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NAHL grads making early impact in the NCAA

November 6, 2012

Connor Gaarder, who played in the NAHL for both the North Iowa Outlaws and Coulee Region Chill, posted a hat-trick as North Dakota beat Boston University this past weekend.

It has been a strong start to the season for North American Hockey League (NAHL) alumni that are playing at the NCAA Division I level.  As Division I teams swung into action and began their seasons during the month of October, many NCAA Division I teams are feeling the immediate impact of players that were trained and developed in the NAHL.  Here is just a small sample at some of the recent success stories:

Ben Carey, forward, Air Force Academy (Wenatchee Wild, 2010-12) - Air Force freshman center Ben Carey was named the Travel Team USA Atlantic Hockey Association Rookie of the Week for Nov. 5.  An Aurora, Colo., native, Carey scored his first career goal against Holy Cross on Nov. 2 in the 3-2 loss. His goal came 37 seconds into the game and gave the Falcons a 1-0 lead. The next night, he scored his second career goal and his first career short-handed goal in the 7-0 win over the Crusaders. In the two-game series, Carey was a +2.  Carey played in the NAHL for two season for the Wenatchee Wild.

Connor Gaarder, forward, University of North Dakota (North Iowa/Coulee Region 2009-11) – Gaarder carved out a place for himself in the UND hockey history books this past Friday night, becoming the first walk-on (no scholarship money) that anyone could recall to score a hat trick.  His three-goal game was pivotal as North Dakota downed Boston University 4-2 in front of 11,589 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena in the nonconference battle between two ranked teams. Gaarder's third goal -- he came into the game with zero this year-- proved to be the winner. Gaarder scored four goals in 33 games last year, nearly matched that in one night on Friday.

Joe Kozlak, forward, Army (Amarillo Bulls, 2010-12) - Army freshman Joe Kozlak was named AHA Rookie Of The Month for October.  He is second on the team in scoring with six points. Has helped Army to the top of the AHA standings.  Netted the game-winning goal in a rare road win at Holy Cross. Also owns a power play goal.  Has recorded points in four of six games with two multiple-point games. Has two goals and three assists in his three conference games. Played three years in the NAHL, including the past two seasons for the Amarillo Bulls.

Pheonix Copley, goaltender, Michigan Tech University (Corpus Christi IceRays, 2010-11) - Michigan Tech goaltender Pheonix Copley, who helped the Huskies to a two-game split against top-ranked and visiting Minnesota in the middle of October while starting both games, was named the Red Baron® WCHA Rookie of the Week for Oct. 23.??A 6-3, 175-pound freshman from North Pole, Alaska, stopped 28 of 31 shots on goal on Oct. 19 while giving up just two even-strength goals against the No. 1 Golden Gophers to earn his first collegiate win. He then posted 31 more saves in a 3-2, one-goal setback last Saturday and held Minnesota scoreless on all five power-play chances as the two teams were tied at 2-2 until the 16:25 mark of the final period.

Tommy Burke, goaltender, Bowling Green State University (Bismarck Bobcats, 2010-12) - Burke was named the CCHA Gonshow Rookie of the Week on October 29th as he stopped a career-high 27 shots and was the Perani Cup second star in a 1-0 loss to Ohio State last Friday and made 21 saves, and stopped all four shots in the shootout, in a 3-3 tie/shootout win against the Buckeyes on Saturday.

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