In a month that was filled with memorable performances by NAHL forwards, one truly stood out among the rest as Lone Star Brahmas forward Sebastian Vidmar, 20, had one worthy of being honored as the NAHL Forward of the Month. The native of Malmo, Sweden, led the NAHL in points (16) and in goals (11) during the month of October. His 13 goals to date leads the NAHL and his 18 points leads the Brahmas in scoring. Three times during the month of October, Vidmar (6’2/190) was honored as the South Division Star of the Week. Vidmar played in eight games during the month and registered at least a point in seven of the eight games. He also had six multi-point games, which included a hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Odessa back on October 24th. “Sebastian is playing at a very elite level right now. He is doing a lot of the little things right that often go unseen that are benefitting both he and his teammates,” said Brahmas head coach Dan Wildfong. “He is playing hard in the tough areas and because he is paying that price, he is seeing the positive results. Sebastian is going to be a very good NCAA Division I hockey player because he has taken the time to adapt to the North American style of game. He has does the work on and off the ice to put himself in good position to be a very good addition to an NCAA team.”
This season is Vidmar’s first experience playing in North America. “I cam over here because I felt like it was the best opportunity for me to develop and try and play college hockey in the future. Education is also very important to me, so I felt like the NAHL gave me the best chance to accomplish that goal. The NAHL has smaller ice sheets than in Sweden, so there is a premium on skill and playing the physical game. I worked hard to develop those two things to add to the speed part, but overall, the talent in the league is very good and I am excited to be playing here. Ultimately, I would like to earn an NCAA Division I opportunity where I could play four years of hockey and get an education,” said Vidmar.
Runner-Up: Wes Michaud, Corpus Christi IceRays
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Noah Batis, Keystone Ice Miners – Michael Crowley, Springfield Jr. Blues – AJ Duggan, Amarillo Bulls – Jack Gessert, Kenai River Brown Bears – Zach Glienke, Brookings Blizzard – Zach Lavalle, Janesville Jets – Niklas Lehtimaki, Minnesota Wilderness – Blake Lizotte, Minot Mintauros – Adam Lovick, Coulee Region Chill – Chandler Madry, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Marc Michaelis, Minnesota Magicians – Keegan Miller, Soo Eagles – Evan Okeley, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Matt Perry, Bismarck Bobcats – Michael Soucier, Aberdeen Wings – Sly Sutter, Topeka RoadRunners
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs once again sit atop of their division and it was thanks in large part to their 9-1-0 record in October. A big part of the team’s success was the play of 19-year-old defenseman Jakob Stridsberg. The native of Jonkoping, Sweden, was a major contributor in October for Fairbanks. During the month, Stridsberg (6’0/180) played in all 10 games and had eight points, including two goals and six assists. He was also +8 during the month, which put him among some of the NAHL’s best in the +/- category during Octover. Stridsberg was remarkably consistent, registering at least a point in seven of the 10 games. His goals came in road wins at Coulee Region and at Wenatchee. He also registered at least a shot on goal in nine of the 10 games. For the season, Stridsberg leads all Fairbanks defensemen in scoring this season with 13 points in 19 games played. “Jakob is a player that does a little bit of everything well… he defends well, he is physical, he can jump into the play, he skates well and he competes. He is a very good teammate and some of that chemistry has really helped team morale recently in October. His success has come at a time where several of our players are now understanding what it takes to be successful on a game-by-game basis,” said Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart.
“The speed of the NAHL is the first thing I noticed. There is a lot less room to move around on the ice so there is an emphasis on skill, size and speed. Everyone is the NAHL has it, as it is a very good league. I think I have adapted pretty well. I feel very fortunate to be playing for a team like Fairbanks. They have such a great tradition and the community support is unlike anything I have ever seen. I know that with my focus on education and trying to take the next step to the NCAA, that I am playing in the right place,” said Stridsberg.
Runner-Up: Sam Becker, Minnesota Magicians
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Gustav Berglund, Kenai River Brown Bears – Tobias Bjorklund, Minnesota Wilderness – Darren Brady, Soo Eagles – Daniel Brickley, Topeka RoadRunners – Alex Copa, Brookings Blizzard –Kasper Emanuelsson, Amarillo Bulls – Logan Gestro, Corpus Christi IceRays – Cam Knight, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Sean Lang, Coulee Region Chill – Lucas Little, Keystone Ice Miners – Jon Lizotte, Minot Minotauros – Kyle Meeh, Springfield Jr. Blues – Tanner Okeson, Aberdeen Wings – Anton Santesson, Lone Star Brahmas – Alex Smith, Janesville Jets – Nick Wallace, Bismarck Bobcats
The Bismarck Bobcats have a storied tradition of developing top-level goaltenders that move onto the next level and it appears they have found their next one in Alex Bitsakis. The 20-year-old from Montreal, Quebec, was remarkably consistent in October despite the fact the Bobcats went just 3-7-0 during the month. Bitsakis (6’0/190) was in goal for all three wins during the month and posted an even 3-3-0 record. He also faced 204 shots during the month and stopped 191 of those shots, which was good for a 93.6% save percentage. Bistakis also posted a sparkling 1.98 goals against average during the month, which included one shutout. On October 20th, he was named the NAHL Central Division Star of the Week for his efforts as the Bobcats posted wins over Austin and Aberdeen. For the 2014-15 season, Bitsakis ranks 4th in the NAHL on both goals against average (1.99) and save percentage (93.0%). He also is in the top 10 in saves and wins. “Alex gave us a chance to win every night and that type of consistency is what we look for in our goalies. We weren’t happy with our month as a team, but Alex’s play was no doubt a bright spot,” said Bismarck head coach Layne Sedevie. “Alex uses his size very well. I think he is very efficient with his movement. He is square to the puck and he can recover quickly. The opportunities have been there for him to perform and he answered the bell.”
Bitsakis, who spent last year playing junior hockey in Canada, believes that his shift to the NAHL was the right decision. “I think we have a really good team here in Bismarck that is still trying to find its game and consistency, but I feel it getting closer. We have proven we can win tough hockey games, so it should start turning around. I just want to play a consistent game and give my team a chance to win. The NAHL has so many skilled players and the game moves very fast. There is a lot of talent. Guys are happy to be playing here because you know you are going to get better as a player and get the opportunity to move on to the next level. That is one of the reasons I am happy to be in Bismarck. They have such a great track record and reputation and now that I am here, I am motivated to keep playing and keep getting better,” said Bitsakis.
Runner-Up: Eric Hancock, Brookings Blizzard
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Vaughan Ahrens, Minnesota Magicians – TJ Black, Lone Star Brahmas – Adam Carlson, Coulee Region Chill – Niko Dellamaggorie, Springfield Jr. Blues – Alec Derks, Kenai River Brown Bears – Matt Jurusik, Janesville Jets – Brock Kautz, Minnesota Wilderness - Nick Kossoff, Keystone Ice Miners – Andrew Lindgren, Corpus Christi IceRays – Anton Martinsson, Amarillo Bulls – Andrew Shortridge, Aberdeen Wings – Atte Tolvanen, Minot Minotauros – Drew Vogler, Topeka RoadRunners
It appears that judging by the first month of the season, the Odessa Jackalopes are ready to make a run in the South Division. They are powered by one of the best 1-2 offensive combinations in the league led by 19-year-old forward Kenny Hausinger. The native of Anchorage, Alaska, was on fire during the month of September as he helped the Jackalopes to a tie for 4th place in the South. Hausinger (5’10/190) is already committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Sacred Heart University, but he didn’t let that stop him from being the NAHL’s leading scorer during the month. In seven games played, Hausinger recorded a league-high 13 points and seven goals. Hausinger has registered at least a point in all seven of his games played to date and his first four games played were all multi-point games, including two, three point games. “Kenny is an old-time hockey guy. He is first to the puck, he competes real hard, he isn’t flashy, but he just finds a way to get the job done. He is a great passer and sees the ice very well. He makes everyone around him better,” said Odessa head coach Greg Gatto.
“I think it was important for us to get off to a decent start and we have done that. We came into camp early to prepare for this season and everyone has bought in to Coach Gatto’s philosophy,” said Hausinger. “Coming off a major injury, I kept the expectations low to start the season, but I was definitely pleased with how the month went. “We have solid goaltending, great depth at defense and some very talented guys at forward. We have bonded well and I am just trying to get better every game and contribute.”
Runner-Up: Brandon Schultz, Janesville Jets
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Jake Ahlgren, Wenatchee Wild – Austin Beaulieu, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Maurin Bouvet, Kenai River Brown Bears – Trevor Boyd, Austin Bruins – Tyler Cline, Minnesota Wilderness – Jacob Coleman, Keystone Ice Miners – Ronnie Hein, Aberdeen Wings – Josh Lammon, Springfield Jr. Blues – Adam Lovick, Coulee Region Chill – Christian Mohs, Minot Minotauros – Daniel Rzavsky, Topeka RoadRunners.
Second year veteran defenseman Tyler Andrews, 20, is taking his final year of junior hockey and making the most of it thus far. The 6’2/185 lbs. defenseman from Anchorage, Alaska, was so good during the first month of the season that he managed to lead his team in scoring… from the blueline. His nine points in eight games was not only a team-high, but also tops for all NAHL defensemen during the month. Andrews registered a point in six of the eight games played during September and had two multi-point games. Even though the Brown Bears were outscoring during the month 31-24, Andrews kept his plus/minus rating at even. Last year, Andrews recorded 16 points in 51 games played with Kenai River. “With our large amount of roster turnover, Tyler has been everything and more for us thus far. He is a true leader and is dedicated to the organization, his teammates and his playing career,” said Brown Bears head coach Geoff Beauparlant. “He leads by example and has bought into a lifestyle on and off the ice that is going to make him successful as a leader and as a hockey player. He goes about his business like a pro and is the ultimate competitor.”
“It is all about confidence for me. It was important to gain the experience from last year and turn it into something more this year. I have been working hard all year round to try and become a better player,” said Andrews. “We have some things we still want to accomplish has a team here. We want to get ourselves in a position to be successful in the playoffs and get an opportunity to compete for the Robertson Cup. After that, I am working hard towards a Division I opportunity and getting an education.”
Runner-Up: Cam Knight, Wichita Falls Wildcats
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Alex Archibald, Keystone Ice Miners – Dan Bailey, Wenatchee Wild – Tobias Bjorklund, Minnesota Wilderness – Jared Brandt, Minot Minotauros – Dan Brickley, Topeka RoadRunners – Cam Cooper, Coulee Region Chill – Lester Lancaster, Springfield Jr. Blues – Brendan Riordan, Aberdeen Wings – Alex Smith, Janesville Jets.
When he came to training camp back in August, Wichita Falls goaltender Austin Shaw, 18, probably thought that getting some major playing time was a long shot. The Wildcats had two veteran goalies back from the 2013-14 season and Shaw was the lone rookie goalie. However, like so many NAHL goalies before him, all he needed was a chance and his debut in the league could not have gone any better. The native of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, made his debut at the NAHL Showcase with a shutout and hasn’t looked back since. Shaw (6’4/200) won all four of his starts during the month and stopped 112 of 116 shots that came his way, good for a 1.00 goals against average and 96.6% save percentage in September. In his NAHL debut, he made 31 saves in a 4-0 shutout of the Minnesota Wilderness. He also was in goal for both wins over Toepka last weekend, as he allowed just two goals in the two wins. “Our goalies began the season knowing that it was going to be a battle and Austin took the opportunity and ran with it. He stepped up and seized the moment, so give him credit for that,” said Wildcats head coach John LaFontaine. “For a bigger goalie, Austin is very quick. He is also very poised and reads the play well. He is never taking himself out of a play because he is always conscious of being in the best position possible to try and make a save.”
“I knew coming in that going up against two veterans I was going to have to compete from Day 1. I just wanted to make the most of whatever opportunity was going to present itself. It happened to be in Blaine at the Showcase and my thought was just to try and make the most of it,” said Shaw. “I would like to keep working hard and play well and hopefully that turns into an opportunity to play NCAA Division I hockey down the road and get an education. I think we have a great team here in Wichita Falls and we are capable of doing some great things.”
Runner-Up: Matej Tomek, Topeka RoadRunners
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Anderson, Minnesota Wilderness – Alex Blankenburg, Keystone Ice Miners – Matt Jurusik, Janesville Jets – Jake Kielly, Austin Bruins – Dryden McKay, Springfield Jr. Blues – Forbes Ploszaj, Wenatchee Wild – Atte Tolvanen, Minot Minotauros.