The Hockey Commissioners Association named Wisconsin men's hockey senior Aidan Cavallini the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award winner on Friday ahead of Saturday's NCAA Championship game at the United Center.
The award "recognizes a fearless leader and beloved fan favorite who always places his team ﬁrst. Displaying exemplary sportsmanship, he's supremely competitive, intelligent and extraordinarily conditioned with an unmatched work ethic. The contributions of this individual, on and off the ice, cannot be measured by statistics alone."
Hines, a forward at Army, graduated from the academy in 2003 and was killed in action on Sept. 1, 2005, in Afghanistan. Cavallini is the second award recipient from a Big Ten school and first since Penn State’s P.J. Musico in 2015.
Cavallini is known by his teammates as intelligent, funny and steadfastly supportive. Prior to the 2016-17 campaign, Cavallini played on the fourth line and appeared in 64 games without scoring a goal.
“Aidan is the heart and soul of our team both on and off the ice,” said junior defenseman Tim Davison. “He is not the flashiest player, but his want to get better and his ‘no quit’ mentality make him the young man and hockey player he is today.”
The full scope of Cavallini’s influence was on display after the senior netted his first career goal on Dec. 9 in the Badgers’ 7-4 victory over Michigan.
“It was like we won the Stanley Cup,” said Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato of the team’s reaction to Cavallini’s goal. “There’s a character person and a teammate that you can only love if you’re part of it, and they were probably more excited about that than anything so far this year.”
After registering his first career goal, Cavallini followed up with goals in back-to-back games, including the first score of the game against Ohio State in Madison Square Garden.
This season, Cavallini set career highs in goals (six), assists (six) and points (12), as well as games (32), shots (34) and game-winning goals (one). The senior was honored with the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award and won the team’s Otto Breitenbach-Curtis Joseph Most Improved Award last weekend at the team banquet, as voted on by his teammates.
Off the ice, Cavallini continues his quest for betterment. The Barrington, Ill., native maintains a 3.22 GPA while earning Academic All-Big Ten accolades three times during his college career. The Finance, Investment and Banking major plans to continue his academic career at the University of Wisconsin after working his way into the Applied Security Analysis graduate program.
“I don’t know what he is going to do, I don’t know if he is going to try and play pro hockey after,” said Granato. “I think his character alone will give him an opportunity. I don’t know if he will take that or move on and get into the business world, but he is an intelligent kid who will do well in whatever he chooses to do.”
Cavallini was selected by a panel consisting of members from each NCAA Division I men's ice hockey conference. Cavallini was the Big Ten's representative and was voted by the other five conferences as the award winner. He is the 11th honoree all-time.