(OJHL News Release – March 4, 2013) – The Ontario Junior Hockey League today announced that Michael Peca of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres has been named the recipient of the 2012-13 OJHL Executive-of-the-Year Award.
Peca joined the Jr. Sabres as General Manager prior to the 2011-12 season, ultimately taking over the role as Head Coach when he replaced Grant Ledyard in early January and led the club to their best finish since the Niagara Scenic finished in second place in the Metro Junior ‘A’ Hockey League’s West Division in 1995-96. With expectations high, Peca continued to recruit and would make the summer’s most influential signing when Tyler Gjurich was brought on board from the Springfield Pics of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. Gjurich would not only lead the Sabres, but capture the OJHL scoring title during his rookie OJHL campaign. He would also swing a deal with the Hamilton Red Wings, bringing forward Nick Scamurra aboard in December. Scamurra would add more depth to the club, solidifying their quest for first place in the South-West Conference standings.
The Jr. Sabres regular season Conference title was garnered on the strength of a 38-12-5 record for 81 points and a .736 winning percentage, the best in franchise history since jumping to the Metro League in 1995-96 from the Eastern Junior Hockey League. Buffalo would also finish as runner-up for the OJHL regular season title, finishing four points behind the Trenton Golden Hawks for first place overall. A testament to the club’s leadership, the Sabres would tie for the league lead with 19 road wins
Known as a defensive specialist during his 14-year NHL career, twice winning the Selke Trophy as Best Defensive Forward; Peca’s influence on the club was clearly evident as they had the league’s top penalty killing unit, stopping the opposition with an 89.92% success rate. The club’s penalty kill would also lead the OJHL with 14 shorthanded goals throughout the season.
Led by Gjurich, and January South-West Conference Player-of-the-Month Ryan Schmelzer, the Sabres were also one of the top offensive forces in the OJHL, recording 249 goals for, more than any other OJHL squad and the most by the franchise since 1995-96 when they were led by Jeff Farkas. The clubs power play would enter the playoffs ranked fourth in the league on the strength of 65 power play goals in 309 man advantages for a 21.04% success rate.
The 38-year old native of Toronto, Ontario, played four seasons in the OHL with the Sudbury Wolves and Ottawa 67’s, while also winning the gold medal with Team Canada at the 1994 World Junior Championship held in Ostrava, Czech Republic. After being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2nd round, 40th overall, of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, Peca embarked upon a 14-year NHL career with stops in Vancouver, Buffalo, New York (Islanders), Edmonton, Toronto and Columbus. He was also a member of Team Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games held in Salt Lake City, Utah, ending the country’s 50 year gold medal drought when they defeated the United States 5-2 in the gold medal game.
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.
Greg Walters of the Georgetown Raiders was named runner-up in the OJHL award balloting to Peca. One year removed from the OJHL regular season title, and after losing numerous key players following the season, Walters was successful in re-tooling the Raiders to once again compete for the Conference lead, while finishing third overall in the league standings.
The Humanitarian-of-the-Year Award and the Trainer-of-the-Year Award recipients will be announced later this week.