The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced its monthly player awards for the month of January. The Bauer Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month is Travis Kothenbeutel from the Austin Bruins. The Bauer Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month is Markuss Komuls from the Kenai River Brown Bears. The Vaughn NAHL Goaltender of the Month is Josh Benson from the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Only players who are nominated by their respective teams are considered for the NAHL monthly awards.
Bauer Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month: Travis Kothenbeutel, Austin Bruins
With 14 points during the month of January, Austin Bruins forward and Nebraska-Omaha commit Travis Kothenbeutel stood out amongst his peers. The 21-year-old native of Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, recorded seven goals and seven assists and was a +10 during the month as the Bruins put together an 8-2-0 record in January to climb into 2nd place in the Central Division standings. Kothenbeutel (5’10/170) had five multi-point games during the month and his 49 points and 31 assists are currently tops in the NAHL. Prior to playing in the NAHL, Kothenbeutel spent a season and a half in the NA3HL with the Granite City Lumberjacks. “Our staff is extremely proud of Travis’s accomplishments this season. Travis plays in all situations for us and is a great leader. He’s been wearing the Bruins jersey for three seasons now and he’s stepped up in a big way in his final season in Austin. He competes every shift and wants this team to succeed. We are looking forward to Travis continuing his success through the rest of the year,” said Bruins head coach Steve Howard.
“I think winning always helps the confidence of the team and I know I was motivated to keep playing well so we could keep climbing the standings. I am really working hard on having good habits and doing the little things it takes to be successful and carry that edge. That means taking some extra shots after practice, stopping and starting during drills, and putting the extra work in on and off the ice,” said Kothenbeutel. “I can’t thank the Granite City Lumberjacks enough for giving me my first junior hockey opportunity in the NA3HL. It really is a process that players have to stick to with hard work and development. My advice is to be humble and never stop working hard to achieve your goals.”
Runner-Up: Jakov Novak, Janesville Jets
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Louis Boudon, Northeast Generals – Nick Bowman, Coulee Region Chill – Carson Briere, Johnstown Tomahawks – Nathan Burke, Aberdeen Wings – Austin Dollimer, Minot Minotauros – Kyler Grundy, Minnesota Magicians – Cooper Haar, Bismarck Bobcats – Steven Ipri, Lone Star Brahmas – Ed Lindelow, Minnesota Wilderness – Jack Olmstead, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – Ryan Patrick, Philadelphia Rebels – Luke Radetic, Kenai River Brown Bears – Jake Transit, Shreveport Mudbugs – Erkka Vanska, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Bauer Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month: Markuss Komuls, Kenai River Brown Bears
A big bright spot for the Kenai River Brown Bears this season has been the play of 20-year-old defenseman Markuss Komuls. The 5’10/180 lbs. native of Talsi, Latvia, had the best month of his NAHL career in January as the blueliner recorded 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) and was a +3 in just eight games played. Komuls recorded at least a points in six of his eight games during the month and had three multi-point games. His effort comes on the heels of his participation in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships Division 1A for his home country of Latvia, where he played in five games during the event. “Markuss has been a great addition to the Brown Bears this season and into the future. He brings experience, leadership, and commitment to the game everyday. Not only has he been a catalyst on the back end for our offense this season, he has also been asked to matchup against other teams top lines and be strong defensively. We could not be happier to see his hard work and dedication rewarded after a great month on and off the ice,” said Brown Bears head coach Josh Petrich.
“As team, we are very close to putting things together so we can win on a consistent basis. We have been working very hard on being tough to score on, but we still need to develop that winning instinct, so that when we have leads in games, we know and understand how to finish,” said Komuls. “I think playing in the World Junior Championship for my home country of Latvia was one of the best experiences of my hockey career. We played against some great competition and I really felt like I came away from it as a better player. My hope now is to keep getting better and help my team win as many games as we can and hopefully that results in a chance to play in the NCAA, because I really want to further my education and career in the United States.”
Runner-Up: Jackson Decker, Coulee Region Chill
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Logan Britt, Aberdeen Wings – Sam Fuss, Minot Minotauros – Kyle Mayhew, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Luke Robinson, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – Jaden Shields, Austin Bruins – Jakub Sirota, Lone Star Brahmas – Zach Van Sant, Bismarck Bobcats – Kolby Vegara, Philadelphia Rebels
Vaughn NAHL Goaltender of the Month: Josh Benson, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Fairbanks goaltender Josh Benson was a catalyst for his team’s perfect 9-0 record during the month of January, which also extended the team’s winning streak to an NAHL season-high 15 straight games. The 20-year-old native of Stillwater, Minnesota, put together a perfect 6-0 record during the month, along with a 1.46 goals against average and a 93.7% save percentage. During the month, Benson (6’1/190) stopped 133 of 142 shots, which included a 21-save shutout against Coulee Region on January 18th and allowing one goal or less in four of his six starts during the month. Benson, who broke into junior hockey with the North Iowa Bulls in the NA3HL at the beginning of the 2016-17 season, currently leads the NAHL in wins with 18 and is 4th in goals against average with a 1.92 mark. “Both of our goalies have been a consistent strength of our team since returning from break. Josh has worked really hard on improving his game and it is apparent in his play. He just comes to the rink and goes about his business, and it pays off with his consistency in net,” said Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart.
“We are having success because every guy is buying in. We are having a lot of fun and staying focused. For me, it is just about being there when my teammates need me. I think the hardest part is the mental game and staying focused throughout the entire game,” said Benson. “My hope is to keep working hard and earn an NCAA Division I opportunity and try and help return the Robertson Cup back to Fairbanks. I think paying my dues in the NA3HL really molded me into who I am today and motivated me to always keep working hard and get better. There is a lot of good goalies out there and someone is always gunning for your spot, which is why I keep pushing myself.”
Runner-Up: Daniel Lebedeff, Janesville Jets
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Gavin Enright, Kenai River Brown Bears – Ryan Fanti, Minnesota Wilderness – Mitchell Gibson, Lone Star Brahmas – Gustavs Grigals, Shreveport Mudbugs – Ryan Keane, Philadelphia Rebels – Samu Lonkila, Minot Minotauros – Kade Phipps, Johnstown Tomahawks – Johnny Roberts, Bismarck Bobcats – Alex Schilling, Austin Bruins – Gabe Vinal, Aberdeen Wings – Emil Zetterquist, Coulee Region Chill
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