The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced that Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings forward Robbie Payne has been named the Combat Hockey NAHL Player of the Month for October.
Payne, who hails from Gaylord, Michigan, had a month to remember, not only individually, but his Jr. K-Wings team managed to win eight out of their 10 games during the month of October and put themselves into 1st place in the North Division for a time. Payne, 18, had an NAHL-high 19 points in 10 games played during the month of October, which included 10 goals. The 5’11, 190 lbs. Payne, who played a year of junior hockey last season outside the NAHL, scored at least a point in nine of his 10 games during the month of October, including four multi-point games.
Payne’s biggest effort came in an October 30th game in Jamestown when he scored an NAHL season-high seven points in one game, a contest in which Kalamazoo won, 8-7. “He struck lightning in a bottle that game, but he has put in a lot of hard work to make games like that happen,” remarked Kalamazoo head coach Marc Fakler. Payne’s career night included a goal in each period, including the game-winner with less than seven minutes remaining in the 3rd period. For his effort that week, he was named as one of the NAHL’s three stars of the week.
So far, Payne has had a very positive experience playing in the North American Hockey League. “I have really enjoyed my time in the NAHL so far,” said Payne. “We are treated great as players, both at home and on the road. You realize very quickly that you’re here for a reason and this is big time hockey. You see right away that is it a situation and an opportunity where you are here for one primary reason, to develop and move onto the collegiate level, which is something I hope to do.”
Fakler believes that a NCAA Division I hockey opportunity is close for Payne if he keeps playing at his current high level. “I know of several colleges and universities interested in him, not only because of his age, but primarily because of his ability,” said Fakler. “Robbie is a great two-way player who also plays with an edge, so I think all those intangibles are something that makes him very attractive to a college scout.”
To date, Payne leads the NAHL in goals with 15 and is second in points with 26. Ironically, Payne attributes both his personal success and team success to following Fakler’s attention to the defensive side of the game. “Coach Fakler has really done a good job at emphasizing and stressing defensive zone coverage and then transitioning that into offense,” said Payne. “We realize that’s how we are going to win, so once you see success when you play that way, you tend to try and duplicate that game after game.”
Other players nominated were (alphabetical): Brooks Behling, forward, Amarillo Bulls – Ben Carey, forward, Wenatchee Wild – Anthony Coles, forward, Jamestown Ironmen – Frank DeAugustine, forward, Bismarck Bobcats – Kevin Novakovich, forward Alaska Avalanche – Eric Purcell, forward, Corpus Christi IceRays – Nico Sierra, forward, Port Huron Fighting Falcons.
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