The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced its monthly player awards for the month of December. The Combat Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month for December is Brandon Wahlin from the Austin Bruins. The Combat Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month for December is John Rey from the Amarillo Bulls. The Brian’s Custom Sports NAHL Goaltender of the Month for December is Nick Lehr from the Austin Bruins. Only players who are nominated by their respective teams are considered for the NAHL monthly awards.
Combat Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month: Brandon Wahlin, Austin Bruins
There is one name at the top of the current NAHL scoring leaders and that name belongs to Austin Bruins forward Brandon Wahlin. The 20-year old from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, is having a career season and it has coincided with his Bruins enjoying the largest lead of any division leader in the NAHL. During the month of December, Wahlin (5’9/175) was at his finest. He racked up a league-high 14 points during the month, which included six goals and eight assists, in nine games played as the 1st place Bruins posted a 7-1-1 record. Wahlin’s 49 points and 33 assists are both tops in the NAHL so far this season. Four of those nine games featured Wahlin registering three points in those games, which were all wins. His hat-trick in a New Year’s Eve win over Coulee Region sealed the monthly award for the veteran forward.
Now in his second season in the NAHL, Wahlin has already set career highs for goals, assists and points, something his coach Chris Tok attributes to his hard work and attitude heading into this season. “Brandon brings a lot to the table, but he has also worked hard for it. Most importantly makes an impact on and off the ice,” said Tok. “He came into the season more driven knowing this was his last shot. He is a very dynamic hockey player when he gets the puck on his stick. He makes his scoring chances count. There have been some significant interest in him from some Division I schools and I know the scouts will continue to come evaluate. He will get there because he is a legitimate future Division I college hockey player.”
Wahlin said that there is no secret to his success because it stems from the members of his team and his head coach. “I think we have a great group of guys in the lockerroom. Everyone is very close and on the same page. Secondly, I think we have a great coach in Chris Tok. He has taught me more in the last two years than probably all my life in hockey. He is a big reason that we are playing well as a collective unit,” said Wahlin. Last season, Wahlin said that playing in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament as a part of Team Central was a big eye-opener and a great experience. “I think coming into this year, I knew it was my last go around and I needed to make a big impact. I think it really started during Top Prospects last year. I played well and knew I could play with some of the best players in this league so that was very helpful and a great experience. Going into the off-season, it was my goal to be one of the top players in the league this season and be consistent the entire season. I think we have a great chance to represent the division at the Robertson Cup and I am hoping to get a scholarship and play NCAA Division I hockey next season.”
Runner-Up: Adam Knochenmus, Bismarck Bobcats
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Cole, Amarillo Bulls – Lawrence Cornellier, Odessa Jackalopes – Perry D’Arrisso, Corpus Christi IceRays – Zach Diamantoni, Janesville Jets – Tim Donohue, Minot Minotauros – Sean Gaffney, Topeka RoadRunners – Kyle Gattelaro, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Mac Jansen, Coulee Region Chill – Andrew Mayer, Texas Tornado – Eric Rivard, Soo Eagles – Blake Roubos, Wenatchee Wild – Brett Skibba, Springfield Jr. Blues.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Jono Davis, Wenatchee Wild – October 2012, Brandon Hawkins, Texas Tornado – November 2012, Kyle Sharkey, Topeka RoadRunners
Combat Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month: John Rey, Amarillo Bulls
Amarillo Bulls defenseman John Rey, 20, is right back where he left off last season and the Amarillo Bulls have followed suit. This season, the native of Turnersville, New Jersey, was named team captain and has made sure his play resembled or has gotten better than his play last season, when he was named as the NAHL Defenseman of the Year. After battling through injury to start the season at the NAHL Showcase, Rey (6’0/180) had his best month of the season to date in December. In 10 games, the third-year NAHL defenseman registered nine points (3 goals, 6 assists) from the blueline and was a +6 during the month in which the Bulls posted a 9-1-0 record to finish the first half of the season on top of the South Division standings.
A season ago, Rey had 51 points and was an astounding +64 on his way to the NAHL Defenseman of the Year award as the Bulls won the South Division regular season and playoff titles. Coming into this season, Rey was named team captain and had some big expectations from his head coach Dennis Williams. “John had a lot of success last season and we knew it would be hard to duplicate that this season, but we know he has that type of ability and drive. He was injured early in the season, but you can’t say enough about the way he has responded this season and lead this team as their captain,” said Williams. “John wants to be the go-to guy and the top guy and he is doing everything in his power to make sure that he and his team are getting better by the day so when the time comes, they are all prepared as much as possible to try and win a Robertson Cup. He comes prepared to play every night and I think bigger and better things are ahead for him. He is going to make a great NCAA Division I defenseman and I think right now it is about improving day by day and finding that right situation for him to move onto the next level.”
Rey understands that as the captain he has to lead in all areas, but he was sure to make the goal clear to his teammates from the start of the season. “I think I came into this year thinking one thing… winning the Robertson Cup. I think last season went really well for me personally and our team, but we fell short of that ultimate goal,” said Rey. “Team success in Amarillo will also bring individual success and we have had a lot of guys earn commitments, so I have a lot of faith in myself, my teammates and the coaching staff that something like that will happen for me. Just want to keep improving, winning games and hopefully something like that will come and take care of itself. I think that if I keep playing well hopefully that NCAA Division I opportunity will be close. We have such a good core of defensemen and I think one of the reasons we are so dangerous from an offensive standpoint, there are so many guys that can contribute. They not only do a great job of keeping the puck out of our own net, but they are also quick to turn the play the other way and transition quickly to offense. I think this season we have a great sense of family with this year’s team. We will do anything for the logo on the jersey. I think as captain it is my job to make sure everyone is doing everything they can to try and win a Robertson Cup. There is a lot of talent and appreciation for one another in the lockerrroom and hopefully we can build on the first half success and translate that into something bigger and better in the second half, which ultimately culminates in a championship.”
Runner-Up: Josh Hartley, Wenatchee Wild
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Jake Clifford, Minot Minotauros – Nick Neville, Texas Tornado – Derek O’Flynn, Coulee Region Chill – Kevin Patterson, Topeka RoadRunners – Ruslan Pedan, Janesville Jets – John Roisum, Corpus Christi IceRays – Brendan Vetter, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Cody Von Rueden, Soo Eagles – Sam Wolfe, Bismarck Bobcats.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Mark Evan Auk, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – October 2012, Cody Dixon, Austin Bruins – November 2012, Casey Nelson, Johnstown Tomahawks.
Brian’s Custom Sports NAHL Goaltender of the Month: Nick Lehr, Austin Bruins
Something that perhaps has been a little lost in the success of the Austin Bruins this season has been the goaltending. It is easy to overlook with players like December’s forward of the month Brandon Wahlin or October’s defenseman of the month Cody Dixon, but Bruins goaltender Nick Lehr, 19, erased all that in the month of December. The native of Roseville, Minnesota, was almost unbeatable during the month as he posted a 5-1-0 record, including a sparkling 1.15 goals against average and a 95.3% save percentage. Lehr (6’0/180) gave up just seven goals in the six games and also had one shutout. His lone loss was a 1-0 defeat to the Minot Minotauros back on December 1st in which he allowed just a single goal on 28 shots. Lehr hasn’t given up more than two goals in a game since November 23rd.
Bruins head coach Chris Tok said that Lehr and the Bruins goaltending in general, has been the backbone of their success so far this season. “You have to have a solid goalie or else you will go nowhere. Nick is certainly deserving of something like this and the accolades because he is making the saves that he has to in order for our team to be successful,” said Tok. “The best part about Nick is that his saves are timely and have allowed us to keep the momentum in games going. You never know where a game’s momentum can turn when it is tied or we have a one goal lead and Nick has always been there. It is so important to have a veteran presence in goal who doesn’t get rattled easily and so far Nick has been that and more.”
Lehr said that he has kept the focus simple this season knowing he was going to be the #1 guy. “My focus coming into this year was just to win. I wanted to be the main guy and the guy that is leading this team to as many wins as possible. The chemistry on the team is great, the guys are having fun and it is fun to win. I don’t really focus on stats that much, but I want to keep my team in the game so they have a good chance to each night we play,” said Lehr. Lehr also said that the competition within the division and with fellow rookie goaltender Jason Pawloski has forced him to focus and try even harder. “We play in a very tough and deep division. Each weekend is tough and a challenge. Jason understands the game well and pushes me to play better. The starting spot is never a given so the friendly competition is good for is. I want to get to and win a Robertson Cup, but I’d also like to play NCAA Division I hockey.”
Runner-Up: Brock Kautz, Janesville Jets
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Kevin Aldridge, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Paul Berrafato, Amarillo Bulls - Blake Cates, Coulee Region Chill – Nick Deery, Odessa Jackalopes – Ryan Kellenberger, Springfield Jr. Blues - Hunter Leisner, Texas Tornado – Zach Nagelvoort, Soo Eagles – Aaron Nelson, Bismarck Bobcats – Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild – Alex Okicki, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Tyler Parks, Minot Minotauros – Hayden Stewart, Corpus Christi IceRays – Chris Truehl, Johnstown Tomahawks – Spencer Viele, Topeka RoadRunners.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Drew Weigman, Brookings Blizzard – October 2012, Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles – November 2012, Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild.
About Combat Hockey
The Official Equipment Supplier of the NAHL, Combat Sports has been extremely successful the past 10 years as the fastest-growing North American baseball/softball bat, hockey stick and lacrosse shaft manufacturing company. Visit Combat online here.
About Brian's Custom Sports
The Official Goaltending Equipment Supplier of the NAHL, Brian's has been a leading Canadian supplier of custom built goal equipment since 1984. The factory is located in Kingsville, Ontario near the Southern tip of Canada with ready access to supplying the North American market. As one of the original and remaining custom goal equipment manufacturers Brian's remains committed to continuing to lead the industry with exceptional design and quality. Visit Brian’s online here.