It was almost a perfect month of March for the Amarillo Bulls as they forged their way not only to the top of the South Division standings, but also to the top of the NAHL as well. The Bulls finished the regular season with 99 points, which not only was tops in the NAHL, but also tied their league record from a year ago. Forward Mike Davis, 19, led the assault in March in dominating fashion, which earned him the Forward of the Month award. The native of Newark, Delaware recorded 18 points in 10 games played during the month as Amarillo posted an almost perfect 9-0-1 record. That included 8 goals, 10 assists, a game-winning goal and a +13 rating. Back on March 18th, Davis was honored as the NAHL South Division Star of the Week for his efforts, which included a six point (all goals) weekend. Davis (5’11/180) finished the season as Amarillo’s leading scorer with 59 points (28 goals, 31 assists) and was a remarkable +48. Last season, Davis had 23 points in 43 games played. Davis recorded at least a point in nine of the 10 games during the month and finished the regular season riding an eight-game point streak.
Bulls head coach Dennis Williams said the Davis really turned up his game towards the end of the year. “I think as the season went along Mike got better and better. He has a quick release on his shot and has worked hard to put himself in a position to score goals and he remains incredibly focused,” said Williams. Davis was the Bulls first draft pick two seasons ago and Williams said that he has been everything that they expected him to be. “We knew one day he could lead our team in scoring because he competes really hard. He also contributes at both ends of the ice and brings as much to the table offensively as he does defensively. I think it is just a small matter of time before he makes an NCAA Division I commitment.”
Davis said that a lot of credit behind his play during the month lies within his teammates. “I think that leading the team in scoring is a great accomplishment, but it is a team game and there is no way I could have done something like that without good teammates. We have an amazing coaching staff who really care about the players and our development,” said Davis. “I think the sky is the limit for this group. I think when we play our best and work hard, we are a tough team to beat. I think we have a team that can compete and have a good chance to win the Robertson Cup. After that hopefully I will be fortunate enough to earn some type of Division I opportunity.”
Runner-Up: Rudy Sulmonte, Corpus Christi IceRays
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Jayson Angus, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Jay Dickman, Austin Bruins – Jonathan Grebosky, Aberdeen Wings – Alex Jackstadt, Kenai River Brown Bears – Drew Mayer, Texas Tornado - Max McHugh, Wenatchee Wild – Justin Moody, Brookings Blizzard – Robbie Payne, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Easton Powers, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Kyle Sharkey, Topeka RoadRunners – Brett Skibba, Springfield Jr. Blues – Filip Starzynski, Bismarck Bobcats – Jared VanWormer, Soo Eagles.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Jono Davis, Wenatchee Wild – October 2012, Brandon Hawkins, Texas Tornado – November 2012, Kyle Sharkey, Topeka RoadRunners – December 2012, Brandon Wahlin, Austin Bruins – January 2013, Lawrence Cornellier, Odessa Jackalopes – February 2013, Robbie Payne, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings.
As far as productive months for an NAHL defensemen go, Bobcats dman Nate Repensky, 19, had one of the best in recent memory. Consider that out of the 27 points that the native of Duluth, Minnesota, had during the regular season, 16 of those points (or roughly 60%) came during the month of March. Not only did he lead the Bobcats in scoring during the month, but his 16 points during the month with 3rd most in the NAHL. Repensky (5’10/185) chimed in with four goals, 12 assists and was a +3 as the Bobcats went 7-1-3 during the month to finish in 2nd place in the Central Division. Repensky’s month included two, four-point games and a three point game. In two road wins in Austin on March 22nd and 23rd, Repensky had five assists in the nine goals scored during the weekend sweep for the Bobcats. He finished the regular season riding a four-game point streak as was tops among all Bobcats defensemen in scoring this season.
“Nate had an injury early on in the season and it was one of those that really takes a while to heal and come back from, but once he got back into the grove of things and got back into playing shape, he really made a difference for us,:” said Bobcats head coach Layne Sedevie. “You look at something like our power play, which made huge improvements once Nate was helping to run it. Our power play recently has been up around 40%, which a lot of the credit goes to Nate for that. He is very skilled and solid at both ends of the rink. It is so important to have a guy that can break the puck out of the defensive zone on a consistent basis and with Nate, you don’t have to worry about that. You always know he is going to make that first pass or play to get things going.”
As for Repensky, he said that his production in March was something that had built up during the season. “I think we as a team felt some urgency to play our best hockey as the regular season came to a close. We wanted to get home ice in the first round and be playing our best hockey going into the playoffs.” Repensky said that because of his injury early in the season, which kept him out over a third of the season, he had not felt 100% until the past couple of months. “I think it took a couple of months to really get back to where I felt comfortable and back up to 100% with the speed and strength. Once I did, I had a lot more confidence in distributing the puck and jumping into plays. Short term, I think we have a really good club that can contend in the playoffs if we are playing our best. Long term, I am hopeful I keep playing well and developing here in Bismarck and get an NCAA Division I opportunity.”
Runner-Up: Vince Stefan, Kenai River Brown Bears
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Jeff Bergh, Johnstown Tomahawks – Mick Bruce, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Josh Hartley, Wenatchee Wild – Jake Horton, Aberdeen Wings – Grant Hutton, Corpus Christi IceRays – Michael Lant, Soo Eagles – Nick Neville, Texas Tornado – John Rey, Amarillo Bulls – Derek Sand, Brookings Blizzard – Jack Sloan, Springfield Jr. Blues – Trace Strahle, Topeka RoadRunners.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Mark Evan Auk, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – October 2012, Cody Dixon, Austin Bruins – November 2012, Casey Nelson, Johnstown Tomahawks – December 2012, John Rey, Amarillo Bulls – January 2013, Brett Beauvais, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – February 2013, Terry Leabo, Springfield Jr. Blues.
On paper, two big changes for the Aberdeen Wings turned their season around. The first was the hiring of their new head coach Travis Winter, who came in during the second half of the season and guided the Wings to a 15-6-3 record under his watch. The second was the addition of goaltender Zach Nagelvoort, 19, at the trade deadline. The native of Holland, Michigan, posted an 8-1-1 record in his 10 games played with Aberdeen this season and that included a 6-1-0 record in the month of March. During the month, Nagelvoort (6’2/190) faced 231 shots and made 221 saves, good for a save percentage of 95.7% and a goals against average of 1.42 during the month. He also posted one shutout, which came in a 1-0 win in Austin back on March 1st. He was named the Central Division Star of the Week back on March 11th for two wins over the Brookings Blizzard in which he stopped 66 of 69 shots. Combined with his stats from playing with the Soo Eagles earlier in the season, Nagelvoort finished 3rd in the NAHL in both goals against average (2.10) and save percentage (93.6%) this season.
Aberdeen head coach Travis Winter said the Nagelvoort came in wanting to succeed and wanting to help turn things around. “Zach came in and immediately injected the team with confidence. He is a very confident goaltender and person and it rubbed off on the rest of the team. We know we have a chance to win every night when he is in goal and during the last two months of the season, that was the mindset in every game and one of the reasons the team played so well.” Winter also said that Nagelvoort’s strengths in goal lies within his athleticism. “Zach is a very athletic goalie, who doesn’t give up on plays and he is very quick from side to side. He makes the 2nd and sometimes 3rd saves you need to stay in the game and keep momentum going and you almost never see a bad goal scored on him. I think all that combined with his confidence makes him an elite goaltender at this level.”
Nagelvoort said that the trade to Aberdeen was one that worked out well because of his desire to be a #1 goalie. “I knew coach Winter through some camps in the summer and in talking to him when I arrived in Aberdeen, we both agreed that this was a good situation for me and one where I could have the opportunity to really thrive and develop as a #1 goaltender. I think the pressure was off a little bit and that allowed the team to play more freely and play with a lot of confidence knowing we were taking part in a great turnaround,” said Nagelvoort. “I think a big part of the success in March was the team. Everyone played with an entirely new level of confidence we even gave ourselves an opportunity to make the playoffs, so as we finished the regular season, I think everyone felt really good about what we accomplished and achieved in a short period of time.” As for his future plans, Nagelvoort said that he hopes that an NCAA Division I opportunity and announcement is close. “I want to keep playing as long as I can, but that is obviously the next step. I want to be able to make an impact at whatever level I am playing at and keep getting better.”
Runner-Up: Paul Berrafato, Amarillo Bulls
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Marcus Due-Boje, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Matt Leon, Springfield Jr. Blues – Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles – Evan McCarthy, Kenai River Brown Bears – Max Milosek, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Ben Myers, Corpus Christi IceRays – Aaron Nelson, Bismarck Bobcats – Jason Pawloski, Austin Bruins – Chris Truehl, Johnstown Tomahawks – Spencer Viele, Topeka RoadRunners.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Drew Weigman, Brookings Blizzard – October 2012, Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles – November 2012, Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild – December 2012, Nick Lehr, Austin Bruins – January 2013, Hunter Leisner, Texas Tornado – February 2013, Paul Berrafato, Amarillo Bulls.
The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings used the month of February to climb right back into the North Division title hunt and no one was more productive in the line-up than forward Robbie Payne. The 19-year-old from Gaylord, Michigan, helped the Jr. K-Wings to a 6-0-1 record during the month. The Northern Michigan University recruit was able to rack up 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) in just six games played during the month of February. Payne (6’0/189) was also a +8 during the month. Payne had a stretch of five games in February in which he recorded multi-point games in all of them, including a stretch of three games in which he had 10 points. Payne currently has 60 points, which ranks him tied for 3rd in NAHL scoring.
“Robbie stepped up his game, both offensively and defensively. He really played well at both ends of the arena and also made a significant impact on special teams,” said Kalamazoo head coach Marc Fakler. “Having already secured a NCAA Division I commitment, we are working with Robbie on becoming a well-rounded player, so that when he gets to the NCAA he will be able to make an impact on the roster as a freshman. As good a scorer as Robbie is, he has to be able to play at both ends of the ice and really pay attention to the defensive part of the game in college, so we have worked hard on that part of his game and he really responded in February by being a complete player. The result is our team and Robbie having success and we hope it continues.”
Payne feels the exact same way as his coach. “I think my production in the month was a direct result of paying attention to the defensive part of the game. When you are able to take care of things in your own end, the transition to offense becomes that much easier and I think it played a big part in the team’s success,” said Payne. “I think it also helps that we have two really good goalies and guys who put a priority on defense. I think our line was clicking at the right time and when everyone is on the same page, it makes it easier on everyone.” Having already secured a college commitment, Payne said his goal is to become a more well-rounded hockey player. “I want to make few mistakes, especially in my own end. If I stay aggressive in the offensive end and things don’t work out on a play, then I have to be ready to get back and play defense. I think if we can keep up this level of play, especially defensively, then getting one of the two top spots in the North and byes in the 1st round is first in our minds. From that point on it is strictly a focus on getting to the Robertson Cup and having success.”
Runner-Up: Justin Parizek, Aberdeen Wings
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Atkinson, Springfield Jr. Blues – Zach Diamantoni, Janesville Jets – Tyler Dunagan, Jamestown Ironmen – Stanislav Dzakhov, Bismarck Bobcats – Andy Faust, Coulee Region Chill – Sean Murphy, Soo Eagles – Jake O’Borsky, Minot Minotauros – TJ Sarcona, Amarillo Bulls - Kyle Sharkey, Topeka RoadRunners – CJ Smith, Austin Bruins – Tyler Spezia, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Joe Sullivan, Wenatchee Wild – Jordan Watt, Johnstown Tomahawks – Colton Wolter, Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Jono Davis, Wenatchee Wild – October 2012, Brandon Hawkins, Texas Tornado – November 2012, Kyle Sharkey, Topeka RoadRunners – December 2012, Brandon Wahlin, Austin Bruins – January 2013, Lawrence Cornellier, Odessa Jackalopes.
It has been quite the first year NAHL journey for Springfield Jr. Blues defenseman Terry Leabo. The 19-year-old native of Fargo, North Dakota, played the first four games this season with the Alexandria Blizzard in the NA3HL. He then went onto play one game for Minot in the NAHL, before being traded to Springfield in early October. After trying to find his role with the Jr. Blues, it seemed that something clicked after the Christmas break. Leabo (5’11/170) started to click with his new team and produce points from the blueline. It all came to a head in the month of February, where Leabo recorded eight points (all assists) in seven games played and was one of the few Jr. Blues players to be on the positive side in the plus/minus category with a +4. After going scoreless in the first three games of the month, Leabo then stepped his game up in the next four as he had all his points in that time frame. It included back-to-back three point efforts in two games against the Soo Eagles. For the season, Leabo leads all Jr. Blues defenseman with 25 points (3 goals, 22 assists).
Springfield head coach Tony Zasowski said that Leabo has made a lot of progress this season, particularly in the second half of the season. “I think the opportunity was all that Terry needed. He is a very capable and talented defenseman, but I think just working with him to find is role and his niche was something that took a little bit of time. Once he started to get some confidence and assert himself, he became a much more effective player,” said Zasowski. “He is a solid two-way defenseman. I think most importantly through is that he pays the price and works hard. He blocks shots and does the little things and dirty work that make a team successful. He also plays with an edge and that really makes him a complete defenseman.”
For Leabo, the monthly award is something that he attributes to the improvement of himself and his team. “We have a great group of guys here and I really like playing in Springfield. Since the New Year, I have really felt like I needed to do something more and step up and I think February was a result of that,” said Leabo. “We are fighting for our playoff lives every game, so playing well is important and it gets magnified. Anything can happen in the playoffs, but we have to keep winning games and playing well to get there.” Leabo, who came to the NAHL after playing Minnesota High School hockey last season, said that the transition to the NAHL has been a learning curve. “I think the two things that really stand out are the size and skill of the players,” said Leabo. “I am just trying to learn and grow. I want to get to 30 points by the end of the regular season and keep improving my plus/minus rating. Hopefully that will help the team continue to have success and make a playoff run.”
Runner-Up: Blake Butzow, Wenatchee Wild
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Brett Beauvais, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Ben Campbell, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Pat Gazzillo, Soo Eagles – Jerry Laakso, Minot Minotauros – Ryan Nick, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Ruslan Pedan, Janesville Jets - Patrick Pollock, Topeka RoadRunners – Nate Repensky, Bismarck Bobcats – TJ Sherman, Amarillo Bulls – Derek Smith, Coulee Region Chill – Dylan Zink, Jamestown Ironmen.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Mark Evan Auk, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – October 2012, Cody Dixon, Austin Bruins – November 2012, Casey Nelson, Johnstown Tomahawks – December 2012, John Rey, Amarillo Bulls – January 2013, Brett Beauvais, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings.
Thanks to an 8-2 month of February, the Amarillo Bulls are right back atop the NAHL standings. With a 40-win season and South Division title almost a forgone conclusion, there are several reasons for the success. Look no further than in goal with netminder Paul Berrafato. The 19-year-old native of Buffalo, New York, was outstanding in the month of February and has the Bulls right back on track to more regular season accolades. Berrafato (6’0/180) was 7-1 in the month of February with a 1.38 goals against average and a 94.3% save percentage. Berrafato’s appearances in February were all against good and respected opponents. He beat Texas four times and had a 21-save shutout against Corpus Christi. He never gave up more than two goals in a game, which included his lone loss, which was a 2-1 defeat to the IceRays on February 23rd. To date, Berrafato ranks 1st in the NAHL in goals against average with a 1.72 and is tied for 2nd in wins with 28.
Bulls head coach Dennis Williams said the success of the team this year starts in goal with Berrafato. “I think what I am most proud of this season is our team’s goals against average and Paul has played a big part in that. We have mental lapses like any other team, but the majority of the time he does a great job of making the big saves when something like that happens,” said Williams. “His body language and his demeanor is great. You would never know if you are up a goal or down a goal. He is steady and comes to work every day ready to compete. I never have to worry about his mental status.” Williams also said that Berrafato helps his cause by simplifying things in goal from a technical aspect. “He is very square to the puck and doesn’t put more work on himself than he already has. He does a good job at controlling rebounds, so he isn’t facing 3-4 shots at a time. I think all of that makes a good combination to make him successful in this league. I think it is just a matter of time for him to find the right situation to take the next step in his hockey career at the collegiate level.”
Berrafato said his success can be attributed to the team around him. “I think everyone came together and realized that February was a month that we had some head-to-head match-ups that could make or break our season and fortunately everyone stepped up around me to make it happen. There is a great group of players in front of me that do a great job of limiting the chances of our opponents. Our forwards backcheck hard and play great two-way hockey and our defenseman do a great job of clearing guys out in front in order for me to see and stop the puck,” said Berrafato. “It makes my job easier because you know when the chances come, you have to be there to make the save. It is very black and white… just stop the puck so we can stay in the game and get chances the other way,” said Berrafato. As for the remainder of the season, Berrafato said there is one goal left. “We want to win the Robertson Cup. I think if I can continue to stop the puck and play well, we have a good opportunity to do so and then hopefully that will lead to an college opportunity.”
Runner-Up: Marcus Due-Boje, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Joe Ballmer, Jamestown Ironmen – Brock Kautz, Janesville Jets – Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles – Max Milosek, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Aaron Nelson, Bismarck Bobcats – Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild – Tyler Parks, Minot Minotauros – Steve Perry, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Tim Shaughnessy, Coulee Region Chill – Spencer Viele, Topeka RoadRunners – Marcus Zelzer, Kenai River Brown Bears.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Drew Weigman, Brookings Blizzard – October 2012, Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles – November 2012, Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild – December 2012, Nick Lehr, Austin Bruins – January 2013, Hunter Leisner, Texas Tornado.
The bright shining light coming out of the Permian-Basin in Odessa, Texas, in what has otherwise been a difficult season, is forward Lawrence Cornellier. The 20-year-old from Machesney Park, Illinois, has made his third and final season in the NAHL his personal best, and his performance in the month of January put a huge stamp on it. Despite the fact the Jackalopes posted just a 1-8-0 record during the month, Cornellier was outstanding in his personal performance. Cornellier (6’0/180) had 16 points nine games, which included seven goals and nine assists. He was also just a -1 during that stretch despite the fact his team won just a single game. In Odessa’s win during the month, Cornellier recorded the game-winning goal. He also had six multi-point games during January. His 48 points to date is not only a personal best, but are 29 more points than anyone else on the Odessa roster. His 24 goals currently rank 4th in the NAHL and his 48 points ties him for 6th among all league scorers.
Odessa head coach Paul Gillis said that Cornellier has been about as good and steady as a player can be during a season. “Lawrence has been terrific and our best and most consistent player all season long. He has such a great habit of making something out of nothing and he is where he is because of his tremendous hard work and consistency,” said Gillis. “He never gives up on the puck and is persevering in circumstances that most other players would not.” Gillis said that the things that stand out most about Cornellier all revolves around his determination. “He is always hunting down loose pucks and has the ability to score from anywhere. That makes him a threat every time he is on the ice because he doesn’t necessarily need the perfect scoring chance to put the puck in the net. Combine that with his great work ethic and tremendous attitude in the lockerroom and I think the future is very bright for him.”
Cornellier is quick to put a positive thought on things, even though his team hasn’t had the season they have wanted. “You just try and work hard every day and work hard for your teammates. I set a goal for myself this season to be a guy who could put up points on a consistent basis and in every game and so far that has gone well,” said Cornellier. Now in his third season in the NAHL, Cornellier said that his improvements have been steady over the course of the three seasons. “It is tough to score in this league, so the fact that I have improved a lot there gives me some satisfaction. I have also learned to play a lot better defensively. I understand if you can’t play two-way hockey then the chances of moving onto the next level aren’t good.” Cornellier will be playing the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament as a part of Team Texas, something he says will be a highlight and a great opportunity for him. “It was a real honor to be selected and I am looking forward to playing against the best in our league. I just want to keep doing what I do and show what I can do and hopefully in the near future an NCAA Division I opportunity will be there for me.”
Runner-Up: Beau Walker, Corpus Christi IceRays
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Eric Brenk, Brookings Blizzard – Cory Chapman, Bismarck Bobcats – Gage Christianson, Amarillo Bulls – Sean Gaffney, Topeka RoadRunners – Todd Koritzinsky, Janesville Jets – Jackson Leef, Texas Tornado – Devin Loe, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Max McHugh, Wenatchee Wild – Robbie Payne, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Brett Skibba, Springfield Jr. Blues – CJ Smith, Austin Bruins – Alexander Taulien, Soo Eagles – Bryan Yim, Port Huron Fighting Falcons.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Jono Davis, Wenatchee Wild – October 2012, Brandon Hawkins, Texas Tornado – November 2012, Kyle Sharkey, Topeka RoadRunners – December 2012, Brandon Wahlin, Austin Bruins.
Already with an NCAA Division I college commitment secured to Bemidji State University, Kalamazoo defenseman Brett Beauvais, 18, hasn’t taken his foot off the gas pedal this season. It was full speed ahead in the month of January for the native of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada, as he led the Jr. K-Wings to a 7-2-1 record during the month and helped the team get back in contention for the top spot in the NAHL’s North Division. Beauvais (5’11/164) had 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) in 10 games during the month and was also a +6 during the month. Beauvais did not record a minus rating in any of the 10 games during the month, which included three multi-point games. His 24 assists to date is tied for the lead among all NAHL defensemen and his 28 points ranks 4th.
Kalamazoo head coach Marc Fakler said that Beauvais has been the ultimate team leader and top notch defenseman this season for Kalamazoo. “I think Brett is playing at an elite level right now and has been a true leader in the lockerroom. He is a big reason behind our success as a team this year and will play a big role in how far we can go come playoff time,” said Fakler. “He deserves the attention he gets and it is exciting that there even has been some NHL interest.” Fakler said that even with a college commitment in hand, Beauvais has continued to work hard and become a better hockey player this season. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel where he knows where and what the next step is, but we want him prepare as much as possible for it. He knows he has room to grow, but one the most encouraging things about him is that he always comes to the rink wanting to get better every day. He has tremendous puck poise and can make plays. His vision going up the ice is so good and it really lends itself well to breaking the puck out of our end.”
Beauvais echoed some of Fakler’s thoughts. “I think I have a lot more confidence this year. It helps that coach Fakler has faith to play me in all situations, but I am just trying to be the best I can be for the team, so we all can have some success,” said Beauvais. “I thought the team played great in January. This is the right time for us to turn it on and we have some new guys in the lockerroom that have really improved the overall depth of our team.” Beauvais will make his second appearance in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in a few weeks as a part of the Midwest team, but this time he is trying to earn the look of NHL scouts as a draft eligible player. “The experience last year on the 18U team was awesome and the event is so much fun competing against the best the NAHL has to offer. It helped me secure an NCAA opportunity and this season, I will try and soak it in all again and play my best because I know a different set of eyes may be watching. I just want to be able to improve enough so that when I go to the NCAA, I can be a player that is going to make an impact right away and not just someone who is settling on a commitment. I want to make a difference.”
Runner-Up: Josh Bretner, Austin Bruins
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Dunk Abbott, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Drew Brevig, Brookings Blizzard – Josh Hartley, Wenatchee Wild – Nick Hinz, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Nick Neville, Texas Tornado – Jeremy O’Keefe, Bismarck Bobcats – Michal Pastor, Topeka RoadRunners – Ruslan Pedan, Janesville Jets – John Rey, Amarillo Bulls – Alex Robert, Soo Eagles – Jack Sloan, Springfield Jr. Blues – Wayland Williams, Corpus Christi IceRays.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Mark Evan Auk, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – October 2012, Cody Dixon, Austin Bruins – November 2012, Casey Nelson, Johnstown Tomahawks – December 2012, John Rey, Amarillo Bulls.
The Texas Tornado completed their January with a perfect 8-0 month, which combined with the tail-end games in December, gave them team an NAHL season-high 10-game winning streak. In goal for every game was Hunter Leisner. The 20-year-old native of Garland, Texas, has been a work horse this season for the Tornado and January was no exception. He started and played in every single game during the month, compiling a perfect 8-0-0 record. He faced 207 shots during the month and stopped 192 of them, good for a save percentage of 92.8% and a goals against average of 1.84. Leisner (6’0/170) also recorded his first shutout of the season during the month of January and never allowed more than three goals in the game. At one point this season, Leisner had won 14 straight starts, which included the eight in January. Leisner currently leads in the NAHL wins (28), games played (39), minutes played (2,299) and ranks in the top 15 in goals against average and save percentage.
Tornado head coach Tony Curtale says that Leisner has the mentality and skill to handle the rigors he has been put through so far this season. “I think every team needs a go-to goaltender and Hunter has been that guy for us for a year and half now. He has been sharp and works very hard on the ice and is quick to analyze his game and be his own strongest critic,” said Curtale. “He has been a real work horse for us this year. He has tremendous quickness and a calm confidence when he is in goal.” When asked about Leisner’s work load the past season and a half, Curtale was quick to back up his decision to play Leisner in almost every game. “I think someone of Hunter’s caliber, experience and age is able to handle the amount of work that is required of him. We are only playing two, sometimes three games a week, so he has had enough experience, both on and off the ice, to know how to handle a work load like that. He played all the games down the stretch for us last year and I thought his best hockey was played when it mattered most during the final games of the season in the Robertson Cup.”
Leisner agrees that having such a big workload by NAHL standards isn’t a big deal to him. “I just try and stick to a routine that helps me physically and mentally. You can get too high when you win or too low when you lose,” said Leisner. “It is easier for me when I am playing all the time because I develop and good rhythm knowing I am going to be in the game and there isn’t any guess work involved. I prepare the same way for each and every practice and game.” Leisner was also quick to praise his teammates for January’s success. “I think my play is a direct reflection of how the team has played, particularly in January and early in the season. We were firing on all cylinders. We have a great team this year and I feel it is my job just to try and play as well as I can for them each and every game.” As for the motivation for the goalie who led his team to the Robertson Cup last season, Leisner has plenty of it. “There is a group of veterans on this team that believes we can do it again and we have tried to instill that thought into our rookies so that everyone wants to experience that feeling. I think we are on the right track.”
Runner-Up: Jason Pawloski, Austin Bruins
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Paul Berrafato, Amarillo Bulls – Alex Blackenburg, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Brock Kautz, Janesville Jets – Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles – Ben Myers, Corpus Christi IceRays – Aaron Nelson, Bismarck Bobcats – Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild – Alex Okicki, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Steve Perry, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Chris Truehl, Johnstown Tomahawks – Drew Weigman, Brookings Blizzard.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Drew Weigman, Brookings Blizzard – October 2012, Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles – November 2012, Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild – December 2012, Nick Lehr, Austin Bruins.
There is one name at the top of the current NAHL scoring leaders and that name belongs to Austin Bruins forward Brandon Wahlin. The 20-year old from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, is having a career season and it has coincided with his Bruins enjoying the largest lead of any division leader in the NAHL. During the month of December, Wahlin (5’9/175) was at his finest. He racked up a league-high 14 points during the month, which included six goals and eight assists, in nine games played as the 1st place Bruins posted a 7-1-1 record. Wahlin’s 49 points and 33 assists are both tops in the NAHL so far this season. Four of those nine games featured Wahlin registering three points in those games, which were all wins. His hat-trick in a New Year’s Eve win over Coulee Region sealed the monthly award for the veteran forward.
Now in his second season in the NAHL, Wahlin has already set career highs for goals, assists and points, something his coach Chris Tok attributes to his hard work and attitude heading into this season. “Brandon brings a lot to the table, but he has also worked hard for it. Most importantly makes an impact on and off the ice,” said Tok. “He came into the season more driven knowing this was his last shot. He is a very dynamic hockey player when he gets the puck on his stick. He makes his scoring chances count. There have been some significant interest in him from some Division I schools and I know the scouts will continue to come evaluate. He will get there because he is a legitimate future Division I college hockey player.”
Wahlin said that there is no secret to his success because it stems from the members of his team and his head coach. “I think we have a great group of guys in the lockerroom. Everyone is very close and on the same page. Secondly, I think we have a great coach in Chris Tok. He has taught me more in the last two years than probably all my life in hockey. He is a big reason that we are playing well as a collective unit,” said Wahlin. Last season, Wahlin said that playing in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament as a part of Team Central was a big eye-opener and a great experience. “I think coming into this year, I knew it was my last go around and I needed to make a big impact. I think it really started during Top Prospects last year. I played well and knew I could play with some of the best players in this league so that was very helpful and a great experience. Going into the off-season, it was my goal to be one of the top players in the league this season and be consistent the entire season. I think we have a great chance to represent the division at the Robertson Cup and I am hoping to get a scholarship and play NCAA Division I hockey next season.”
Runner-Up: Adam Knochenmus, Bismarck Bobcats
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Cole, Amarillo Bulls – Lawrence Cornellier, Odessa Jackalopes – Perry D’Arrisso, Corpus Christi IceRays – Zach Diamantoni, Janesville Jets – Tim Donohue, Minot Minotauros – Sean Gaffney, Topeka RoadRunners – Kyle Gattelaro, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Mac Jansen, Coulee Region Chill – Andrew Mayer, Texas Tornado – Eric Rivard, Soo Eagles – Blake Roubos, Wenatchee Wild – Brett Skibba, Springfield Jr. Blues.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Jono Davis, Wenatchee Wild – October 2012, Brandon Hawkins, Texas Tornado – November 2012, Kyle Sharkey, Topeka RoadRunners
Amarillo Bulls defenseman John Rey, 20, is right back where he left off last season and the Amarillo Bulls have followed suit. This season, the native of Turnersville, New Jersey, was named team captain and has made sure his play resembled or has gotten better than his play last season, when he was named as the NAHL Defenseman of the Year. After battling through injury to start the season at the NAHL Showcase, Rey (6’0/180) had his best month of the season to date in December. In 10 games, the third-year NAHL defenseman registered nine points (3 goals, 6 assists) from the blueline and was a +6 during the month in which the Bulls posted a 9-1-0 record to finish the first half of the season on top of the South Division standings.
A season ago, Rey had 51 points and was an astounding +64 on his way to the NAHL Defenseman of the Year award as the Bulls won the South Division regular season and playoff titles. Coming into this season, Rey was named team captain and had some big expectations from his head coach Dennis Williams. “John had a lot of success last season and we knew it would be hard to duplicate that this season, but we know he has that type of ability and drive. He was injured early in the season, but you can’t say enough about the way he has responded this season and lead this team as their captain,” said Williams. “John wants to be the go-to guy and the top guy and he is doing everything in his power to make sure that he and his team are getting better by the day so when the time comes, they are all prepared as much as possible to try and win a Robertson Cup. He comes prepared to play every night and I think bigger and better things are ahead for him. He is going to make a great NCAA Division I defenseman and I think right now it is about improving day by day and finding that right situation for him to move onto the next level.”
Rey understands that as the captain he has to lead in all areas, but he was sure to make the goal clear to his teammates from the start of the season. “I think I came into this year thinking one thing… winning the Robertson Cup. I think last season went really well for me personally and our team, but we fell short of that ultimate goal,” said Rey. “Team success in Amarillo will also bring individual success and we have had a lot of guys earn commitments, so I have a lot of faith in myself, my teammates and the coaching staff that something like that will happen for me. Just want to keep improving, winning games and hopefully something like that will come and take care of itself. I think that if I keep playing well hopefully that NCAA Division I opportunity will be close. We have such a good core of defensemen and I think one of the reasons we are so dangerous from an offensive standpoint, there are so many guys that can contribute. They not only do a great job of keeping the puck out of our own net, but they are also quick to turn the play the other way and transition quickly to offense. I think this season we have a great sense of family with this year’s team. We will do anything for the logo on the jersey. I think as captain it is my job to make sure everyone is doing everything they can to try and win a Robertson Cup. There is a lot of talent and appreciation for one another in the lockerrroom and hopefully we can build on the first half success and translate that into something bigger and better in the second half, which ultimately culminates in a championship.”
Runner-Up: Josh Hartley, Wenatchee Wild
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Jake Clifford, Minot Minotauros – Nick Neville, Texas Tornado – Derek O’Flynn, Coulee Region Chill – Kevin Patterson, Topeka RoadRunners – Ruslan Pedan, Janesville Jets – John Roisum, Corpus Christi IceRays – Brendan Vetter, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Cody Von Rueden, Soo Eagles – Sam Wolfe, Bismarck Bobcats.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Mark Evan Auk, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – October 2012, Cody Dixon, Austin Bruins – November 2012, Casey Nelson, Johnstown Tomahawks.
Something that perhaps has been a little lost in the success of the Austin Bruins this season has been the goaltending. It is easy to overlook with players like December’s forward of the month Brandon Wahlin or October’s defenseman of the month Cody Dixon, but Bruins goaltender Nick Lehr, 19, erased all that in the month of December. The native of Roseville, Minnesota, was almost unbeatable during the month as he posted a 5-1-0 record, including a sparkling 1.15 goals against average and a 95.3% save percentage. Lehr (6’0/180) gave up just seven goals in the six games and also had one shutout. His lone loss was a 1-0 defeat to the Minot Minotauros back on December 1st in which he allowed just a single goal on 28 shots. Lehr hasn’t given up more than two goals in a game since November 23rd.
Bruins head coach Chris Tok said that Lehr and the Bruins goaltending in general, has been the backbone of their success so far this season. “You have to have a solid goalie or else you will go nowhere. Nick is certainly deserving of something like this and the accolades because he is making the saves that he has to in order for our team to be successful,” said Tok. “The best part about Nick is that his saves are timely and have allowed us to keep the momentum in games going. You never know where a game’s momentum can turn when it is tied or we have a one goal lead and Nick has always been there. It is so important to have a veteran presence in goal who doesn’t get rattled easily and so far Nick has been that and more.”
Lehr said that he has kept the focus simple this season knowing he was going to be the #1 guy. “My focus coming into this year was just to win. I wanted to be the main guy and the guy that is leading this team to as many wins as possible. The chemistry on the team is great, the guys are having fun and it is fun to win. I don’t really focus on stats that much, but I want to keep my team in the game so they have a good chance to each night we play,” said Lehr. Lehr also said that the competition within the division and with fellow rookie goaltender Jason Pawloski has forced him to focus and try even harder. “We play in a very tough and deep division. Each weekend is tough and a challenge. Jason understands the game well and pushes me to play better. The starting spot is never a given so the friendly competition is good for is. I want to get to and win a Robertson Cup, but I’d also like to play NCAA Division I hockey.”
Runner-Up: Brock Kautz, Janesville Jets
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Kevin Aldridge, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Paul Berrafato, Amarillo Bulls - Blake Cates, Coulee Region Chill – Nick Deery, Odessa Jackalopes – Ryan Kellenberger, Springfield Jr. Blues - Hunter Leisner, Texas Tornado – Zach Nagelvoort, Soo Eagles – Aaron Nelson, Bismarck Bobcats – Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild – Alex Okicki, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Tyler Parks, Minot Minotauros – Hayden Stewart, Corpus Christi IceRays – Chris Truehl, Johnstown Tomahawks – Spencer Viele, Topeka RoadRunners.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Drew Weigman, Brookings Blizzard – October 2012, Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles – November 2012, Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild.
Topeka RoadRunners veteran forward Kyle Sharkey, 20, shined during the month of November. The forward from Moore, Oklahoma is currently riding a 12-game point streak, the second longest to date this season in the NAHL, and that was bolstered by Sharkey registering at least a point in all nine games he played during the month. During those nine games, Sharkey (5’8/175) had 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists), two game-winning goals and was a +6 as the RoadRunners moved themselves into 1st place in the South Division. Thanks to his big month of November, Sharkey is currently tied for 2nd in league scoring with 35 points in 26 games played.
Now in his third season in the NAHL, it has all led to Sharkey having a career season. Less than halfway through the season, he has already set career highs for goals and points. Sharkey is a true developmental ladder success story. Before joining the RoadRunners, Sharkey played for the Pikes Peak Miners 18U team of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) during the 2009-10 season, where he was second in team scoring. “Kyle puts the stress and responsibility of winning and team success squarely on his back and that is something I think is unique and special about him, and a big reason why he is respected in the lockerroom,” said Topeka head coach Scott Langer. “He is one of our go-to guys and is determined to leave his mark on the RoadRunners franchise. He is the type of player that spends an endless of amount of time on the ice trying to always improve. His determination is a big reason why I think bigger things are ahead for him.”
Sharkey said that his success and production in the month of November was largely due to his teammates. “Playing with the guys on my line (Sean Gaffney and Tyler Andrew) has really helped me have success. We have a pretty special bond and being able to trust them and know they have my back, makes it easier to play and produce,” said Sharkey. “Scott Langer has had a lot to do with my growth and development as a player, and we sat down before the season and set up some goals. I want to get better and better as the year goes along so by the time the playoffs come around, we are all playing our best hockey of the season.” Sharkey said that his time developing in the NAHL has been a memorable one and he has a few short-term goals for the remainder of the season. “I would like to continue to play hockey at the NCAA Division I level and help Topeka win a Robertson Cup, so everything I am focused on right now is working towards those two things.”
Runner-Up: Scott Conway, Texas Tornado
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Hunter Anderson, Coulee Region Chill – Jacob Barber, Wenatchee Wild – Garret Clemment, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Lawrence Cornellier, Odessa Jackalopes – Luc Gerdes, Jamestown Ironmen – Eliot Grauer, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Mitch Kontny, Johnstown Tomahawks - Patrick Moore, Bismarck Bobcats – Omar Mullan, Amarillo Bulls – Jake O’Borsky, Minot Minotauros – Robbie Payne, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Eric Rivard, Soo Eagles – Emil Romig, Corpus Christi IceRays.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Jono Davis, Wenatchee Wild – October 2012, Brandon Hawkins, Texas Tornado.
It is rare that a team has a defenseman lead them in scoring during any month of the season, but that is exactly what occurred during November in Johnstown. Tomahawks defenseman Casey Nelson, 20, lead his team in scoring during the month with nine points (3 goals, 6 assists) in seven games played as the Tomahawks went 5-1-1 during that timeframe and firmly planted themselves as one of the contenders in the North Division. The native of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, recorded a point in all but two games during the month and his performance during the week of November 19th earned him North Division Player of the Week honors in the NAHL. His 18 points to date is currently tied for 3rd among NAHL defensemen.
Nelson (6’1/174) spent the last two seasons playing for the Alaska Avalanche in the NAHL. However, when the Avalanched were sold and relocated over the summer to Johnstown, PA, Nelson jumped at the opportunity to continue his NAHL playing career. Tomahawks head coach Jason Spence said that Nelson’s play and productivity on the ice is due to his determination. “Casey is a player that is starting to see things happen because he is a very hard working player. He came in here from Day 1 and bought into the system, the new team in Johnstown and accepted his role as a leader,” said Spence. “He has a tremendous amount of speed and is able to get up the ice quickly and transition into offense. His first couple of strides really enables him to separate from defenders and create space.”
“I think looking back on November, I would have to say that I was able to have some success because our entire team really came together. There was a lot of cohesion in the lockerroom and that translated into everyone playing better,” said Nelson. “Our power play really started to click and once you get used to your teammates habits on the ice, it makes everything a little easier.” Nelson said that his time in Johnstown has been a memorable one thus far. “I think the thing that really stands out is the fan support. We have a great set-up and situation here and playing in front of thousands of fans, who show their support no matter if we win or lose, really makes me happy with the decision to play my last junior season here. I think we have a team who can contend for a Robertson Cup and I am hopeful I can keep playing well and work towards a Division I opportunity.”
Runner-Up: Levi Blom, Bismarck Bobcats
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Brett Beauvais, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Dave Dalbec, Minot Minotauros – Michael Hoy, Texas Tornado – Michael Lant, Soo Eagles – Michal Pastor, Topeka RoadRunners – John Rey, Amarillo Bulls – John Roisum, Corpus Christi IceRays – Derek Smith, Coulee Region Chill – Dylan Zink, Jamestown Ironmen.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Mark Evan Auk, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – October 2012, Cody Dixon, Austin Bruins.
No stranger to earning NAHL awards, Wenatchee Wild goaltender and Dallas, Texas native Robert Nichols, 20, had his best month of the season in November, which earned him the NAHL Goalie of the Month Award. Nichols, who is already committed to playing for the University of Connecticut next season, came into this season having won both the Goalie of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards during the 2011-12 season along with Odessa’s Connor Hellebuyck. However, this season has been different because Nichols has been the #1 starter since the beginning of the season and that has translated into continued success. The Wild played in just five games during the month, going 4-0-1, but Nichols (5’10/177) was in goal for all of them as he posted a 1.49 goals against average and a 93.6% save percentage during the month. Nichols, who set an NAHL record a season ago with 10 shutouts, already has four this season (including one in November) to lead the NAHL in that category.
Nichols success has come under and new head coach and a new system, which is a true testament to his ability to be successful in any environment and circumstances. Wild head coach Bliss Littler knew that after having a record-breaking season last year and a NCAA Division I commitment in hand, that Nichols had to be challenged in different ways this season. “I knew coming in that I wanted us to play an up-tempo, high-pressure style of game. However, in order to do that you have to have a goalie on the back end who is going to come up with some big saves, because you are also going to give up some chances playing that way. You have to have a goalie that doesn’t get rattled and can make big saves on odd-man situations. I think knowing we had Robert back in goal gave us confidence we could play that way this season,” said Littler. “I wanted to really push him this season to become a goaltender that can play every night and be that #1 go-to guy. I also want him to be a goaltender that can be good enough to go into the NCAA next season and compete to be the starter as a freshman.”
Nichols said that this season has been some validation for him from a season ago. “I think the common feeling was last year that the numbers and success was a product of the system instead of the player, so I entered this season with something to prove. We had such a great defensive team, but I want to prove that no matter what type of system I play under that I can be the go-to guy and a goalie that can win hockey games,” said Nichols. “I constantly push myself to be better because I know that is the only way I am going to be able to take my career to the next level in the NCAA. I also want to be the best for my team and teammates this season. I know to win a Robertson Cup you have to have good and consistent goaltending. Our team likes to play fast and aggressive this season under Coach Littler, so I know there are going to be good scoring opportunities sometimes for our opponents, so it is my job to be ready and make sure my teammates know that I going to be there for them. I think we play our best hockey that way.”
Runner-Up: Zach Nagelvoort, Soo Eagles
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Kevin Aldridge, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Blake Cates, Coulee Region Chill – Evan Cowley, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Phil Heinle, Odessa Jackalopes – Matt Leon, Springfield Jr. Blues – Aaron Nelson, Bismarck Bobcats – Alex Okicki, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Tyler Parks, Minot Minotauros – Tim Shaughnessy, Jamestown Ironmen – Hayden Stewart, Corpus Christi IceRays – Chris Truehl, Johnstown Tomahawks – Spencer Viele, Topeka RoadRunners.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Drew Weigman, Brookings Blizzard – October 2012, Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles.
To date, no one player in the NAHL has lit more red lights than Texas Tornado rookie forward Brandon Hawkins, 18. The native of Macomb, Michigan, currently leads the NAHL in goals with 15, thanks in large part to his torrid month of October. Hawkins (5’11/200) registered 16 points in the month of November, which led the NAHL. He racked up 12 goals and four assists. Three of his goals were of the game-winning variety and he was also a +3 during the month. Hawkins registered at least a goal in eight of the 10 games played during the month of October, which also included five multi-point games. Back on October 8th, he was named the NAHL South Division Star of the Week for his six-point weekend at Corpus Christi. He currently leads the Tornado in scoring with 21 points in 15 games played.
Hawkins is currently in his rookie season in the NAHL and with the Tornado. Last season, he played for the Little Caesars Midget Major team of the High Performance Hockey League (HPHL), where he actually played defense the majority of the season. “I think coming into the league, we knew he had good hands and a lethal shot, but we really focused on working on his footwork and his conditioning, so he could become a good, all-around player,” said Texas head coach Tony Curtale. “He is a really good guy, works very hard and possesses one of the best shots I have seen in a long time. The challenge for us right now is that have a very young team and a lot of rookies this season such as Brandon, and we have to make sure they pay attention to and understand all of the facets of the game, both offensively and defensively.”
Hawkins agreed that when he arrived in Texas, there was a learning curve. “You have to get yourself into really good rhythm and game shape because right off the bat, you are at the NAHL Showcase playing four games in four days in front of hundreds of scouts, so it was an eye-opener,” said Hawkins. “The NAHL is very fast-paced and I had to get adjusted to the speed. Once all that happened I really settled in a found a good groove. I have worked really hard to get into the best shape possible and I think it is paying off. We have a really young, but talented group of players, so we are excited about what is possible for us this season. I think if I can keep working hard, learning and putting the puck into the net it will hopefully lead to a Division I opportunity.”
Runner-Up: Matt Seidel, Kenai River Brown Bears
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Daniel Cesarz, Jamestown Ironmen – Sean Gaffney, Topeka RoadRunners – Mac Jansen, Coulee Region Chill – Robbie Payne, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Blake Roubos, Wenatchee Wild – TJ Sarcona, Amarillo Bulls – Brett Skibba, Springfield Jr. Blues – Jared Van Wormer, Soo Eagles – Brandon Wahlin, Austin Bruins – Thomas Williams, Brookings Blizzard.
Previous Winners: September 2012-Jono Davis, Wenatchee Wild
Talk about making a 180 degree turn… at the end of September, defenseman Cody Dixon, 20, was traded from the Springfield Jr. Blues to the Austin Bruins and left looking for a new identity. A month later, the native of Hales Corners, Wisconsin, is coming off his best statistical month in the NAHL earning him the Defenseman of the Month award for October. During the month, Dixon (5’11/185) registered nine points in eight games played, which included an incredible six goals from the blueline. He was also a +7 during the month as the Austin Bruins moved themselves into 1st place in the Central Division. Dixon is currently riding a six-game point streak and registered at least a point in seven of his eight games played in November.
Dixon spent the entire season last year in the NAHL with the Springfield Jr. Blues. Austin head coach Chris Tok said that they felt very fortunate to pick up in a trade. “We were familiar with Cody and we needed some more production from the blueline, so we felt like it was a good fit for us and a good deal to make,” said Tok. “He made an instant impact with the team, especially on the power play. There was some ready good chemistry from the moment he joined our team and I think that made the transition easier for everyone. I think he has really made everyone around him better, which has translated into team success.”
Dixon’s first games with the Bruins came at the beginning of October and he said he wanted to make the best of the situation. “I think it was a gut check for me because I was comfortable in Springfield, but after the first few days in Austin, I knew it was going to be a really good place for me to play,” said Dixon. “I have really tried to concentrate on making our breakout and transition to offense the best it can be. That first pass is so important, so that is something I have really tried to work hard on. Most important to me is team success. We have a group of forwards that work as hard in the defensive zone as they do in the offensive zone, so it makes it a lot easier on the defensemen. I think we have the team here to contend for the Robertson Cup. I think that is my short term goal right now. Long term, hopefully I can keep playing well, working hard and get a Division I opportunity.”
Runner-Up: Jacob Davidson, Kenai River Brown Bears
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Brett Beauvais, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Drew Brevig, Brookings Blizzard – Michal Pastor, Topeka RoadRunners – John Rey, Amarillo Bulls – Doug Rose, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Jack Sloan, Springfield Jr. Blues – Cody Von Rueden, Soo Eagles – Dylan Zink, Jamestown Ironmen.
Previous Winners: September 2012-Mark Evan Auk, Port Huron Fighting Falcons
Heading into November, the Soo Eagles find themselves in 2nd place in the North Division, just a single point out of 1st place. A direct result of them climbing the standings in October has been goaltender Tyler Marble, 20. The three-year NAHL veteran and Lake Superior State recruit had one of his best months since coming into the league back in 2009. In the month of October, the native of Howell, Michigan, posted a 4-0-1 record, with the lone blemish coming a shootout loss on the road in Johnstown. He faced 195 shots during the month and only have up eight goals, making 188 saves, which was good for a 96.4% save percentage. Marble (6’1/180) posted a 1.35 goals against average during the month, which included two shutouts. The first was a 30-save shutout on Oct. 20th in Johnstown. The second was a 44-save performance in a 4-0 shutout win in Michigan on Oct. 26th. Marble leads all NAHL goalies in save percentage with a 94.9% mark so far this season.
Eagles head coach Bruno Bragagnolo believes that Marble has been an essential piece of the puzzle to the Eagles recent success. “Because Tyler is a veteran guy, he has had a calming effect on the team. Our guys don’t get nervous or play nervous when he is in goal. They know that he is back there to back them up if they make a mistake,” said Bragagnolo. “I think he is in the unique situation of already having a college commitment, so I think he is out there to prove that he wants to be the top goalie in the league, but also wants to show the Lake Superior State coaches that he is improving each game and going to be a college-ready goalie when he arrives there next fall. He knows how to stop the puck, control the puck and play with confidence.”
As for Marble, he is quick to give the credit of his recent success to his teammates. “We have a very skilled and talented group of players and once they had a chance to get a few games under their belt in September, they started to really play well as a group in October and made my job a lot easier,” said Marble. “Right now my number one priority is helping this team win every night I am in goal. However, I know I have to maintain my focus and work hard if I want to continue that success at the next level with Lake Superior State. I think there are always parts of my game that could use some improvement, so I want to continue to try and improve on that. My experience with the Soo Eagles has been tremendous. We have a great fan base who are all very supportive. Coach Bragagnolo has a lot of confidence in me and I want to continue to stay mentally tough and continue to play consistent and confident.”
Runner-Up: Paul Berrafato, Amarillo Bulls
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Kellenberger, Springfield Jr. Blues – Erick Majerle, Brookings Blizzard – Reid Mimmack, Jamestown Ironmen – Spencer Viele, Topeka RoadRunners.
Previous Winners: September 2012-Drew Weigman, Brookings Blizzard
Wenatchee Wild forward Jono Davis, 20, had a September to remember as he helped the Wild to a perfect 8-0-0 record during the month. The native of La Verne, California, led all NAHL players in scoring in the month of September as he registered 14 points during the month (8 goals, 6 assists) in eight games played. Davis (5’8/155) scored at least a point in seven of the eight games he played in during the month and had four multi-point games. Davis leads the NAHL in several categories including, goals (8), points (14), plus/minus (+10) and game winning goals (3). Davis is currently riding a five-game point streak. “Jono plays exactly how we want to play… quick, fast-paced and smart,” said Wild head coach Bliss Littler. “He has world-class speed and can finish his scoring chances. He is an experienced leader at this level and is a player who will get a chance to play at the NCAA Division I level.”
“I think when it comes to my success in September, it is because of a great set of teammates I have around me,” said Davis. “I think the team is really close right now and everyone has a role and knows what they need to do in order for us to be successful. We worked hard this summer to come into camp in shape and ready to go. The NAHL Showcase went really well for us and the support from my teammates, the coaches and the staff in Wenatchee has been the best.”
Runner-Up: Luc Boby, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Lawrence Cornellier, Odessa Jackalopes – Nick Horne, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Jackson Leef, Texas Tornado – Devin Loe, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Lucas Oliver, Minot Minotauros – Kyle Sharkey, Topeka RoadRunners - Brett Skibba, Springfield Jr. Blues – Rudy Sulmonte, Corpus Christi IceRays – Austin Vieth, Janesville Jets – Thomas Williams, Brookings Blizzard.
For a team that is leading the North Division with an 8-2-0 record, one may not expect their leading scorer to be the second youngest player on the team and also a defenseman. However, that’s exactly what Port Huron Fighting Falcons defenseman Mark Evan Auk, 17, did during the month of September. The native of Gross Point Park, Michigan, recorded eight points from the blueline (2 goals, 6 assists) in 10 games played during the month. His eight points leads the Fighting Falcons in scoring and is second among NAHL defensemen. Auk (6’0/170) leads all NAHL defensemen in shots with 24 and is 2nd in plus/minus rating with a +6. “We knew Mark had a lot of skill coming from playing high school hockey in Michigan, but you are never really sure until he is put in a game situation,” said Port Huron head coach Steve Shannon. “We have tried to make sure that he is playing two-way hockey, but his offensive abilities have shined through. He takes good care of the puck and continues to be a very pleasant surprise for us this season.”
“It has been the best year so far for me in hockey wise and I have learned a lot in just the couple of months that I have been here,” said Auk. “At this level, mistakes can really cost you so I have tried to make smart decisions with and without the puck. I think we have a smart and experienced team. We get better as the game goes along and I think that has played into our success thus far.”
Runner-Up: Josh Hartley, Wenatchee Wild
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Brett Beauvais, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Jake Clifford, Minot Minotauros – Cody Dixon, Springfield Jr. Blues – Nick Hinz, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Bryan Kronberger, Janesville Jets – Tyler Minx, Odessa Jackalopes – Anthony Mousseau, Texas Tornado – Brandon Parker, Brookings Blizzard - Phil Pietroniro, Corpus Christi IceRays.
Brookings Blizzard goaltender Drew Weigman, 18, has been named the Brian’s Custom Sports NAHL Goaltender of the Month for September. The native of Arnold, Maryland, made his NAHL debut in Blaine at the NAHL Showcase, which turned out to be a 29-save performance in a 4-2 win over the Johnstown Tomahawks. As Brookings tried to finalize their search for a #1 goalie the remainder of the month, Weigman (6-1/185) got his chance this past weekend in a home-and-home series with their rival, the Aberdeen Wings. Weigman stopped 71 of a combined 73 shots in a weekend sweep, which included a shutout on Saturday, in which he made 37 saves. For the month, Weigman posted a perfect 3-0-0 record with a 1.00 goals against average and stopped 101 of 104 total shots for a 97.1% save percentage. “Drew has earned the #1 spot and has played even better since we gave him that role,” said Blizzard head coach Cory Laylin. “He continually comes up with the big saves and important times in the game. Sometimes you need your goalie to make saves to change the momentum of games and that’s what Drew has allowed us to do.”
“I knew it was going to be a battle with three goalies here to start the season, so I tried to focus as best I could in practice and in games,” said Weigman. “That first game of the NAHL Showcase was played in front of a lot of fans and scouts, so I just tried to focus and stop the puck. I think the weekend against Aberdeen was a bit different, especially on Saturday night at their place. It was a crazy atmosphere and something I had never seen. I knew if I could team my team in the game and whether the storm we would have a good chance at success and that’s what happened.”
Runner-Up: Spencer Viele, Topeka RoadRunners
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Brock Kautz, Janesville Jets – Hunter Leisner, Texas Tornado – Matt Leon, Springfield Jr. Blues – Max Milosek, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild – Steve Perry, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Ryan Ruck, Minot Minotauros.