The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced its monthly player awards for the month of February. The Easton Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month is Darian Romanko from the Minnesota Wilderness. The Easton Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month is Sam Becker from the Minnesota Magicians. The Vaughn NAHL Goaltender of the Month is Matt Jurusik from the Janesville Jets. Only players who are nominated by their respective teams are considered for the NAHL monthly awards.
Easton Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month: Darian Romanko, Minnesota Wilderness
Minnesota Wilderness forward Darian Romanko, 20, had an incredible month of February, which stood out among the rest of his NAHL peers. The native of Shoreview, Minnesota, helped the Wilderness keep pace atop the Midwest Division with 17 points in eight games played as Minnesota posted a 5-1-2 record. Romanko (6’1/195) recorded 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) during the month of February and was also a +5 with one game-winning goal. Romanko recorded points in six of the eight games during the month and all six of those games were multi-point games. In his last three games of the month, Romanko recorded 10 points, which culminated into him being named the Midwest Division Star of the Week this past week. Romanko also made an appearance a week ago at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he played for the Midwest team. The Midwest team went undefeated at the event and Romanko had a goal and an assist in the two games. For the season, Romanko leads the Wilderness in scoring with 49 points in 44 games played. “Darian has come such a long way in his two years with us,” said Wilderness head coach Corey Millen. “He has been really good as of late and we are hopeful that a Division I opportunity happens soon. He is a great finisher and understands how to step up at the right times. His progress as a hockey player has been fun to watch.”
“I think the team got into a good grove and built up some momentum and that translated into some success in February for everybody, not just me. I think a lot of players had good months and it was a product of hard work and seeing us play together well as a unit. I think we have a great group of guys here that play a really good systems game and is responsible on the back end. As long as we can keep the puck out of our net and be effective on offense, we have a good shot the rest of the year,” said Romanko. “Top Prospects was a great experience for me personally. It was a humbling experience to look into the stands and see nothing but black jackets. It was so much fun to play in front of that many guys and since I knew a lot of guys on the Midwest team, it made it all the more special. Hopefully this leads to something at the Division I level,” continued Romanko.
Runner-Up: Kyle Haak, Aberdeen Wings
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Charlie Combs, Amarillo Bulls – Kane Durment, Minnesota Magicians – Dallas Gerads, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees – Jack Gessert, Kenai River Brown Bears – Jake Howie, Minot Minotauros – Matt Jones, Keystone Ice Miners – Nikita Litviak, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Tanner Lomsnes, Corpus Christi IceRays – Dominic Lutz, Topeka RoadRunners – Jared Pike, Bismarck Bobcats – Brad Pung, Soo Eagles – Dakota Raabe, Wenatchee Wild – Zac Robbins, Johnstown Tomahawks – Ethan Somoza, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Sebastian Vidmar, Lone Star Brahmas – Adam Winborg, Janesville Jets
Easton Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month: Sam Becker, Minnesota Magicians
It is rare in the NAHL that a defenseman leads his team in scoring, but that is exactly what Minnesota Magicians defenseman Sam Becker, 20, has done this season. The native of Roseville, Minnesota, leads his club in scoring this season with 42 points in 45 games played. The 42 points ranks 3rd among all NAHL defensemen to date. During the month of February, the Becker (6’0/175) and the Magicians got back on track with a 3-2-2 record and put themselves in good position to make the NAHL Playoffs. Becker led the team during the month with nine points in the seven games, which included four goals, five assists and a +4 rating. He also had one game-winning goal. Becker recorded a point in five of the seven games played during the month and had two multi-point games. His game-winning goal came back on February 21st in a 3-2 road win in Coulee Region. Becker also competed in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament during the month for the Midwest team. As the Midwest put together a 2-0 record at the event, Becker was outstanding in his play, recording three points in the two wins. “Sam has been a huge reason behind our success, especially lately. He is effective at both ends of the ice, but I think it is what people don’t see off the ice that he has just as big of an impact for our team. He is a natural leader and has done a great job of staying positive during the entire season,” said Magicians head coach Tom Upton. “There is no doubt in my mind that he is a future NCAA Division I hockey player. I think he is one of the best defensemen in the league and has the numbers and the skill to show for it.”
As for Becker, he said that getting back on track as a team during the month was a big priority. “The middle part of the season was kind of tough, but we tried to stay positive throughout it because the playoffs are still a real possibility. I think we have a great group of forwards up front who know how to put the puck in the net, so it makes my job easier,” said Becker. “I think playing in Top Prospects was a great experience because the team played well and it was fun to play with guys that you normally compete against. There definitely is some Division I interest because of the season I have had and because of Top Prospects, so I am hopeful something will get done in the next couple of weeks,” said Becker.
Runner-Up: Johnny Mueller, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Alex Archibald, Keystone Ice Miners - Evan Bell, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees – Jared Brandt, Minot Minotauros – Michael Caruso, Soo Eagles – Ivan Chukarov, Minnesota Wilderness – Logan Gestro, Corpus Christi IceRays – Chris Jones, Wenatchee Wild – Ryan Polin, Topeka RoadRunners – Tristan Rostagno, Amarillo Bulls – Tanner Salsberry, Bismarck Bobcats – Anton Santesson, Lone Star Brahmas – Alex Smith, Janesville Jets – Jeff Solow, Kenai River Brown Bears – Jake Townsend, Wichita Falls Wildcats
Vaughn NAHL Goaltender of the Month: Matt Jurusik, Janesville Jets
There were some memorable performances from NAHL goalie during the month of February, but then there was the performance from Janesville netminder Matt Jurusik. The 17-year-old goalie from La Grange, Illinois, put together a month for the ages as he put an assault on the NAHL record books. During the month, Jurusik (6’1/195) appeared in seven games and played more than 392 minutes. In that time frame, Jurusik allowed just two goals on a total of 180 shots, which was good for an astounding 98.9% save percentage in February. He also posted a minuscule 0.31 goals against average and a perfect 7-0 record during the month with four shutouts. In a stretch of hockey from midway through the 2nd period of a game on February 7th to the end of a game on February 27th, Jurusik went a stretch of over 340 minutes without allowing a single goal. Because of all of that, Jurusik now leads all NAHL goalies in just about every category, including wins (27), save percentage (93.8%) and is tied for the league lead with a 1.58 goals against average and six shutouts. Jurusik also was selected to participate in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament for the North team, where played well, making 37 saves in a 4-1 loss to the Central team. “When you watch Matt play, he is so calm, cool and collected. You have to remind yourself that he is still just 17-years-old. From my perspective his performance in Feburary was one of the best I have seen in a long time. There were many times that we did not play well in front of him, but because he had his A game every night, he gave us a chance to win,” said Janesville head coach Joe Dibble. “I really feel like the sky is the limit for him because of his confidence in playing the position. Needless to say, there has been a lot of NHL and NCAA Division I interest and I think it is just a matter of taking that attention day-by-day and finding the right situation for him, but he remains as focused as ever, which is a big boost to our club,” said Janesville head coach Joe Dibble.
For Jurusik, this is the second time this year of winning the Goaltender of the Month award, having won it back in December. Despite that, his thoughts haven’t changed. “This year has been an entire team effort and my success doesn’t happen without them. We have a very special group of guys who have a goal in mind. I am trying to take things game-by-game, nothing else,” said Jurusik. “Getting the last-minute call to play in Top Prospects was pretty special. It was a great experience. It is hard to describe what kind of an experience it is to play against some of the best the league has to offer. On top of that, you then look in the stands and see hundreds to scouts so right there you know that you better make the most of the opportunity. I have some options right now, but I am going to take my time with it and make a decision about my future when the time is right,” said Jurusik.
Runner-Up: Ben Johansson, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Vaughan Ahrens, Minnesota Magicians – Kevin Aldridge, Fairbanks Ice Dogs - Ryan Anderson, Minnesota Wilderness – Ryan Bedbard, Johnstown Tomahawks – Alex Bitsakis, Bismarck Bobcats – TJ Black, Lone Star Brahmas – Alex Blankenburg, Keystone Ice Miners – Michael Bullion, Wenatchee Wild – Chad Catt, Soo Eagles – Evan Hauser, Kenai River Brown Bears – Andrew Lindgren, Corpus Christi IceRays – Dryden McKay, Springfield Jr. Blues – Andrew Shortridge, Aberdeen Wings – Atte Tolvanen, Minot Minotauros – Drew Vogler, Topeka RoadRunners
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Vaughn is the official Goaltending Equipment Partner to the NAHL and serves as the Preferred Goaltending Equipment Supplier of the NA3HL and NAPHL. Founded in 1982, Vaughn became one of the first major hockey production companies to use multiple foam layers in equipment. As strictly a goalie equipment company, the main focus for Vaughn is the innovation and quality of their product. Visit Vaughn online at: www.vaughnhockey.com