24 teams in 24 days: Minnesota Magicians
September 2, 2013
The 24 Teams in 24 Days series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2013-14 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Friday, September 13th as eight NAHL teams take to the ice on Opening Night. 24 in 24 will go in-depth into each NAHL team and will include interviews with all 24 head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2013-14 season, including taking a look at their roster and their strengths as a team. It will also take a look back on the 2012-13 season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 24 in 24 is done to provide the fans of the NAHL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
Head Coach: Scott Meyer
2012-13 record: Did not play
2012-13 leading scorer: None
2013 Playoffs: Did not play
2013-14 Division: Midwest
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 18th vs. Wichita Falls Wildcats. 1:45pm
Home opener: Saturday, September 28th vs. Kenai River Brown Bears, 7:05pm
It has been nine months in the making and finally the Minnesota Magicians will take to the ice in September as the NAHL welcomes its first team to play in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Back on December 21, 2012, the NAHL announced that the Magicians had acquired and relocated the inactive New Mexico Mustangs membership. The new team in Richfield will play their home games out of Richfield Ice Arena. The two-sheet facility has a main arena with seating for 1,800.
“We have always looked at the Richfield area and Richfield Ice Arena as a great place for hockey,” said Scott Krueger, principal Owner and Governor for the Minnesota Junior Hockey Group. “When we started looking at potential venues the city of Richfield was very accommodating to our idea and helping to make the arena feasible for junior hockey. The partnership with the city of Richfield secured the deal and we are excited to work together for years to come.”
“We have always felt that the Minneapolis/St. Paul area provides a lot of advantages to an NAHL franchise,” continued Krueger. “As we saw through the tryout process, there are a lot of excellent players in the area and the landscape of hockey has changed. High School players know that in order to move on to NCAA, most need to play junior hockey. We plan to make the game experience something fans will enjoy at an affordable ticket price.”
Behind the bench will be Scott Meyer, a veteran face in junior hockey circles and around the state of Minnesota. Meyer has served in various roles for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders and Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL during a portion of the past eight seasons. The Rugby, North Dakota native played professionally in the New York Ranger system from 2001-2004. He was an ECHL All-Star in 2002. Meyer also spent time with the Rangers in April of 2002. At the collegiate level, Meyer was a Division I All-American at St. Cloud State University, helping the Huskies to their first WCHA Final Five Championship in 2001.
Meyer said that he had to be open-minded and really look everywhere for talent, even though the state of Minnesota is loaded with it right in the Magicians backyard. “You are really trying to build the pieces of a 23-25 man puzzle, so we had to open our minds a little bit and look everywhere for talent,” said Meyer. “I think we needed some players with NAHL experience, so we had to get creative in acquiring those players and make sure they were the right fit here.”
Meyer said that having the last seven months to plan and prepare to put a team on the ice in September was essential. “I think it really gave us a leg up as we were able to sign tenders and really build the team we wanted,” said Meyer. “We had to start from scratch, but I left like we were prepared. We wanted to get two big things in place right away when thinking about the 2013-14 team. The first was getting some goal scoring and the second was getting a veteran NAHL goaltender, and we I feel like we did both those things.”
The Magicians went out and got Bryan Nies from the Bismarck Bobcats. After playing high school hockey in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Nies spent his rookie campaign last year with the Bobcats, mostly in a supportive role behind veteran Aaron Nelson. In the 24 games he did appear in, Nies put up some really good numbers with a 2.48 goals against average and a 91% save percentage. “We feel like Bryan is a #1 goalie in the NAHL and we have two other goalies in Jordan Moran and Jackson Germaine, who both are very good goaltenders as well, so we feel we are very deep at the position.”
On defense, the Magicians have two NAHL veterans on the roster in Derek Kucera, who played in Wenatchee last season and Jordan Stejskal, who had a solid year with the Brookings Blizzard last season. The other blueliners will have more of a local flavor as Joe Kleven (Prior Lake HS), TJ Samec (St. Thomas Academy) and Logan VonRuden (Northfield HS) all join the Magicians from local area high schools and Kyle Gonzalez will also be along the blueline after playing for both Cleveland and North Iowa in the NA3HL.
Up front, Minnesota has NAHL veterans Eetu Karvinen, who played in Brookings lasy season and Nick Kucera, who played in Wenatchee. Meyer said he is really excited to see Mario Bianchi play after leading Holy Angels in scoring with 69 points last season. Other forwards that Meyer mentioned were Matt Colford (Breck), Kyle Krueger (North Iowa Bulls), Colin Hernon (Bloomington-Jefferson), Will Robert-Johnson (California 16U NAPHL) and Travis Koepke (Hermantown).
"I think the division we are playing in allows us for a great opportunity to play a variety of teams and gauge ourselves as the season goes along,” said Meyer. “We have teams that we in the same boat as us in regards to building short term and we have some other teams that have very strong traditions and who are used to traveling at this level. I think the encouraging part is that if we know we play well, we give ourselves an opportunity to make the playoffs. We are going to be a little younger and less experienced than most, but hopefully we can develop them to help be a part of a successful atmosphere for this year and years to come.”
Next up in the 24 in 24 series: Minnesota Wilderness