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NAHL Alumni, World Juniors update

December 31, 2015

Former NAHL and Odessa Jackalopes goalie Connor Hellebuyck posted his first career NHL shutout this past week.

Even with the NCAA on holiday break, there were several notable NAHL players and also alumni doing some great things in professional hockey and at the IIHF World Junior Tournaments overseas.  Here is a look at some of those achievements:
Former NAHL and Odessa Jackalopes and current Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck sounded more relieved than excited about his first career NHL shutout, even if it was only his ninth career NHL game.  Winnipeg's rookie netminder made 30 saves and Bryan Little scored on a penalty shot as the Jets defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0 on Sunday. Hellebuyck even downplayed blanking a team with the likes of stars such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. "I think every team's good in this league and I'm just really excited I finally got this milestone," Hellebuyck said. And, after a 4-1 win over Detroit on Tuesday thanks to 31 saves, Hellebuyck is now making the case to be Winnipeg’s full-time #1 goalie. The numbers have started to speak for themselves. Validating Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice’s decision to give rookie Connor Hellebuyck seven of the last eight starts, the emergency recall goalie is looking like something that’s anything but temporary. Hellebuyck, 22, has now had 10 NHL starts while No. 1 netminder Ondrej Pavelec’s knee mends. From those 10 starts have come seven wins, a goals-against average of 2.01 and a save percentage of .932. They could mean a more consistent run of results based on the better defense and goals-against numbers the Jets rode to the post-season a year ago.
Former Wichita Falls Wildcats defenseman Sam Piazza was named to the All-Tournament team as he helped the University of Michigan win it 17th Great Lakes Invitational title with a 4-2 win over Michigan Tech on Wednesday. Michigan goalie Steve Racine (Chicago Hitmen), also an NAHL alum, was also named to the All-Tournament Team.
Vermont goalie and NAHL alum Patrick Munson (Fairbanks Ice Dogs) was named to the All-Tournament Team and voted MVP of the Catamount Cup as he led the University of Vermont to the title. Munson stopped 43 of the 44 shots he faced in a pair of victories for a .977 save percentage. The rookie registered 20 saves against Colgate to pick up his third win of the year.
Also named to the Catamount Cup All-Tournament team was former NAHL and current Lake Superior State forward Gage Torrel, who played in the NAHL for the Alexandria Blizzard during the 2011-12 season.

World Juniors Update
Current Coulee Region Chill and NAHL netminder Matiss Kivlenieks was selected as the Best Goaltender of the Tournament as he backstopped his home country of Latvia to the Championship title of the IIHF World Junior Div. I Group A Championship, held in Vienna, Austria. The Chill goalie led the event with a 1.71 goals against average and a 94.1% save percentage, helping Latvia win and advance to next year’s main IIHF World Junior Championships against the likes of the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, etc.
Also helping Team Latvia to the title were current Aston Rebels defenseman Gvido Jansons, who had two points in five games and Latvian forward Filips Buncis, who had three points in five games.
Bismarck Bobcats and Norwegian winger Tobias Fladeby played for Team Norway at the 2016 World Junior Championships. In four games at World Juniors, Fladeby, who played defense for Team Norway, had two assists with a plus-5 rating for the Norwegians, who finished third in Division I, Group A.
Former Bismarck Bobcats forward Roope Hintz has two points through three games for Team Finland at the IIHF World Junior Championships in Helsinki, Finland. 
Former Austin Bruins forward Guillaume LeClerc was named the Best Forward of the Tournament for Team France at the IIHF World Junior Championships Division I Group B, which took place in France.  The French team won the Championship thanks to six points from LeClerc.
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