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28 posts categorized "Austin"

April 20, 2014

Junior Hockey | Bismarck turns tables on Austin in Game 2

Posted by: Feldman

The Austin Bruins have played 14 periods in their past three games. They're a tired bunch.

They're also ticked off, angry, annoyed, whatever word you choose.

At least that's the sense I got after their 2-1 overtime loss to rival Bismarck in Game 2 of the NAHL Central Division finals on Saturday at Riverside Arena.

Reading between the lines a bit when talking with coach Chris Tok after the game, and watching the players' body language, it didn't seem to me like heads were hanging. Though they may be a bit fatigued from so much extra hockey, it felt to me Saturday like they'd have stepped right back on the ice and played Game 3 if they could've.

The series is tied 1-1 and down to a best 2 out of 3 now, with Games 4 and 5 set for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Bismarck. 

GAME 2 COVERAGE

Post-Bulletin

Bismarck Tribune

KAAL-TV

Austin knows it has to win at least one game up in Bismarck in order to play another game in its home barn this season. Maybe I misread it, but it sure felt to me like the players and coaches were more ticked off than hurt/sad after controlling most of Saturday's game before losing 2-1 on Stanislav Dzakhov's goal 7:11 into OT.

Austin had just killed a 5-minute major that Alex Pettersson was called for after cross-checking a Bobcats player into the boards right near the penalty boxes. Pettersson was ejected and will be suspended for Game 3, which further thins out the Bruins' group of forwards, especially if Guillaume Leclerc is unable to return this week from a family emergency in France.

The Bruins actually had more/better chances while killing the major than Bismarck did. In fact, at one point, Austin maintained possession in the Bobcats zone for close to 40 seconds while skating 4 on 5. If the Bruins can bottle that type of energy and effort for 60 minutes, they'll be in good shape.

They went up 1-0 on Jay Dickman's 30th goal of the season, less than 5 minutes into the game. And though the Bruins continued to play well for long stretches, they were unable to get another one past Cats goalie Aaron Nelson.

Nelson, an MSU Mankato recruit, was on his game Saturday, a night after playing poorly and allowing five goals in a Game 1 loss. He's the X-factor in this series. It doesn't seem to matter how well the Bruins play if Nelson is on his game. He's tough to beat when he's at his best. The same can be said for Bruins goalie Nick Lehr. I don't think we've seen his best game yet in the postseason, but I won't be surprised if we see it next weekend.

By the way, Nelson played in front of his future college coach on Saturday. MSU Mankato coach Mike Hastings was in the house to watch two of his recruits go head to head; Nelson for the Bobcats and forward Casey Jerry for the Bruins. (Former Bruins goalie Jason Pawloski is also a MSU recruit)

Back to Saturday's game.

The Bruins were sharp defensively and for a while it felt like their 1-0 lead might hold up. But as the third period wore on, it started to feel like the Cats would make a late charge. They tied the score 1-1 halfway through the third period on a power play goal by Huba Sekesi, then killed a late third-period penalty to force OT.

After Dzakhov's winning goal, Bismarck clearly realized how important this victory was. It didn't want to go home down 2-0 to a Bruins team that, quite frankly, had outplayed it for close to 59 minutes on Friday and for a majority of the 67 minutes on Saturday.

The Cats came flying off the bench to celebrate with Dzakhov, who has a knack for scoring in big games. It felt more like a series-winning celebration than a game-winning celebration. Part of it, I think, was Bismarck's knowledge that every game it plays against Austin is a hard-nosed, physically demanding game. It would've been physically and emotionally deflating to the Cats to battle for more than 60 minutes two nights in a row and have nothing to show for it. 

Instead, the Bobcats left Austin having stolen home-ice advantage, just as they did a year ago in the division finals.

This is a different Austin team, though. It's not as individually talented as last year's Bruins team (that team was loaded with D-1 bound scorers like Brandon Wahlin, AJ Reid, CJ Smith and John Simonson) but that's OK. It's not a bad thing at all. This team knows it can't score at will, it has to be responsible in its own end first. It's built a lot like Bismarck -- it's gritty, it's blue-collar, players aren't afraid to put their bodies on the line. The Bruins play a lot of close games, so they don't get rattled in tight spots. All six of their postseason games have been decided by two goals or less, three of them in OT. They've played 66 games this season; 41 of them have been decided by two goals or less.

It'll be a difficult task for Austin to go to Bismarck and sweep two from the Bobcats. It's not impossible, though; Austin did it three weeks ago, when it had to win twice to clinch the regular season division title.

The stakes are higher this time and we'll find out exactly what both teams are made of in five days.

My gut feeling is the Bruins haven't played their last home game of the season, and they'll return to Riverside a week from tomorrow, Monday, April 28, for a Game 5 against Bismarck.

 

April 19, 2014

Junior Hockey | Bruins rally to win Game 1

Posted by: Feldman

It looks like the Bismarck Bobcats and Austin Bruins got the memo from the NHL: Make sure Game 1 of your playoff series is entertaining and goes to overtime.

Austin's 5-4 OT victory on Friday in Game 1 of the North American Hockey League Central Division Finals series wasn't always entertaining for the coaches, but it was for the fans. 

Two of the top 4-5 goalies in the league, two teams that played good defense in their last three playoff games and two teams that are generally responsible in their defensive zone first. Naturally, they're going to combine for seven first-period goals.

Austin was not good for the first six minutes of the game and it fell behind 3-0. It was similar to Game 1 of the Minot series, except the Bruins were at least scoring in that game. It's as poor a stretch as I've seen this team have. Luckily, head coach Chris Tok called his timeout 5:50 into the game and that was the kick in the rear end the Bs needed. They scored twice in the next 2:20 to pull within 3-2 and make it a different game. 

It was 4-3 Bismarck by the end of the first, and it stayed that way until Niko Hildenbrand tied the score :39 into the third period.

That set the stage for Sam Kauppila -- in his first game back after a three-week injury absence -- to score the game winner on a backhand shot in OT. (For the record, Tok said they had someone ready to run to the grocery store for bananas and oranges for the players, had the game gone to a second OT. They did that last week in a 3-OT win at Minot).

Game 2 is at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Riverside Arena. 

Game 1 coverage:

Post-Bulletin

Bismarck Tribune

KXMB-TV (Bismarck)

KAAL-TV

Game notes and quotes:

* Austin's second-leading scorer, F Guillaume Leclerc, did not play because of a family emergency. He flew back to his home in Franois, France, on Friday. No timetable is known for his return. Thoughts and prayers out to him and his family.

* Bismarck's leading scorer, D Nate Repensky, also didn't play. He's out for the season with a broken leg. 

* Bruins F Jay Dickman was the only player on either team with more than one point. He had two assists.

* Bruins forwards Kauppila and Brian Bachnak tied for a game-high with six shots on goal.

* Austin controlled overtime, outshooting Bismarck 7-1. The Bobcats buzzed on their first two shifts, but Lehr squared up to Stanislav Dzakhov and made a routine save on a hard wrist shot on the first shift of OT, the only shot of the period for the Cats.

* No one in Bismarck's lineup had more than three shots on goal.

* The Bobcats players and coaches were visibly upset and frustrated that Dzakhov wasn't awarded a penalty shot in the second period when he was hauled down on a breakaway. Instead, Bruins defenseman Lucas Kohls was given a two-minute minor for tripping and the Bruins killed the power play. Austin goalie Nick Lehr also made a nice pad save on another breakaway by Dzakhov in the second.

* Kauppila hit a pipe on an odd-man rush just seconds before scoring the winner. The goal judge actually flipped the red light on briefly and the crowd at Riverside Arena reacted to that, thinking a goal had been scored.

QUOTES, QUOTES, QUOTES...

Bruins F Trey Dodd:

* On the OT game-winning goal: "Just needed a shot on net, that's all it took. Have to have bodies in front. I couldn't see the play happen."

* On facing an early 3-0 deficit: "That slow start definitely hurt us. The timeout coach called got our heads back into the game. We needed it, for sure. We came out, got two goals right away and got right back into the game."

* What does rallying mean to both teams: "It's going to give us the momentum going into Game 2. Have to follow it up and not let them do it tomorrow."

* What his line (with Easton Viitala & Alex Pettersson) does well: "We try to get bodies to the net. That's part of our job, to make sure the other team doesn't have time with the puck ... get into corners, get the puck out, get shots on net."

* On Nick Lehr's play after the Bobcats' 3-0 start: "He took an earful, but he got himself back into it. That's what makes him the goalie he is and that's why he is where he is today."

* On possibly going up 2-0: "It'd be huge. I wouldn't say we'd relax at all, but it'd give us the feeling that we can do anything."

* Thoughts on tomorrow's game: "The biggest thing to our game tonight was having fun. We have to carry that over to tomorrow, have fun and not be satisfied (with this win)."

Bruins F Sam Kauppila:

* Thoughts on being back in a game after a three-week injury layoff: "A little tired, but fought through it. Boys were supportive. It's tough to watch the team play and not be out there, but I'm glad we could get it done tonight."

* Could you see where you were shooting on the game-winning goal?: "It was just kind of a reaction, just kind of a blind shot."

* What was it like when down 3-0: "We kept it positive. We knew we could battle back and we did."

* Did you send a message to Bismarck that you guys won't go away?: "The first game is huge, it sets the tempo for the whole series and we felt like we did that tonight."

* On possibly going up 2-0: "That would be huge. That's our goal. Rest up tonight, be ready tomorrow."

Bruins head coach Chris Tok:

* What did you say when you took timeout 5:50 into the game: "That this is a series, it's not a game. We have to play right now. We talk about it all the time; what's important right now? We can't change the first five minutes of that period, so let's start playing hockey and see what happens. Fortunately we got a goal right after it, but basically we just started skating."

* The job G Nick Lehr did after getting down 3-0: "I'd say I had the trigger ready to pull here because of the way the last series started (an 8-6 loss to Minot in Game 1 of the division semis). We took a different approach to him one-on-one and this time he snapped out of it.
"That's what he has to be able to do. Against Minot he wasn't able to do it, tonight he did it in a big way. He made some big saves, but more than that, he didn't give up rebounds. Any time they got some pressure, he kept the puck. That's big for us. It stops their momentum, allows us to change. That was just as big as the saves he made."

* How nice was it to have Kauppila back in: "It's great to have his energy back. I don't think he played the greatest game for what he's capable of doing, but he did have fresh legs and a lot of energy. He had a smile on his face all night. Even when things weren't going well tonight, he still had energy.
"He was the one guy I could see on his face, he kind of had this wry smile the entire game."

* How big is it to win Game 1 in a series vs a rival: "It's really crucial. They were playing a short bench. They weren't rolling all their guys. They got that 3-0 lead and had a lot of positive vibes going. You could see it in how they were skating and carrying themselves. For us to take this one, basically steal it away from them, it's really gonna hit them.
"We have to come out tomorrow night right out of the gate and play well. They're not going to quit. Bismarck never quits, but this definitely was a good body blow and makes them breathe a little harder."

AROUND THE NAHL

* South division runner-up Topeka edged division champ Amarillo 3-2 in Game 1 of their division finals series. 

* In Game 1 of the North Division finals, Port Huron and Michigan made a run at breaking the 6-day-old record for longest game played in NAHL history. Austin and Minot went 116 minutes, 57 seconds last Saturday. On Friday, Michigan's Colin Larkin scored 5:37 into the third OT for a 1-0 victory and a 1-0 series lead.

* In Game 1 of the Midwest Division Finals, Wenatchee (Wash.) shut out Fairbanks 4-0. Wenatchee had won 29 games all season, while Fairbanks led the NAHL with 91 points. Wenatchee held the Ice Dogs scoreless on seven power-play attempts.

* With the new setup of the Robertson Cup playoffs, Bruins fans should be rooting for Wenatchee. If Austin and Wenatchee both win their division finals, the Bruins would get a best-of-3 home series in the national semis. If all the high seeds win their division finals series, Austin would go to Amarillo for a best-of-3 national semifinal series.

April 05, 2014

Junior Hockey | Wild playoff opener for Austin, Minot

Posted by: Feldman

First off, there's no need to panic if you an Austin Bruins fan. 

Yes, the Bs are down 1-0 in a best-of-5 NAHL Central Division semifinal playoff series against Minot after an 8-6 loss at Riverside Arena on Friday. 

Here's the game story that is in Saturday's Post-Bulletin.

Yes, it was less-than-pretty hockey.

But, remember, this Bruins team won 40 games in the regular season and a second consecutive division title. Teams don't do that if they're not mentally tough. This Bruins team is mentally tough, though we certainly saw that toughness tested tonight by a number of Tauros players who were doing their best to get under the Bruins' skin. 

This game was such an aberration for both teams for a number of reasons:

* Minot had scored more than four goals in a game just once during the 60-game regular season. It scored four in the first 16:07 on Friday.

* Austin won all four regular-season meetings this season at home against Minot. The Tauros hadn't won a game at Riverside since April 13, 2013, which was Game 2 of a Central Division semifinal series.

* Austin goalie Nick Lehr wasn't sharp. He let in at least two that he'd like to have back, I'm sure, but he also received very little help in front of him. On at least three Minot goals, the goal-scorer was allowed to walk into close range without being touched or covered. In other words, seven of Minot's eight goals (not counting the empty-netter at the end) were full-team breakdowns on Austin's part. 

* Lehr gave up four goals in the first period. He gave up four goals just four times in 49 regular-season appearances. He had never given up more than five in a game during his three seasons with the Bruins. Minot scored five in the first 26 minutes.

* Minot was 3-for-5 on the power play. That was completely out of character for a Bruins penalty kill that was outstanding in the regular season, ranking No. 2 in the league with a 90.5 percent kill rate. "Both of their first two power plays, we had an opportunity to cut cycles off and clear pucks and we didn't do it," Tok said. "They got second opportunities that ended up in the back of the net. So, losing battles because we were stick-checking. It gave them more opportunities to score and they capitalized."

That probably sounds like I'm hanging the loss on Lehr, which is not the case. That's not fair to him, considering it wasn't a good game in any facet for the Bruins. Even when they went up 3-1, coach Chris Tok wasn't happy with how they were playing. 

Tok said he felt like the Bruins were playing a preseason game.

To me, it felt like a good team that was coming off four emotionally and physically draining games against its biggest rival. Austin never got in a rhtyhm. It led 3-1, then gave up three goals in less than six minutes to fall behind 4-3 with 3:53 to go in the first. Austin tied the score three times, but never took the lead back.

It felt somewhat like the WCHA Final Five championship game a couple years ago, when a very good Minnesota team led North Dakota 3-0, then gave up six unanswered goals -- five in the third period -- to lose 6-3. That night, everything North Dakota threw at the net was going in. That's how things felt Friday night at Riverside. Everything Minot threw at the net was going in.

In 2012, Minnesota came back the following week and took it to North Dakota, 5-1, in the West Regional championship game to earn a berth in the Frozen Four. I have a feeling that's how this Austin team will respond, by going out and playing the way it has the past two weeks. We'll see, I guess, what this team is made of.

"We were playing pretty badly to be up 3-1," Tok said. "Then, what happened, we're playing bad, get up 3-1, then we were worse and we saw what happened after that."

Tok said the Bruins had a good week of practice, but he was a bit concerned that after taking three of four from Bismarck over the previous two weeks, to win the division by a point, Austin might not be sharp.

"My biggest fear that I had coming in was that it was going to be a letdown because of the drive that we had to win the title and how intense those four games were against Bismarck," Tok said. "I was worried that guys were battered and bruised, so guys would go out and protect themselves, and looking at all the stick checks, that's what we did. I don't if there's anybody in our room that needs an ice back after tonight's game. Last week, every guy on the team was using ice bags because of blocking shots and running into guys and sticking their nose in there and competing. Tonight I didn't see too many guys use ice bags and I don't think we needed many."

Yes, the Bruins lost, but they scored six goals and put 39 shots on net.

My guess is we see a lineup change or two for tonight's Game 2, but I'd bet my next paycheck that Lehr -- unless he slips in the parking lot and breaks his leg or something -- will start in goal. He's going to want to backstop this team to three wins in the next four games and he has certainly earned that right. 

Don't be shocked if No. 31 -- and the defensive corps in front of him -- has a big game in Game 2. 

AROUND THE NAHL

* In the other NAHL Central Divison semifinal series, Bismarck went on the road and beat Aberdeen 4-2, thanks to a hat trick from Evan Giesler and 29 saves from Aaron Nelson. The Bobcats' victory means both lower-seeded teams in the division went on the road and won their playoff openers. That's something that Tok has said all season -- anyone in this division can beat anyone on a given night. 

* No. 3-seeded Wenatchee (Wash.) beat the No. 2 seed Minnesota Wilderness 3-0 in Game 1 of a Midwest Division semifinal series. Wenatchee was the only other lower-seeded team in the NAHL to win on Friday. 

* Port Huron, the regular season North Division champ, already has a 2-0 lead in its best-of-5 division semifinal series against Johnstown. Port Huron has won a pair of one-goal games -- including a 4-3 victory in OT on Friday -- to take control of that series.

* No. 2 Michigan beat No. 3 Janesville 4-2 in Game 1 of the other North Division semifinal series.

* In the South Division semifinals, top-seeded Amarillo beat Wichita Falls 4-2 and No. 2 Topeka beat No. 3 Rio Grande Valley 3-1 in the first games of their best-of-5 series.

 

April 03, 2014

Junior Hockey | Bruins primed for postseason push; Folin receives praise

Posted by: Feldman

Here's a lesson for young hockey players — young athletes in any sport — everywhere: Listen to your coaches. They usually know what they're talking about.

Back in September, Austin Bruins head coach Chris Tok and assistant Jamie Huffman insisted to me that the 2013-14 Bruins would be a good team, even though they turned over more than half of their roster from last season's division title team. They weren't going to blow anyone out, they weren't going to be able to flip a switch and blow away an opponent like last year's team could. But, the coaches said, there is talent here. It won't be easy, but they'll be a good team by the end of the season.

I wasn't sure. Not because I didn't believe the Bruins could do it; I figured, with the teams that Bismarck and Aberdeen had constructed, and the fact that all five teams in the Central seem to play one another tough, it would be difficult for Austin to earn enough points in the first half of the season (while players were still learning roles and what is expected of them) to be in position for another division title in March.

Guess what? It's the end of the regular season. It wasn't easy. The Bruins have talent. They've become a very good team. And they're the NAHL Central Division champions for a second consecutive season.

Austin is also playing as well as it has all season. I talked to two coaches and four players earlier this week before a practice and you could sense something different in them after sweeping two games at Bismarck last weekend.

Bismarck has been a pain in the backside for this Bruins team over the past couple years. It hasn't seemed to matter how well either team is playing or where they're playing, the Bobcats flat-out give the Bruins fits.

But something clicked last weekend — the Bruins coaches urged the players to go out and take the division title, don't count on Aberdeen losing at Wenatchee and handing the Bs the title (Aberdeen swept at Wenatchee, so, yes, the Bruins certainly earned it).

Tok referred to some of the great battles Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders had in the 1980s. The Islanders swept the Oilers in 1983 to win their fourth consecutive Cup. The following year, the Oilers had learned their lesson. They turned things around and took it to the Islanders, winning the Cup in five games.

No one is predicting the Bruins will take it to the Bobcats if the teams meet in the playoffs this year — Austin isn't looking past a pesky Minot team in the first round, while Bismarck is the No. 3 seed and will have its hands more than full against No. 2 Aberdeen — but the message is clear from the coaching staff: This Bruins team needs to not worry about anything other than itself. It needs to play its game, pay the price physically and take the postseason division championship.

I casually asked a couple of veteran players, off the record, about their plans for next season. They weren't having any of that question. It's all about now, about beating Minot and advancing in the postseason.

"The Islanders beat the Oilers the first time they met," Tok said. "The next time, after the ('84 finals), Gretzky looked around the Oilers locker room and every guy had two or three ice bags on. They took it. They earned it. You could take a picture of that locker room and see the guys, they'd earned it, just by the dedication and the pain that they've suffered to win.
"Our guys understand that. We told them after the game last Saturday, there are no more rookies in here. You've been here, you've played a 60-game schedule. We all understand, the guy next to you, he's not a rookie. We're all guys who understand what it takes to win and that's what we're going to do."

LOTS OF CLOSE ONES

Here's a stat that says a lot about this Bruins team: It has played in 35 games — more than half of its 60-game schedule — decided by one or two goals. They are 23-11-1 in those games (and 40-19-1 overall).

In other words, the Bs don't get rattled if the game is tight late in the third period.

"We had a lot of those close games, we're used to it, we know what we need to do in those situations," second-year Bruins defenseman Jake Arroyo said. "We know, every period counts, every shift counts in the playoffs, so it's good that we know how to play in those close situations."

Tok has seen this team develop patience and poise as the season has gone on. And the Bruins have battled so many injuries, that you won't see anyone look around and wonder what the heck they're supposed to do if they're not on the ice with their usual linemates or defensive partner. Actually, with all the injuries this team has had, there's really no such thing as "usual linemates or defensive partners."

"Our guys, we don't panic," Tok said. "We believe in what we have to do on the ice. We talk about the process to get where we want to go. A great example was Friday night in Bismarck. We played a great first period, outshot them 15-5 and we're down 1-0. We walked in the (locker) room, talked about one adjustment — not really even an adjustment, just a reminder — sure enough, came out in the second, got more pucks on the net and took the lead.
"That's the way it is. It was like 'just stick to it here, let's get it done,' and they did."

HIGH PRAISE FOR FOLIN

The Bruins coaching staff, players (current and former) and fans were quite thrilled on Monday to see that former Bs defenseman and two-year UMass-Lowell standout Christian Folin had signed a two-year contract with the Minnesota Wild.

To show that Folin enjoyed his time in Austin, he told Wild.com that he always had an idea that he'd like to return to Minnesota to play.

• Here is a story I wrote for Tuesday's paper that includes reaction on Twitter from some of Folin's former Bruins teammates. (Notice that current Bruin Austin Nelson is among them; kinda crazy to think that Folin was a Bruin two years ago today, and today he skated in Chicago with the Wild).

• Here is NAHL.com's story on the Folin signing.

• Here is the Minnesota Wild's "Pondcast" interview with Folin.

I asked coach Tok what qualities pro teams saw in Folin that made them believe he can play at the NHL level. His answer boiled down to one thing: work ethic.

"He's a guy who was always out there trying to improve his game," Tok said. "He wasn't always playing a rebound game with the goalies or something. He was always working on his shot, working on picking up pucks in transition, always working to get better.
"It's the same with (current Bruin) Guillaume Leclerc (who, coincidentally is committed to UMass-Lowell). You watch after practice, he's always by himself working on his individual skills to make himself better.
"I go back to a kid that we coached (in the USHL) who's playing in the NHL, Joe Pavelski. It was the same thing every practice with him: 'coach, can we do this,' or 'coach, can we do this.' It was always 'coach, coach, coach...' when they're asking to do it, as a coach, it's like, yeah, no problem."

NEW FORMAT FOR ROBERTSON CUP

In recent seasons, NAHL teams that won their first two playoff series advanced to the Robertson Cup, the NAHL's equivalent of the Frozen Four.

The four postseason division winners would play three days of round-robin play, then the two teams with the best records would advance to the national championship game on the fourth day of the Cup finals.

This season, the round robin play has been eliminated, as has the neutral-ice setting.

The last four teams remaining in the NAHL playoffs will be re-seeded based on the league's regular season standings (so, if all four regular-season division champs advance to the Robertson Cup playoffs, Austin would be the No. 3 seed.)

The No. 4 seed will play at the No. 1 seed and the No. 3 seed will play at the No. 2 seed, both in best 2-out of-3 series, with all three games (if necessary) being played on the higher seed's home ice.

The same goes for the Robertson Cup finals. The team with the highest seed will play host to a best 2-out of-3 series for the national championship.

BRUINS-TAUROS, HEAD-TO-HEAD

Let's take a look at the Austin-Minot first-round matchup:

GOALIES
Minot
: Brandon Wildung (14-7-3, 2.44 GAA, .918 save pct.) and Merrick Madsen (10-16-0, 2.75, .904). Neither Wildung, a Mercyhurst commit, or Madsen, who is headed to Harvard, have played in an NAHL playoff game. That lack of playoff experience could be a factor. The Tauros also have one of the worst penalty kills in the league, ranking No. 19 at 81.8 percent.
Austin: Nick Lehr (35-13-1, 1.84, .932) is in his third season with the Bs and his third trip to the postseason. He was 4-2-0 with a 1.90 GAA and a .942 save pct. in last year's playoffs. The Minnesota recruit has been clutch in close games this year and never panics.
Advantage: Bruins.

FORWARDS
Minot: The Tauros beefed up their scoring ability greatly in early February when they traded for Michael Louria, a UMass-Lowell commit who finished 10th in the league in scoring with 52 points. But beyond Louria, no Tauros player averages even a half-point per game. In fact, their second leading scorer is defenseman Jon Lizotte and another blue-liner, Scott Dornbrock, is tied for third on the team. If the Tauros are going to have a chance, they'll have to keep the score low and get some production from their blue line.
Austin: The Bruins have the second-leading scorer in the NAHL on their team and, somehow, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Jay Dickman seems to go about his business quietly. The Bemidji State recruit isn't flashy, but he has a great, hard shot that has produced 28 goals (to go along with his 36 assists, for 64 points) this season. On the exact opposite end of the spectrum is Guillaume Leclerc, the Bs second-leading scorer (21-25—46 in 54 games), a 5-8, 165-pound waterbug from France. Opposing teams seem to be more preoccupied with knocking him down than stopping him from scoring. Leclerc gets up every time — and he has taken some clean, hard hits this season — and usually makes the opponent pay. Add in guys like Luke Dietsch, Drew Anderson and Niko Hildenbrand ... I could go down the line to every forward on the roster. They all know their roles and embrace them.
Advantage: Austin.

DEFENSEMEN
Minot: As mentioned, Lizotte and Dornbrock are solid contributors offensively, but the Tauros struggle mightily on the penalty kill. It'll be crucial for them to stay out of the box. The addition of Grand Rapids native Jordan Stejskal in a trade in late January gave the Tauros a bit more grit or "nasty" on the blue line; he has 86 penalty minutes this season, in addition to 11 points. The Tauros' blue-liners will have to find a way to chip in offensively while not doing too much on the offensive end.
Austin: This may be the position group that has improved the most as a whole since the start of the season. Veterans Josh Bretner, Jake Arroyo and Kody Reuter have anchored the group, while newcomers Cory Dunn and Charlie Manley have settled into their roles nicely. The addition of Lucas Kohls — at 6-3, 195 — has given the Bs some more size and physicality on the back-end, too. Kohls moved back to defense when Eli May moved up to a forward spot and it's a switch the coaching staff seems to love.
Advantage: Austin.

THE PREDICTION
Austin has earned the No. 1 seed and is playing some of its best hockey of the season. That said, Minot isn't an easy team to play against, especially up there. I think either Wildung or Madsen steals one from them, but they won't steal three. Bruins in 4.

March 27, 2014

Austin Bruins getting healthy at right time

Posted by: Feldman

The Austin Bruins have two games remaining in their regular season and eight days until the North American Hockey League playoffs begin.

Now is a good time for a team that has battled injuries all year to get healthy.

It's been weeks -- months, maybe -- since the Bs have had their full 23-man roster available on game day. I'm guessing coaches Chris Tok, Jamie Huffman and Keaton Wolf would probably share their meals with Bruiser the bear for a month if they could make three healthy scratches per night this weekend at Bismarck, where Austin will close its regular season (7:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday).

There have been times this season when the Bruins haven't been able to dress a full 20-player lineup. That shouldn't be the case this weekend, though the Bs will likely only have 21 of their 23 men avaialable. Tok said a couple of players sustained injuries last weekend against Bismarck during a split at Riverside Arena, and have tried to skate this week, but haven't been able to go full-speed.

Ideally, this would be the time of year where some Bruins players could sit out a game or two and be more rested for the start of the postseason. The Bruins wrapped up the regular season division title with a few weeks to go in the regular season last year and were able to do that with players such as A.J. Reid, Brandon Wahlin and Cody Dixon.

Austin doesn't have the luxury of resting guys this season, as it will likely battle with Aberdeen down to the final night for the division title. The Bruins have a one-point lead in the standings (77-76), so an Austin win on Friday, coupled with an Aberdeen loss at Wenatchee (Wash.) would give the Bruins the title.

Still, though, like I said before, the Bruins will likely only have 21 players available this weekend, and that's because they will get Sam Kauppila, Trey Dodd and Austin Nelson back from injuries.

Those three guys will be a big shot in the arm to Austin's offense.

Dodd has 17 points in 43 games, but has only played in four games since Valentine's Day.

Kauppila, who played for the NAHL U18 team at the Top Prospects Tournament, has 15 points in 41 games, but has been hasn't played since a 2-1 victory against Aberdeen on Feb. 21.

NELSON HAS PERSEVERED

As for Nelson, it's nice to see him back in the lineup and I know the Bruins' coaching staff is happy for him personally and happy for themselves that he's returning. Nelson has 15 points in 38 games this season, but he has sat out the last two weekends after he thought his Bruins career might be over.

Nelson, a third-year Bruin, missed 48 games last season after tearing the labrum in his right hip (Rochester hockey fans may remember this is the same injury that essentially ended Century grad Alex Kangas' college career with the Gophers).

During the Bruins' game at Minot on March 7, Nelson thought he had suffered the same injury to his other hip. He spent a long day-and-a-half thinking his time with the Bruins might be done. On Monday, March 9 -- his 21st birthday -- Nelson saw a doctor and, this time, received good news: He didn't suffer a torn labrum.

It was not only a relief for Nelson, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound forward from Hastings, but it was a relief for the Bruins coaching staff (and probably fans, too). Nelson will now get to end his junior hockey career on the ice, instead of in the stands.

"Austin has had some difficult times over the past couple of years, but he has really stuck with it," Tok said.

I was somewhat surprised to see that Nelson was back this season, not because I didn't think he could play at this level, but because it would be easy to understand why someone with his injury history would want to call it a career.

"I was a little surprised (at the start of the season) when he said he wanted to come back," Tok said. "I said 'great, we'd love to have you.' He's a great kid, on and off the ice."

Nelson has played in 103 games as a Bruin, with 20 goals and 21 assists.

FRONT-TO-BACK, BACK-TO-FRONT

With all of the injuries the Bruins have battled this season, the coaching staff has had to juggle forward lines and defensive pairs more than they would have liked. 

Sometimes those changes stick, sometimes they don't.

At least a couple of those changes have worked out quite well -- the move of Eli May from defense to forward, and the move of Lucas Kohls from forward to defense. May gives the Bruins another gritty forward who will get in the corners on the forecheck and win puck battles. He can also shift back to the point on the power play, as well as play on the penalty kill. Kohls has 33 points this season, but he gives Austin a big body on the blue line (he's 6-3, 195) who has a lot of offensive skill.

"Eli brings a lot to the table up front," Tok said. "He gets in there and creates turnovers. We had him in more of a defensive/checking-line role, but he created so many turnovers that we put him up with some other guys."

Tok said he anticipates May and Kohls staying in their current roles throughout the playoffs.

THIS WEEKEND

Austin (38-19-1, 77 pts.) at Bismarck (31-22-5, 67 pts.) -- Friday and Saturday, 7:15 p.m., VFW Sports Center, Bismarck

Bruins notes: Austin's power play has struggled all season. The Bruins are ranked No. 22 in the NAHL, converting at an 11.3 percent clip. ... The Bruins, however, have one of the top penalty-kills in the league. They are ranked No. 2 in the NAHL, killing 90.5 percent of their penalties. ... Austin has played 58 games this season and 17 have been decided by just one goal. The Bruins, though, have gone to OT just five times this year. They have two OT wins and are 2-1 in shootouts.

Bobcats notes: Bismarck is locked into the No. 3 spot in the Central Division playoffs and will face either Austin or Aberdeen in the opening round. ... The Bobcats are in the middle of the pack in the NAHL in both power-play (14.3 pct., No. 15 overall) and penalty kill (85.0 pct., No. 11 overall). ... Bismarck G Aaron Nelson, a MSU Mankato commit, has three shutouts this season, all against Austin (including a 1-0 blanking last Saturday in Austin). ... D Nate Repensky is the team's leading scorer with 49 points. He is committed to Yale.

Path to No. 1: There are many ways Austin could win its second consecutive division title. The simplest would be to beat Bismarck twice this weekend. NAHL teams get two points for a win, one for a tie. Four points are up for grabs this weekend for first-place Austin and second-place Aberdeen (which plays at Wenatchee at 9:05 p.m. CDT Friday and Saturday). The Bruins need to earn one more point than Aberdeen this weekend to win the division title outright.

February 05, 2014

Boys Hockey | Looking at potential Section 1A, 1AA matchups

Posted by: Feldman

There are still 10 days left in the boys hockey regular season, and a couple of key games remain that will impact the seeding process in both Section 1A and 1AA, but since I start thinking about this stuff the minute the Kiwanis Holiday Tournament finishes, I thought we'd try to map out some of the possible seeding scenarios.

I do this with one big asterisk: * I can't figure out how or why some Section 1 coaches vote certain ways each year (there always seems to be a vote or two cast for purely selfish or political reasons). And I haven't seen all of these teams play, so I'm going by records, stats, wins over quality opponents, etc.

Let's start with 1AA.

SECTION 1AA

I started digging into stats and numbers and trends for 1AA teams, but, let's face it, this section goes through the No. 1-ranked team in the state, Lakeville North. I honestly don't know when the last time a Section 1 (A or AA) team was ranked No. 1 in the state. 

This North team is the best team to come through the section since the 2006-07 Century team that placed third at the state tournament. If I had a time machine, it wouldn't be the first thing I'd do, but I'd certainly go back, load that whole 06-07 Century team into the machine and zap it into 2013-14 to watch it play against this year's North team. I could write a whole blog post just about that fantasy matchup, and maybe I will at some point during the playoffs...

The most intriguing battle for playoff positioning in 1AA lies among three Big Nine Conference teams: Century, Mayo and Owatonna. Those three teams are fighting for the 4-5-6 seeds. There's a chance that all three of Rochester's 1AA teams -- Mayo, Century, JM -- may have to go on the road for the first round of the playoffs. I don't ever recall that happening, but we'll get to those teams in a bit. Let's start at the top:

No. 1 seed: Lakeville North. It's clear North is the No. 1 seed. It's 18-3-1 and the top-ranked team in the state. It has played three games against section opponents, outscoring them by a combined 25-2. The Panthers battled injuries early in the year and started the season 2-3-0. They haven't lost since Dec. 7, going unbeaten (18-0-1) in their last 19 games. They hold wins against No. 3 Hill-Murray and two over No. 5-ranked Burnsville. They tied No. 6 Blaine, 3-3, on Dec. 27. They've won 11 consecutive games since that tie, outscoring those 11 opponents 58-13. Their depth is their strength; they have 12 players with 11 or more points.

No. 2 seed: Farmington. The Tigers schedule isn't as difficult as Lakeville South's, but it's really hard not to give the 18-3-1 Tigers the nod for the No. 2 seed ahead of a South team that is 7-14-0. Farmington hasn't lost since Dec. 17, going 13-0-1 since. It outscores its opponents by an average of more than 3 goals per game (5.32-2.14). 

No. 3 seed: Lakeville South. The Cougars (7-14-0) get the No. 3 seed because of their 6-3 victory over Rochester Mayo. South has lost twice to North this season. South has a couple of the top players in the section, sophomore F Nick Swaney (12-28--40) and senior F Patrick Lauderdale (15-25--40).

Nos. 4, 5, 6: Owatonna, Mayo, Century. These seeds may not be clear until the final day of the regular season, Feb. 15, when Mayo and Century play for a second time this season. For Century (11-10-0) to have a shot at the No. 4 seed, it will have to beat Mayo and it might have to win its other three remaining games (at JM, vs. Albert Lea, at Mankato West). Of the three teams battling for the No. 4 seed (which means home-ice advantage in the section quarterfinals) Mayo likely controls its destiny. If the Spartans beat Owatonna (Feb. 11) and Century (Feb. 15), they should be in line for the No. 4 seed. Owatonna's next three games are against opponents with a combined 48 losses, so the Huskies should be 13-8-2 by the time they face Mayo. So, if Owatonna wins that game, it'll be 2-0 this season against Mayo and 1-1 vs. Century. That will likely be enough to give it the No. 4 seed and send all three Rochester teams in 1AA on the road for the opening round of section play.

No. 7 seed: Rochester John Marshall. The Rockets (5-15-1) are playing better than they were a month ago, but they're still struggling to finish scoring chances. That said, if the seeds play out the way I have them here, a JM at Farmington quarterfinal game would be really intriguing to watch. JM lost its season opener at Farmington by just one goal, 4-3, on Nov. 21.

No. 8 seed: Dodge County. The Wildcats (9-9-3) will, unfortunately, have their work cut out for them again in the opening round. They'll have to face Lakeville North in the opening round of the postseason.


SECTION 1A

The top two seeds in 1A are obvious, but after that, arguments can be made among two or more teams for seeds 3-13. I'd love to be a fly on the wall during the seeding meeting. 

No. 1 seed: New Prague. The No. 6-ranked Trojans are 15-4-3 with three games remaining. Their losses are to Eagan, ranked No. 18 in Class AA; Farmington, an 18-win Class AA team; Hermantown, the No. 1-ranked team in Class A; and St. Cloud Cathedal, No. 10 in Class A. The Trojans get the nod for the top seed because of their 2-1 win at Mankato West on Jan. 4.

No. 2 seed: Mankato West. It's tough to think a team that sits 20-2-0 and is unbeaten in the Big Nine right now won't get the top seed, but, to me, West's head-to-head loss to New Prague trumps the differential in number of victories. That said, West and New Prague appear to be on a collision course that ends on Feb. 26 at the Rochester Recreation Center. 

No. 3 seed: Albert Lea. The Tigers (11-7-1) are playing very good hockey right now, having won five in a row and six of their past seven. Four of those six wins are against Class AA teams (Owatonna, Rochester Century, Rochester JM and Rochester Mayo), all by at least two goals. The other two victories came against section foes Faribault and Austin. A.L. also has one of the top goalies in the section, junior Garrett Matz (11-7-1, 2.49 goals-against average, .923 save percentage).

No. 4 seed: Rochester Lourdes. Yes, the Eagles are just 5-14-1, and, yes, you need more than one hand to count the number of key players they've lost to injuries this season. But Lourdes has played a tough schedule (as usual) and it's younger players/guys who are new to varsity continue to improve. Now, can Lourdes find enough scoring to keep up with the top three seeds? That's going to be difficult. If the Eagles are going to beat some of the top teams in the section, they'll have to win close, low-scoring games. That means they'll need junior goalie Jack Burkel to steal a win or two for them in the postseason. Lourdes could make an argument for the No. 3 seed if it beats Albert Lea on Thursday.

No. 5 seed: Northfield. Northfield (9-12-1) has four losses to section opponents, but those are all to the four teams listed ahead of it here. The Raiders have played better over the past two weeks, following a six-game losing skid by winning three out of four. That one loss in the last four games was  3-2 setback to Farmington, a Class AA team that is 18-3-1.

No. 6 seed: Faribault. I'll make an argument for the 7-10-2 Falcons here, even though there are teams in the section with more wins (LeSueur-Henderson/SP has 11, La Crescent 13, but we'll get to those teams soon). I'd give Faribault the 6 seed because it has five wins against section opponents and a tie against Northfield. The Falcons four section losses have all come against teams with double-digit victory totals (two losses to Mankato West, one to Albert Lea, one to L-H/SP). The Falcons also have defeated Albert Lea once this season, which is another checkmark in their favor to get this seed.

No. 7: La Crescent. The Lancers (13-5-4) get the nod here ahead of LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter because of their victory over L-H/SP. La Crescent plays most of its game against Wisconsin opponents, so it's tough to guage exactly where it falls in this section, but aside from beating L-H/SP, its section wins are against Mankato East, Waseca and Faribault, all teams with losing records. The Lancers also tied a 3-win Winona team.

No. 8: LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter/TCU/Cleveland. The Bulldogs (11-7-2) are 4-3-0 against section opponents, including a win against Faribault. They also suffered a loss to Austin,which has just three wins. The Bulldogs are playing well over the past two weeks, going 4-1-1 in their past six games, and they won't be an easy opponent for anyone in the section.

No. 9: Mankato East. The Cougars (7-15-0) have wins over three of the four teams seeded below them.

No. 10: Red Wing. The Wingers (3-19-0) have lost to Northfield, New Prague and Lourdes. They beat Winona in a regular season game and also scored a big win earlier this season against Academy of Holy Angels. 

No. 11: Austin. The Packers (3-16-1) are 1-1-1 against the other two teams remaining, Winona and Waseca. Austin has split with Winona and tied Waseca. Austin also holds a victory over L-H/SP.

No. 12: Winona. The Winhawks (3-15-2) holds wins over Austin and Mankato East, and a tie against La Crescent.

No. 13: Waseca. The Bluejays (4-13-1) are just 1-5-1 against section opponents this season.

We'll have a much better idea a week from now of where all these teams will land. So keep a close on games the rest of this week and next week because there are still a handful of games remaining that will have an impact on these seedings.

September 17, 2013

Junior Hockey | Austin Bruins ready to open '13-'14 season

Posted by: Feldman

As I write this, we're approximately 41 hours from the opening puck-drop of the 2013-14 Austin Bruins season. The Bruins face Port Huron at 5 p.m. Wednesday on the opening day of the four-day North American Hockey League Showcase.

Austin's four opponents in this week's Showcase are Port Huron (32-24-4 in 2012-13), Lone Star (formerly the Texas Tornadoes, 36-22-2 last season), Michigan (19-32-9) and Wichita Falls (26-30-4). Port Huron and Lone Star made the playoffs a year ago, Michigan and Wichita Falls did not.

But it's hard to put a lot of weight behind what those teams did a year ago. Rosters can change dramatically from year to year in junior hockey, and the Bruins are a perfect example.

Bs fans, you might want to print out a roster now and memorize it before the team's home opener on Oct. 5. For example, young 17-year-old forward Sam Kauppila could become a big-time scorer and star for the Bruins, but it'll take some time to get used to someone other than CJ Smith wearing No. 16. By all accounts 17-year-old Frenchman Guillaume Leclerc should provide a spark for the Bs offense (he's already committed to D-I RPI), but it will be odd not seeing "WAHLIN" above the No. 20 on the jersey.

In other words, the Bruins will have a lot of new faces on the ice this season, but we knew a year ago that this was coming. And, despite the roster turnover — just nine of the 23 players on the roster are back from last season — there's no reason the Bruins can't defend their Central Division championship.

They'll likely have to do it in a different fashion, though. They'll have to rely on two veterans between the pipes -- third-year Bruin Nick Lehr and 18-year-old Minnetonka native Justin Quale, who played with Tri-City of the USHL last season.

Back on defense are Jake Arroyo, Josh Bretner and Kody Reuter. Returning forwards include Jay Dickman, Rochester native Drew Anderson, Easton Viitala, Austin Nelson and Scott Nelson.

Here's a link to the preview story that is in today's (Tuesday's) Post-Bulletin. I give a quick breakdown of the team by position, along with some brief comments from head coach Chris Tok, who starts his fourth season as the only coach in Bruins' history.

Tok had lots of things to say about his newcomers, young players and veterans that didn't get into the print edition. Here are some of those comments:

His thoughts on the defensive corps as a whole: "They're definitely going to be counted on early; they're the more veteran group. They have to lead the way. We have four guys back there with some great experience. They have to lead the young guys and get them to come along. Four guys isn't enough to have success so we have to make sure we teach quickly and have guys on the same page. We'll rely a lot on our defense this year."

Six of the eight d-men on the roster are left-handed shots. Does that matter?: "No. We're just looking for the best kids, best players with the best character that we can work with, guys who can start at one point and work themselves to another point and be a lot better at the end of the year. Sometimes it just works out where you have more left-handed shots, sometimes more right-handed shots. But it doesn't matter. You have to be able to play the game. We're not in a position where we can be extremely picky on what hand a guy is."

With so much scoring to replace, do you expect that load to be distributed or placed on a just a few guys?: "We're not gonna put any added pressure on anybody to produce more goals or do anything that they're not capable of. As long as everybody is doing things right … when guys do things the right way, hopefully we can get all four of our lines to mix, to play good defense and be able to chip in offensively. We're not going to single any player out and say 'you have to be able to score more.' That's not fair to that player and it's not the right way to do things. We're going to make sure everybody is creating scoring opportunities and guys will find a way to put pucks in the back of the net."

What do you expect out of leading returning scorer Jay Dickman?: "We expect him to play the same game he played last year and hopefully he's gotten better. He's worked hard this summer to put himself in a position to have some D-I schools look at him. He put up a ton of points last season. There's no reason why he won't be able to do that again."

What are some of the things he needed to work on during the offseason?: "No. 1 is skating; all the D-I guys will get around the rink well. He's a big kid. He's 6-6 and, yeah he's a '93, but his body still has a lot of maturing to do. His body is ... he's a big guy, but his body's not the same. He weighs 220 pounds but he's not a strong, lean 220 that he's built up. He's 220 pounds because he's 6-6. So the strength, the agility, the coordination and all that stuff has to catch up to his height. That's what he worked on a lot, building some strength so that he can handle his body and he can do a few different things that make him a better player."

What do you hope to see out of your young forwards?: "We hope to see they have the ability to make themselves better, day in and day out. They'll have bumps and bruises along the way. They're going to play some good hockey, they're going to play some bad hockey. We have to make sure that their work ethic stays steady, when things are going bad they don't get too low and when things go well they don't get too high.
"Consistency is a big thing out of those young guys. They have a good skill level, they can get up and down the ice. As long as they play at a steady pace and do things the right way, good things will happen for them."

Will your top two goalies push each other and split time?: "They both have great credentials. They definitely should be pushing each other to get the No. 1 job and maybe get more starts. We'll probably keep (their playing time) fairly close at the beginning of the season unless one emerges. They're both quality quality goaltenders who have the ability to play some great hockey. How they play in games will be a big determining (factor) in who gets the nod."

Now all that's left to do is to drop the puck. I won't be in Blaine with the team during the Showcase, but I'll try to follow the games as closely as possible and provide updates on Twitter (@PBFeldy). You can also follow the Bruins on Facebook or on their official Twitter account (@theaustinbruins).

March 17, 2013

High School Hockey | 2012-13 All-Area Team

Here we go with the fourth annual Faceoff Blog All-Area Team. I'll lay out the selection process once again: We have seven teams in our coverage area (Century, JM, Lourdes, Mayo, Austin, Dodge County and Red Wing). We pick a Player of the Year, a First Team, Second Team and PUC (players under consideration -- our honorable mention). We don't try to make sure a player from every team is on one of the teams, we just put the guys who we feel have been the best players this season on the team.

The story on the Co-Players of the Year will be posted soon and will appear directly above this post in the blog.

So, that said, here we go with this year's All-Area Teams:

FIRST TEAM

F — Alex Funk, Sr., Lourdes (Co-Player of the Year; 46-36—82): The most complete forward in Rochester and arguably the most complete forward to come through Lourdes in the past five years, during its run of five straight state tournament appearances. Funk had eight hat tricks, 13 multi-point games. He had point streaks of 16 games and 11 games during his senior season. He'll play for sure in the NAHL next season, though he'll also get some looks at USHL camps this summer.

F — Jason Samuelson, Sr., Lourdes (Co-Player of the Year; 28-53—81): Samuelson, somewhat surprisingly, surpassed 50 assists this season. I say somewhat surprisingly because he has one of the heaviest and best shots in Section 1. He was one of the top scorers in the Upper Midwest Elite League last fall and carried over his strong play into the high school season. Samuelson will play baseball at the University of Iowa next season.

F — Nick Paulson, Sr., John Marshall (16-23—39): Paulson tied for fourth in scoring in the Big Nine Conference and led all of Rochester's Big Nine players in scoring. He did so on a team that missed three key players for nearly half of the season, making Paulson one of the only options for the Rockets offensively. He had at least one point in 21 of 25 regular-season games and had 12 multi-point games. Paulson had one hat trick, in a five-point game against Faribault on Jan. 15.

D — Will Holtan, Sr., Mayo (10-15—25): Holtan, who had seven multi-point games from the blue line for the Big Nine champs, was one of the best two-way defensemen in the conference. Holtan was a key to Mayo's power play, too, and he was skilled at getting shots from the blue line, through traffic to the net. He went scoreless in five of the first six games, but then put up 24 points in Mayo's final 21 games.

D — Karl Krecke, Sr., Lourdes (8-20—28): The four-year varsity regular and two-year captain was the leading scorer among all defensemen in Rochester this season. Krecke was a rare two-year captain for the Eagles and played in four state tournaments. He was at his best late in the season, too, when he posted nine points in six postseason games.

G — Case Hansen, Sr., Mayo (21-6-0, 2.06 goals-against average, .908 save pct.): Hansen played all but seven minutes in goal for the Big Nine Conference champion Spartans, leading them to a 21-win season. It's the first time Mayo reached 20 victories since the 1999-2000 season. Hansen recorded three shutouts and allowed just 56 goals in 27 games. He stopped 555 of 611 shots, an average of 20.5 saves per game.


SECOND TEAM

F — Ryan Martin, Sr., Mayo (19-18—37): Martin, an equally good scorer and passer, led the Big Nine champs in scoring.

F — Adam Alcott, Sr., Mayo (15-21—36): Alcott, playing on a line with Martin all season, had at least one point in 21 of Mayo's 27 games.

F — Dalton Travis, Sr., Century (10-10—20): Travis was the leading scorer for a Panthers team that relied upon its top line quite heavily for offense.

D — Griff Slightam, So., Lourdes (9-13—22): Slightam can not only produce on offense, he was the most physical defenseman on the ice in most of Lourdes' games.

D — Tommy Fjelsted, Jr., Mayo (9-18—27): Like Slightam, Fjelsted has a great mix of offensive ability and physical play.

G — Jacob Garvey, Sr., John Marshall (12-11-0, 2.72, .904): Garvey did what the Rockets needed him to do — he got increasingly better as the season progressed.


PUC (Players Under Consideration)
FORWARDS
Sam Broman, Jr., John Marshall (11-20—31)
Tanner Dufault, So., Dodge County (15-24—39)
Ethan Larson, Sr., Austin (15-20—35)
Alex Rezansoff, Sr., Red Wing (14-14—28)
Sam Robinson, Jr., Dodge County (19-12—31)
Marcus Stoulil, Sr., Austin (23-16—39)

DEFENSEMEN
Jared Bromberg, Jr., John Marshall (2-18—20)
Alec McGinn, Sr., John Marshall (3-13—16)
Riese Zmolek, So., D, Century (8-3—11)

GOALIES
Rainer Londino-Green, Sr., G, Austin (6-16-0, 3.63, .898)
Eric Rohleder, Sr., G, Century (7-19-0, 4.22, .881)

December 02, 2012

High School Hockey Rewind | Week 1

Posted by: Feldman

The first week-plus of the boys high school hockey season is in the books and it was a mixed bag for Rochester and area teams. Rochester teams Mayo and John Marshall went 1-1, Century went 0-2 and Lourdes went 0-1. As for the area teams, Dodge County is 1-3, Red Wing is 0-3.

That's a combined 3-11 among the six teams in our circulation area, but those records aren't all as bad as they may seem.

ROCHESTER CENTURY
Last week: 0-2-0. Lost to Farmington, 6-0; lost to Tartan, 4-0.
Season: 0-2-0 overall, 0-0-0 Big Nine Conference.
What happened: Yes, Century was outscored 10-0 in two games. Yes, Century was outshot 44-13 and 52-15 in those two losses. Reason to panic? Definitely not. The Panthers have 23 games left in the regular season. This is a team that will get better as the season goes on. They're running a lot of young guys and first-year varsity players out there and they've played two pretty good teams. The loss to Farmington was not nearly as lopsided as the score indicates. Farmington led just 1-0 entering the third, then scored five times in the third, including four times in the last 6:35 (the last three of those on a five-minute major penalty against Century). And one really bright spot: Senior goalie Eric Rohleder is playing well. He made 38 saves in the opener and 48 against Tartan. That's a good start for a guy who had seen minimal varsity experience coming into the season.

ROCHESTER JOHN MARSHALL
Last week: 1-1-0. Lost to Farmington, 4-3. Won at St. Paul Johnson, 6-2.
Season: 1-1-0 overall, 0-0-0 Big Nine Conference.
What happened: I really believe this JM team can challenge for a Big Nine title. Why? It has two quality scoring lines and four veterans on the blue line (two, as has been noted multiple times here and in print, are brand new to the position). The Farmington score was a bit of a surprise, and it could ultimately play a factor in the seedings for the Section 1AA tournament, but keep in mind that JM played its first two games without starting goalie Jacob Garvey. That said, Patric Sadecki played well in his first two varsity starts, making a total of 49 saves. His early-season playing experience will be a benefit as the season goes on. His nerves will be gone. He's played two full varsity games. ... JM doesn't play again until Saturday, when it opens Big Nine play at home against Mayo. The one thing I know coach Jay Ness wants to develop is some consistent scoring from the second line. The Rockets got a little of that against Johnson, but they'll need more than just Gavin Sandwick, Nick Paulson, Jared Bromberg and Sam Broman to score on a regular basis.

No. 8-ranked ROCHESTER LOURDES
Last week: 0-1-0. Lost at No. 1-ranked St. Thomas Academy, 8-1.
Season: 0-1-0 overall.
What happened: What happend is, a Lourdes team that had about six or seven guys with just a few days of practice under their belts, ran into the top-ranked team in the state, and the defending Class A state champ. The Eagles know they have to be patient this year and they'll have some ups and downs early in the season. A half-dozen or so guys just returned to practice last week after making a run to the state football championship game. Thinking back to 2010, when Lourdes won the state football title (and had a handful of players miss the first two-plus weeks of hockey practice), it took until mid-January before they really began clicking on all cylinders. We'll have a better idea of where this team is at right now after the upcoming week, when it goes to New Prague (Tuesday), and plays host to Chanhassen (Thursday) and No. 5-ranked St. Cloud Cathedral (Saturday).

ROCHESTER MAYO
Last week: 1-1-0. Lost to Lakeville North, 3-0. Won at Faribault, 4-2.
Season: 1-1-0 overall, 1-0-0 Big Nine Conference.
What happened: The Spartans are one of the favorites to win the Big Nine and a big reason why is senior goalie Case Hansen. He was sharp last week, stopping 30 shots against North and 18 against Faribault. Mayo managed just 14 shots against North, but I know at least one of the Spartans' top forwards was feeling ill that day, plus they had four or five sophomores playing in their first varsity game. Plus, North is always one of the top teams in Section 1AA and has generally put up six, seven or more goals against the Rochester teams (North beat Mayo 12-1 last season). Mayo's win at Faribault was a bit disjointed without a lot of five-on-five time. Still, the Spartans will want to make more of a statement in their next three games, all against teams expected to be in the top half of the Big Nine: Thursday at Mankato West, Saturday at John Marshall and Dec. 11 against Owatonna.

DODGE COUNTY
Last week: 1-3-0. Lost to Faribault, 3-2; lost at Minnehaha Academy, 5-2; lost to Waseca, 4-3 (OT); won at Austin, 9-7.
Season: 1-3-0 overall.
What happened: The Wildcats are 1-3-0, but could just as easily have two or three wins. They led Faribault entering the third period, but gave up the game-winning goal with just 1:33 to go after taking a penalty 21 seconds earlier. Against Waseca, Dodge County had a 3-2 lead late in the third, after a seemingly momentum-changing short-handed goal by Stefan Rechtzigel with 7:13 to go. Waseca tied it 59 seconds later, then won 50 seconds into OT. The 'Cats offense broke out on Saturday, with seven players scoring at least once. Their defense wasn't as sharp as it had been, though, allowing seven goals and 37 shots on goal. ... Dodge County plays host to Winona on Tuesday in a game that could have a big impact on the seedings for the Section 1AA playoffs.

RED WING
Last week: 0-3-0. Lost at Buffalo, 5-1; lost at Hudson (Wis.), 5-3; lost at South St. Paul, 3-1.
Season: 0-3-0 overall; 0-0-0 Missota Conference.
What happened: No need to panic, Wingers fans. Just think back to two years ago, when Red Wing started 0-9-0. That team made it all the way to the Section 1A semifinals and pushed Rochester Lourdes in a 4-2 loss. So far, it looks like this year's team needs to figure out how to be a third-period team. The Wingers have been tied or trailing by just one goal entering the third period of all three games so far. Eight players have at least one point so far for the Wingers, so they know they don't have to rely on one or two guys to do all the scoring. ... The Wingers play four of their first five games on the road, including games this week at North St. Paul (Thursday) and Fergus Falls (Saturday).

November 09, 2012

Junior Hockey | Bruins This Week

Posted by: Feldman

The Austin Bruins extended their lead in the NAHL Central Division last weekend, sweeping a pair of one-goal games at last-place Coulee Region. The Bruins now lead Brookings by three points in the standings and have a chance to extend that lead this weekend.

Brookings and Austin play host to the same teams -- Minot plays at Austin at 7:05 p.m. tonight and at Brookings on Saturday. Bismarck plays at Brookings tonight and at Austin on Saturday night.

Let's take a look at this weekend's games and some other topics:

* Following this weekend's games, Austin plays a rare Monday night game at Coulee Region (Onalaska, Wis.) before a big early-season series against Brookings next Friday and Saturday at Riverside Arena.

* Bruins coach Chris Tok said Rochester John Marshall grad Zach Johnson has earned his way back into the lineup. Johnson, a hard-nosed center, has played in the Bruins' past three games and has two goals in that span.

"His skating has been there," Tok said. "We can notice when he skates hard and is decisive, he's hungry and gets on pucks. When he's not hungry, he's not moving. We've told the guys 'we know you're going to make some mistakes, but you just have to go out and play hard and if you're going to make mistakes, do it aggressively.'"

* Tok said the Bruins are quite banged up and "we'll be lucky if we can put 20 guys on the ice this weekend." It's been awhile since Austin's full roster has been 100 percent healthy, but it hasn't been in jeopardy of not putting a full lineup on the ice this season. Not having to get on a bus and travel could be a bit of a benefit for the Bruins this weekend. 

* Here's my story from Thursday's Austin P-B, looking at each Bruins position group at the quarter-way mark of the season. Tok also gives his thoughts on each position group. ... Some comments from Tok that didn't make this week's article:

* Tonight's game is the first time this year that Austin and Minot will meet. The Minotauros (4-11-1) had a tough start to the season, but have been playing better over the past couple weeks and are just one point out of fourth place. The Tauros took a two-week trip to the West Coast, where they split two-game series with both Wenatchee and Fresno. Minot is led in scoring by forward Travis Maxwell (5-8--13), who was traded to Minot about three weeks into the season. The Tauros also added goalie Tyler Parks after the NAHL Showcase in September. Parks is 3-5-0 in nine starts with an .893 save percentage.

"They added (Parks) after the Showcase and he's a big kid, so we have to get bodies in front of him so he has trouble seeing the puck. They're getting better and we better be ready to play when the puck drops (tonight)."

* Here's a weekend preview from the Minotauros website. 

* Bismarck visits Austin on Saturday for the fourth meeting of the season between the teams that finished first and second in the Central Division last year. Austin is 2-0-1 against the Bobcats, including a 4-2 victory at Riverside Arena on Oct. 13.

"They always play hard and they play well on the road," Tok said of the Bobcats.

* Bismarck recently made a trade with Wenatchee for defenseman Chris Driver. Driver had seven assists in 13 games and a plus-3 plus/minus rating with the Wild.