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NAHL announces Combat Hockey Divisional Players of the Week

December 17, 2012

The Combat Hockey NAHL Divisional Stars of the Week (from top left to bottom right): Blake Cates, Tyler Marble, Mike Davis and Robert Nichols.

The North American Hockey League (NAHL) today announced the Divisional Stars of the Week presented by Combat Hockey for the week ending December 16, 2012.  The Divisional Stars of the Week is a weekly feature during the 2012-13 regular season that honors the top performing players in each of the four NAHL divisions as nominated by their respective teams.

Central Division Star of the Week: Blake Cates, goaltender, Coulee Region Chill
Currently on the outside looking in the Central Division playoff race, the Coulee Region Chill needed points this weekend in their series with Aberdeen and that’s what they got as they rode goaltender Blake Cates to a weekend home sweep of the Wings.  Cates, 18, started and won both games as the native of Stillwater, Minnesota, put together his best back-to-back games of the season.  For the weekend, Cates (6’1/210) allowed just two goals on a total of 79 shots, which was good for a 97.4% save percentage.  On Friday, Cates made 36 saves in a 6-1 win over the Wings.  The next night, Cates was even better as he made 41 saves in a 3-1 Chill win.  Despite having a .500 record of 6-6-2 this season, Cates ranks 5th in the NAHL in save percentage this season with a 92.5% mark.  “Blake was backbone of success for us this past weekend and really has done it the entire year,” said Chill head coach John Hamre.  “He is a great player to coach and an outstanding person on top of that and he has worked hard to become a legitimate Division I prospect.  It was an intense series with some valuable points on this line.  He had outstanding rebound control the entire weekend and was poised and calm in every situation.”

2nd Star: Andy Faust, forward, Coulee Region Chill
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Drew Anderson, forward, Austin Bruins – Evan Hesse, forward, Brookings Blizzard – Tyler Parks, goaltender, Minot Minotauros – Cameron Rowat, forward, Minot Minotauros – Brandon Wahlin, forward, Austin Bruins.

North Division Star of the Week: Tyler Marble, goaltender, Soo Eagles
With a weekend sweep of the Janesville Jets, the Soo Eagles have moved into a tie for 1st place in the North Division.  Backstopping the Eagles this weekend was veteran goaltender Tyler Marble.  The 20-year-old Lake Superior State recruit, allowed just a single goal in the two-game sweep as he stopped 78 of a possible 79 shots, which was good for a 98.7% save percentage over the weekend.  On Friday, the native of Howell, Michigan, stopped all 38 shots that came his way in a 3-0 shutout win.  For Marble (6’1/180) it was his 4th shutout of the season.  On Saturday, he made 40 saves in a 2-1 win over the Jets.  Marble’s save percentage of 94.6% leads the NAHL this season and he ranks 2nd in shutouts.  “Tyler was at his very best this weekend and had very good rebound control,” said Eagles head coach Bruno Bragagnolo.  “Friday night, he was phenomenal.  Our guys still had their bus legs to start the game and he was awesome in the beginning and really kept us in the game early.  Saturday, he played his best hockey late in the game to secure the win for us.  It really didn’t matter the time or situation, he was just great this weekend.”

2nd Star: Collin Brennan, goaltender, Johnstown Tomahawks
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Taylor Burden, forward, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Mike Fazio, forward, Springfield Jr. Blues – Brett Skibba, forward, Springfield Jr. Blues – Matthew Uvodich, forward, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Jared Van Wormer, forward, Soo Eagles – Bryan Yim, forward, Port Huron Fighting Falcons.

South Division Star of the Week: Mike Davis, forward, Amarillo Bulls
In a tight-checking, low-scoring series between the Bulls and the RoadRunners this past weekend in Topeka, it was Amarillo forward Mike Davis who stood out amongst the crowd.  The 19-year-old from Newark, Delaware, had three of Amarillo’s six total goals over the weekend, as the Bulls posted a weekend road sweep of Topeka to increase their South Division lead to four points.  On Friday, Davis (5’11/180) scored both of the Bulls goals in regulation as they eventually won 3-2 in overtime.  On Saturday, Davis scored Amarillo’s first goal of the game in a 3-1 win.  He was also a +2 during the weekend.  For the season, Davis ranks 2nd on the Bulls roster in scoring with 30 points in 29 games played.  Most impressively however, is that he ranks 1st overall in the NAHL with a +33 plus/minus rating.  “Mike has really come into his own this year.  He understands fully what playing two-way hockey is about and has really improved to become an elite player at this level,” said Bulls head coach Dennis Williams.  “He is a perfect example of a player that has made the most of his opportunity and is really starting to step up on the big stage.”

2nd Star: Josh Racek, forward, Odessa Jackalopes
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Cole, forward, Amarillo Bulls – Lawrence Cornellier, forward, Odessa Jackalopes – Sean Gaffney, forward, Topeka RoadRunners.

West Division Star of the Week: Robert Nichols, goaltender, Wenatchee Wild
Wenatchee goaltender Robert Nichols, 20, keeps winning and so do the Wild.  The two have gone hand-in-hand the past two seasons and this weekend was no exception.  The native of Dallas, Texas, was in goal for two more wins over the weekend as the Wild swept West rival Fresno to keep their West Division lead at four points and hang on to the best record in the NAHL.  Nichols (5’10/177) didn’t start on Friday, but after two quick Fresno goals in the first two minutes of the game he was quickly inserted in goal and promptly stopped every shot from that point on as Wenatchee came from behind to win 3-2 in a shootout with Nichols making 17 saves.  On Saturday, the University of Connecticut recruit got the start and responded with 15 saves in a 4-1 win.  For the weekend, Nichols stopped 32 of 33 shots for a 96.9% save percentage.  His 17 wins and 1.80 goals against average both rank 2nd in the NAHL this season.  “I thought Robbie was calm and composed as usual,” said Wild head coach Bliss Littler.  “Fresno had a lot of momentum going on Friday after their start and Robbie came in and settled things down. I think the team plays with a certain type of confidence when he is in goal because they feel like they can take certain chances knowing he is there to back them up.”

2nd Star: Chandler Madry, forward, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Zack Rall, defenseman, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Evan Schmidbauer, forward, Wenatchee Wild.

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