The Fairbanks Ice Dogs’ run through December to the top of the Midwest Division can be attributed to the play of players like forward Samuel Ruffin. The 5’10/170 lbs. native of Westfield, Indiana, had a huge month as he helped the Ice Dogs to a 7-0-1 record in eight games during the month. The 19-year-old University of Alaska-Fairbanks commit recorded 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) in just eight games during the month of December to lead all NAHL scorers. That included four multi-point games and recording at least a point in seven of the eight games during the month. Ruffin’s 34 points to date leads the Ice Dogs in scoring and is tied for 3rd in the NAHL. “Sam’s recent success can directly be attributed to his level of compete and commitment to the game. He works to get better everyday and is being rewarded. His play, as well as many other members of our team, has helped produce a winning mentality over the last month or so,” said Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart.
Ruffin said that his teammates were a big part of his success in December. “My teammates were a big part of my individual success and I couldn’t have done this without them. Everyone has bought into our mission and our system and it is fun to play right now. We just want to keep it up and keep winning,” said Ruffin. “My goals haven’t changed since my commitment. I just want to work hard and be the best player I can be and help my team win games.”
Runner-Up: Jeff Skinner, Springfield Jr. Blues
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Alex Adams, Minot Minotauros – Nathan Burke, Aberdeen Wings – Adrian Danchenko, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights - Luke Dow, Minnesota Wilderness – Brady Gaudette, Northeast Generals – Cooper Haar, Bismarck Bobcats – Travis Kothenbeutel, Austin Bruins – Zach Krajnik, Kenai River Brown Bears – Ture Linden, Lone Star Brahmas – Aaron Maguyon, Philadelphia Rebels – Donovan Ott, Johnstown Tomahawks – Evan Somoza, Odessa Jackalopes – Connor Zilisch, Coulee Region Chill
One of the shining stars for the Bismarck Bobcats in the month of December was the emergence of veteran defenseman Patrick O’Connor. The 20-year-old native of Moorhead, Minnesota, had his best stretch of games in his two-year NAHL career during the nine games in December as he recorded nine points (4 goals, 5 assists). O’Connor (6’1/180) recorded at least a point in eight of the nine games during the month and also went a stretch of four straight games with a goal (December 8-16). O’Connor leads all Bobcats blueliners with 16 points in 32 games played so far this season. “Patrick has been great for us all year. He is a veteran and a leader on and off the ice. His play on the ice is starting to speak for itself which is great to see his hard work pay off,” said Bismarck head coach Layne Sedevie.
“I play on a team with a lot of skilled players. My teammates do a great job of filling the gaps on the ice so it is easier to make passes and find the open man. The goal right now for me is to help the team get into the playoffs and make a run for the Robertson Cup. After that, I am hopeful and will keep working hard towards my dream of getting a scholarship to play NCAA Division I hockey,” said O’Connor. “I think the NAHL is very competitive, especially in the Central Division. There are no nights off and you really learn quickly how to handle yourself as a hockey player.”
Runner-Up: Dominick Procopio, Shreveport Mudbugs
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Carter Dwyer, Johnstown Tomahawks – Matt Hines, Coulee Region Chill – Jack Kelly, Aberdeen Wings – Dusan Kmec, Philadelphia Rebels – Blake Kryska, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – Drew Lennon, Lone Star Brahmas – Kyle Mayhew, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Cam McDonald, Kenai River Brown Bears – Nolan Sawchuk, Minot Minotauros – Jaden Shields, Austin Bruins – Marcus Walter, Springfield Jr. Blues
December was a huge month for the Shreveport Mudbugs and goaltender James Durham. With fellow goaltender Gustavs Grigals overseas at one of the World Junior Championships playing for Team Latvia, Durham, 18, was thrust into the starting role for the Mudbugs during the month. The 6’2/195 lbs. native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, responded with a 7-1-2 record during the month, which included a 1.57 goals against average and a 94.6% save percentage as Durham stopped 298 of a possible 314 shots during the month. Durham also had two shutouts during the month, which came in back-to-back starts on December 9th and 13th. The former NAPHL product is towards the top of the NAHL in most goaltending statistics. He ranks 1st with a 94.2% save percentage, tied for 1st in wins (13) and shutouts (5) and ranks 2nd in GAA (1.60). “James been a very solid in the net for us. I believe it starts from practice and challenging yourself to get better everyday and James has really improved his practice habits in the last coupe months and has translated into his game,” said Shreveport head coach Karlis Zirnis.
“We have something special going on here in Shreveport. I knew I had to be there every single night for my team. We are very connected here and all on the same page, so it makes it easy to go for war for them,” said Durham. “My dream is to play NCAA Division I college hockey and there has been some good interest, but my short term focus right now is to keep winning games for my team and take us as far as we can go in the playoffs."
Runner-Up: David Tomeo, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Josh Benson, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Gavin Enright, Kenai River Brown Bears – Ryan Fanti, Minnesota Wilderness – Evan Fear, Springfield Jr. Blues – Mitchell Gibson, Lone Star Brahmas – Ryan Keane, Philadelphia Rebels – Samu Lonkila, Minot Minotauros – Kade Phipps, Johnstown Tomahawks – Ryan Ullan, Bismarck Bobcats – Matt Vernon, Aberdeen Wings
Corpus Christi IceRays forward Larry Jungwirth, 20, led all NAHL players during the month of November with 14 points in 8 games played. That included a league-high 12 goals in addition to two assists. The 5’11/170 lbs. native of Bloomington, Minnesota, registered at least a point in seven of his eight games during the month and also recorded four multi-point games. His best outing came in a 5-2 win over Topeka on November 10th where he had a hat-trick and an assist. For the season, Jungwirth leads the IceRays in scoring with 23 points in 24 games played. His 16 goals is currently tied for 2nd in the NAHL. “Larry had a terrific month statistically for us. He came back to Corpus Christi with two goals in mind. The first was to win a Robertson Cup and the second was to secure an NCAA Division I commitment. By producing the way that he has in November he is helping our team succeed and also helping his individual stock continue to rise. We are very happy for Larry to be recognized for his hard work,” said IceRays head coach Brad Flynn.
“First and foremost, I have to thank my teammates and coaches. Our success here is a team effort and none of the individual success would be possible without all of them. I think we started to gel in November and become a family. I think playing some home games helped, but we are getting closer every single day. Everyone is buying into a team system and we are trying to have success as a single unit,” said Jungwirth. “The NAHL is full of a lot of skilled, hard-working, and talented players. You have to come ready to play every day. I would love to play in the NHL one day, but the next step is to keep working hard to try and earn an NCAA Division I commitment.”
Runner-Up: Nick Boyagian, New Jersey Titans
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Cameron Cook, Shreveport Mudbugs – Luke Dow, Minnesota Wilderness – Nick Granowicz, Topeka RoadRunners - Justin Jallen, Northeast Generals – Matt Kidney, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights - Travis Kothenbeutel, Austin Bruins – Jarrett Lee, Minnesota Magicians – Aaron Maguyon, Philadelphia Rebels – Miroslav Mucha, Minot Minotauros – Jakov Novak, Janesville Jets – Jared Resseguie, Bismarck Bobcats – Nic Sicoly, Aberdeen Wings – Jeff Skinner, Springfield Jr. Blues – Samuel Solensky, Johnstown Tomahawks – Erkka Vanska, Fairbanks Ice Dogs - Tomas Vohozka, Coulee Region Chill
Shreveport Mudbugs defenseman Dominick Procopio, 20, had a month that has been rarely seen for NAHL blueliners. The native of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, helped the 1st place Mudbugs to a 5-0-2 record in November and was a contributor on the scoresheet in all seven games played during the month. Procopio (6’2/190) recorded 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) in those seven games and was also a +6. He managed to also record at least one point in all seven games. That included South Division Star of the Week Runner-Up honors the for the week of November 20-26 when he had five points in a weekend series. For the season, Procopio is 2nd in team scoring with 18 points in 25 games played and he is currently riding a nine-game point streak. “Dominic has been a true leader for us since day one. First and foremost, he competes, and is also respected by every player in the dressing room. He plays from the heart and exemplifies what it means to be a Mudbug,” said Mudbugs head coach Karlis Zirnis.
The veteran blueliner said the secret to the success was building off of momentum from last season. “We have some great guys here this year and guys that are hungry for more success after last year’s experience. We are a very deep team and I think I am reaping the benefits from being around some great teammates,” said Procopio. “I am working very hard and trying to improve each day. Our team has a great track record of some NCAA Division I commitments and I am hopeful that I can be the next one of those because that has been a dream and goal of mine since Day 1 of playing in the NAHL.”
Runner-Up: Sam Martel, Topeka RoadRunners
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Shay Donovan, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights - Jack Kelly, Aberdeen Wings – Dusan Kmec, Philadelphia Rebels – Brandon Koch, Coulee Region Chill – Kyle Mayhew, Fairbanks Ice Dogs - Brendan Michaelian, Amarillo Bulls - Patrick O’Connor, Bismarck Bobcats – Luke Perunovich, Northeast Generals – Nolan Sawchuk, Minot Minotauros – Toby Sengvongxay, Johnstown Tomahawks – Jaden Shields, Austin Bruins
A big part of the ongoing success of the Central Division-leading Austin Bruins has been veteran goaltender Alex Schilling. The 19-year-old netminder from Medina, Minnesota, was outstanding in the month of November as he put up a 4-0-1 record with a 1.18 goals against average and a 95.8% save percentage. Overall during the month, Schilling (6’1/185) stopped 136 of 142 shots that came his way, allowing just six goals. That included his first shutout of the season, which was a 1-0 win at Coulee Region on November 25th. For the season, Schilling has a 7-4-2 record with a 1.99 GAA and a 92.7% save percentage. “Alex has been solid for us and was a key part in our success as of late. He stays very composed in the net and has made some big saves for us. His leadership on and off the ice has been infectious throughout our team and we are really going to rely on him continuing to get the job done, going forward,” said Bruins head coach Steve Howard.
“I think it all started with the sweep of our series in Bismarck the first weekend in November. We had a strong weekend and contributions came from everywhere. We are doing the right things and the little things it takes to win. Every weekend it seems like someone new is contributing, so to have that kind of support and depth really helps,” said Schilling. “Every point matters in the Central Division, so my focus is to keep my team in games and get better every day. I think we have a group of guys that can make a deep run in the Robertson Cup playoffs and hopefully that also translates into an NCAA Division I opportunity.”
Runner-Up: Johnny Roberts, Bismarck Bobcats
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): James Durham, Shreveport Mudbugs – Ryan Fanti, Minnesota Wilderness – Evan Fear, Springfield Jr. Blues – Emil Gransoe, Topeka RoadRunners - Josh Graziano, Coulee Region Chill – Ryan Keane, Philadelphia Rebels – Logan Neaton, Fairbanks Ice Dogs - Jack Robbel, Minot Minotauros - Isaiah Saville, Minnesota Magicians – Christian Stoever, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights - Matt Vernon, Aberdeen Wings
October was a memorable month for Northeast Generals forward and captain Colin Bilek. The 20-year-old native of Brighton, Michigan, was on fire on the ice as he recorded 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists) in 12 games in October to net monthly honors. Bilek (5’10/177) was also a +11 during the month, which saw him record at least a point in eight of the 11 games and also post five multi-point games. Bilek, who is currently the NAHL’s leading scorer with 24 points, also announced his NCAA Division I commitment to Army on October 31st. “We are very happy for Colin. It’s been a great season for him so far and it was great how he played his best hockey when we hit a rough patch and lost a few in a row. That is what great leaders and players do,” said Generals head coach Joe Lovell. Northeast General Manager Bryan Erikson stated, “I am really proud of Colin for how hard he works and for the recognition he is getting. It has been a great month for his with this honor, a star of the week honor, seven wins and an NCAA Division I commitment for him.”
“October was an incredible month for me personally, but I think team wise, it was the best month of hockey we played as a team. It really goes to show how deep our team is and the depths we are willing to go to get some wins. We all went through some adversity and responded very well,” said Bilek. “It has been such a long road to get to the point where I realized the dream of an NCAA Division I commitment and I am so thankful to those that made it possible like our coaches Joe Lovell and Bryan Erikson. I am so excited for the remainder of the season. We are a team that believes we can win the East Division and make a run towards the Robertson Cup. It has been a fun season and I just want it to keep growing and get better.”
Runner-Up: Matej Murin, Bismarck Bobcats
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Julian Biondo, Lone Star Brahmas – Nick Bowman, Coulee Region Chill – Colton Fletcher, Aberdeen Wings – Nick Granowicz, Topeka RoadRunners – Jarrett Lee, Minnesota Magicians – Kosta Likourezos, Minnesota Wilderness – Grant Loven, Minot Minotauros – Jakov Novak, Janesville Jets – Luke Radetic, Kenai River Brown Bears – Reed Robinson, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – Jon Russell, Amarillo Bulls – Ben Schmidling, Johnstown Tomahawks – Ethan Stewart, Springfield Jr. Blues – Jensen Zerban, Philadelphia Rebels
Minnesota Magicians defenseman Matt Denman, 19, stood out amongst his peers in October as the blueliner from Prior Lake, Minnesota, was a point-producing machine for the 2nd place Magicians. Denman (5’11/180) led all NAHL defenseman in the month with 13 points (1 goal, 12 assists) in 10 games played and was also a +2 during the month. Denman recorded at least a point in eight of the 10 outings and had four multi-point games as the Magicians posted an 8-1-1 record during the month. For the season, Denman is tied for the team lead in team scoring with 14 points in 14 games played. “Matt has been a consistent contributor for us this season. He brings a lot of offense to our blue line and is leading by example defensively,” said Magicians head coach Scott Meyer.
“From a team perspective, we really came together in October. I think September is always hard because there are still a lot of line-up changes and additions, so it is tough to develop the chemistry in the locker room. Once we got the pieces in place, everyone really stepped their game up and we played very well,” said Denman. “I think we have a team that has the skill and the talent to win the Midwest Division. I just want to keep developing as a player and work hard to try and get an NCAA Division I opportunity, which has always been a dream of mine.”
Runner-Up: Brendan Michaelian, Amarillo Bulls
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Matt Barnes, Topeka RoadRunners – Noah Bormann, Bismarck Bobcats – Diarmad Dimurro, Philadelphia Rebels – Carter Ekberg, Janesville Jets – Anthony Firriolo, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – Eric Gotz, Minnesota Wilderness – Kyle Hallbauer, Lone Star Brahmas – Brandon Koch, Coulee Region Chill – Markuss Komuls, Kenai River Brown Bears – Jordan Muzzillo, Springfield Jr. Blues – Luke Perunovich, Northeast Generals – Nolan Swachuk, Minot Minotauros
Through the first two months of the season, Philadelphia Rebels goalie Ryan Keane, 19, is statistically the top goalie in the league. His play during the month of October had a lot to do with that as the native of Coppell, Texas, posted a 4-1-0 record in five appearances, which included a 1.20 goals against average and stopping 122 of 128 shots that came his way, which was good for a 95.1% save percentage during the month. Keane (5’9/160) recorded his first career NAHL shutout during the month, which came on October 14th in a 4-0 win over Johnstown. He allowed just one goal in his three other wins. Keane currently leads in the NAHL in goals against average (1.14) and save percentage (95.2%). “Ryan has played fantastic since he walked through the door on September 1st. Quite frankly, he has been our most consistent player to date. Some NCAA Division I school is going to get a great college goaltender,” said Rebels head coach Joe Coombs.
“I can play with a lot of confidence because of the great team I have in front of me here in Philadelphia. We have a good and talented group of players and each is responsible at both ends of the ice, so is makes my job easier to stop the puck. We have been playing well since the start of the season and have good chemistry in the lockerroom, so we are looking to continue that consistency the entire season,” said Keane. “I think our goal right now is to keep improving and win the East. I know everyone here is hungry to get back to the Robertson Cup and win it, so that is something we keep focusing on. Personally, I just want to keep improving and ultimately get an NCAA Division I opportunity.”
Runner-Up: Emil Zetterquist, Coulee Region Chill
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Gavin Enright, Kenai River Brown Bears – Mitchell Gibson, Lone Star Brahmas – Jason Grande, Amarillo Bulls – Gustavs Grigals, Shreveport Mudbugs – Connor Murphy, Topeka RoadRunners – Garrett Nieto, Janesville Jets – Juraj Ovecka, Springfield Jr. Blues – Jack Robbel, Minot Minotauros – Isaiah Saville, Minnesota Magicians – Christian Stoever, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – Ryan Ullan, Bismarck Bobcats – Gabe Vinal, Aberdeen Wings
It was an incredible start to the 2017-18 season for the Northeast Generals and forward Matt Wieser. The 20-year-old forward from Newport Beach, California, helped the Generals to a 7-1 record in the month of September. For Wieser (5’7/166) it was sweet revenge after being on a team a year ago that won just four games. Wiesner led all NAHL players in scoring with 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in the month to go along with a +8 rating. That included three game-winning goals during the month and registering at least a point in seven of the eight games. “Matt is a great leader and player. It is great to see the hard work that he put in this off-season pay off. We couldn’t be happier for Matt and look forward to him having continued success,” said Generals head coach Joe Lovell. Northeast General Manager Bryan Erikson stated, “Matt embodies what we are trying to create here, which is an atmosphere of hard work and dedication. His leadership combined with his work ethic and skill has been a big reason for our hot start.”
Wiesner said that last year’s experience with the Generals is constant motivation for his continued improvement and success this season. “I think that the major changes from last year to this year began in the off-season. The team you see this year was built with a defense first mentality. We have defensemen that can move the puck and two really good goalies to back us all up. That has enabled us to translate that into offense. We want to be a fast team that plays with a lot of pace and I think we were able to do that in September. Personally, I want to prove people wrong. I think any of us who spent time with the team last year understand that we are here to show everyone that we can play hockey and are here to develop and get better. I was pushed around a lot last year, so in the off-season, I put on 15-20 pounds of muscle and that has helped with my speed and stamina. I did all the little things I needed to do to gain some confidence. I think having the experience of playing in the league last year was invaluable coming back this season. We still have 50+ games to keep proving ourselves,” said Wiesner.
Runner-Up: Gil Garcia, Kenai River Brown Bears
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Julian Biondo, Lone Star Brahmas – Billy Duma, Coulee Region Chill – Ty Enns, Bismarck Bobcats – Jordan Fader, Shreveport Mudbugs – Nick Granowicz, Topeka RoadRunners – Caleb Hite, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Nikita Kozyrev, Springfield Jr. Blues – Gino Lucia, Minnesota Wilderness – Jakov Novak, Janesville Jets – Jack Olmstead, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – David Raisanen, Minot Minotauros – Evan Rochowiak, Odessa Jackalopes – Jon Russell, Amarillo Bulls – Jensen Zerban, Philadelphia Rebels
Odessa Jackalopes defenseman and Niagara University commit Zac Herrmann, 19, stood out amongst his peers in September as the native of Lancaster, New York, recorded 10 points in seven games played during the month of September as the Jacks put together a 5-2-0 record. Herrmann (6’0/185) had 3 goals and 7 assists during the month, which included recording at least one point in five of the seven games. In a stretch of four games from September 21-29, Herrmann had eight points to help his cause. “Zac has been an outstanding leader for us on and off the ice so far this season and he has taken his game to another level,” said Odessa head coach Greg Gatto.
“I think the difference in tone and focus is totally different this year. The guys are really dialed in this year and came in with a great mentality from the start, so that has contributed to a very good beginning of the season for our team. Once we got rolling at the Showcase, guys really started to mesh and buy into what they needed to do to help the team win some games in September,” said Herrmann. “When you are a player that is uncommitted, you are really working hard to earn that commitment, so even though I have committed to play NCAA Division I hockey, I try and maintain that mentality. When I finally go to play college hockey, I want to be able to make an impact right away and be prepared. Playing in the NAHL in Odessa has been an unbelievable experience for me. The fans and support are great and there is no place I would rather be,” said Herrmann.
Runner-Up: Colby Enns, Minot Minotauros
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Marcus Chorney, Amarillo Bulls – Diarmad DiMurro, Philadelphia Rebels – Tom Farrell, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – Eric Gotz, Minnesota Wilderness – Brendan Gysbers, Shreveport Mudbugs – Sam Martel, Topeka RoadRunners – Cam McDonald, Kenai River Brown Bears – Jordan Muzzillo, Springfield Jr. Blues – Patrick O’Connor, Bismarck Bobcats – Luke Perunovich, Northeast Generals – Nolan Schaeffer, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Alec Semandel, Janesville Jets
Lone Star Brahmas goalie Mitchell Gibson had quite the start to his NAHL career in September. The 6’3/186 lbs. native of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, posted a shutout in his first three regular season games to begin the season. The 18-year-old Harvard commit went a total of 217 minutes and 24 seconds before he surrendered a goal in regulation or overtime to start the season. Overall during the month, Gibson posted a 3-1-2 record and stopped 157 of 163 shots, which was good for a .962 save percentage and a .97 goals against average. “Mitch was once of our best players in September. He bailed us out several times and I am very proud of the way he kept his composure and lifted his teammates up. He plays with a lot of confidence and I think that helps out our guys, particularly when we are having trouble putting the puck in the net. I know he is the type of goalie that could win this award again this season,” said Brahmas head coach Dan Wildfong.
“It was nice to get off to a fast start of the season, so for me it was taking it one period at a time and it worked out that I the first three games of the season were shutouts, so that really helped me with my confidence,” said Gibson. “My daily focus is on becoming a better goalie and that comes with hard work on and off the ice. I not only want to see as many shots as I can, but also want to be sure I am doing what I need to in the gym and in the video room to be the best goalie possible. I want to keep things simple and keep the distractions to a minimum, but I am working hard to develop the best I can, so that when I do end up in the NCAA at Harvard, I am able to compete for an opportunity to play right away,” said Gibson.
Runner-Up: Josh Benson, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Brett Epp, Odessa Jackalopes – David Fessenden, Northeast Generals – Jason Grande, Amarillo Bulls – Emil Gransoe, Topeka RoadRunners – Gustavs Gringals, Shreveport Mudbugs – Samu Lonkila, Minot Minotauros – Garrett Nieto, Janesville Jets – Artur Pavliukov, Kenai River Brown Bears – David Tomeo, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – Ryan Ullan, Bismarck Bobcats