Read the full NAHL Weekly Release.
Sporting an inexperienced but promising group of players to start the season, North Iowa Outlaws head coach Garrett Strot knew it’d take some time for his charges to adapt to the rigors of the NAHL.
And with a 6-1-1 mark in their last eight games, including two more victories last weekend, the young Outlaws appear to be doing just that.
“Our guys are getting better every week and I know they’ll continue to get better throughout the season,” said Strot, whose team improved to 10-5-1, good for 21 points and a share of the Central Division lead with Owatonna. “They’re continuing to work hard in practice and I think they’re starting to see that hard work helps them win games.”
North Iowa opened its weekend with a 2-1 victory over the Alexandria Blizzard on Friday. Ryan Bohrer connected for the game-winning goal and an assist in the win, with Mickey Knox adding the other Outlaws marker. Between the pipes, goaltender Paul Moberg stopped 39 shots.
The next night, Markus Gander and Ryan McElhone scored in regulation and Bohrer netted the only goal in the shootout as the Outlaws bested the Albert Lea Thunder, 3-2. Moberg turned back 28 shots in regulation and overtime and all five in the shootout.
“Over these past eight games, the guys have really started to get used to the speed of the NAHL,” said Strot. “They’ve been learning to move the puck better and make smarter plays.”
And it doesn’t hurt having Moberg as the last line of defense. After last weekend’s performance, the 18-year-old from Forest Lake, Minn., now holds a 7-4-1 mark to compliment a 2.77 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
“Paul is a great kid and has been consistent for us all year,” Strot said of Moberg, who, in addition to being one of the top goaltenders in the Minnesota high school ranks last year, was also a state champion golfer. “He’s a very smart kid, a great athlete and has great awareness in the net.”
Bohrer has also been delivering with consistency. With only nine points in 29 games a year ago, the 19-year-old from St. Paul already has 19 (five goals) to his credit through 16 games this season.
“He’s been our leading scorer all year, which is really what we were hoping for from him this season,” said Strot. “We were looking for him to step up and help lead this younger group of guys.
“His speed has also really helped him this season; he’s become faster and just has more confidence on the ice this year.”
With such a green defensive corps, veterans Ben Danford and Robbie Anderegg have done exceptional jobs assuming needed leadership roles. Upfront, John O’Neill, who’s been sidelined with an injury but expected to return to the lineup within the month, and Tyler Klein, who was acquired earlier in the season from St. Louis, have also impressed.
“I’m really happy with how the guys have progressed since we started the year at (September’s NAHL) Showcase (Tournament),” said Strot. “We came in with one of the youngest teams in the league and the guys have really adapted quickly to the speed of the game and have learned to play much better as a team.”
Forward Derek Loisel, who didn't play hockey last year, has shown plenty of determination in games and practices through his relentless work ethic, with first-year forwards Connor Gaarder and Lucas Dillon proving their worth as the Outlaws’ top penalty-killers.
“Those two really stepped into that role when we needed them,” said Strot.
Knox, a gifted puckhandler, is another newcomer who continues to make strides.
“He’s also impressed me with how he’s progressively getting better with each game as he gets used to the pace,” said Strot.
With no Division I commitments to date, the Outlaws are expecting good news on the college front soon - especially with their recent and, hopefully, continued success.
“Over the last couple of weeks, the guys have been getting a few looks from several Division I schools, so it’s been really good exposure for them,” said Strot.
But first thing’s first, and that’s constant improvement - something Strot and his staff continue to stress as the season rolls along.
“As a young team, all we can do is get better,” said the coach. “I know the guys will continue to work hard and do what they need to do for the betterment of the team.”
AROUND THE NAHL
ALASKA AVALANCHE: Forward Jacob Barber (Dardenne Prairie, Mo.) tallied three goals in the Avs’ two-game sweep over Fairbanks. He now has five goals in his last four games.
ALBERT LEA THUNDER: Forward Niko Kapetanovic (North Prairie, Wis.) connected for a goal and assisted on Mark Ellis’ game-winner in the Thunder’s 4-1 triumph over Alexandria on Thursday.
ALEXANDRIA BLIZZARD: Forwards Nick Nagel (Andover, Minn.) and Brett Wall (Huber Heights, Ohio) scored the Blizzard’s goals in its losses to Albert Lea and North Iowa.
ALPENA ICEDIGGERS: Forward Jonas Vassalli (Switzerland) tallied a goal and two assists in the IceDiggers’ two losses to Traverse City.
BISMARCK BOBCATS: Idle last weekend, the Bobcats will play three games this coming weekend: two at Owatonna and one at Albert Lea.
FAIRBANKS ICE DOGS: Forward Michael Juola (Lake Forest, Calif.) registered three assists as the Ice Dogs lost a weekend set to Alaska. He leads the NAHL with 22 helpers.
JANESVILLE JETS: Forward Gehrett Sargis (Midlothian, Ill.) potted two goals, including the game-winner, and an assist in the Jets’ 5-3 victory over Marquette on Saturday. He was also a plus-3.
KENAI RIVER BROWN BEARS: The Brown Bears acquired forward Jesse Ramsey (Rogers, Minn.) from Wenatchee in exchange for Dajon Mingo (Canton, Mich.). Ramsey totaled three goals and an assist in 16 games with the Wild.
MARQUETTE RANGERS: Forward Josh Bussell (Detroit) struck for a pair of goals, including the game-winner, in the Rangers’ 4-1 victory over Janesville on Friday.
MOTOR CITY METAL JACKETS: Goaltender Randy Willis (Fond du Lac, Wis.) turned back 30 of 32 shots in regulation and overtime and all four in the shootout as the Metal Jackets bested Springfield on Friday, 3-2.
NORTH IOWA OUTLAWS: Head coach Garrett Strot is high on the personality of young group of players. “We really have a lot of good character,” he said. “The guys work hard for me everyday and are all-around good guys to have on a team.”
OWATONNA EXPRESS: Forward Brian McGinty (Bethel Park, Pa.) registered a pair of assists, including one on Chris Darnell’s (Barboursville, Va.) game-winning goal, in the Express’ 4-2 win over Albert Lea on Friday.
SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES: Forward Ross Andersen (River Falls, Wis.) tallied a goal and an assist in the Jr. Blues’ 4-2 victory over Motor City on Saturday.
ST. LOUIS BANDITS: Idle last weekend, the Bandits head to Springfield this coming weekend for a pair of games against the Jr. Blues.
TEXAS TORNADO: Forward Rock Einersen (Chicago) rang up a hat trick in the Tornado’s 6-4 loss to Wenatchee on Friday. He scored his first goal five seconds into the game.
TOPEKA ROADRUNNERS: With last weekend off, the South Division-leading RoadRunners welcome Wichita Falls to town this coming weekend for a two-game series.
TRAVERSE CITY NORTH STARS: Goaltender Drew Strandberg (Thunder Bay, Ontario) backstopped the North Stars to a two-game sweep over Alpena, turning aside 54 of 58 shots. “There may have been an initial adjustment period coming into the league this year, but Drew is really finding his rhythm and hitting his stride right now,” said head coach Anthony Palumbo.
WENATCHEE WILD: In his first NAHL game, goaltender James Adamo (Butte, Mont.) made 24 saves in the Wild’s 3-1 victory over Texas on Saturday.
WICHITA FALLS WILDCATS: Idle last weekend, the Wildcats head to Topeka this coming weekend for a two-game series against the RoadRunners.