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NA Now: Chippewa Steel

August 12, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.

Chippewa Steel

Head Coach: Chris Ratzloff (1st season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 31-25-4, 66 pts. (4th in the Midwest Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Sam Rice (58 points)

2023 Playoffs: Lost Midwest Division Semi-Finals to Wisconsin, 3-0

2023-24 Division: Midwest

First regular season game: Saturday, September 9th vs. Kenai River Brown Bears

Home opener: Saturday, September 9th vs. Kenai River Brown Bears

The fifth anniversary season was the most in successful in team history for the Chippewa Steel as they set team records in wins, points and made the Robertson Cup playoffs for the very first time. Their playoff run didn’t last as long as they had hoped but it has now set a new standard going forward for the team in Chippewa Valley. The Steel saw 13 players earn an NCAA commitment including 11 at the Division I level.

One of the most memorable moments of the season came on June 29th when goaltender Adam Gajan was selected in the 2nd round of the NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks with the 35th overall pick. He was the first draft pick out of the Chippewa Steel organization and was the highest NAHL draft pick in the last decade.

Now with a new season, comes a new face behind the bench. Casey Mignone is on to the college ranks, taking an assistant coaching position with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and taking his place will be Chris Ratzloff. A native of Rochester, Minnesota, Ratzloff has spent the last four seasons as the head coach of the Rochester Grizzlies in the NA3HL. He led them to the playoffs in each of his four seasons and were crowned Fraser Cup champions in the spring of 2022.

“I’m really excited,” said Ratzloff. “The style of play is going to be similar to what Casey built. I followed him in Rochester, and I believe in his vision, you know, fast players, possess the puck, compete hard every night.”

The Steel punched their playoff ticket for the first time, but the team is still looking for their first postseason win. Ratzloff believes the beginning of the season will be a key to making sure this wasn’t just a one-time thing.

Watch: NA Now video interview with Chris Ratzloff

“I think it’s going to take a fast start, get everybody to buy in,” explained Ratzloff. “They were a young team last year and we’ll have a lot of guys back and picking up where they left off last year is going to be the key. From day one of training camp, guys are competing for spots, earning their time, earning their spots.”

Up front the Steel will be returning Peyton Platter. The recent commit to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks notched 17 goals and 31 points a season ago. Joe Kelly is back for his third season with the Steel. He had 10 goals and 22 points in 59 games played last season. For his career he has 25 goals and 47 points in over 100 games.

Noah Golnic returns for his second go-around with Chippewa. He potted 8 goals and 20 points in 53 games last year. Matthew Grannan also will be expected to take a step forward in his second NAHL campaign. He grabbed three tallies and 13 points in 48 games last year.

“Peyton Platter finished strong last season. I think he’s got the ability to have a huge season. Grannan took a big step forward last year as well,” Ratzloff said.

On the blue line, Zach Sondreal will be back for his second stint with the Steel. He racked up three goals and 15 points in 56 games. Joey Peters will also be back after missing substantial time with injuries last season.

In between the pipes, Chippewa will return Colgate University commit Carter Wishart. He appeared in 25 games a season ago logging a record of 12-12-1. He sports a goals against average of 2.65 and a save percentage of .908. He also posted two shutouts for the Steel.

Chippewa finally broke through and reached the Robertson Cup playoffs a season ago for the very first time. Now with Chris Ratzloff leading the way, they are looking to make postseason trips a regular occurrence.

Next Up: Colorado Grit

 
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