The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced its monthly player awards for the month of December. The Bauer Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month is Samuel Ruffin from the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The Bauer Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month is Patrick O’Connor from the Bismarck Bobcats. The Vaughn NAHL Goaltender of the Month is James Durham from the Shreveport Mudbugs. Only players who are nominated by their respective teams are considered for the NAHL monthly awards.
Bauer Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month: Samuel Ruffin, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs’ run through December to the top of the Midwest Division can be attributed to the play of players like forward Samuel Ruffin. The 5’10/170 lbs. native of Westfield, Indiana, had a huge month as he helped the Ice Dogs to a 7-0-1 record in eight games during the month. The 19-year-old University of Alaska-Fairbanks commit recorded 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) in just eight games during the month of December to lead all NAHL scorers. That included four multi-point games and recording at least a point in seven of the eight games during the month. Ruffin’s 34 points to date leads the Ice Dogs in scoring and is tied for 3rd in the NAHL. “Sam’s recent success can directly be attributed to his level of compete and commitment to the game. He works to get better everyday and is being rewarded. His play, as well as many other members of our team, has helped produce a winning mentality over the last month or so,” said Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart.
Ruffin said that his teammates were a big part of his success in December. “My teammates were a big part of my individual success and I couldn’t have done this without them. Everyone has bought into our mission and our system and it is fun to play right now. We just want to keep it up and keep winning,” said Ruffin. “My goals haven’t changed since my commitment. I just want to work hard and be the best player I can be and help my team win games.”
Runner-Up: Jeff Skinner, Springfield Jr. Blues
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Alex Adams, Minot Minotauros – Nathan Burke, Aberdeen Wings – Adrian Danchenko, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights - Luke Dow, Minnesota Wilderness – Brady Gaudette, Northeast Generals – Cooper Haar, Bismarck Bobcats – Travis Kothenbeutel, Austin Bruins – Zach Krajnik, Kenai River Brown Bears – Ture Linden, Lone Star Brahmas – Aaron Maguyon, Philadelphia Rebels – Donovan Ott, Johnstown Tomahawks – Evan Somoza, Odessa Jackalopes – Connor Zilisch, Coulee Region Chill
Bauer Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month: Patrick O’Connor, Bismarck Bobcats
One of the shining stars for the Bismarck Bobcats in the month of December was the emergence of veteran defenseman Patrick O’Connor. The 20-year-old native of Moorhead, Minnesota, had his best stretch of games in his two-year NAHL career during the nine games in December as he recorded nine points (4 goals, 5 assists). O’Connor (6’1/180) recorded at least a point in eight of the nine games during the month and also went a stretch of four straight games with a goal (December 8-16). O’Connor leads all Bobcats blueliners with 16 points in 32 games played so far this season. “Patrick has been great for us all year. He is a veteran and a leader on and off the ice. His play on the ice is starting to speak for itself which is great to see his hard work pay off,” said Bismarck head coach Layne Sedevie.
“I play on a team with a lot of skilled players. My teammates do a great job of filling the gaps on the ice so it is easier to make passes and find the open man. The goal right now for me is to help the team get into the playoffs and make a run for the Robertson Cup. After that, I am hopeful and will keep working hard towards my dream of getting a scholarship to play NCAA Division I hockey,” said O’Connor. “I think the NAHL is very competitive, especially in the Central Division. There are no nights off and you really learn quickly how to handle yourself as a hockey player.”
Runner-Up: Dominick Procopio, Shreveport Mudbugs
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Carter Dwyer, Johnstown Tomahawks – Matt Hines, Coulee Region Chill – Jack Kelly, Aberdeen Wings – Dusan Kmec, Philadelphia Rebels – Blake Kryska, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – Drew Lennon, Lone Star Brahmas – Kyle Mayhew, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Cam McDonald, Kenai River Brown Bears – Nolan Sawchuk, Minot Minotauros – Jaden Shields, Austin Bruins – Marcus Walter, Springfield Jr. Blues
Vaughn NAHL Goaltender of the Month: James Durham, Shreveport Mudbugs
December was a huge month for the Shreveport Mudbugs and goaltender James Durham. With fellow goaltender Gustavs Grigals overseas at one of the World Junior Championships playing for Team Latvia, Durham, 18, was thrust into the starting role for the Mudbugs during the month. The 6’2/195 lbs. native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, responded with a 7-1-2 record during the month, which included a 1.57 goals against average and a 94.6% save percentage as Durham stopped 298 of a possible 314 shots during the month. Durham also had two shutouts during the month, which came in back-to-back starts on December 9th and 13th. The former NAPHL product is towards the top of the NAHL in most goaltending statistics. He ranks 1st with a 94.2% save percentage, tied for 1st in wins (13) and shutouts (5) and ranks 2nd in GAA (1.60). “James been a very solid in the net for us. I believe it starts from practice and challenging yourself to get better everyday and James has really improved his practice habits in the last coupe months and has translated into his game,” said Shreveport head coach Karlis Zirnis.
“We have something special going on here in Shreveport. I knew I had to be there every single night for my team. We are very connected here and all on the same page, so it makes it easy to go for war for them,” said Durham. “My dream is to play NCAA Division I college hockey and there has been some good interest, but my short term focus right now is to keep winning games for my team and take us as far as we can go in the playoffs.”
Runner-Up: David Tomeo, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Josh Benson, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Gavin Enright, Kenai River Brown Bears – Ryan Fanti, Minnesota Wilderness – Evan Fear, Springfield Jr. Blues – Mitchell Gibson, Lone Star Brahmas – Ryan Keane, Philadelphia Rebels – Samu Lonkila, Minot Minotauros – Kade Phipps, Johnstown Tomahawks – Ryan Ullan, Bismarck Bobcats – Matt Vernon, Aberdeen Wings
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