Minnesota Wilderness forward Darian Romanko, 20, had an incredible month of February, which stood out among the rest of his NAHL peers. The native of Shoreview, Minnesota, helped the Wilderness keep pace atop the Midwest Division with 17 points in eight games played as Minnesota posted a 5-1-2 record. Romanko (6’1/195) recorded 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) during the month of February and was also a +5 with one game-winning goal. Romanko recorded points in six of the eight games during the month and all six of those games were multi-point games. In his last three games of the month, Romanko recorded 10 points, which culminated into him being named the Midwest Division Star of the Week this past week. Romanko also made an appearance a week ago at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he played for the Midwest team. The Midwest team went undefeated at the event and Romanko had a goal and an assist in the two games. For the season, Romanko leads the Wilderness in scoring with 49 points in 44 games played. “Darian has come such a long way in his two years with us,” said Wilderness head coach Corey Millen. “He has been really good as of late and we are hopeful that a Division I opportunity happens soon. He is a great finisher and understands how to step up at the right times. His progress as a hockey player has been fun to watch.”
“I think the team got into a good grove and built up some momentum and that translated into some success in February for everybody, not just me. I think a lot of players had good months and it was a product of hard work and seeing us play together well as a unit. I think we have a great group of guys here that play a really good systems game and is responsible on the back end. As long as we can keep the puck out of our net and be effective on offense, we have a good shot the rest of the year,” said Romanko. “Top Prospects was a great experience for me personally. It was a humbling experience to look into the stands and see nothing but black jackets. It was so much fun to play in front of that many guys and since I knew a lot of guys on the Midwest team, it made it all the more special. Hopefully this leads to something at the Division I level,” continued Romanko.
Runner-Up: Kyle Haak, Aberdeen Wings
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Charlie Combs, Amarillo Bulls – Kane Durment, Minnesota Magicians – Dallas Gerads, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees – Jack Gessert, Kenai River Brown Bears – Jake Howie, Minot Minotauros – Matt Jones, Keystone Ice Miners – Nikita Litviak, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Tanner Lomsnes, Corpus Christi IceRays – Dominic Lutz, Topeka RoadRunners – Jared Pike, Bismarck Bobcats – Brad Pung, Soo Eagles – Dakota Raabe, Wenatchee Wild – Zac Robbins, Johnstown Tomahawks – Ethan Somoza, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Sebastian Vidmar, Lone Star Brahmas – Adam Winborg, Janesville Jets
It is rare in the NAHL that a defenseman leads his team in scoring, but that is exactly what Minnesota Magicians defenseman Sam Becker, 20, has done this season. The native of Roseville, Minnesota, leads his club in scoring this season with 42 points in 45 games played. The 42 points ranks 3rd among all NAHL defensemen to date. During the month of February, the Becker (6’0/175) and the Magicians got back on track with a 3-2-2 record and put themselves in good position to make the NAHL Playoffs. Becker led the team during the month with nine points in the seven games, which included four goals, five assists and a +4 rating. He also had one game-winning goal. Becker recorded a point in five of the seven games played during the month and had two multi-point games. His game-winning goal came back on February 21st in a 3-2 road win in Coulee Region. Becker also competed in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament during the month for the Midwest team. As the Midwest put together a 2-0 record at the event, Becker was outstanding in his play, recording three points in the two wins. “Sam has been a huge reason behind our success, especially lately. He is effective at both ends of the ice, but I think it is what people don’t see off the ice that he has just as big of an impact for our team. He is a natural leader and has done a great job of staying positive during the entire season,” said Magicians head coach Tom Upton. “There is no doubt in my mind that he is a future NCAA Division I hockey player. I think he is one of the best defensemen in the league and has the numbers and the skill to show for it.”
As for Becker, he said that getting back on track as a team during the month was a big priority. “The middle part of the season was kind of tough, but we tried to stay positive throughout it because the playoffs are still a real possibility. I think we have a great group of forwards up front who know how to put the puck in the net, so it makes my job easier,” said Becker. “I think playing in Top Prospects was a great experience because the team played well and it was fun to play with guys that you normally compete against. There definitely is some Division I interest because of the season I have had and because of Top Prospects, so I am hopeful something will get done in the next couple of weeks,” said Becker.
Runner-Up: Johnny Mueller, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Alex Archibald, Keystone Ice Miners - Evan Bell, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees – Jared Brandt, Minot Minotauros – Michael Caruso, Soo Eagles – Ivan Chukarov, Minnesota Wilderness – Logan Gestro, Corpus Christi IceRays – Chris Jones, Wenatchee Wild – Ryan Polin, Topeka RoadRunners – Tristan Rostagno, Amarillo Bulls – Tanner Salsberry, Bismarck Bobcats – Anton Santesson, Lone Star Brahmas – Alex Smith, Janesville Jets – Jeff Solow, Kenai River Brown Bears – Jake Townsend, Wichita Falls Wildcats
There were some memorable performances from NAHL goalie during the month of February, but then there was the performance from Janesville netminder Matt Jurusik. The 17-year-old goalie from La Grange, Illinois, put together a month for the ages as he put an assault on the NAHL record books. During the month, Jurusik (6’1/195) appeared in seven games and played more than 392 minutes. In that time frame, Jurusik allowed just two goals on a total of 180 shots, which was good for an astounding 98.9% save percentage in February. He also posted a minuscule 0.31 goals against average and a perfect 7-0 record during the month with four shutouts. In a stretch of hockey from midway through the 2nd period of a game on February 7th to the end of a game on February 27th, Jurusik went a stretch of over 340 minutes without allowing a single goal. Because of all of that, Jurusik now leads all NAHL goalies in just about every category, including wins (27), save percentage (93.8%) and is tied for the league lead with a 1.58 goals against average and six shutouts. Jurusik also was selected to participate in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament for the North team, where played well, making 37 saves in a 4-1 loss to the Central team. “When you watch Matt play, he is so calm, cool and collected. You have to remind yourself that he is still just 17-years-old. From my perspective his performance in Feburary was one of the best I have seen in a long time. There were many times that we did not play well in front of him, but because he had his A game every night, he gave us a chance to win,” said Janesville head coach Joe Dibble. “I really feel like the sky is the limit for him because of his confidence in playing the position. Needless to say, there has been a lot of NHL and NCAA Division I interest and I think it is just a matter of taking that attention day-by-day and finding the right situation for him, but he remains as focused as ever, which is a big boost to our club,” said Janesville head coach Joe Dibble.
For Jurusik, this is the second time this year of winning the Goaltender of the Month award, having won it back in December. Despite that, his thoughts haven’t changed. “This year has been an entire team effort and my success doesn’t happen without them. We have a very special group of guys who have a goal in mind. I am trying to take things game-by-game, nothing else,” said Jurusik. “Getting the last-minute call to play in Top Prospects was pretty special. It was a great experience. It is hard to describe what kind of an experience it is to play against some of the best the league has to offer. On top of that, you then look in the stands and see hundreds to scouts so right there you know that you better make the most of the opportunity. I have some options right now, but I am going to take my time with it and make a decision about my future when the time is right,” said Jurusik.
Runner-Up: Ben Johansson, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Vaughan Ahrens, Minnesota Magicians – Kevin Aldridge, Fairbanks Ice Dogs - Ryan Anderson, Minnesota Wilderness – Ryan Bedbard, Johnstown Tomahawks – Alex Bitsakis, Bismarck Bobcats – TJ Black, Lone Star Brahmas – Alex Blankenburg, Keystone Ice Miners – Michael Bullion, Wenatchee Wild – Chad Catt, Soo Eagles – Evan Hauser, Kenai River Brown Bears – Andrew Lindgren, Corpus Christi IceRays – Dryden McKay, Springfield Jr. Blues – Andrew Shortridge, Aberdeen Wings – Atte Tolvanen, Minot Minotauros – Drew Vogler, Topeka RoadRunners
It was a big month for Wichita Falls Wildcats forward Nick Farmer. The 20-year-old native of Spokane, Washington racked up 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists) in the 11 games during the month as the Wildcats fashioned together a 7-4 record to stay right in the hunt for the top spot in the South Division. Farmer (6’0/185) recorded at last a point in nine of the 11 games and had six multi-point games. That included three, three-point outings during the month and two of his nine goals were game-winners. Farmer also scored five power play goals. This is Farmer’s third and final season playing the NAHL for the Wildcats. He ranks tied for 2nd on the Wildcats roster in points with 39 and is tied for the team lead with five game-winning goals. Farmer was also selected to play for the South Division team at the 2015 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. In 152 career NAHL regular season games, Farmer has recorded 82 points. Farmer is also a product of the growing number of players who developed in the NAPHL. Farmer played in the NAPHL during the inaugural 2009-10 season for the Nevada Stars 16U team, where he recorded 24 points in 20 games played. “We moved Nick to center a few months ago and since that move his game has taken off. He is the fastest and quickest player on the team. He is really hard to compete against when he gets that going and is a very effective forechecker. I think there is no doubt he will be playing NCAA Division I hockey someday and hopefully there is a commitment on the horizon for him in the near future,” said Wildcats head coach John LaFontaine.
Farmer said that this year has been a fun one so far because of the team success. “It is been a lot of fun because the team has been consistent all season long and we have a great group of players. I think we are capable of being a Championship team, so we just have to keep focused and playing some good hockey. My time in the NAHL has been well worth it. I think playing in the NAPHL back during the inaugural season showed me what that type of exposure could be like. The connection with the NAHL is like no other and it helped me get to where I am today. I just want to see us keep winning the rest of the season and hopefully improve my game to the point where I am able to fulfill the dream of playing NCAA Division I hockey,” said Farmer.
Runner-Up: Brendan Harris, Wenatchee Wild
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Maurin Bouvet, Kenai River Brown Bears – AJ Coleman, Keystone Ice Miners – Nate Colwell, Brookings Blizzard – Cody Gylling, Amarillo Bulls – Kyle Haak, Aberdeen Wings – Jacob Hetz, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Colton Kramer, Minot Minotauros – Zach Lavalle, Janesville Jets – Casey Linkenheld, Johnstown Tomahawks – Tanner Lomsnes, Corpus Christi IceRays – Alex Pettersson, Austin Bruins – JM Piotrowski, Bismarck Bobcats – Brian Rigali, Springfield Jr. Blues – Darian Romanko, Minnesota Wilderness – Daniel Rzavsky, Topeka RoadRunners – Richard Zehnal, Coulee Region Chill – Sandis Zolmanis, Soo Eagles
At the top of the scoring statistics for NAHL defensemen so far this season is IceRays defender Anthony Cortese, 20, who earns monthly honors for the first time. The native of Pierrefonds, Quebec, made an impact in the line-up from his first game of the season and hasn’t looked back. That trend continued in January for Cortese (5’11/185) who totaled 15 points during the month, which included three goals and 12 assists as the IceRays posted a 7-3-1 record. Cortese recorded a point in nine of the 11 games and enters February riding a nine-game point streak. Four of his 11 games were multi-point games and he had two, three-point games. Cortese leads all NAHL defensemen in points with 41 and ranks 2nd in both goals and assists. Cortese currently ranks 2nd on the IceRays roster this season in scoring. “Anthony has consistently put up points all season long and you almost become accustomed to it. He has worked very hard to improve his defense because he is so effective on the offensive side. The thing I really like about him is he is very selfless. He isn’t concerned about points. He is concerned with team success and seeing his teammates get better. That is a trademark of a very good veteran player,” said IceRays head coach Jon Becanic.
“My experience playing in the NAHL for Corpus Christi has been great this season. To come down and see the set-up that Corpus Christi has is amazing. It is a first-class organization and the league is very competitive. There is a lot of talent to play against the it has been fun so far,” said Cortese. “I think we have a team that can go really far in the playoffs this season. My focus is to help them achieve that and then hopefully an opportunity to play college or pro hockey will be later in the future.”
Runner-Up: Jake Townsend, Wichita Falls Wildcats
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Tyler Andrews, Kenai River Brown Bears – Darren Brady, Soo Eagles – Ivan Chukarov, Minnesota Wilderness – Zach Glienke, Brookings Blizzard – LordAnthony Grissom, Keystone Ice Miners – Tyler Hayes, Topeka RoadRunners – Ian Janco, Janesville Jets – Chris Jones, Wenatchee Wild – Jon Lizotte, Minot Minotauros – Johnny Mueller, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Tanner Okeson, Aberdeen Wings – Steven Quagliata, Johnstown Tomahawks – Brogan Rafferty, Coulee Region Chill – Tanner Salsberry, Bismarck Bobcats – Anthony Scarsella, Springfield Jr. Blues
Keystone goalie Nick Kossoff, 18, helped his club to a 7-1-1 record during the month of January and earned Goalie of the Month honors in the process. The native of West Des Moines, Iowa, had a 4-1 record during the month with a 1.57 goals against average and a 95.4% save percentage with two shutouts. Of the 175 shots that Kossoff (6’2/185) faced during the month, he stopped 167 of them. His two shutouts during the month came in home wins over Fairbanks and Springfield. In his lone loss, he made 44 saves in a 3-2 loss against Fairbanks. In the middle of December, Kossoff committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for Lake Superior State. His 93.6% save percentage is currently the best among NAHL goaltenders. “We are very fortunate to have a great goaltending tandem in Nick and Alex Blankenburg and it is a big strength of ours. They have been great and they push each other, which actually has been helpful and make us better. I don’t think any of us though that Nick would be this good, this soon. He has really taken off and he deservedly got an NCAA Division I commitment. He works hard and he is very consistent. He maintains a calm in goal and really transfers to the rest of the team,” said Keystone head coach Michael Gershon.
“Since my commitment, I haven’t tried to change to much and I have tried to keep the same mindset. I would say it took a weight off my shoulders, but I try to play with the same hunger and edge because I want to see our team succeed. I think we have a team that has proven lately that we can play with anyone,” said Kossoff. “My goalie coach Sean Maloney has really helped me this year and I have really enjoyed playing in the NAHL. I have learned so much from playing junior hockey in the NAHL. There is a lot of talent and you learn to grow up quick and take good care of yourself. I want to keep working hard and improving and hopefully we can make a good playoff run toward the Robertson Cup.”
Runner-Up: Patrick Munson, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Anderson, Minnesota Wilderness – Jack Berry, Soo Eagles – Alec Derks, Kenai River Brown Bears – Jake Gwillim, Johnstown Tomahawks – Ryan Kubic, Brookings Blizzard – Andrew Lindgren, Corpus Christi IceRays – Anton Martinsson, Amarillo Bulls – Dryden McKay, Springfield Jr. Blues – Zach Quinn, Wenatchee Wild – Hunter Shepard, Bismarck Bobcats – Andrew Shortridge, Aberdeen Wings – Evan Smith, Austin Bruins – Atte Tolvanen, Minot Minotauros – Matej Tomek, Topeka RoadRunners – Blake Weyrick, Janesville Jets
It was a performance worthy of another Forward of the Month award for Lone Star Brahmas forward Sebastian Vidmar. The 20-year-old native of Malmo, Sweden, won his second Forward of the Month honor for the 2014-15 season thanks to another great performance in December. To top it off, December also saw Vidmar make an NCAA Division I hockey commitment to Union College, the defending NCAA Division I champions. During the month, Vidmar (6’2/190) led all NAHL scorers with 15 points and did it in just seven games played. That included 5 goals (two of which were game-winners) and 10 assists, along with a +10 rating. Vidmar registered at least a point in every game he played in during the month and had five multi-point games. That included a four-point effort in a 6-3 win over Odessa back on December 13th and a three-point game as well. For the season, Vidmar currently leads the NAHL in scoring with 46 points and in goals with 22. “His impact is huge when he is out on the ice, because he is a difference-maker. He is playing a 200-foot game at both ends of the ice,” said Lone Star head coach Dan Wildfong. “He plays a team-oriented game and is doing the little things that lead to opportunities at the offensive end. He will do whatever it takes to win and see his team succeed first.”
“December was a very good month and I am trying my best to make sure the team is successful. I was overwhelmed with the commitment to Union and I am very excited about earning that opportunity to play at the next level,” said Vidmar. “My coaches have been great during my time here in the NAHL and all of the hard work has paid off with success on the ice. I said back in November that this was a goal of mine and it came true.”
Runner-Up: Mitch Fossier, Janesville Jets
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Jacob Coleman, Keystone Ice Miners – Jasen Fernsler, Topeka RoadRunners – Will Harrison, Amarillo Bulls – Jacob Hetz, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Blake Kelley, Coulee Region Chill – Grant Meyer, Springfield Jr. Blues – Beau Michaud, Brookings Blizzard – Christian Mohs, Minot Minotauros – Trevor Recktenwald, Johnstown Tomahawks – Darian Romanko, Minnesota Wilderness – Matt Rudin, Kenai River Brown Bears – Colin Staub, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Cullen Willox, Bismarck Bobcats
The Minnesota Wilderness rolled through December without a regulation loss, posting a 5-0-2 record and not only did defenseman Ivan Chukarov, 19, record 9 points and a +13 rating in the seven games, but he also led the Wilderness in scoring during the month. On top of all that, Chukarov (6’3/200) announced his NCAA Division I commitment to UMass on December 17th, realizing his NCAA Division I dream like so many NAHL players. The native of Des Plaines, Illinois, racked up 3 goals and 6 assists during the month, which also included a game-winning goal. He registered at least a point in five of the seven games played during December. That included two three-point games in a 5-2 win over Kenai River on December 11th and a 8-2 win over the Soo Eagles on December 20th. For the season, Chukarov leads all Wilderness defenseman in scoring with 22 points in 29 games played and leads the club with a +19 rating. “Ivan is as talented as any defenseman in the NAHL and he has come back from injury and really played well and consistent this season,” said Wilderness head coach Corey Millen. “He brings so much to the table for our team and he is effective at both ends of the ice. He is a great all-around defenseman with great size, who is going to be successful at the next level.”
“I think we finally clicked as a team in December. We have a really good system in place and when it is working, we are a very tough team to beat like we were in December. We put the primary focus on limiting our opponents chances and shots,” said Chukarov. “I think short term, I was very happy to commit to play NCAA Division I hockey at UMass because it has been a goal of mine for a long time. I think we have a team that is capable of winning the division and making a run at the Robertson Cup. I just want to keep improving so I can help the team have success and so I can go to UMass next season and make an immediate impact.”
Runner-Up: Matt Koch, Wichita Falls Wildcats
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ben Campbell, Kenai River Brown Bears – Cam Cooper, Springfield Jr. Blues – Grant Hutton, Janesville Jets – Sean Lang, Coulee Region Chill – Joe Leonidas, Amarillo Bulls – Jon Lizotte, Minot Minotauros – Johnny Mueller, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Ryan Polin, Topeka RoadRunners – Tanner Salsberry, Bismarck Bobcats – Reed Scahill, Keystone Ice Miners – Alexey Solovyev, Lone Star Brahmas
A perfect month of December put the Janesville Jets way out in front in 1st place in the North Division, ending the month with an 8-0 record. Rookie netminder Matt Jurusik, 17, was one of the stars for the Jets during the month, as the native of La Grange, Illinois, won seven of the eight games and finished the month undefeated with a perfect 7-0 record. Jurusik (6’1/195) posted a 1.45 goals against average in December along with a 94.9% save percentage, as he stopped 167 of 176 shots that came his way during the month. He also registered two shutouts. Jurusik’s shutouts came on December 12th in a win over Keystone and December 20th in a win over Michigan. In that 3-0 shutout over Michigan on December 20th, Jurusik made a season-high 36 saves. On December 30th, Jurusik started in a 6-1 win over Michigan, but was injured in the game and hasn’t played since. He is expected to return to the line-up in mid-January. For the season, Jurusik is tied for the NAHL lead in wins with 17 and ranks in the Top 8 in goals against average and save percentage. “It was a great month for our team and Matt was so consistent. He shows up every day with a purpose and a confidence that is nothing but beneficial for our hockey team. Matt was able to keep us in games and give us some momentum,” said Jets head coach Joe Dibble. “The sky is the limit for him and he will be a great goalie at the next level, wherever that may be. He has a lot of NCAA and NHL interest, so there is no doubt in my mind he is driven to succeed to get there.”
“I am trying to just take things one day at a time and work hard. The entire team really played well and clicked throughout the month of December. We have a lot of talented players on this team who are also very driven and motivated, so it makes my job a lot easier when all the guys are buying in. At this point, I am trying to just go game-by-game and not rush things. I think team success will take care of individual success and I hope to be back in the line-up in a week or two,” said Jurusik.
Runner-Up: Atte Tolvanen, Minot Minotauros
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Anderson, Minnesota Wilderness – Ryan Bednard, Johnstown Tomahawks – TJ Black, Lone Star Brahmas – Alex Blankenburg, Keystone Ice Miners – Adam Carlson, Coulee Region Chill – Ryan Kubic, Brookings Blizzard – Patrick Munson, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Zach Quinn, Wenatchee Wild – Hunter Shepard, Bismarck Bobcats – Matej Tomek, Topeka RoadRunners – Jacob Weatherly, Amarillo Bulls – David Zevnik, Wichita Falls Wildcats
The Minot Minotauros took over 1st place in the Central Division during November and a budding, young forward led the way for the team. Blake Lizotte, 16, was named the NAHL Forward of the Month for his outstanding effort in November. During the month, the native of Lindstrom, Minnesota, recorded 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists) in 10 games and had a remarkable +11 rating. Minot put together a 6-3-1 record during the month and Lizotte (5’7/140) registered at least a point in eight of the 10 games. Lizotte recorded multi-point games in six of the 10 outings including three-point efforts in back-to-back games during a home-and-home series with Bismarck back on November 21-22, which earned him Central Star of the Week honors. Lizotte not only currently leads the Minotauros in scoring, but he also is tied for 3rd in league scoring with 31 points and ranks 2nd in the NAHL with 23 assists, a remarkable feat for a 16-year-old. “Blake is a special individual on and off the ice. He is very mature for his age and has developed some great leadership qualities thus far and he has a bright future ahead of him,” said Minot head coach Marty Murray. “We noticed Blake at a camp this summer and we really liked his hockey sense. We brought him to Minot to start the year and it was still on more of a tryout basis, but he took the opportunity and ran with it. He thinks the game very well. He is always one-step ahead of the play and he has the heart and the compete level to be successful in the NAHL.”
Lizotte remained humbled and had the tone of a veteran when he got news of the award. “We had a great month of November as a team, but I owe a lot of credit to my linemates because they are the ones that gave me the opportunity to have some success on the ice. I wasn’t really expecting to stay in Minot to start the season, but as things started happening and I started to get it and have success in the league, things really started to snowball and go my way. I think as the team has developed, come together and played well, so have I. It is an exciting set of circumstances for me. I would ultimately like to play professional hockey someday, but I know I have to take it a step at a time. The short term goal to earn an NCAA opportunity, but after that I would like to keep working hard and getting better and see where this will take me,” said Lizotte.
Runner-Up: Evan Giesler, Bismarck Bobcats
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Mike Coyne, Wenatchee Wild – Taylor Fernandez, Keystone Ice Miners – Dominik Florian, Coulee Region Chill – Jack Gessert, Kenai River Brown Bears – Cody Gylling, Amarillo Bulls – Jacob Hetz, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Zach Lavalle, Janesville Jets – Beau Michaud, Brookings Blizzard – Wes Michaud, Corpus Christi IceRays – Aaron Miller, Minnesota Wilderness – Keegan Miller, Soo Eagles – Trevor Recktenwald, Johnstown Tomahawks – Daniel Rzavsky, Topeka RoadRunners – Michael Soucier, Aberdeen Wings – Colin Staub, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Brady Tomlak, Springfield Jr. Blues
The Springfield Jr. Blues kept pace in the North Division with a 6-4-1 record in the month of November. Defenseman Lester Lancaster, 19, led he team during the month with 10 points (1 goal, 9 assists) in the 11 games played. The Mercyhurst recruit and native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, began the month on a roll as he recorded seven of his points in a weekend on the road against the Soo Eagles as he earned North Division Star of the Week honors. He also had points in wins over South Division-leading Topeka on November 15th and 22nd. For the season, Lancaster (5’11/170) leads the Jr. Blues team in scoring with 19 points in 25 games played. His 19 points ranks 4th for all NAHL defensemen and his 17 assists ranks 2nd. “Lester is playing very well right now. He is understanding when to jump into the play and when to hold back. He is a big reason we are winning right now and big reason behind our recent power play success. He has been the ultimate team leader for us so far this season. I think knowing he has a commitment already has made him a better player because he holds himself to a higher standard. He keeps getting better, which is not only a benefit to us, but will be one for the future and his career at Mercyhurst,” said Jr. Blues head coach Tony Zasowski.
“I think one thing that helped us in November is that we found an identity using our speed and our grit. Once we knew we could play with the top teams in the league, that gave us some confidence and we kind of rolled with it from there. I feel as a player that is committed to the NCAA already I have more responsibility on me now. You have to go out each and be the hardest worker on and off the ice and be a good example for your teammates. I like being in the leadership role and it is something that has made me a better person and player,” said Lancaster.
Runner-Up: Chris Jones, Wenatchee Wild
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Alex Archibald, Keystone Ice Miners – Tobias Bjorklund, Minnesota Wilderness – Daniel Brickley, Topeka RoadRunners – Ben Campbell, Kenai River Brown Bears – Anthony Cortese, Corpus Christi IceRays – Kasper Emanuelsson, Amarillo Bulls – Tony German, Bismarck Bobcats – Jon Lizotte, Minot Minotauros – Dakoda Menslage, Johnstown Tomahawks – Ian Scheid, Austin Bruins – John Teets, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Jake Townsend, Wichita Falls Wildcats – Dan Weaver, Soo Eagles – Zach Yoder, Janesville Jets
Back when Coulee Region goaltender Adam Carlson won NAHL Goaltender of the Month honors in September of 2013, he was an unknown rookie and a surprise. This time around, the 20-year-old from Edina, Minnesota, is a veteran who has developed into one of the NAHL’s elite. Carlson (6’3/180) started and played in all nine Chill games during the month, amassing a 6-1-2 record. Carlson faced a total of 313 shots during the month and made 296 saves. That equated to a 94.6% save percentage and a 1.84 goals against average. Carlson was named the Midwest Star of the Week during the final week in November as he allowed just one goal in each game of a two-game home-and-home sweep of the Minnesota Magicians. Carlson is tied for 2nd in the NAHL with 11 wins and he leads the league in both games and minutes played. His 93.5% save percentage ranks 3rd and his 2.19 goals against ranks tied for 6th. “Adam’s story is what the NAHL is all about. He came to our team as an under the radar guy. He wasn’t the star on his high school team and he had to work is way up. He worked his way into the final spot of our camp back in 2013 and the rest is history. It is a story about a guy who was given a chance and ran with it. He has earned the right to start almost every game for us. It is tough not to start him with the way he is playing and the confidence that he has. He is a super athletic kid and a self-motivator. The biggest compliment I can give him is that he is a competitor. He plays hard in all situations… practices and games. His level of motivation and competition never strays,” said Chill head coach AJ Degenhardt.
“I think when I was honored with this same award back in September of 2013, I felt it was more of a burst onto the scene surprise. I feel a lot more mature now. I know ahead of time I am going to be playing, so a lot has to go into that. I have to be mentally and physically ready all the time. I know it sounds cliché, but I really hate getting scored on. I think my love for the sport and the position has grown in my time in the NAHL with the Chill. I know there are a lot of eyes on me right now and I want to set myself apart from the competition by the way I compete. I never want to give up on a play or a puck. I don’t want my emotions to get too high or too low,” said Carlson.
Runner-Up: Patrick Munson, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Ryan Bednard, Johnstown Tomahawks – Alex Bitsakis, Bismarck Bobcats – Alex Blankenburg, Keystone Ice Miners – Matt Jurusik, Janesville Jets – Brock Kautz, Minnesota Wilderness – Sean Keating, Soo Eagles – Ryan Kubic, Brookings Blizzard – Dryden McKay, Springfield Jr. Blues – Luke Pickar, Corpus Christi IceRays – Zach Quinn, Wenatchee Wild – Matej Tomek, Topeka RoadRunners – Atte Tolvanen, Minot Minotauros – Jacob Weatherly, Amarillo Bulls – David Zevnik, Wichita Falls Wildcats
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.