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HERSHEY, PA – Steve Oleksy waves to the crowd after making a surprise appearance to accept his Top Bears Defenseman award Sunday night (Kyle Mace – Sweetest Hockey on Earth)

On a night when the Chocolate and White punched their ticket to the 2013 Calder Cup playoffs, the players also accepted their awards for their accomplishments in a Bears uniform this season.

Many Bears received awards for actions like “Unsung Hero,” awarded to Patrick McNeill, and the “John Travers/Steve Summers Memorial Award” for highest plus-minus, presented to Captain Boyd Kane. Kane also would receive “Man of the Year” as well as being named a finalist for the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award as AHL Man of the Year.

Cameron Schilling would take home “Rookie of the Year,” and Garrett Mitchell would be named most improved player for the second year in a row. “You look back on the franchise we have here and the group of guys we have here this year,” said the 21 year old forward Mitchell. “It’s a huge honor to receive that.”

Jeff Taffe would take home the most hardware as he was named team MVP and AHL Second team All-Star. “It’s nice,” Taffe said after the ceremony. “They say they’re individual awards, but it’s a team out there. I had some good line mates though out the year and it’s nice to get a little leeway from the coaches.”

A former Bear, and now current Washington Capital, Steven Oleksy, made a special appearance to accept the Top Defenseman award for Hershey. “It was defiantly unexpected,” said the NHL defenseman. “I had no idea coming back here. I was actually just coming back to watch the game. It worked out where we had a day off and I just game down to say ‘Hi’ to the guys and to receive an award like that is an unbelievable feeling especially with the great defenseman we have back there.”

The Bears start their playoff run Friday night in Providence against the Bruins.

Photos from the event:
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Kane receives Man of the Year from Doug Yingst

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Kane receives the John Travers/Steve Summers Memorial award for highest plus-minus from Lancaster Daily News’ Kevin Freeman

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Patrick McNeill accepts the Unsung Hero award

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Jeff Taffe named player of the year

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Garrett Mitchell once again named Most Improved Player

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Steven Oleksy shows up to accept his award

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Oleksy receives his trophy

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Cameron Schilling named Rookie of the Year

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Doug Yingst presents Jeff Taffe with his second team all-star award