There weren't many surprises at the MSU hockey team's annual awards banquet Thursday night - which was good news for John-Michael Liles.
The senior defenseman took home three honors, including the team's Most Valuable Player Award, to headline the evening at the Holiday Inn South, 6820 S. Cedar St. in Lansing. Liles also won the Outstanding Offensive Player Award and the new Spartan Hockey Fitness Award.
He wasn't able to attend the banquet because his professional team, the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears, is in the midst of a playoff series.
The only other multiple award winner was Liles' defensive partner, senior Brad Fast. The Fort St. John, British Columbia, native was named the Dr. John Downs Outstanding Defensive Player and he won the Amo Bessone Award for athletic, scholastic and community achievements.
Two other seniors were also honored. Left wing Brian Maloney earned the Bill Burgess Outstanding Senior Award and forward Troy Ferguson won the Blue Line Club President's Award for having the highest grade-point average in the senior class (3.7).
Sophomore goaltender Matt Migliaccio was named the team's Most Improved Player and freshman left wing David Booth took home the Outstanding Rookie Award.
As for off-the-ice accomplishments, junior defenseman Joe Markusen won the Goofus Award for his humorous disposition.
Former Spartan forward Kelly Miller was the keynote speaker as the Distinguished Alumnus Award winner. Miller, who played for MSU from 1981-85, was an All-American as a senior and went on to play in the NHL.
Tobe or not Tobe?
The awards banquet was all about looking back at last season, but MSU head coach Rick Comley is also looking ahead - particularly at MSU's goaltender position.
Backup Justin Tobe, who just finished his freshman season, has said he fully expects to return to MSU next year. But Comley's not so sure.
With incoming freshman Dominic Vicari as "the man to beat" and Migliaccio an experienced contributor, Tobe might not have a spot on next year's squad.
Comley said he will not rotate three goalies, so he gave Tobe, 18, three options - return as planned, go back to junior hockey and return to MSU in a year or two, or go back to juniors and then go to school elsewhere.
Comley's personal advice to Tobe is to hone his skills in juniors and play college hockey later.
"I think it's still up in the air," Comley said. "If he comes back, it'll be a wide-open battle. But Vicari will be one of our two goalies.
"It's unfortunate the way it has worked out, but (Tobe) has handled a difficult situation very well. Michigan State has committed a scholarship to him, and that scholarship will be his. It's his choice what he decides to do."
A shot of captains
Comley said if he were choosing next year's team captain right now, it would be junior forward Adam Nightingale. The Cheboygan native transferred from Lake Superior State last year and has never skated for the Spartans, but Comley said he's extremely impressed with Nightingale's maturity and leadership qualities.
Earlier this month, Comley announced next year's captains will be Nightingale, Markusen, Jim Slater and Mike Lalonde. He will select who will wear the "C" in August and the other three will serve as assistants.
As expected, defensemen Ethan Graham (Lincoln/USHL) and Brandon Warner (Pittsburgh/NAHL) signed national letters of intent with MSU on Thursday. They will join the team this fall as part of MSU's nine-player freshman class.