The Ontario Junior Hockey League today announced that Mike Tarantino (photo credit: Dan Hickling) of the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots has been named the recipient of the 2013-14 OJHL Executive-of-the-Year Award.
Tarantino joined the then Upper Canada Patriots in 2010-11 as both General Manager and Head Coach. He took over a floundering franchise that had moved to Toronto from Quinte, by way of Bancroft, and quickly began building a franchise that has become one of the league's most respected development models, turning out numerous NCAA Division I scholarships and moving players on to the next level each season. Entering the 2013-14 season with high expectations, Tarantino tweaked his lineup throughout the season, including two key acquisitions in December that led the Patriots to the first Division and Conference regular season title in franchise history.
After some minor deals early in the season, Tarantino made his first of two big moves in early December, acquiring the North-West Conference runner-up as Player-of-the-Month in October, defenceman Robert Powers, from the Stouffville Spirit in exchange for Jack O'Hara. He followed this up late in the month by shoring up his goaltending tandem with the acquisition of veteran netminder Evan Buitenhuis from the Oakville Blades for Mark Manolescu. Combined, the two deals improved what already was one of the OJHL's best defensive clubs.
Toronto Lakeshore finished in first place with a franchise best 35-12-6 record for 76 points and a .717 winning percentage to place third overall in the OJHL, done so with the second best home record at 19-4-4 and the best road record in the South-West Conference at 16-8-2.
The South-West Conference champion Patriots allowed just 145 goals this season, the fifth best total in the league, with a .913 save percentage that ranked sixth best. The club accomplished this with a disciplined game that saw them shorthanded just 213 times, while sending out the OJHL's third best penalty killing unit at 84.04%. Defensively sound, this was achieved without sacrificing offence, finishing with the eighth most goals (196) and second best power play (25.76%).
The 33-year old native of Oakville, Ontario is an alumnus of the OJHL, having played two full seasons (parts of four seasons) with his hometown Oakville Blades from 1998-2000. The forward recorded 64 goals and 134 points in 95 regular season games over two years and led the Blades in scoring during 1999-00 with 35 goals and 81 points, while being named the West Division's Most Gentlemanly Player with just 27 penalty minutes. Following the season, Tarantino would then spend the next four years at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT was then an NCAA Division III school) from 2000-04. After spending some time as an Assistant Coach at Bowling Green University, the full-time teacher rejoined the OJHL in 2010-11. He stepped down from his head coaching duties with the Patriots to concentrate on being the GM, as well as his family and teaching career.
The OJHL Executive-of-the-Year Award is awarded annually to the Executive that is adjudged to have exceeded expectations in his role with the club throughout the course of the regular season, including, but not limited to, President, Vice-President, General Manager, Assistant General Manager and Marketing Executives.
James Richmond of the Aurora Tigers was named runner-up in the OJHL award balloting to Tarantino.
Capturing back-to-back North Division titles, Richmond made some key acquisitions that helped lead his club to the second best record in the entire OJHL. The 38-12-3 mark with 79 points represents the Tigers best record since 2006-07 when they went on to capture the RBC Cup, National Junior 'A' Championship.
The Humanitarian-of-the-Year Award and the Trainer-of-the-Year Award recipients will be announced later this week.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)