NAPHL's first event in Minnesota proves competitive
Held in conjunction with the North American Hockey League (NAHL) Showcase Tournament, sponsored by SBK hockey, the first event of the second North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) season took place from Sept. 16-19 at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minn.
"From all of the scouts evaluating our student-athletes the entire weekend to the competitiveness, it was definitely a great start to the season," said NAPHL director Denny Scanlon. "We couldn't be happier."
STANDINGS - LEADING SCORERS - LEADING GOALTENDERS
POINTSTREAK PEAK PERFORMER
Evan Ritt, Rocky Mountain Roughriders
Ritt, a forward from Lakewood, Colo., connected for five goals and four assists (nine points) to lead the division in scoring.
“The keys to that first five-game weekend were staying within our system and our off-ice conditioning; we still had good legs in Games 4 and 5,” said Jr. Ice head coach Mark Catron. “I was very happy with the outcome.”
Forward Jeff Salzbrunn, from Yorkville, Ill., led the Ice’s offensive charge along with forward Jordan Logan. Both potted three goals for seven points (tied for fourth in NAPHL scoring) in the five contests.
“Jeff is an up-and-coming player, for sure,” Catron said of Salzbrunn. “He’s heading in the right direction.”
Logan also earned the praise of his coach, who said the highly touted forward from Carmel, Ind., might be on the move to junior hockey before too long.
“He was very strong all weekend,” said Catron.
Speaking of promotions, the Jr. Ice was without the services of defenseman Patrick Pollock, who was called up by the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Indiana Ice to play in a couple of exhibition games, the final two days of the showcase.
The Ice’s success in Minnesota was also aided by tremendous performances between the pipes by Griffin Strain (three wins) and Matt Paletta (two).
“Our goaltending got stronger as the weekend went on,” said Catron. “Playing some very good competition and only giving up one goal in Games 3, 4 and 5 was all I could ask of Griffin and Matt.”
Jordan Boucher-Gould, Omaha AAA
Boucher-Gould, a forward from Montreal, struck for for seven goals and eight assists (15 points) to lead the division in scoring.
In the 16U division, three teams - Thunder AAA, Omaha AAA and the California Titans - sit atop the standings after the Minnesota showcase.
Each team finished 4-1 at the event (eight points) with the Pikes Peak Miners (3-1-1) and Motor City Metal Jackets (2-0-3) right behind them with seven points apiece.
“I was very happy with our performance,” said Omaha AAA head coach David Wilkie, who credited his team’s solid special teams, timely goaltending and knack for coming from behind. “I would’ve liked to be 5-0 now, as we speak, but I’ll take it.”
Jordan Boucher-Gould powered Omaha offensively. The forward from Montreal unleashed for six goals for 14 points in five games to lead the U16 division in scoring.
“He’s a special hockey player with a bright future,” said Wilkie. “He’s already garnering junior and Division I interest just from his performance in Blaine.”
In goal for Omaha, Jason Pawloski (2-1) and Cooper Cook (2-0) both delivered strong performances.
“Our goaltending tandem is very solid,” said Wilkie. “I feel very confident when either one of them is in the net.”
The Titans, led by head coach Dave Scowby, were also satisfied with their performance in Minnesota.
“We were looking forward to that first weekend since the spring and our team came ready,” said Scowby. “We need to make sure we continue to build and prepare for the upcoming events. All in all, I’m very pleased our boys adapted well to the travel and prepared for the high level of competition.”
Forward Tyler Moy, from San Diego, was the top point-getter for the Titans, posting a goal and five assists over the five games.
“Tyler is an exceptional player with tremendous work ethic, talent and attitude,” said Scowby. “As with any first year-player, it always takes a few games to get used to the quickness of 16 AAA, but Tyler is doing everything right.”
Scowby says the goaltending tandem of Reed Kinsey and Thatcher Demko, both of whom picked up two wins, proved to be the deciding factor in the Titans’ success.
“Both are extremely strong netminders,” said the coach. “They did a great job preparing for each game and didn’t let the pressure of the number of scouts and recruiters in the stands affect their performance.”
For Thunder AAA, forwards Jay Clarke (four goals, two assists) and Chase Suprek (two goals, four assists) stepped up offensively while goaltenders Alec Doss and Jack Zuckerman each recorded two wins between the pipes.
Brandon Fushimi, Rocky Mountain Roughriders
Fushimi, a forward from Thornton, Colo., rang up seven goals and five assists (12 points) to lead the division in scoring.
Rocky Mountain holds a one-point advantage over the Motor City Metal Jackets, who fashioned a 4-1 record at the event.
“All 20 guys have a great work ethic and understand the importance of puck pursuit and physical play at a young age,” said Roughriders head coach Matt Huckins. “That really makes us a tough team to play against.
“Like most teams, it was our first road trip, and we have 17 guys who’ve never played AAA and we did a large amount of learning on the job, on and off the ice. But, overall, the boys found a way to show up and battle in all five games. This was a great team-building trip for them.”
Forward Brandon Fushimi is already proving to be one of the NAPHL’s top offensive threats. The Thornton, Colo., native struck for seven goals for 12 points to lead the Bantam division in scoring.
“Fush has so many tools, and his passion and determination to score is really refreshing to see,” said Huckins. “The best part about Brandon is his character; he’s a team leader and will do anything in order for his team to win.”
The goaltending duo of Alex Corley and Dean Shatzer also stood tall. Corley picked up two wins in Minnesota, including a shutout, while Shatzer recorded a 2-1 mark.
“Both boys give us chance to win and have a knack for coming up with game-changing saves,” praised Huckins. “Goaltenders have to play well early in the year for you to be successful and give you a chance to get your feet under you. Like the other 18 guys, these two have great battle characteristics and don't quit.”
SCOUT PRESENCE STRONG
The scouting presence at the Minnesota event, as expected, was at its peak - a fact not lost on the participating NAPHL coaches.
“What an awesome event,” raved Catron. “The scouts at every game were very visible and, as a coach, I was extremely pleased with how much they watched all the teams.”
For Scowby, he was very encouraged with what the showcase delivered it in terms of exposure.
“After all, that’s what this is all about: providing young men with the opportunity to play at a higher level,” he said. “I can’t speak for every team or coach, but personally the interest shown in our program and players was tremendous.”
“The event was first class in every sense of the word,” he said. “The scouting presence was unparalleled.”