Read the full NAHL Weekly Release.
The Wichita Falls Wildcats celebrated their highly anticipated Children’s Miracle Network “Jersey Off Our Back” auction last weekend in more ways than one, rattling off two wins over the Kenai River Brown Bears while raising over $80,000 for charity.
“There’s no question this was a great all-around weekend for the organization,” said Wildcats coach-GM John Bowkus, whose team improved to 30-12-2 on the season. “Not only did we pick up four important points in the standings, but the way the fans and the community rallied around the auction was unbelievable.”
The Wildcats opened their weekend with a 7-3 victory on Friday. Mike HendersonKyle Delaurell recorded two goals, including the game-winner, while (two goals, assist), Adam Sponseller (goal, two assists), Skylur Jameson (goal, two assists) and Sean McKenzie (three assists) each fashioned three-point games. Between the pipes, goaltender Mike Jarboe turned aside 21 shots.
The Wildcats followed that up with a 4-2 win over the Brown Bears on Saturday. Four different players scored in the victory, with Matt Kenline tallying a goal and an assist. Jarboe made 22 saves to earn his second win of the weekend.
Saturday also marked the team’s annual Children’s Miracle Network “Jersey Off Our Back” auction, in which the team wore special jerseys that were auctioned off after the game. All of the money raised, including the $23,000 bid collected for Craze E Cat’s jersey (the Wildcats’ mascot), will be donated locally to the United Regional Health Care System.
“I’d have never believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes,” said Bowkus. “What a great night.”
And what a great all-around weekend on the ice for Sponseller. The 20-year-old from Mt. Pleasant, Mich., was the Wildcats’ top point-getter against Kenai River with two goals and two assists.
“Adam really committed himself this season to becoming a well-rounded hockey player,” said Bowkus. “I knew he had the offensive ability, but now I’m seeing him play real well defensively as well.
“He came into the season in great shape and has added to his strength with our in-season weightlifting program.”
Given Sponseller’s performance, Bowkus is encouraged to see other players outside of the Wildcats’ top line of Adam Cardwell, Grant Everett and Luke Salazar contributing offensively.
“Now we have some other players who are capable of scoring goals every night and that will help us down the stretch,” said.
Included among them is Jameson, a fourth-year forward who is having his best season offensively with 46 points (19 goals).
“I think that most colleges are missing the boat with him,” Bowkus said of the Top Prospects Tournament selection. “He’s one of the best - if not the best - defensive players in the league and he’s also putting up great numbers. And what a great kid off the ice.”
Wichita Falls also got a boost on the defensive end with the recent acquisition of Top Prospects selection Kent Detlefsen, whom the Wildcats picked up at the trade deadline from Alaska. The 20-year-old recorded a goal in his first game with his new team on Friday.
“With the addition of Kent, we’ve added a whole other dimension to our defense,” said Bowkus. “He has a great shot and offensive flare that we really didn’t have with our current defensive core.”
With two more wins last weekend, Jarboe, who will compete in next week’s Top Prospects Tournament, continues to prove himself as one of the elite goaltenders in the league. His 24 victories are now tops in the entire NAHL.
“Mike has been steady all year long, and for as much ice time as he’s logged, I expected his play to diminish a little but, in reality, it hasn’t,” said Bowkus. “He still gets the job done and will play a big role in our hopes of a long playoff run.”
The Wildcats received good news on the college front with the recent commitment of Cardwell to the University of Fairbanks. Bowkus expects more to follow suit in the coming weeks.
“Adam’s signing has the phones ringing a little more these days,” said Bowkus. “I really think we have about five other players that will be able to step in and play for a Division I school. My hopes are that after the Top Prospect Tournament we’ll get a few more commitments for our guys.”
With an 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games, the Wildcats, who sit in first place in the NAHL’s South Division, have two more tilts left on their 12-game homestand. Bowkus credits the local support for his team’s good fortunes at home.
“Our fans are loud and proud of our team,” said Bowkus, whose club is 17-5-2 at Kay Yeager Coliseum this season. “We have a great booster club and the way the boys are treated here is just astonishing.”
With all the confidence in the world in his team’s offensive capabilities, Bowkus would like his charges to sure things up defensively down the stretch as they look to nail down a South Division title.
“I know we can score goals at any time; I just want to make sure that we take care of our end first,” said the coach. “For us to be a contender, we need to be consistent game in and game out. I think that if we stick to our game plan, we should be fine and, hopefully, in St. Louis come May.”
AROUND THE NAHL
TOP PROSPECTS JERSEY AUCTION ANNOUNCED: All game-worn player jerseys, as well as jerseys representing all six participating coaches, from next week’s NAHL Top Prospects Tournament will be auctioned off through eBay. Bids can be placed at www.nahl.com/auction starting on Tuesday, February 12.
TOP PROSPECTS ON B2 NETWORKS: All games at next week’s NAHL Top Prospects Tournament, as well as the championship game of the Midget Showcase Series event, will be video broadcast live over the Internet through B2 Networks. Visit nahltopprospects.com for details.
THREE ICE DOGS MAKE D-I PLANS: Three more Fairbanks players have committed to Division I schools for next season: goaltender Cody Reichard (Miami University, CCHA), 20, and forwards Caleb Harrison (Holy Cross, Atlantic Hockey), 21, and Aaron Stonacek (Bentley College, Atlantic Hockey), 20.
KIRBY TO FLY WITH AIR FORCE: Second-year Southern Minnesota defenseman Tim Kirby, 19, has committed to Air Force (Atlantic Hockey) for next season. The Austin, Minn., native has five goals for 30 points in 40 games this year.
U17’S TAKE SECOND IN SLOVAKIA: The U.S. National Under-17 Team finished in second place at the Under-18 Vlad Dzurilla Tournament in Slovakia with a 2-1 record. A.J. Treais, 17, led Team USA with four points (two goals, two assists).
RUST PROOF: Making his first start since January 20, Mahoning Valley goaltender Jordan Tibbett, 18, turned aside 31 shots in the Phantoms’ 4-1 win over Marquette on Saturday. “It goes a long way in showing how much he’s matured, having not played in a while and then getting back in there and having his A-game ready,” said Phantoms coach-GM Bob Mainhardt.
ALASKA DEALS DETLEFEN, SKINNER: Alaska traded defenseman Kent Detlefsen, 20, to Wichita Falls for forwards Bill Colclough, 19, Pat Colclough, 19, and Tyler Tosunian, 17. The Avalanche also dealt forward Dustin Skinner, 20, to North Iowa for a second- and third-round pick in this year’s NAHL draft.
CHRISTIAN IN CONTROL: Marquette goaltender Beau Christian, 19, guided the Rangers to a two-game split with Mahoning Valley last weekend, including a 59-save performance in the Rangers’ 6-2 win on Friday. “Beau played two great games and gave us a chance to win both,” said Rangers coach Randy Enders. “We’re counting on him to continue his strong play down the stretch.”
SKINNER STRIKES: In his first games with North Iowa since being traded from Alaska, forward Dustin Skinner, 20, recorded two goals and an assist last weekend in three games against Southern Minnesota, the team he started the season with. “Dustin was a valuable pick up for our team,” said Outlaws coach Dave Boitz. “Going up against his old team, we knew he’d be ready to play and he had a great weekend.”