Read the full NAHL Weekly Release.
With two wins over the Central Division-leading North Iowa Outlaws last weekend, the Fargo-Moorhead Jets moved a couple of steps closer to escaping the division’s cellar.
“We definitely needed a spark to strengthen our confidence, and we got it last weekend,” said Jets assistant coach Aaron Kinslow, whose team improved to 15-22-2 on the season. “Beating the top team is an extra incentive, but it doesn’t matter who we play; the bottom line is that we need to play with that urgency and confidence every night.”
The Jets opened the series with a 3-1 win on Friday. Mike Schumacher tallied the game-winning goal and an assist, with Justin Kirchevel and Robby Philipp ringing up the other Fargo-Moorhead markers. Between the pipes, Elliot Okland turned aside 23 shots.
Marc Mihulka struck for two goals, including the game-winner, and an assist the next night as the Jets edged the Outlaws, 3-2. Jordy Trottier scored the other Fargo-Moorhead goal, while Okland made 26 saves.
“I think we realized how important it is to play a competitive 60-minute game two nights in a row,” said Kinslow. “Knowing what it takes mentally night in and night out will make us tough to play against here down the stretch.”
Mihulka, the Jets’ leading-scorer with 40 points (14 goals) and a Top Prospects Tournament selection, along with Schumacher, both rose to the occasion last weekend with big goals at critical moments.
“Both of those guys came to play last weekend and gave it everything they had,” said Kinslow. “Even though they played particularly well, I thought all of our guys came to play each night when they needed each other the most.”
Including Okland. Now in his fourth year with the Jets, the 20-year-old netminder who has seen the lion’s share of the minutes in goal picked up his 11th and 12th wins of the season. His save percentage of .913 ranks tied for fourth in the entire NAHL.
“Elliot has the athletic ability to be an intimidating goalie to play against,” said Kinslow. “When he plays like he did last weekend, it’ll only help him and the team to get where they want to be.”
Despite their last-place positioning in the Central Division standings, the Jets’ spirits are high with a playoff berth still in reach. Fargo-Moorhead sits only one point behind Bismarck and Alexandria for the division’s fourth and final playoff spot.
“Our team has impressed me lately with its passion to win and overcome any adversity it faces,” said Kinslow. “This season has had its ups and downs, but in no way has it been disappointing. Our team has faced adversity and, in my mind, has found ways to overcome them.”
AROUND THE NAHL
TOP PROSPECTS ON THE HORIZON: The NAHL Top Prospects Tournament is less than two weeks away. For more details on the event, which will be held February 17-19 at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube in Ann Arbor, Mich., visit nahltopprospects.com.
KAYFES TO FAIRBANKS: Bismarck has traded defenseman Ryan Kayfes, 20, to Fairbanks for forward Zach Miller, 18, and future considerations. Kayfes will skate for the Central Division in the upcoming Top Prospects Tournament.
ALUM HEADED TO MERRIMACK: Stephane DaCosta (Texas, 2006-07) has committed to Merrimack College (Hockey East) for next season. The 18-year-old tallied 23 goals for 40 points in 50 games with the Tornado last year.
PETERSON KEEPS ROLLING: Despite two losses to Traverse City last weekend, Alpena’s leading-scorer Erik Peterson, 19, tallied two goals and an assist. “Erik has been our most consistent forward all season, and, on a weekend when we weren’t very good as a team, he continued to put up numbers for us,” said IceDiggers coach-GM Kenny Miller.
BAILEY BREAKS THROUGH: Mahoning Valley forward Kyle Bailey, 19, collected a goal, including the game-winner in Friday's 2-1 triumph, and three assists as the Phantoms split a weekend set with St. Louis. "Kyle is just getting comfortable. He's keeping things real simple," said Phantoms assistant coach Curtis Carr.
HATS OFF: Marquette forward Nic Weight, 20, struck for a hat trick in the Rangers’ 6-4 victory over Alexandria on Saturday. “Nic and his linemates (Aaron Pietila and Mike Macari) played a major role in that win,” said Rangers coach Randy Enders.
ALUM COPS HOCKEY EAST HONOR: Providence junior defenseman Matt Taormina (Texarkana/St. Louis, 2004-05) was named the Hockey East Player of the Week after scoring a goal and an assist as the Friars went 1-0-1.
KASSEL NABS ATLANTIC HOCKEY AWARD: Army junior goaltender Josh Kassel (Bozeman, 2004-05) was named the Atlantic Hockey Goaltender of the Week after backstopping the Black Knights to a weekend sweep over the University of Connecticut.
EX-ZEBRA RECOGNIZED: Former NAHL official Shawn Davis has been selected to work the OHL All-Star Game on Wednesday, February 6, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.