NAHL Alumni Update
March 23, 2017
The NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee selected the 16 teams that will be participating in the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship, which begins this weekend. The championship playoff format involves four predetermined regional sites with four teams assigned to each site. The regional winners advance to the Men’s Frozen Four, April 6 and 8 in Chicago, Illinois. The entire championship uses a single-elimination format. Automatic qualification privileges are granted to the postseason champions of the six conferences. The remainder of the field is selected at large.
All 16 teams in the tournament have at least one NAHL alumni on their roster. In total, 81 NAHL alumni are on the 16 rosters of teams taking part in the event. In case you have a rooting interest of teams with NAHL alumni, here is a breakdown:
Air Force: 20
Western Michigan: 6
North Dakota: 5
Ohio State: 5
Michigan Tech: 3
Penn State: 2
Notre Dame: 1
Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation announced the five finalists for the 2017 Mike Richter Award, which honors the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA men’s hockey. The fourth annual award will be presented at the 2017 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in Chicago. Three of the five finalists are alumni of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State University (Alexandria Blizzard, 2011-12)
The WCHA Player of the Year and an All-WCHA First Team selection, Michael Bitzer led the Beavers to the WCHA regular season championship while leading the conference in goals-against average (1.71), save percentage (.932), shutouts (6) and wins (22, tied with Michigan Tech’s Angus Redmond). A native of Moorhead, Minn., he posted a 22-14-3 overall record and ranks first in the nation in goals-against average, games played (39), minutes (2355:22), tied for first in shutouts, third in save percentage and tied for seventh in wins. The junior netminder played in all but two games this season for the Beavers, allowing two goals or less 29 times. Bitzer stopped 30 or more shots in nine games this season, and posted a .930 or better save percentage in 20 games. A Hobey Baker Award top 10 finalist, Bitzer is an exercise science major at Bemidji State.
Cal Petersen, University of Notre Dame (Topeka RoadRunners, 2011-12)
Cal Petersen backstopped the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish to within one point of a share of the Hockey East regular season championship while leading the conference in save percentage (.928) and shutouts (6), and earning First Team All-Hockey East honors. A native of Waterloo, he owns a 21-11-5 overall record and ranks tied for first in the nation in shutouts, fifth in saves (1,007), seventh in minutes played (2191:55) tied for ninth in save percentage, 12th in goals-against average and wins, and 19th in winning percentage (.635). The junior netminder has started every game and played all but 19 minutes this season for the Irish, allowing two goals or less 23 times. He has stopped 30 or more shots in 15 games this season and has posted a .930 or better save percentage in 16 games. A finalist for the Hockey East Player of the Year Award, Petersen has started 87 consecutive games, dating back to a 5-1 win over Maine on Feb. 7, 2015. A fifth-round pick (129th overall) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Petersen is a management consulting major at Notre Dame.
Charles Williams, Canisius College (Owatonna Express, 2010-11)
The Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year and an All-AHC First Team selection, Charles Williams led the Golden Griffins to their first AHC regular season championship while leading the conference in goals-against average (1.82), save percentage (.943), shutouts (6) and saves (1,016). A native of Canton, Mich., he posted a 21-7-5 overall record and ranks first in the nation in save percentage and shutouts, tied for third in goals-against average, fourth in saves and tied for 12th in wins. The graduate transfer netminder played in all but five games this season for the Griffins, allowing two goals or less 25 times. Williams stopped 30 or more shots in 15 games this season, including a career-high 46 in a 2-2 tie at Air Force on Jan. 14. The six-time AHC Goalie of the Week honoree posted a .930 or better save percentage in 21 games. A Hobey Baker Award top 10 finalist, Williams is a master’s degree candidate in sport administration at Canisius.
Former NAHL (Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings) forward and Ferris State senior forward Chad McDonald, who helped lead the Bulldogs to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances in four years while also holding a 3.94 GPA, has been named the 2017 WCHA Student-Athlete of the Year. McDonald was a four-year contributor for the Bulldogs, helping Ferris State to a MacNaughton Cup as league regular-season champions, a Broadmoor Trophy as postseason champs and a pair of appearances in an NCAA tournament regional final.
The NHL’s Anaheim Ducks have signed center and former NAHL’er Mitch Hults (Janesville Jets, 2011-12) to a two-year entry-level contract. Per club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Hults, 22, collected 20-34=54 points with 98 penalty minutes (PIM) in two seasons (76 games) with Lake Superior State of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). Hults was named to the All-WCHA Second Team in 2016-17 after leading in conference in assists (23) and ranking third in points (34). The 6-2, 205-pound forward was also named WCHA Player of the Month for October after earning 4-7=11 points in six games.
Former NAHL Commissioner and President Tom Anastos (1994-98) resigned as head coach of the Michigan State Spartans. Anastos was 78-122-24 in six seasons at Michigan State. He guided the Spartans to a berth in the 2012 NCAA tournament after going 19-16-4 in his first season behind the bench. In 2014-15, the Spartans posted a 17-16-1 record and finished second in the Big Ten regular-season standings.