NAHL Alumni Update
November 2, 2017
Former NAHL and Bismarck Bobcats goalie Hunter Shepard was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Week.
Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Month: Brennan Kapcheck, American International (Aston Rebels)
Brennan Kapcheck has become a feature piece of AIC’s defense, showing his two-way capabilities by tying for the team lead in scoring. He had a five-game point streak in the month of October, which included an all-important goal in AIC’s upset of #11 Penn State on October 20th. Kapcheck recorded six points on two goals and four assists, ranking second in the league in freshman scoring and first in freshman defensemen scoring. His two goals are also tops amongst Atlantic Hockey rookies.
ECAC Goaltender of the Month: Jake Kielly, Clarkson (Austin Bruins)
A sophomore from Eden Prairie, MN, Kielly backstopped Clarkson to its best start in 11 years. He leads ECAC Hockey goaltenders in wins (4) and shutouts (2) and made the most saves (227) in the league to start the season. Kielly was twice named conference Goaltender of the Week. He ranks among the top goaltenders in the country in several categories. Kielly is sixth in Division I in save percentage (.946), tied for eighth in goals against average (1.62) and is tied for the national lead in shutouts with two through the first eight games.
NCHC Goaltender of the Week: Hunter Shepard, Minnesota-Duluth (Bismarck Bobcats)
Shepard had the best weekend of his collegiate career in his first time playing both games on the same weekend, backstopping the Bulldogs to a sweep at Maine, while allowing only one goal in two games. On Friday, he made 26 saves, including 12 in the third period, as he helped UMD hold on for a 2-1 win and was tabbed Third Star of the Game. The following night, Shepard again stopped 26 shots, including 11 in the final frame, which was every shot he faced as he recorded his first career shutout in the 2-0 victory. He was tabbed Second Star of the Game on Saturday. Shepard compiled 52 saves on 53 shots faced in the series for a .981 save percentage, while posting a 2-0 record with a 0.50 goals-against average. He also helped UMD go 7-for-7 on the penalty kill against Maine.
WCHA Offensive Player of the Month and Offensive Player of the Week: Zeb Knutson, Minnesota State (Topeka RoadRunners)
Knutson totaled a WCHA-best 11 points in seven games, compiling five goals and six assists to lead Minnesota State to a 5-2-0 overall record, a 3-1-0 mark in league play and a No. 9 national ranking. After being held off the scoresheet on opening night, the senior ended the month on a six-game point streak and a four-game goal-scoring run, coinciding with the Mavericks' 5-1-0 binge to jump into the top-10 of the national polls. His plus-6 rating was good for second in the WCHA, one behind the co-leaders. A WCHA-best two of Knutson's goals have been game-winners, both in league play (at Bowling Green on Oct. 20 and vs. Michigan Tech on Oct. 27) to help Minnesota State end the season's opening month atop the standings. He also racked up nine of his points against ranked competition, earning four (1g-3a) in the Mavericks' sweep at then-No. 2 Boston University (Oct. 13-14) and five in a pair of wins against the then-No. 16 Huskies (Oct. 27-28). Knutson's efforts against Michigan Tech, which included factoring in both game-winners (assist in the series finale) garnered him WCHA Offensive Player of the Week accolades.
WCHA Defensive Player of the Month: Mark Auk, Michigan Tech (Port Huron Fighting Falcons)
Among the top two-way players in the WCHA this season, Auk led league defensemen with nine points and a plus-4 rating. The senior from St. Clair Shores, Mich. scored two goals and added seven assists to tie for fourth nationally among blue-liners for scoring, while adding 12 blocked shots. Auk opened the season on a six-game point streak, including a pair of multi-point efforts. Helped by Auk, Michigan Tech – unranked to start the season – opens November in the No. 20 spot of the USCHO.com poll. The Huskies jumped back into the national conversation after defeating then-No. 16 Union and then-No. 6 Minnesota Duluth to win the 2017 Ice Breaker Tournament – an event at which Auk was Most Valuable Player. He tallied four points in Duluth with two goals and a pair of assists, then added a pair of helpers the following weekend as Tech opened WCHA play with a five-point weekend against Lake Superior State.
WCHA Goaltender of the Month and Goalie of the Week: Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State (Alexandria Blizzard)
The 2016-17 WCHA Player of the Year, Hobey Baker Memorial Award top-10 finalist and Mike Richter Award top-five finalist picked up where he left off, as Bitzer led the WCHA during the season's opening month with a .941 save percentage and a 1.56 goals-against average. The senior from Moorhead, Minn. also – not surprisingly – tied for the national lead with two shutouts. Bitzer, the NCAA's active leader, is now the all-time WCHA record holder with 18 career clean sheets. Bemidji State's netminder was a two-time WCHA Goaltender of the Week during October. He opened the season with 72 saves during a win and tie against then-No. 5 Minnesota Duluth, including a career-best 45 stops in a 65:00 scoreless tie Oct. 14 in Duluth. That effort was the WCHA record-breaker for Bitzer, as he surpassed the previous league mark of 16 career shutouts accumulated by Colorado College's Jeff Sanger (1998-2002) and Wisconsin's Brian Elliott (2003-07). He then earned a second weekly honor after helping the Beavers open defense of their MacNaughton Cup title with a five-point weekend against Ferris State (Oct. 27-28).
WCHA Rookie of the Week: Eric Dop, Bowling Green (Minot Minotauros)
Dop helped Bowling Green to a four-point weekend against Alaska, backstopping the Falcons to a 2-1 victory Friday night. In his lone action of the weekend, the rookie netminder made 25 saves, including 14 in the third period as BGSU held on for a one-goal triumph. In fact, the Lewis Center, Ohio native stood firm after the Nanooks' first-period goal, recording 22 saves in the final 40 minutes as the Falcons scored once in the second stanza and once more in the third for the comeback win. This is the first WCHA weekly award of Dop's freshman campaign.
Five NAHL grads, are among twenty of the top NCAA® men’s ice hockey student-athletes who excel both on and off the ice were selected as candidates today for the 2017-18 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate hockey. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. The complete list of candidates follows this release. The 20 candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists in February, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one candidate who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition. The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2018 NCAA Men’s Frozen Final Four® in April.
NAHL alumni who are nominees for the award are:
Dylan Abood, Defenseman, Air Force
Michael Bitzer, Goaltender, Bemidji State
Brady Ferguson, Forward, Robert Morris
Merrick Madsen, Goaltender, Harvard
Sam Piazza, Defenseman, Michigan