The North American Hockey League (NAHL) today announced the Divisional Stars of the Week presented by Easton Hockey for the week ending December 13, 2015. The Easton Hockey Divisional Stars of the Week is a weekly feature during the 2015-16 regular season that honors the top performing players in each of the four NAHL divisions. Only players that are nominated by their respective teams are considered for the Divisional Players of the Week award.
Central Division Star of the Week: Hunter Shepard, goaltender, Bismarck Bobcats
As the Bismarck Bobcats ran their season-high winning streak to five straight games, they looked to their goaltender Hunter Shepard to do much of the heavy lifting this past weekend. Shepard, 20, backstopped the Bobcats to two road wins in Aberdeen on Friday and Brookings on Saturday, and in the process gave up just a single goal on 51 combined shots. On Friday, the native of Cohasset, Minnesota, made 28 saves for his third shutout of the year in a 3-0 win in Aberdeen. On Saturday, Shepard (6’0/200) made 23 saves in a 5-1 win in Brookings against the Blizzard. Shepard has won six of his last seven starts. “We've felt all year that Hunter is one of the best goalies in the league and so far this season he has been the backbone of our success. This weekend he came up with huge saves in close games to give our team a chance to win both nights on the road,” said Bismarck head coach Layne Sedevie.
2nd Star: Brady Heppner, F, Minnesota Magicians
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Tucker DeYoung, F, Aberdeen Wings – Aaron Herdt, F, Bismarck Bobcats – Tyler Jeanson, F, Minot Minotauros – Christian Mohs, F, Minot Minotauros – Carter Roo, F, Aberdeen Wings
East Division Star of the Week: Mike Merulla, forward, Aston Rebels
It hasn’t taken long for Aston Rebels forward Mike Merulla, 19, to make an impact. Since joining the Rebels in late October the native of Kennett Square, PA, has played a major role in the offense and this past weekend was another great example as the Rebels posted a weekend home sweep of the Johnstown Tomahawks. Merulla (6’0/190) had four goals in the two wins, which included a goal in Friday’s 3-2 win and a hat-trick in Saturday’s 5-1 win. In just 16 games played with the Rebels this season, Merulla already has 18 points, which ranks 4th on the team in scoring. “Mike has just gotten better and better since we got him in late October. We believe we are just scratching the surface with his overall ability. We look forward to more weekends like this past one,” said Aston head coach Joe Coombs.
2nd Star: Carson Knop, F, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Cusin, F, Aston Rebels – Tony DeVito, D, New Jersey Titans
Midwest Division Star of the Week: Janis Jaks, defenseman, Minnesota Wilderness
Although the Minnesota Wilderness played in just one game this past week, defenseman Janis Jaks, 20, made the most of it. The native of Riga, Latvia, recorded three assists and was a +3 in a 5-1 home win over the Coulee Region Chill on Friday. Jaks (6’0/186) assists on the first two goals of the game, which included the game-winning goal and on the final tally as well. He has recorded points in four of his last five games played and now has nine points in 26 games played this season. “Janis is a good skating, strong defenseman that had a great impact in our win last weekend, both offensively and defensively,” said Wilderness head coach Corey Millen.
2nd Star: Reggie Lutz, F, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Jack Gessert, F, Kenai River Brown Bears – Luke Kania, G, Minnesota Wilderness – Dylan McArthur, D, Kenai River Brown Bears – Tommy Nappier, G, Springfield Jr. Blues – Jeff Skinner, F, Springfield Jr. Blues – Jakob Stridsberg, D, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
South Division Star of the Week: Yu Hikosaka, forward, Topeka RoadRunners
The Topeka RoadRunners are one of the hottest teams in the NAHL thanks to another pair of wins this past weekend in Odessa, which ran their current winning streak to nine in a row. Forward Yu Hikosaka, 20, led the way with five points in the two wins, which included three goals and two assists. On Friday, the native of Tokyo, Japan, had a goal and an assist in a 7-2 win. On Saturday, he scored twice and added another assist in a 6-2 win. For the season, Hikosaka (5’10/190) has 18 points in 30 games played, which ranks tied for 4th in scoring on the Topeka roster. “Yu is playing his best hockey of the season right now. He is a talented player that can be a game-changer. Yu was very focused over the weekend and his production showed that,” said Topeka head coach Scott Langer.
2nd Star: Justin Kapelmaster, G, Wichita Falls Wildcats
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Dryden McKay, G, Corpus Christi IceRays – John O’Connor, D, Topeka RoadRunners – Andre Pison, F, Wichita Falls Wildcats