Posted by: Feldman
Whoa, it's been awhile since I've checked in, eh? Lots has happened in the last three weeks. I've been absent from the blogosphere after having eye surgery, a cornea transplant, in my right eye. I picked a good time for it, though. I spent two weeks recovering on the couch at home, watching the Frozen Four, the Final Four and the last few games of the NHL regular season.
Despite the rumors, I was not out of work, curled up in the fetal position after the Gophers knocked UND out of the college hockey tournament. I really did have eye surgery and it's nice to be able to watch the NHL playoffs and actually be able to follow the puck. On the downside, I can now see exactly what all of my co-workers in the Sports department look like. Makes me want my old eye back.
I'm ready to get caught up on everything going on in the hockey world, locally and nationally. So, here we go...
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ROCHESTER NATIVES ARE CHAMPIONS
A pair of former Rochester hockey players recently brought home championships at high levels of play.
• Tyler Vesel, younger brother of former Rochester Lourdes all-state defenseman Rory Vesel, helped Faribault Shattuck St. Mary's win the USA Hockey Tier I National Championship earlier this month in Buffalo.
Vesel, a junior center, was a key member of the Sabres top team this season. The 5-foot-11, 163-pounder was third on the team in scoring (74 points); third in goals (29) and second in assists (45).
I talked with him tonight and will have a story coming up soon in the P-B print edition. I'll link to it on the blog here when it runs.
Vesel said he was on the ice for the final shift of the national championship game — a 2-1 Shattuck victory against the L.A. Jr. Kings. He won a faceoff with less than 10 seconds to go and Shattuck cleared the zone, but L.A. pushed it back in and got a shot on goal with about 4 seconds left ("that made me a little nervous," Vesel said). But, the Sabres goalie made the save and Vesel ended up at the bottom of the hogpile.
I'll have more on Tyler in our print editiion this week, including the three colleges he's already made recruting visits to — all of which are WCHA schools. He has also been drafted by Omaha of the USHL, but, for certain, he'll play his final season of high school hockey at Shattuck. He said he hopes to make a college decision by November or December, though he'll take his time to make the best decision for him.
• Former Rochester Century standout Connor Faupel is still playing Junior A hockey north of the border. Faupel helped the Portage (Manitoba) Terriers win the Manitoba Junior Hockey League championship a couple of weeks ago.
They open play in the ANAVET Cup on Friday against Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion Humboldt Broncos. The winner of the ANAVET cup (named to honor Canada's military veterans — Army, Navy, Air Force VETerans) normally moves on to play in the Royal Bank Cup, Canada's Junior A national championship. This year, though, Humboldt will play host to the RBC, so it earns an automatic berth. That means Portage is also automatically in the RBC, so Faupel's season will continue well into May.
Faupel, an aggressive and strong 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenseman (or is it defenceman?) has 17 points (7-10—17) in 50 games this season. He started the year with the Neepawa Natives. He had nine points in 16 games for Neepawa before being traded to Portage.
I put in a call to Faupel tonight and hope to talk with him before the ANAVET cup commences on Friday.
The games can be heard online at CFRYRadio.ca. Portage plays the first two games on the road, Friday and Saturday at Humboldt. Games 3,4 and 5 (if needed) will be at Portage (April 24, 25 and 26), while Games 6 and 7 (if needed) are back at Humboldt, April 28 and 29.
I'll have more on the blog and in print when I talk with Faupel.
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AN ELITE FEELING
• Three Rochester players have learned that they will play in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League (Elite I League) this fall. Rochester Lourdes seniors-to-be Alex Funk, Jason Samuelson and Karl Krecke have all received their letters of invitation to the league, Eagles coach Josh Spaniol told me.
Funk and Samuelson are forwards, while Krecke is a defenseman. Funk and Samuelson tied for the team lead in scoring, both with 70 points (Funk 36-34—70; Samuelson 32-38—70), while Krecke, the team's most-veteran defenseman, finished with 25 points (11-14—25).
I believe they will be the first three players from Rochester to participate in the Elite League since Mayo's Charlie Thauwald did so in his junior season. I'm interested to see how all three fare up there this fall, particularly Funk, who I thought was playing at a different level than any other player in Section 1A at the end of this past season.
HIGH PERFORMANCE LEAGUE
• A handful of Rochester high school players have recently competed well in the Ted Brill Great 8 Festival, as well as the High Performance 16s, 17s and 18s.
The Section 1A/1AA team went 2-1-0 at the Great 8 Festival (March 30-April 1), which consists of eight teams — one from each section in the state — and includes the top seniors from those sections who have not yet committed to a college program. The Section 1 team got crunched by Section 5 in its first game of the tournament, 12-4, but bounced back with a 6-5 win against Section 6, and a 1-0 victory against Section 8.
Section 1 was coached by Northfield's Bryce Barry and managed by former Red Wing head coach George Nemanich. Six Rochester players were on the roster — Kyle Andrews and Matt Broman of John Marshall, Steve Serratore and Jack Dingle of Mayo, and Landon Farrell and Justin Dewitz of Lourdes. Farrell had two goals and an assist, and Dewitz had a goal and two assists. Lakeville North's Evan Peterson led the team with 5 points (1-4—5).
A handful of Rochester players also competed in the High Performance 18s the last weekend in March. The HP 18s league features four teams, combining two sections to make each team. Section 1A/1AA players were teams with players from Sections 3A/3AA. Lourdes' Krecke and JM's Alex Lovett were Rochester's two representatives on the Section 1/3 HP18s team.
The HP 16s and 17s form teams the same way as the Great 8 does, with the top Class A and AA players from each of the eight sections combining to form one team from each section. Their tournaments were held this past Friday through Sunday.
The Section 1 17s went 0-3, losing a pair of one-goal games. Lourdes' Samuelson, Mayo forward Adam Alcott and JM goalie Jimmy Casazza were all on the Section 1A/1AA team. Samuelson had two assists, Alcott had a goal and Casazza played a game-and-a-half, allowing seven goals on 29 shots.
The Section 1 16s went 1-2, beating Section 8, 8-0, then falling to Section 5, 4-3, and Section 4, 7-1. Among the Rochester players on the Section 1 team were future Mayo goalie Aaron VanGalder (0-1-0, 72 minutes played, 36 saves on 41 shots); Lourdes defenseman Griff Slightam (0 pts. in three games);
The top 54 players from the 16s and top 54 from the 17s were then picked to play in a showcase this coming weekend. They'll be divided into three teams and each team will play three games at the Plymouth Ice Center.
Slightam is on the HP16s Red Team, which plays at 8:15 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, and again at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Samuelson is on the HP17s White Team, which plays at 1:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Saturday, and again at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
• The Minnesota National Invitational Tournament will also take place this week, with games beginning Thursday at the Plymouth Ice Center. That tournament features six teams — two from Minnesota and one each from Massachusetts, Michigan, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Team Wisconsin includes forward Brady Burzynski of Eau Claire Memorial, which was the runner-up in the Class AA bracket of the Kiwanis Festival in Rochester at Christmastime.