leader and one of the top “set-up” forwards in her division. Her coach’s evaluation is echoed by numerous coaches and players representing opposing teams. Kelly also represents a continuous flow of family excellence in sports. She, her father, uncles and brother all follow the athletic prowess of her late grandfather Leo Kraunelis, one of Rhode Island’s all-time greatest sports heroes.

Gil Mayer Award: Abbey Torres, Cranston Co-op

Abbey has set the standard for women goalies in Rhode Island. She has earned numerous personal accolades for her steady and consistent play including: being named 2013 first team all-state; twice selected Rhode Island Interscholastic Athlete of the Month; and several all-division awards. Her four-year career save average is 91.9% and she has stopped more than 1,600 shots in her career at Cranston West. Abbey is an honor student and she volunteers twice a week with the Providence Junior Friars Learn to Skate Program.

Men’s Division

Ferny Flaman Award: Dylan Gastel, Wheeler

Dylan, the senior co-captain of the PCD/St. Raphael/Wheeler co-op team sparkles both on and off the ice. In addition to being a 2013 All-State cross country selection Dylan excels on his school’s lacrosse and squash teams and he has been selected to participate in the Rhode Island Hockey senior showcase skills event. The multi-talented Gastel has played both forward and defense. Dylan is ranked near the top of his class and is headed to Yale University next fall. Giving back to the community is also important in his life. He has given more than fifty hours to Habitat for Humanity; is a volunteer for Special Olympics; and he is president of the Hope Scholarship fund which raises funding for underprivileged secondary girls in China.

Chuck Scherza Award: Rudy Branca, Cranston East/West Co-op

Rudy has been described by his coaches and teachers as “. . . a true student-athlete leader with a social conscience.” Despite being diagnosed as hearing impaired at an early age he has overcome several obstacles in sports, the classroom and community. The senior captain is an active volunteer in the Edgewood Youth Hockey League’s learn to skate program. Additionally, he demonstrates his social commitment to the community and school by donation his time at local soup kitchens and participates in numerous church activities. He has been inducted into the National and Rhode Island Honor Societies and has an overall Grade Point Average of 3.30. Coach Matt Brannon emphasized that “Rudy exemplifies what a Rhode Island schoolboy hockey and student-athletics is all about.”

Gil Mayer Award: Matthew Wilson, Mount Hope

“Win-Loss” records don’t always tell the whole story of a goalie’s effectiveness. Matt is proof of that. On a team in the throes of a down season, Wilson has earned the respect of opponents in all divisions of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League. His performances in losing games illustrate his talents: 44 saves against Prout; 53 saves against Lincoln; 47 saves versus undefeated Cumberland. He has amassed more saves that any goalie in the state in divisions II and III. Despite his team’s record Wilson has established himself as a symbol of strength for the young Mount Hope team and its “no quit” attitude.

For further information call 401-230-5905 or e-mail RIREDS15@gmail.com.

R. I. Reds Heritage Society
PO Box 504 Lincoln, RI 02895
Telephone: 401-230-5905
email: RIREDS15@gmail.com