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S54 – The Year of Guntis


animal74
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S54 – The Year of Guntis

 

I was thinking of writing about the Triple Gold Club but instead decided to write about one of the most intriguing seasons by a defenseman in VHL history. Guntis Petenis @hedgehog337 was a Latvian behemoth that worked his way to VHL superstardom after three relatively unproductive years in Seattle (aside from huge plus/minus numbers) that did little to predict the explosion that would be S54. He was traded to a young Riga team featuring star rookies Fredinamijs Krigars and Marc-Alexandre Lablanc and produced one of the best offensive outputs ever by a Riga defenseman leading the Reign to the playoffs although they lost in the first round. 

 

What Petenis did win was a bunch of VHL Awards in an impressive all-around performance during the regular season.

 

His stats:
39 Goals – Led all defensemen and was 10th in the league
93 Points – Tied for the defensemen lead and was tied for 10th in the league
466 Shots – Led all defensemen and was 8th in the league
396 Hits – Led the league (still the 21st highest single season total in VHL history)
305 PIM – Led the league (101 more than next player, 7th highest single season total in VHL history, one of five players to record over 300 PIM in a season)
13 Fights, 9 Won – Led the league
184 Shots Blocked – 3rd in the league
11 PPG – 6th in the league
9 GWG – 9th in the league

 

For his performance, Petenis was awarded the Sterling Labatte Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, the Scotty Campbell Trophy as league MVP – one of only three blueliners to ever be named MVP joining Tomas Jenskovic in S14 and Patrick Bergqvist in S20 and the first player to win the award with less than 100 points, and the Brett Slobodzian Trophy as Most Outstanding Player voted by the players. It could be argued that he should have won the Dustin Funk Trophy for Most Improved Player after his 31-goal, 49-point increase but that award somehow wound up with goalie Astrid Moon.

 

After being traded to the Quebec Meute, Petenis followed up his virtuoso S54 with another strong 83-point performance and helping the Meute make the Continental Cup Finals where they lost to Helsinki. He won his second consecutive Labatte Trophy after scoring more goals and points than any other defenseman in those two seasons and is still one of 13 defensemen to win consecutive Sterling Labatte Trophies and only one of four defensemen to win back-to-back Labattes with two different teams.

 

He would never be able to duplicate his S54 and S55 success but he did reach the Cup Finals with Davos in S56 before ending his career with Toronto in S57. If there was an award for most travelled VHL player, he would certainly get consideration as the pick used to draft him 7th overall in the S50 Draft changed hands twice before Seattle selected him. During his career, he was a part of six organizations so if you include the teams who at some point owned his pick, he was with seven of the ten VHL teams at various stages of his VHL journey.

 

Even though only two of his seven seasons were truly memorable, Guntis Petenis would finish his career with four major awards to his name, be the VHL career leader for playoff hits by a defenseman (290), and for regular season career totals among defensemen he still ranks 8th in plus/minus (329) and hits (1966) and 10th in penalty minutes (1336).
 

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