U SPORTS proudly announced Thursday the eight finalists for the 2020 Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards Presented by Makadiff SPORTS, honouring the Athletes of the Year for the 2019-20 season.
The 2020 nominees for U SPORTS Male Athlete of the Year are hockey players Taran Kozun from the Saskatchewan Huskies and David Thomson of the Toronto Varsity Blues, Montreal Carabins soccer player Aboubacar Sissoko, and Dalhousie Tigers basketball player Keevan Veinot.
Celebrating their 28th year, the awards are championed once again by His Honour Doug Mitchell and Her Honour, the Honourable Lois Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.
The winners will be determined by a combined vote of the Canadian Athletic Foundation – a not-for-profit board, chaired by His Honour Doug Mitchell – and the public on USPORTS.ca. Voting opens on June 9 and closes on June 20, with results announced on June 25 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.
Leading up to the announcement, U SPORTS is set to run a national campaign, including special features and the second annual leadership development seminar in virtual format.
Profiles of each nominee are available below. For the all-time Lieutenant Governor Athletic Award nominees and winners, click here.
2019-20 NOMINEES: U SPORTS LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ATHLETIC AWARDS PRESENTED BY MAKADIFF SPORTS
CANADA WEST (CW)
Arts & Science
It was another dominant season for Saskatchewan Huskie Taran Kozun, who was a dual award winner, claiming the nation’s Player and Goalie of the Year awards.
Kozun is the first player in U SPORTS history to claim both awards in the same season, since the goaltending honour was introduced in 2009-10. It also marks his second straight Goaltender of the Year award, and he is just the second Huskie to win Player of the Year, joining 2002 winner Jon Barkman. In addition, Kozun is a two-time First Team All-Canadian and Canada West First Team All-Star.
The former Seattle Thunderbird led the conference in every major goaltending category, posting a 1.87 goals-against average, .931 save percentage, five shutouts, and 17 wins. Along with those sparkling numbers, the third-year arts and sciences major from Nipawin, Sask., also became just the second goalie in CW history to score when he found the net in January against the Calgary Dinos.
“He was goalie of the year in the WHL before he came to us (in 2015) and all he has done is continue to get better,” said Huskies head coach Dave Adolph. “With the hard work he puts in it’s not surprising to me that he would be nominated for such a prestigious award.”
Thanks in large part to Kozun’s stellar season, the Huskies won their 11th Canada West title, as the program’s all-time leader in shutouts (11) posted a third consecutive season with a save percentage north of .920.
Prior to suiting up for the Huskies, Kozun stood between the pipes for the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies in the 2015-16 season following the conclusion of his junior career during which he starred for both the Kamloops Blazers and Seattle Thunderbirds.
Kozun is the sixth Huskie to be named a finalist for the Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards and first men’s hockey player Derek Hulak in 2014. He will look become the program’s second winner following volleyball player Adam Ens (2004).
ONTARIO UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS (OUA)
Toronto Varsity Blues
Psychology / Criminology
The Toronto Varsity Blues are the most prolific hockey program in OUA history and they came back to prominence this past season, thanks in part to the talented David Thomson.
The second-year forward and psychology/criminology major had an incredible season on the ice, lifting the Blues to their best conference finish in almost 40 years after topping the OUA’s West division. Thomson gave opponents fits, finishing second in conference scoring with 40 points (17 goals, good for third in the OUA, with 23 assists, fifth in the league). He topped his team in each of those categories and showed a particularly special touch on the power play, scoring an OUA-best seven goals with the man advantage.
Thomson’s scoring, which include multi-point efforts in 12 games, was critical to Toronto’s success. They went 21-5-2 during the regular season to match the program’s best-ever win total, led the league with 125 goals, produced an incredible 14-game win streak, and reached as high as No. 3 in the U SPORTS rankings. Those seven power-play goals buoyed a unit that led the entire country with a 30.8 per cent success rate. And by the end of the season, Thomson began to rack up the accolades that he had earned with his stellar play. He was named the OUA West Most Valuable Player, became the first Varsity Blues player to earn First Team All-Canadian honours since the 1992-93 season, and is also the first OUA Male Athlete of the Year from U of T since Kevin Hamlin won the award in 1985-86.
Thomson had a similar influence on his Canadian teammates when he donned the red and white at the 2019 FISU Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. He scored four goals and added two assists at the tournament, helping Canada to a bronze medal.
“We have so many great athletes around the OUA that it truly is an honour to be chosen as a nominee for the Lieutenant Governor Athletic Award,” said Thomson. “I also wanted to thank everybody involved with the Varsity Blues, right from the athletic department down to my teammates and coaches. They made this year unforgettable and I’m truly grateful for that. Finally, I just wanted to thank my family for all the support they’ve shown me over my career. It’s really brought me to where I am today in my life and I’m very thankful.”
RÉSEAU DU SPORT ÉTUDIANT DU QUÉBEC (RSEQ)
Arts and Sciences
After helping the program achieve its first national title in school history in 2018, Carabins men’s soccer star Aboubacar Sissoko picked up right where he left off.
The defensive midfielder and captain was effective at both ends of the pitch this season, scoring one goal and adding three assists, leading the team to a 9-1-2 campaign, and its third straight RSEQ title. To cap off his outstanding season, Sissoko was named RSEQ and U SPORTS Player of the Year.
Then at the U SPORTS Championship, Montreal nearly earned to back-to-back national banners on their home field. Following Nike Player of the Match honours in Montreal’s 2-0 quarterfinal win, Sissoko and the Carabins defeated the Cape Breton Capers in the semifinals – the third straight encounter between the two sides after a pair of consecutive championship final contests – before capturing the U SPORTS silver medal.
“Aboubacar is simply an extraordinary player and man. On the field, it’s amazing the number of times he manages to get us out of difficult situations without us noticing, because of his intensity,” said Montreal head coach Pat Raimondo. “He is always in the right place and always makes the right decisions. Despite his great talent, he is very humble. He knows what he has to do to win and he does not hesitate to shine the light on others for the good of the team. ”
Sissoko’s performance earned him a free agent contract with the Canadian Premier League’s HFX Wanderers, a year after being initially selected as a development player by Hamilton’s Forge FC in the inaugural CPL-U SPORTS Draft. The arts and sciences major was also invited to Vancouver Whitecaps Training camp ahead of the Major League Soccer (MLS) season. Internationally, Sissoko capped twice during his junior career for the Mali national under-20 team.
In five seasons with the Carabins, Sissoko was selected twice as both an RSEQ First Team and Second Team All-Star. He also earned a spot on the U SPORTS Championship All-Star Team in 2017.
Sissoko is the second Montreal nominee for U SPORTS Athlete of the Year in three seasons, and eighth overall, after women’s volleyball star and Canadian national team member Marie-Alex Bélanger took home the Lieutenant Governor Athletic Award in 2018. He is the first men’s soccer player to be nominated from Université de Montreal, following former Carabins women’s soccer stars Véronique Maranda (2010) and Véronique Laverdière (2011).
ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY SPORT (AUS)
Port Williams, N.S.
Keevan Veinot, a third-year guard with the U SPORTS silver medallist Dalhousie Tigers, was honoured as both a U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian and the AUS most valuable player this season.
Veinot is the first-ever Dalhousie player to earn conference MVP honours in men’s basketball.
He was also named an AUS first team all-star for the first time in his career this season. He was named to the AUS all-rookie team in his freshman season in 2017-18.
This season, the commerce student from Port Williams, N.S. led the Tigers to a 19-1 regular season record and a first-place finish in the AUS standings.
Veinot led the conference in steals, averaging 2.3 per game, and in assists, averaging 5.5 per game.
He led Dalhousie in both points per game (15.6) and rebounds per game (5.2).
At the 2020 Subway AUS Basketball Championship, he was named Subway Player of the Game in the championship final as the Tigers claimed their fifth conference title in six seasons (Veinot’s second). He was named an AUS tournament all-star.
On the national stage, Veinot led the Tigers to U SPORTS silver – marking Dalhousie’s best performance in program history. Veinot was named the Player of the Game in the Tigers’ quarterfinal win and earned a place on the championship all-star team.
He is the second straight Tiger and 13th overall to be nominated for the national award after women’s volleyball star Courtney Baker last season. Veinot will looking to become Dalhousie second-ever winner, following track and field’s Adrienne Power in 2005.