The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced its monthly player awards for the month of March. The Bauer Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month is Hampus Sjodahl from the Odessa Jackalopes. The Bauer Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month is Nico Luka from the Coulee Region Chill. The Vaughn NAHL Goaltender of the Month is Gunner Rivers from the Minot Minotauros. Only players who are nominated by their respective teams are considered for the NAHL monthly awards.
Easton Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month: Hampus Sjodahl, Odessa Jackalopes
Odessa Jackalopes veteran forward Hampus Sjodahl, 20, had a big month of March. The native of Stockholm, Sweden and Bemidji State University recruit racked up 15 points (9 goals, 6 assists) in 10 games played as the Jacks held steady in the NAHL’s South Division playoff race. Sjodahl (6’2/197) recorded at least a point in nine of his 10 games and had five multi-point games. He was also a +4 during the month. Sjodahl leads the Jackalopes in scoring this season with 67 points in 58 games played, which also ranks 3rd in NAHL scoring and his 35 goals rank 2nd in the league. Sjodahl also played on the South Division team at the 2016 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. “Hampus has been a major contributor for us all year and really taken his game to another level. I am extremely proud of the hard work he has put in and the great season he has had for the Odessa Jackalopes,” said Odessa head coach Greg Gatto.
Sjodahl said that he stayed focused in the month of March because every weekend was like a playoff game for he and his team. “The last month the team has really come together because we know there is so much at stake. We just want to make the playoffs. I think we have been working so hard to make it happen and that type of urgency has made everyone play better,” said Sjodahl. “I have enjoyed playing for Odessa in the NAHL so much. I hope that I can make that type of impact at the next level at Bemidji State.”
Runner-Up: Adam Winborg, Janesville Jets
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Alex Berardinelli, Lone Star Brahmas – Ryan Bloom, Minnesota Wilderness – Stevie Bryant, Corpus Christi IceRays - Pierce Crawford, Minnesota Magicians – Dominik Florian, Coulee Region Chill – Nick Ford, Brookings Blizzard – Dom Garcia, Aston Rebels – Jackson Graalum, Aberdeen Wings – Jonathan Lazarus, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Luke Lynch, Johnstown Tomahawks – Luka Maver, Topeka RoadRunners – Jared Pike, Bismarck Bobcats – Max Reisinger, Minot Minotauros – Tyler Tomberlin, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Brady Tomlak, Springfield Jr. Blues
Easton Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month: Nico Luka, Coulee Region Chill
Coulee Region Chill defenseman Nico Luka, 20, helped his team stay in the Midwest Division playoff race with a memorable performance in the month of March. The native of Bartlett, Illinois, racked up 11 points in 10 games from the blueline and was a +2 during the month as the Chill put together a 6-3-1 record. Luka (5’11/80) had at least a point in six of the 10 games played in March and had two goals and nine assists. Now in his second year with the Chill, Luka has had a career season, leading all Chill defenseman with 35 points this season, which ranks tied for 6th among all NAHL defensemen. “I'm glad Nico is getting the recognition for his play as he has been an integral part of our success for the last three months. With his poise with the puck he has an ability to get pucks going up ice and get the play started,” said Chill head coach AJ Degenhardt.
“We as a team are just trying to take things game-by-game. When you are fighting for your playoff life like we have since Christmas, you have to play every game like it is your last and give 100%. Everything started to click and we have been playing really well. I think my numbers are a direct reflection of our success as a team,” said Luka. “All we have to do it get in the playoffs and anything is possible, including a Robertson Cup Championship. I am hoping that it also leads to an NCAA Division I opportunity.”
Runner-Up: Jakob Stridsberg, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Colton Berg, Minot Minotauros – Kristofers Bindulis, Aston Rebels – Matt Denman, Minnesota Magicians – Sean Giles, Lone Star Brahmas – Noah Gilreath, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Tyler Hayes, Topeka RoadRunners – Janis Jaks, Minnesota Wilderness – Daniel Kiraly, Odessa Jackalopes – Petr Kuznetsov, Springfield Jr. Blues – Cody Lichtenvoort, Corpus Christi IceRays - Kyle Siemers, Aberdeen Wings – Alex Smith, Janesville Jets – Cole Souto, Bismarck Bobcats
Vaughn NAHL Goaltender of the Month: Gunner Rivers, Minot Minotauros
Arguably, the hottest goalie in the NAHL the past two months has been Minot Minotauros netminder Gunner Rivers. The 20-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, had an incredible month of March, posting a perfect 5-0-0 record with a 1.60 goals against average and a 95.0% save percentage. In the month of March, Rivers (6’0/170) faced a total of 159 shots in five appearances and made 151 saves. That included two wins over Bismarck, two wins over Brookings and one win against the Minnesota Magicians. Rivers best outing of the month may have come on March 24th when he made 30 saves in a 4-0 shutout over the Bobcats. Since joining the Minotauros in late January from Odessa, Rivers has posted a 10-1-2 record with a 1.75 goals against average and a 94.5% save percentage. “Gunner has been exceptional since arriving in Minot. He gives us a chance to win every night, and is very hungry to win. He is a very focused individual that competes very hard in both games and practices,” said Minot head coach Marty Murray.
“I have to give credit first and foremost to Marty Murray. He is an unbelievable coach and runs an incredible program. Everything we do blends together really nicely that allows us to be successful,” said Rivers. “I am thankful to be here and just trying to make the best of it and try and lead this team to some playoff success. I think we have a team here that can go a long way in the post-season. We are playing with a lot of confidence and have a lot of depth. If we play the way we can play, we have the potential to be a championship team.”
Runner-Up: Jack LaFontaine, Janesville Jets
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Darion Hanson, Aston Rebels – Tyler Johnson, Topeka RoadRunners – Corbin Kaczperski, Lone Star Brahmas – Justin Kapelmaster, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Matiss Kivlenieks, Coulee Region Chill – Josh Kuehmichel, Brookings Blizzard – Andrew Lindgren, Johnstown Tomahawks – Dryden McKay, Corpus Christi IceRays – Chase Munroe, Minnesota Wilderness – Tommy Nappier, Springfield Jr. Blues – Gavin Nieto, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Hunter Shepard, Bismarck Bobcats – Peter Thome, Aberdeen Wings – Will Ulrich, Minnesota Magicians
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