NAHL announces Bauer Hockey Stars of the Week
The North American Hockey League (NAHL) today announced the Divisional Stars of the Week presented by Bauer Hockey for the week ending March 28, 2021. The Divisional Stars of the Week is a weekly feature during the 2020-21 regular season that honors the top performing players in each of the four NAHL divisions. Only players that are nominated by their respective teams are considered for the Divisional Players of the Week award.
Central Division Star of the Week: Payton Matsui, Forward, Aberdeen Wings
NAHL and Aberdeen Wings leading scorer Payton Matsui, 20, had a big weekend to help his club pick up a weekend road sweep of the Minnesota Wilderness. The 5’8/160 lbs. native of Lakeville, MN, contributed four points (3 goals, 1 assist) and was +3 in the two wins. On Friday, the Alaska-Fairbanks commit scored both goals in regulation in a 3-2 shootout win. On Saturday, he posted a goal and an assist in a 6-2 win. For the season, Matsui currently leads the NAHL in scoring with 50 points in 40 games played. “Payton’s tireless work ethic puts him amongst the top players in this league. He has a well-rounded 200-foot game that allows him to be played in every situation. Payton had another solid weekend helping us win two very big road games,” said Wings head coach Scott Langer.
2nd Star: Carter Clafton, G, Minot Minotauros
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Tommy Aitken, G, Bismarck Bobcats – Braden Costello, F, Bismarck Bobcats – Garrett Dahm, F, Austin Bruins – Grant Docter, D, Minnesota Wilderness – Kyle Oleksiuk, F, Austin Bruins – Natan Vertes, F, Aberdeen Wings – Blaine Warnert, F, Minot Minotauros – Ethan Wolthers, F, Minnesota Wilderness
East Division Star of the Week: Josh Graziano, Goaltender, Johnstown Tomahawks
Johnstown Tomahawks goalie Josh Graziano, 21, had a big weekend as he started on won both games to help his club sweep the 3rd place New Jersey Titans. The 6’3/200 lbs. native of Buffalo, NY, stopped 41 of 42 shots in the two wins. That included 19 saves in an 8-1 win on Friday and 22 saves in a 3-0 win on Saturday, which was his first shutout of the season. Since joining the Tomahawks back in mid February, Graziano has a 7-0-1 record in eight games with a 1.85 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. “Josh was a huge part of our weekend success grabbing two wins against a very tough opponent. He was rock solid both nights. Since arriving in Johnstown at the trade deadline, he has immediately adhered himself to our team as a strong, veteran leader. Now that he recently became available again for an NCAA Division 1 opportunity, I think he could be a big add for a team looking for an experienced goalie. We will need Josh to continue his strong play as we move down the home stretch of the regular season and push towards the playoffs,” said Tomahawks head coach Mike Letizia.
2nd Star: Stefan Owens, F, Maine Nordiques
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Gordon, F, Northeast Generals – Hugo Haas, G, Northeast Generals – Reed Stark, F, Johnstown Tomahawks
Midwest Division Star of the Week: Luc Laylin, Forward, Minnesota Magicians
In a three-game series against the Kenai River Brown Bears, Magicians forward Luc Laylin was able to contribute in each game. The 5’8/175 lbs. native of St. Michael, MN, posted seven points in the three games as the Magicians picked up a win against two close losses. On Friday, Laylin had a goal in a 4-3 overtime loss. On Saturday, he assisted on both Magicians goals in a 4-2 loss. On Sunday, he recorded two goals and added two assists in a 9-0 win. For the season, Laylin leads the Magicians in scoring with 31 points in 31 games played. “Luc has been outstanding for our team this year. He currently paces at the point per game mark and does not deviate from playing a strong defensive game. As a staff, we believe that he has a very high ceiling because of his speed and work ethic,” said Magicians head coach Stu Bickel.
2nd Star: Lucas Wahlin, F, Kenai River Brown Bears
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Andy Beran, G, Minnesota Magicians – Nathan Butler, F, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Luke Pavicich, G, Kenai River Brown Bears – Mason Plante, F, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
South Division Star of the Week: Connor Gatto, Forward, Shreveport Mudbugs
Thanks to a weekend road sweep of the Wichita Falls Warriors, the Shreveport Mudbugs stayed in 1st place in the South Division and clinched a spot in the Robertson Cup Playoffs. Mudbugs forward Connor Gatto, 19, came up huge in the series, posting five points (4 goals, 1 assist) in the two wins, along with a +6 rating. On Friday, Gatto had a hat-trick, which included the game-winning goal, in a 4-2 win. On Saturday, he had a goal and an assist in a 6-0 win. For the season, Gatto has recorded 17 points in 33 games played. “Connor has worked extremely hard on fine tuning his game to be the most effective player possible. His hockey IQ helps him fit in in any situation and on any line. He has great vision and finishing touch which was on display this past weekend. He’s a great teammate and we are lucky to have him on our side,” said Shreveport head coach Jason Campbell.
2nd Star: Andrew Takacs, G, Amarillo Bulls
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Owen Baumgartner, D, Wichita Falls Warriors – Ty Black, F, Amarillo Bulls – Brennen Couet, D, Wichita Falls Warriors – Cole Hanson, F, New Mexico Ice Wolves – Joe Mack, F, Shreveport Mudbugs – Owen Nolan, D, Lone Star Brahmas – Zach Purcell, F, Lone Star Brahmas