Avalanche building early momentum
Read the full NAHL Weekly Release.
For a team that finished a distant third in the NAHL’s West Division standings a season ago, the Alaska Avalanche couldn’t be happier with the start to its 2009-10 campaign.
The rejuvenated Avs hold an impressive 7-1-1 mark in the early goings, thanks in part to two more victories on the road last weekend against the Bismarck Bobcats.
“We’re pretty pleased with the guys so far, and obviously it feels good to get the season off on the right foot,” said Avalanche head coach Dave Boitz, whose team won 23 games last year. “But we know it’s only going to keep getting tougher.”
Berkley Scott’s hat trick lifted the Avs to a 5-2 win on Friday. Robb Haider added a goal and an assist in the victory, and goaltender Kale Robertson turned aside 24 shots.
The next night, Kyle Pichler connected for a goal and an assist and Haider chipped in two more assists as Alaska doubled up Bismarck, 4-2. Between the pipes, Landon Peterson made 16 saves.
“We’re playing well, and we’re getting some good goaltending and key goal-scoring,” said Boitz.
And returning 11 players from last year’s club doesn’t hurt either.
“Having that many guys come back from the year before - and that’s never happened up here before - that’s key,” said Boitz.
The Avalanche is expecting big things from a handful of its returning forwards, and they haven’t disappointed early on. Haider, who finished last season with 25 points on 13 goals, already has five goals for 11 points after nine games.
Fellow Anchorage natives Kyle Pichler (two goals, eight assists), Zach Smith (five goals, four assists) and Matt Freise (goal, four assists), a University of Alaska-Anchorage (WCHA) recruit, along with Nardo Nagtzaam, from the Netherlands, are back and putting up points.
Blueliner Jake Parenteu, a Minnesotan who finished last season tied for the league-lead in goals scored by a defenseman (10), has also returned to Alaska’s lineup.
“They can all put up some big numbers,” Boitz said of his talented veterans.
Along with its strong veteran presence, the Avalanche has gotten a big boost between the pipes this season. Both Robertson, a Winnipeg native who’s only surrendered three goals in his first three starts, and Peterson, a Wisconsin native, have been a breath of fresh air.
“We have a lot better goaltending than we had a year ago,” said Boitz. “Both are first-year guys, but both have been terrific.”
Another newcomer, Scott also enters the season with a lot of promise. After a modest offensive showing at the NAHL Showcase Tournament the week prior - he delivered only one goal over the four games at the Minnesota event - the 18-year-old from Anoka, Minn., unleashed for four tallies against the Bobcats.
“Berkley was a little snake-bitten at the Showcase, but he made up for it last weekend,” said Boitz. “He’s a very skilled player and is fitting in very well for us.”
First-year forward Seth Johnson (Woodruff, Wis.) has also impressed early on, as have defensemen Ray Stenehjem (Anchorage), Chase Van Allen (Anchorage) and Jake Williams (Duluth, Minn.).
As a result of Alaska’s fast start, colleges have already started to pay close attention. A number of Division I schools were inquiring about Avalanche players at the recent Showcase, much to the delight of Boitz.
“That was a much better Showcase for us this year than last year as far as interest from schools,” said the coach. “We had a lot more programs interested in our guys.”
In the meantime, the Avs’ focus is on taking care of its business ahead, and that means staying competitive on a nightly basis in a tightly contested division.
“I think our division is outstanding, and it’s going to get tougher for us, obviously,” said Boitz, whose team plays nine of its next 11 games at home. “We’re grateful to have the start we’ve had, but the road will get tougher and we’ll have to keep getting good goaltending and keep battling to get wins.”
AROUND THE NAHL
ALASKA AVALANCHE: Head coach Dave Boitz believes that expanded recruiting efforts over the offseason will help his team be more competitive. “This is the first year the Avalanche has had anybody outside of Alaska actively recruiting,” he said.
ALBERT LEA THUNDER: Defenseman Brad Phenow, from Sauk Rapids, Minn., connected for a pair of goals in the Thunder’s 5-3 loss to Owatonna on Saturday.
ALEXANDRIA BLIZZARD: Goaltender Chris Kamal, of Alpharetta, Ga., turned aside all 34 shots in the Blizzard’s 2-0 win over Albert Lea on Friday.
ALPENA ICEDIGGERS: Playing in two of the IceDiggers’ three losses to Wenatchee, defenseman Josh Botimer, a Bay City, Mich., native, chalked up four assists.
BISMARCK BOBCATS: After losing two games to Alaska at home, the Bobcats will look to exact revenge on the Avalanche this coming week with three games in Wasilla on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.
FAIRBANKS ICE DOGS: After dropping a pair of games to Marquette, the Ice Dogs will stay in the Lower 48 this coming weekend for a two-game set against Alpena.
JANESVILLE JETS: Idle last weekend, the Jets return to NAHL action this coming weekend when they travel to Springfield for a three-game series.
KENAI RIVER BROWN BEARS: Forward Jed McGlasson (three assists), from Kenai, and forward Micki Mahailovich (goal, two assists), a Westland, Mich., native, both fashioned three-point weekends in two losses two North Iowa.
MARQUETTE RANGERS: At 5-1 to start the season, head coach Kenny Miller is happy with the early prospects of his first-year players. “With only a handful of veterans returning, we knew our new guys would have to step up and they have so far.”
MOTOR CITY METAL JACKETS: Forward Patrick Sullivan, from Derby, N.Y., recorded a hat trick in the Metal Jackets’ 5-4 overtime loss to Traverse City on Saturday.
NORTH IOWA OUTLAWS: Goaltenders Paul Moberg, from Forest Lake, Minn., and Apple Valley, Minn., native Trent Caspar each picked up a win in net in the Outlaws’ two-game sweep over Kenai River.
OWATONNA EXPRESS: Forward Cory Thorson, from Crystal, Minn., tallied a goal and an assist in the Express’ 4-2 victory over Albert Lea on Saturday.
SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES: Goaltender C.J.Groh, a University of Alabama-Huntsville (CHA) recruit from Cincinnati, stopped all 42 shots in the Jr. Blues’ 4-0 triumph over Wichita Falls on Saturday.
ST. LOUIS BANDITS: With last weekend off, the undefeated Bandits (4-0) begin their South Division schedule this weekend with two games in Wichita Falls.
TEXAS TORNADO: The Tornado opened the newly renovated Dr Pepper Arena with a 3-2 win over Topeka on Friday before a crowd of 1,872. Goaltender Dan Sullivan, of York, Pa., made 45 saves in the victory.
TOPEKA ROADRUNNERS: Ft. Worth, Texas, native Michael Hill connected for a pair of goals, including the game-winner, in the RoadRunners’ 4-3 triumph over the Tornado on Saturday.
TRAVERSE CITY NORTH STARS: Phil Wendecker, from Westland, Mich., potted two goals in the North Stars’ 5-4 shootout win over Motor City on Saturday.
WENATCHEE WILD: Northglenn, Colo., product Kyle Brodie, the league’s leading scorer among defensemen, picked up four more points (goal, three assists) in the Wild’s three-game sweep over Alpena. He now has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) after nine games.
WICHITA FALLS WILDCATS: Second-year forward Aaron Quick, from Monument, Colo., has committed to the Air Force Academy (Atlantic Hockey) for next season.