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37 posts categorized "Austin"

February 17, 2015

High School Hockey | Breaking down the Section 1A tournament

Posted by: Feldman

This will serve as an extended version of High School hockey today. The Section 1A tournament begins with five first-round games tonight (I cringe when they are called play-ins; they're tournament games, just like quarterfinals and semifinals), so we'll take a look here at the wide-open 1A tourney.

I'll preview the Section 1AA tournament in Wednesday's P-B and take a look at that bracket here on the blog either Wednesday or Thursday (it's safe to say that tournament is not as wide-open as 1A).

This should be as fun as any Section 1A tourney in recent memory. Last year's was enjoyable to watch, too, particularly the well-played section title game between New Prague and Mankato West, where New Prague built a 3-0 lead through two periods then held off a furious charge by West in the third.

Could we see a rematch of that title game? Absolutely.

Could we see two different teams in this year's title game? Absolutely.

I have been looking at the bracket since it came out Sunday and I think every time I look at and pick winners in my head, the results are different.

First, some hockey-related links to stories from around the area and the state:

* Here is my preview of the Section 1A tournament, including a short look at the top seeds and the local teams, as well as three players who could have a big impact on the tournament.

* The girls hockey state tournament begins Wednesday. Red Wing is going for a fifth consecutive season and it's bringing its deepest defensive corps.

* The Star Tribune looks at each of the 16 boys hockey sections in one sentence each.

* Mankato Free Press hockey writer Shane Frederick writes that Mankato East seniors are looking to win the first playoff game of their high school careers, and Mankato West hopes to navigate a competitive Section 1A tournament and get to the state tournament.

* * * * *

As for the Section 1A bracket, it had to be fun to be part of the seeding meeting.

Maybe the only clear-cut decision was New Prague earning the No. 1 seed by going 6-0-0 against section opponents.

Every other team had some wins and losses along the way that could have justified moving them up or down. For example, Mankato West was awarded the No. 2 seed, which they earned and deserved, but the Scarlets lost to LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter, Faribault and Red Wing, and tied Rochester Lourdes, all teams seeded below them.

The seeds played out like this: 1-New Prague, 2-West, 3-Northfield, 4-Faribault, 5-L-H/SP, 6-Red Wing, 7-Albert Lea, 8-Lourdes, 9-East, 10-La Crescent, 11-Waseca, 12-Winona, 13-Austin.

If I had a vote, this is how I had them ranked: 1-New Prague, 2-West, 3-Faribault, 4-Northfield, 5-LHSP, 6-East, 7-Albert Lea, 8-Red Wing, 9-Lourdes, 10-LaCrescent, 11-Waseca, 12-Winona, 13-Austin.

It just goes to show that there was a lot of wiggle room for those teams from about Nos. 6-10.

I also had Faribault ahead of Northfield because they split during the regular season and Faribault finished ahead of Northfield in the Big 9. But I have no problem with Northfield being the 3, as you'll see at the end of this post.

* East was the one team I was way off about. My guess is the Cougars' 1-5-0 record down the stretch didn't help their seed, but I was looking at their wins against Albert Lea (twice), Faribault, Red Wing and L-H/SP. They also lost to Faribault, Red Wing and L-H/SP late in the season, so that justifies East as the No. 9 seed. As I looked through results, I wished Lourdes and East had played during the regular season. I guess we'll get that wish tonight.

* It is good to see Red Wing get the No. 6 seed. The Wingers are 6-3-0 in their past nine games after a 1-14-1 start. That start wasn't as bad as the record looks, though, as they went to OT six times in that stretch and lost seven one-goal games. If Red Wing gets past Waseca, Northfield better lace its skates tight for a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday. (Though, to be fair, Northfield was the one Big 9 team that handled Red Wing fairly well during the regular season, scoring a pair of three-goal wins).

Against my better judgement, I'll go ahead and make some picks. Feel free to let me know why I'm wrong...

FIRST ROUND

Rochester Lourdes 4, Mankato East 3: East is a scrappy team. Its 7-5 loss to Rochester Mayo on Feb. 3 keeps sticking in my head. Mayo coach Lorne Grosso talked about how resilient East is, how they don't stop coming after you. I'm extremely tempted to pick them here, but I think Lourdes senior goalie Jack Burkel will win this one for his teammates. Lourdes has only scored more than three goals in a game four times this season. They'll do it for a fifth time and advance to face top-seeded New Prague on Thursday.

LeSueur-Henderson/SP/TCU/C 6, Winona 1: The state's leading scorer Sam Wenner and the LHSPTCUC (that looks like I hit the caps-lock button and mashed my hand on the keyboard) Bulldogs roll on.

Faribault 8, Austin 2: I thought Faribault should have a bye tonight, but the No. 4 seed in the section will pounce on the Packers early and pull away to move on to Thursday's section quarterfinals.

Red Wing 6, Waseca 3: The Wingers are 6-1-0 over the past month against Section 1A opponents. They'll make it 7-1-0 after taking down Waseca.

Albert Lea 5, La Crescent 2: Albert Lea is on a three-game winning streak after snapping a seven-game losing skid. The Tigers are playing with confidence and that will carry them past the Lancers (19-6-0), who put up a good record primarily against teams from Wisconsin.

QUARTERFINALS

New Prague 4, Lourdes 2 (en): Lourdes pushes the top-seeded Trojans, but NP gets a late empty-netter.

L-H/SP/TCU/C 4, Faribault 3: The Bulldogs pull the first (mild) upset of the tourney and advance to the Rec Center.

Northfield 5, Red Wing 3: The Raiders were the only 1A team to beat Red Wing over the past month. They'll do it for a third time this season.

Mankato West 6, Albert Lea 2: West's upperclassmen have had a sour taste in their mouths for a year, since that close loss to New Prague in last year's section final. They start their push for a state tourney berth with a big win.

SEMIFINALS

New Prague 5, L-H/SP/TCU/C 2: The Trojans figure out how to slow the Bulldogs' high-scoring offense and return to the section final.

Northfield 6, Mankato West 5: The game turns into a track meet at the Rec Center and Northfield gets the last goal, late in the third, to win.

CHAMPIONSHIP

Northfield 2, New Prague 1, OT: Why do I think this is Northfield's year to get to state? I just feel like, in a wide-open section like this, someone other than the top seed will come out of it. The Raiders have lost five games since the start of January. Three of those came against Class AA teams. The other two -- against Mankato West and Faribault -- both came by one goal. I think the Raiders flip those two one-goal games in the playoffs and advance to state. Plus, when these teams met in the regular season, New Prague had to score twice in the third period to rally from a 2-1 deficit to win. Northfield hangs on this time.

* * *

My apologies to Northfield for likely jinxing you.

This section is entirely up for grabs. The team I just picked to win it could quite possibly not even play a game at the Rec Center. Would it really surprise anyone if Red Wing went to Northfield on Thursday and won? No. Would it completely surprise anyone if No. 9 East or No. 8 Lourdes goes to New Prague on Thursday and wins a close one? It shouldn't.

Finally, if you're looking to follow tonight's games on Twitter, here's a quick list to check:

No. 9 East at No. 8 Lourdes -- me (@PBFeldy), Lourdes activities (@LHSEagles), and perhaps @PaulAllan5 for the East perspective

No. 12 Winona at No. 5 LHSPTCUC -- Bulldogs hockey (@BBulldog_Hockey)

No. 13 Austin at No. 4 Faribault -- check out Miles Trump (@FDNMilesTrump), Faribault activities (@Frbo_Falcons), Faribault hockey (@FBO_BHS_Hockey)

No. 11 Waseca at No. 6 Red Wing -- I'm guessing either Kyle Stevens (@RE_KStevens) or Joe Brown (@RE_JBrown) will be at Prairie Island Arena for this one

No. 10 La Crescent at No. 7 Albert Lea -- check Albert Lea hockey (@BoysALhockey), La Crescent coach JP Piche (@JeepPiche30), or the Albert Lea Tribune (@altribunesports)

 

February 13, 2015

Junior Hockey | Bear Tracks: The weekend ahead for the Austin Bruins

Posted by: Feldman

Another weekend, another key NAHL Central Division series for the Austin Bruins. A sweep this weekend will leave the Bruins just one point shy of clinching a playoff spot.

Austin is on an 8-0-3 run since Jan. 9, a run that has lifted it back into sole possession of first place for the first time since early in the season. The Bruins are coming off a very emotional weekend. They held their fifth annual Paint the Rink Pink night last Saturday, raising more than $25,000 through a jersey auction for the Hormel Institute in Austin, for breast cancer research. There were also some fireworks on the ice, as the Magicians let their frustrations out and resorted to a bit of thuggery in the third period.

There are seven weeks to go in the regular season and the Bruins play Friday-Saturday series on six of those weekends. The only hiccup in that mix is the first week of March, when the Bs play host to Brookings on Wednesday, March 4, then play at Brookings on Saturday, March 7. 

Speaking of the Blizzard, the Bruins will become very familiar with them over the remainder of the regular season. The teams will meet in eight of Austin's final 14 games. I wrote a bit about that here in this week's Junior Hockey Notebook, which ran in Thursday's P-B.

The Bruins have a chance to pull away from second-place Minot (the Bs have just a two-point lead over the Tauros, who happen to have a game in hand on the Bruins) by facing last-place Brookings eight times in the final 14 games. BUT, Brookings hasn't made life easy on Austin this season. Austin is 3-1-0 vs. the Blizzard, but that includes two OT victories. 

In other notes this week ...

* The Bruins had the Central Division Star of the Week for a third consecutive week, as forward Trevor Boyd was honored for his play in a two-game sweep of the Minnesota Magicians last weekend.

* Former Bs forward Trey Dodd has committed to play D-I hockey at Brown University. Dodd has 13 points in 21 games this season for Dubuque of the USHL. He had 17 points in 45 games last season for the Bruins, and he started this season in Austin, where he had 1 assist in nine games played.

On to this weekend's series...

AUSTIN vs. BROOKINGS
at Larson Ice Arena, 7:15 p.m. tonight; Riverside Arena, 7:05 p.m. Saturday

Records: Austin 26-9-11, 63 points, 1st in Central Division; Brookings 15-20-8, 38 points, 5th in Central Division.
Head coaches: Austin, Chris Tok (5th season, 181-103-30 overall); Brookings, Dan Daikawa (1st season, 15-20-8 overall).
Bruins top scorers: F Trevor Boyd (19-18--37); F Alex Pettersson (7-25--32); F Tony Uglem (16-14--30); F Luke Dietsch (7-23--30); F Nico Sturm (10-18--28); D Ian Scheid (10-12--22); D Cory Dunn (3-19--22).
Bruins goalies: Jake Kielly (14-4-6, 2.20 GAA, .904 save pct.); Evan Smith (6-0-2, 1.71, .934).
Blizzard top scorers: F Beau Michaud (14-29--43); F Zach Glienke (16-18--34); F Nate Colwell (7-20--27); F Blake Kelley (9-13--22); D Ben Campbell (5-16--21); F Joe Anderson (11-9--20). 
Blizzard goalies: Ryan Kubic (7-7-5, 2.37 GAA, .915 save pct.); Eric Hancock (7-10-3, 3.01, .895).

TALE OF THE TAPE
Record (Points): Austin 26-9-11 (63), Brookings 15-20-8 (38). 
Advantage: Bruins.

Head to head (Points earned): Austin 3-1-0 (6), Brookings 1-1-2 (4). 
Advantage: Bruins.

Offense: Austin 3.24; Brookings 2.65. 
Advantage: Bruins.

Defense: Austin 2.39; Brookings 3.21. 
Advantage: Bruins.

Power play (league rank): Austin 14.2 percent (17); Brookings 20.8 (9). 
Advantage: Blizzard.

Penalty kill (league rank): Austin 89.6 percent (1); Brookings 78.2 percent (20). 
Advantage: Bruins.

Goaltending (save pct.): Austin .907; Brookings .889. 
Advantage: Bruins.

SERIES NOTES
The Bruins are on their longest unbeaten streak of the season, going 8-0-3 in their past 11 games. With a sweep this weekend, Austin will be one point away from clinching a playoff spot. ... The Bruins are tied with Midwest Division-leading Janesville for the fewest regulation losses in the NAHL this season, with nine. Austin also has the most shootout/overtime losses, 11. ... The last time Austin lost a game in regulation was on Jan. 3 at home against Brookings. ... The Bruins have played 16 overtime games this season. ... While Brookings is in last place in the division, it is very much alive for a playoff spot. The Blizzard trail Aberdeen by just four points for the fourth spot in the division standings. The top four in the division make the postseason.

THE CALL
The Blizzard are no pushover for being a last-place team. They're still battling hard for a playoff spot and there's a reasonable chance they could end up facing Austin in the first round of the Central Division postseason. Brookings added some scoring punch last week through a pair of trades. They acquired D Ben Campbell (5-16--21) from Kenai River and F Blake Kelley (9-13--22) from Coulee Region. But Austin is playing like a typical Bruins team this time of year; it's really tough to score on, tough get good chances against and difficult to beat. The Bs are strong in goal, solid at D and they're rolling four lines, any one of which can be relied upon. I wasn't sure where this Bruins team would end up, with all the new faces at the start of the season. They're starting to play like they'll challenge for another Central Division postseason title. The call: Austin 3-2, Austin 5-2.

November 22, 2014

High School Hockey Today | Saturday, Nov. 22

Posted by: Feldman

A few notes before we look at today's games.

* Rochester Mayo got off to a strong start Thursday night, scoring a 3-0 shutout vs. Big Nine Conference newcomer Northfield at Graham Arena. Anthony Oliveto had two points (watch for him to break out even more this season) and Chris Wileman recorded a shutout in his first varsity start in goal.

* Defending Section 1AA champion Lakeville North is ranked No. 2 in the first state poll. North was the state runner-up last season to Edina, which is ranked No. 1 in the first poll. Edina received 13 first-place votes, North received 2.

* North has three players on NHL Central Scouting's Players To Watch list: F Nick Poehling and D Jack Sadek and Jack McNeely. All three were given "C" grades by Central Scouting, which means they're currently projected as 4th-to-6th round picks in next summer's NHL Draft.

* Section 1A teams New Prague (No. 8) and Mankato West (No. 13) are ranked in the first Class A poll. Rochester Lourdes is receiving votes.

* With Red Wing and Northfield joining the Big Nine Conference this season, it makes it nearly impossible for everyone in the conference to play all other teams twice. That would be a total of 22 games, leaving just three open spots for non-conference games. Most teams -- such as the Rochester schools -- are already committed to three non-conference games at holiday time.

So, the Big Nine has decided to use a big/small model for its scheduling. In other words, the "big" schools (Century, JM, Mayo, Northfield, Owatonna, Winona) in the conference will play each other twice and will play the small schools (Austin, Albert Lea, Mankato East, Mankato West, Faribault, Red Wing) once each. Some teams wanted to play a "big" vs. "small" matchup twice (such as Mayo and Albert Lea).

I'm told that record-keeping will be fairly simple, it'll pretty much be as it was in the past: If two conference teams play each other twice, both games will be worth two points in the standings (one for a tie). If teams only play each other once, those games will be worth four points in the standings (two for a tie).

The obvious exception to this is if two conference opponents meet in a holiday tournament, those games would not count toward the conference standings. So, for example, if Century and JM meet in the Kiwanis tournament, it will be a non-conference game.

Got it? There'll be a quiz later. Or you can just watch the P-B as the season rolls along for the standings.

Now, let's get to today's games...

ROCHESTER TEAMS TODAY

BLOOMINGTON KENNEDY at ROCHESTER JOHN MARSHALL
3 p.m., Rochester Recreation Center
Records: Kennedy (0-0-0; was 13-12-2 last season); JM (0-1-0 overall)
Last meeting: N/A
Head coaches: Kennedy, Dave Dillon (6th season, 36-93-3); JM, Jay Ness (4th season, 34-41-4).
Leading scorers: Kennedy (top returning scorers), Jr. F Jory McWilliams (14-10--24); Sr. F Conor Jensen (10-8--18); Sr. F Jake Roers (6-7--13). JM, So. F Cory Checco (1-0--1); Jr. F Conner Lee (0-1--1); So. F Aaron Macken (0-1--1).
Goalies: Kennedy, no top returner (senior David Johnson played almost every minute last season). JM, Jr. Brady Meyers (0-1-0, 5.00 GAA, .898 save pct.).
Notes: Kennedy lost its top three scorers to graduation. ... The Eagles went 8-2-1 in their last 11 games last season, with a six-game winning streak that included a 2-1 victory against rival Bloomington Jefferson. ... Kennedy nearly pulled off an upset in the Section 2A semifinals, falling 2-1 to 2nd-seeded Orono in overtime. ... The Rockets lost their season opener to Farmington, a team that advanced to the Section 1AA title game last year. ... Following today's game, JM plays six of its next eight games against Big Nine Conference opponents.

ROCHESTER CENTURY at DODGE COUNTY
7 p.m., Kasson Ice Arena
Records: Century (0-0-0; 12-13-1 last season); Dodge County (0-1-0 overall)
Last meeting: Century beat Dodge County 6-2 on Feb. 22, 2007, in a Section 1AA quarterfinal.
Head coaches: Century, Josh Klingfus (4th season, 37-38-4); Dodge County, Eric Hofmann (5th season, 36-62-6).
Leading scorers: Century (top returning scorers), Sr. D Riese Zmolek (12-26--38); Sr. F Jake Roth (17-18--35); Sr. F/D Ryan Sherden (3-9--12); Sr. F Sam Batterson (5-7--12). Dodge County (top returning scorers) So. F Nic Leisen (9-8--17); Sr. D Kevin Claussen (4-8--12); Sr. F Chris Roberts (3-9--12); Sr. F Kylo Courteau (5-6--11).
Goalies: Century (top returners), Sr. Joey Pundt (12-11-1, 3.62 GAA, .872 save pct.). Dodge County (top returners), Sr. Mitch Sobotta (6-9-3, 4.04, .882); Sr. Joey Biwer (2-4-0, 4.39, .859).
Notes: Century has 18 seniors on the roster. ... Zmolek played in the Upper Midwest Elite League this fall. ... According to a search of the P-B archives, these teams haven't played in close to eight years. The last time they played, Century won a Section 1AA quarterfinal game in Feb. of 2007. Century went on to finish third in the state that season. ... Dodge County lost its season opener 2-0 at St. Paul Como Park on Thursday. Biwer played very well in that game, allowing two goals on 27 shots.


AREA TEAMS TODAY

WINONA at AUSTIN
1:30 p.m., Riverside Arena
Records: Winona 0-1-0; Austin 0-1-0
Notes: Both teams lost their season openers on Thursday. Austin lost 4-1 to LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter. Winona lost 4-3 against La Crescent. ... Austin's lone goal in its loss was a short-handed tally by Dan Larson. Jace Greenman got the assist. ... The Packers struggled to score last season. They scored four goals -- their season high -- twice, including in a 5-4 overtime loss to Faribault in a Section 1A first-round game. ... Winona had six players record a point in Thursday's loss to La Crescent. ... Goalie Cassidy Cyert was solid, making 35 saves in the loss. ... These teams meet again on Jan. 15 in Winona.

FARIBAULT at RED WING
3 p.m., Prairie Island Arena
Records: Faribault (0-0-0; 12-12-2 last season); Red Wing (0-0-0; 4-23-0 last season).
Notes: This is the season opener for both teams and Red Wing's first game as a member of the Big Nine Conference. ... The Falcons have two of their top three scorers back, Sr. F Christian Von Ruden (29-20--49) and Sr. F Tyler Becker (7-20--27). ... Faribault also has both of its goalies back who played last season, Sr. Chase Batchelder (6-5-1, 4.03 GAA, .878 save pct.) and Jr. Adam Johannsen (5-6-1, 3.62, .908). ... The Wingers top returning scorers are Sr. F Dylan Goggin (7-13--20) and Sr. F Tristan Rehder (9-5--14). Sr. G Adam Defore (4-22-0, .856 save pct.) also returns.


AROUND THE STATE

* No. 16-AA Burnsville at No. 4-AA Hill-Murray, 7:30 p.m.: The season opener for both teams. Burnsville finished 19-7-1 last season and lost to Bloomington Jefferson in the Section 2AA semifinals. Hill-Murray was 24-4-0 last season and the top seed in Section 4AA; it lost to third-seeded Stillwater in the Section 4AA final.

* No. 15-A Delano/Rockford at No. 12-A Blake, 4 p.m.: This is the season opener for both teams and a rematch of a Section 2A quarterfinal playoff game from last spring, which D/R won 5-2.

October 23, 2014

Catching up with former Austin Bruin John Simonson

Posted by: Feldman

John Simonson was the leading goal-scorer in Austin Bruins history when he finished his second and final season with the team in 2012-13. He's now second in the franchise's four-plus-year history with 52 (Jay Dickman surpassed him last season), but Simonson has excelled at even higher levels.

He put up 59 points in 58 games for the Licoln Stars of the USHL last season and now he is three games into his Division I career for his hometown University of North Dakota men's hockey team.

I caught up with Simonson this week for a short story that is in today's (Thursday's) Post-Bulletin. Here is the full interview with Simonson:

P-B: What has the first month of Division I college hockey been like for you?

John Simonson: It's been good, definitely there's a learning curve and it's been a big adjustment. I'm getting into a routine now, though. The first couple of weeks there was a lot thrown at me, but I'm feeling good now.

P-B: After being a healthy scratch in the season opener, how does it feel to have a few games in?

JS: This past weekend (a two-game UND sweep at Colorado College), after I had a couple of games under my belt, I definitely felt more comfortable. Even that first game I played (Oct. 11 at Bemidji State), I just felt pumped and ready to go. I was happy with how I played in my first game and I feel like I played two strong games at CC. The team as a whole has come out with good effort the last few games.

P-B: You had a couple of great scoring chances in Saturday's 7-2 win at CC. You hit the crossbar once and a post once. Frustrating at all? Or just part of the game?

JS: The important thing is I'm getting those good chances. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. I won't beat myself up too much. I'll just keep working. Another night, those shots will go in.

P-B: What has the UND coaching staff told you about what they expect from you, what role they want you to play?

JS: The coaches expect me to play a hard, simple game. That's the base of my game, playing hard and simple. I have to have that grit to my game, get to the net front as much as I can, just like when I was in Austin and learned from coach (Chris) Tok. I need to be there scoring a goal or getting a rebound and always going hard to those tough areas. I'm trying to keep it simple and not do too much, too soon.

P-B: What was your offseason like? You're back in your hometown. Did you work out with UND teammates? Take classes?

JS: We had a summer program that, for 6 weeks, most of the guys were here working out with our trainers and taking a class or two. That's what I did, I worked out with most of those guys Monday through Friday and took one class. I got to know the older guys and guys from other places. It was a nice way to build some relationships before we got here for the season.

P-B: What's it like to play for a program with a strong history of success, that you grew up watching?

JS: I use this word a lot, but it's pretty special. A lot of the time, I'm so focused on the task at hand that I don't really think about it. There are definitely high expectations here, especially with the team we have returning. The bar is set high from the coaching staff on down. We expect to go to the national tournament and make the Frozen Four. Anything less isn't acceptable.

P-B: What thing(s) did you learn during your two years with the Austin Bruins that made you a better player?

JS: It was a combination of a lot of little things, little details that add up to make a huge difference. I don't stick out in any one area, I just try to be a good well-rounded player. That comes from the little details I learned from coach Tok and the staff in Austin. They helped me develop good habits.

P-B: It seems like the Bruins coaching staff runs its program in a similar fashion to a Division I program. Is that fair to say?

JS: It's definitely fair to say. (Tok) expects players to come out, compete at a high level and bring a lot of energy. Some days the puck doesn't bounce your way, but you can control your effort and the way you play. It's the same way here. If you work hard and battle, everything else will fall into place.

P-B: One more: Your thoughts and feelings on stepping onto the ice for your first home game as a college player (likely on Friday vs. Providence), in a rink where you grew up watching a lot of big names play in a lot of big games?

JS: I'm definitely excited and a little nervous. I know it's going to be an unbelievable experience. I'm sure it will feel surreal in warmups and when I hop onto the ice for my first shift in that building (Ralph Englestad Arena). I can't wait. It'll be very special and exciting to play my first game in the Ralph.

 

 

September 12, 2014

BLOG: Junior Hockey | Introducing the 2014-15 theaustinbruins

Posted by: Feldman

The Austin Bruins get their season going tonight at Riverside Arena with an exhibition game against the Minnesota Magicians. The Bs will play at Richfield tomorrow night against the Magicians. Both games are set to start at 7:05 p.m.; admission in Richfield on Saturday is just $5, if you're interested in making the trek north. Tickets for tonight's game at Riverside, I believe are $11 for adults and $8 for seniors/students. I've also read that you can get $4 off your ticket for tonight's game if you purchase them at several locations around Austin, including Jim's Marketplace, Holiday Inn, Hy-Vee and Games People Play.

The Bruins will use these two games to get their first look at about 16 new faces. It'll be a good opportunity for coaches Chris Tok and Jamie Huffman to work on line combinations, defensive pairings and get a look at the team's two new goalies. I know Zach Driscoll received a lot of hype when the team drafted him in Round 1 of the NAHL Draft back in June, but don't be surprised if Jake Kielly pushes Driscoll hard for that starting job.

Bruins fans will have to have patience, even moreso than a year ago. Last year, they had veteran goalie Nick Lehr (now at the U of Minnesota) to lean on, as well as about 10 returning players who knew what the coaching staff expects. This season, the roster is 75-80 percent new to the Bruins, including both goalies. This isn't the team that beat Topeka on the road to advance to the Robertson Cup Finals. There are plenty of reasons to think the Bs can duplicate that postseason run this year, but it's going to take time and -- again -- patience. 

Here's an introduction to each of the 2014-15 Bruins, as they prepare for their exhibition games this weekend, then next week's North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine: 

GOALIES

1 -- Jake Kielly, 6-3, 190 (Age 18, 9-10-96; Eden Prairie): Played in 24 games last season for the Victory Honda U18 team in Plymouth Township, Mich., that plays in the Tier 1 Elite League. Had was 14-6-2, with one shutout, a 2.64 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. ... Played in 15 games for Eden Prairie High School in 2012-13, with a 3.11 GAA and a .888 save pct.

30 -- Zach Driscoll, 5-10, 180 (Age 17, 2-5-97, Apple Valley): The St. Cloud State University commit is a high school senior. ... He played last year for Eastview High School in Apple Valley. ... Put up outstanding numbers for the Lightning as a junior. Went 19-7-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. ... Led his team to the Section 3AA semifinals. Made 35 saves in a 2-1 section semifinal loss to St. Thomas Academy. ... As a sophomore in 2012-13, went 16-6-1 and led Eastview to the Class AA state tournament, where it placed sixth. Had a 2.04 GAA and a .934 save pct. that season.  

* * * * * 

FORWARDS 

11 -- Luke Dietsch, 6-1, 200, R (Age 20, 3-6-94, St. Paul): Had 23-28--51 in 72 games for the Bruins last season. ... Averaged more than a point per game in the postseason, recording 7-8--15 in 14 playoff games. ... Split time between the NAHL's Jamestown Ironmen and the Dallas Ice Jets of the Western States Hockey League in 2012-13. ... Played three seasons at Cretin-Derham Hall High School, totaling 33-30--63 in 73 games. 

12 -- Josh Wilkins, 5-10, 170, L (Age 17, 6-11-97, Cary, N.C.): Was drafted by the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL, after playing for the Raleigh Junior Hurricanes in North Carolina. ... Led the 16U Thunder (based in Huntsville, Ala.) in scoring with six points in three games at the Tier I 16U USA Hockey nationals last spring.

13 -- Trevor Boyd, 6-3, 200, L (Age 19, 12-19-94; Muskegon, Mich.): Started last season with the Bruins, scoring one goal and adding three assists in 14 games. ... Played the remainder of the season with the Soo Eagles (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.), where he had five goals and eight assists in 34 games. ... Played for the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Jr. K-Wings in 2011-12 and 12-13. Played 95 games and totaled 28 points. 

15 -- JC MacLean, 6-2, 195, R (Age 17, 2-27-97; Basking Ridge, N.J.): Put up 31 points in 30 games for Delbarton Prep School in New Jersey in the 2012-13 season. ... Participated in the USA Hockey Select 17 Festival this past summer. ... Played in seven games last season for the New Jersey Rockets of the Eastern Hockey League. ... The son of former first round NHL Draft choice John MacLean, who played all or parts of 18 seasons in the NHL.

16 -- Jakob Kullberg, 5-9, 180, L (Age 20, 1-4-94; Kallered, Sweden): Played the past three seasons for Frolunda J20 of the SuperElit League, Sweden's highest level of junior hockey. ... Had three goals and six assists, as well as 22 penalty minutes, in 43 games, last year. ... Had 25 points in 104 games for the Frolunda J20 team between 2011-14. 

17 -- Alex Pettersson, 5-10, 190, L (Age 20, 5-2-94; Gothenburg, Sweden): Entering his second season with the Bruins. ... Played in 41 games last season, including 12 in the playoffs. Totaled four goals and 11 assists, for 15 points. ... Also had 115 penalty minutes. ... Had a goal and two assists in the Bruins' three-game victory at Topeka in the NAHL Robertson Cup semifinals last spring.

19 -- Nico Sturm, 6-3, 190, L (Age 19, 5-3-95; Augsburg, Germany): Had three points in 21 games for the NAHL's Corpus Christi IceRays last season. ... Played 57 games over the past two seasons for ESV Kaufbeuren U18, a member of the DNL (the German Development League). Totaled 67 points and 42 penalty minutes in those games.

20 -- Nate Bastian, 6-0, 185, L (Age 20, 5-19-94; Batavia, Ill.): The big forward is one of three Illinois natives on the Bruins roster, joining fellow Bruins rookie forward Luke Forfar and veteran defenseman Jake Arroyo. ... Had five goals and 13 points for New York Apple Core in the Eastern Hockey League last season. ... Spent the 2012-13 season with the Great Falls Americans of the American West Hockey League, which is now the Frontier Division of the NA3HL.

21 -- Luke Forfar, 5-11, 160, L (Age 17, 10-16-96; Darien, Ill.): Tendered with the Bruins last season, while playing for the Chicago Mission U18 team in the High Performance (Midgets) Hockey League. ... Had 13 goals and 23 points for Chicago in 27 games last season. ... Had 17 points in 31 games the previous season. ... Played for Team Illinois U16 Midget team in 2011-12 after a season with the Team Illinois Bantam AAA program. ... Older brother, Chris, played two seasons in the USHL, then had 39 points in four seasons at Michigan State University (2009-13).

23 -- Brian Bachnak, 6-1, 185, L (Age 19, 9-30-94; Brownstown, Mich.): The second-year Bruin is expected to be one of the team leaders this season, both verbally and with his play on the ice. ... Elevated his game big-time in the Bruins' run to the Robertson Cup Finals last spring. After recording 5 goals and 9 points in 48 regular season games, put up 4 goals and 7 points in 12 playoff games. ... Was Michigan's Mr. Hockey in 2013 after putting up 97 points in 28 games for Riverview High. ... Played 15 games for Toledo (Ohio) of the NA3HL in 2011-12, recording 3 goals and 3 assists.

24 -- Patrick Lauderdale, 5-11, 178, R (Age 18, 1-11-96; Eden Prairie): A familiar face to fans of Minnesota Section 1 high school hockey. Lauderdale was the second-leading scorer (19-27--46) for a Lakeville South team that lost to Farmington in the Section 1AA semifinals. ... Lakeville South's third-leading scorer as a sophomore in 2011-12, when the Cougars finished third at the Class AA state tournament. Played on the same line as current University of Minnesota standout Justin Kloos. ... Scored the first goal of the Cougars' 2-1 victory against Moorhead in the state tournament third-place game.

25 -- Zach Kennedy, 6-1, 200, R (Age 18, 2-20-96; Eagle River, Wis.): Led Northland Pines High School in scoring last season with 29 goals and 18 assists for 47 points. ... Had a pair of 4-goal games last season. ... Had 4 goals and 2 assists as the Eagles took second place at the Kiwanis Festival in Rochester at Christmastime. ... Drafted in the 11th round of the NAHL Draft by the Bruins in early June.   

* * * * *

DEFENSEMEN

2 -- Derek Olmschenk, 6-4, 225, R, (Age 19, 8-2-95, Lino Lakes): Finished a standout career at Cretin-Derham Hall last spring. ... Was the Suburban East Conference defenseman of the year as a senior. ... Had 8 goals and 18 assists, for 26 points, as C-DH went 17-7-3. ... Finished his high school career with 66 points. ... Will bring leadership to the Bruins; was a four-year letterwinner and two-year captain at Cretin.  

3 -- John Chorzempa, 6-0, 180, L (Age 18, 10-10-95, Andover): Played three seasons of varsity hockey at Andover High School. ... Had 4 goals and 14 assists as a senior, and totaled 28 points in 74 games in his high school career. 

4 -- Cory Dunn, 5-9, 150, R (Age 20, 1-24-94, Trenton, Mich.): The second-year Bruin is one three returning defensemen. ... Improved dramatically as the season went along, and played consistently on specialty teams late last season and in the postseason. ... Had one goal and 15 points in 45 regular-season games last year and added a goal and five assists in 14 playoff games. 

5 -- Hugo Gallet, 6-3, 205, L (Age 17, 6-20-97, Amiens, France): The second Bruins' player in as many seasons to come from France. Forward Guillaume Leclerc, a native of France, was one of the team's top scorers last year. ... Played for France in the World Junior Championship qualifying tournament. ... Split time between Amiens U18 and Amiens U22 teams last season, totaling 13 goals and 24 assists for 37 points in 33 games.  

9 -- Landen Letwin, 5-10, 180, L (Age 19, 2-2-95, Greenville, Wis.): Played 34 games for the NAHL's Corpus Christi IceRays last season, recording 26 penalty minutes. ... Spent 2012-13 season with the Milwaukee Admirals U18 team in the Tier I Elite League. Had three points and 10 penalty minutes. ... Had five goals, seven points and 40 penalty minutes for the Admirals U16 team in 2011-12, playing in the Tier I U16 Elite League.

28 -- Jake Arroyo, 5-11, 190, R (Age 20, 7-14-94; Bolingbrook, Ill.): Third-year Bruin has played in 125 career games for Austin, including 22 postseason games. ... Has career totals of 4-19--23 with the Bruins. ... Scored his first career playoff goal last spring. ... Has 162 career penalty minutes. ... Played the 2011-12 season with the Chicago Mission U18 team. Totaled 7 points and 20 penalty minutes in 26 games.

Feldy and Phersy's High School Football picks | Week 3

FELDY: Our luck is bound to change, but Phersy and I are both off to pretty good starts. Phersy cheated last week and picked up a game on me. He went 7-0 last week, while I was 6-1. That leaves Phersy at 13-1 and Feldy at 12-2 through two weeks. Maybe we'll get some separation this week, though I doubt it. We always seem to end up tied somehow.

Phersy picks first this week. Here are this week's games:

BIG NINE CONFERENCE

* Rochester John Marshall (1-1) at Austin (1-1)

* Rochester Century (1-1) at Red Wing (1-1)

SFA RED

* Plainview-Elgin-Millville (2-0) at Lake City (2-0)

* Kasson-Mantorville (1-1) at Rochester Lourdes (2-0)

SFA WHITE

* Pine Island (1-1) at Kenyon-Wanamingo (1-1)

* St. Charles (0-2) at Zumbrota-Mazeppa (0-2)

SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE

* Grand Meadow (2-0) at Mabel-Canton (2-1)

* * * * * * * * * * 

 PHERSY: Feldy, this is a lead I will never relinquish...

BIG NINE CONFERENCE

* Rochester John Marshall 36, Austin 35: Ugh, I knew you were gonna put this game up there Feldy. Austin has a great offense, led by Brandon Edgar and Nate Conner. But the defense is struggling. And injuries could slow that defense even worse. I think the athletes at JM's skill positions will win out. Barely.

* Rochester Century 21, Red Wing 6: The Panthers will control the line of scrimmage and win against the Wingers, who are coming off an impressive win last week.

SFA RED

* Plainview-Elgin-Millville 20, Lake City 8: This is one of my favorite games of the week. But I think PEM is very solid this year and will push Stewartville in the Red.

* Kasson-Mantorville 20, Rochester Lourdes 18: Interesting game. K-M will look to bounce back after last week's thrashing. Another fantastic game in the Red.

SFA WHITE

* Kenyon-Wanamingo 21, Pine Island 19: Love this game too ... I guess I love em all this week. Pine Island will be looking to bounce back, but K-W is hittin its stride. Both solid clubs

* St. Charles 7, Zumbrota-Mazeppa 6: This was my toughest pick ... and I am 100 percent certain Feldy will just pick the opposite of me here.

SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE

* Grand Meadow 29, Mabel-Canton 22: I think this will be a better game than people think. But I'll still go with GM.

* * * * * * * * * *

FELDY: Not really sure how to pick a lot of these games. Might leave it up to my 2-year-old; she usually does better than me anyway.

BIG NINE

* Rochester JM 28, Austin 26: This was my toughest decision of the week. I flip-flopped more than those pretty white sandals Phersy wears around the office in the summer time. In the end, I'll take JM's defense and its ability to produce big plays. Plus, it's Week 3 under a new coaching staff in a new system. The Rockets should be getting comfortable. This game is big for both teams in terms of section playoff seeding, too, so some urgency should be involved on both sides.

* Rochester Century 30, Red Wing 14: If the Panthers can hang onto the ball like they did last week (after some turnover issues in Week 1), they should win this one handily and improve to 2-1.

SFA RED

* P-E-M 18, Lake City 15: Just when I thought I couldn't struggle any more with a pick this week than the JM/Austin game, here comes this one. Lake City has played a pair of close games, and they'll keep this one tight, too, but I'll take P-E-M with a late score to win on the road.

* Lourdes 23, K-M 20: What's with all these early-season showdowns in the Red? This seems like it should be a last-week-of-the-season game. It's a coin toss to me. I'll take Lourdes, making K-M probably the best two-loss team in the state.

SFA WHITE

* Kenyon-Wanamingo 28, Pine Island 23: Another tough one to pick. K-W played a good Lake City team tough in the season opener and I think the Knights are playing with a lot of confidence. 

* Zumbrota-Mazeppa 16, St. Charles 14: Yep, I was going the opposite of Phersy here. Both of these teams should be motivated to get their first 'W' of the season. Z-M has had a tough opening to its schedule, playing road games powerful Stewartville and Lewiston-Altura. The Cougars' offense has to be itching to score. 

SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE

* Grand Meadow 38, Mabel-Canton 31: Sadly, I agree with Phersy on this one. (Sad that I agree with him, not sad that it'll be a good game). It'll be a closer game than some expect, but I'll stick with the defending state champs until someone proves they're better.

August 16, 2014

Hockey: Former Bruin Sanford commits to Michigan State

Posted by: Feldman

The impressive list of former Austin Bruins players moving on to play college hockey continues to grow. Former Bs forward Brennan Sanford announced Friday that he has committed to play for Michigan State University, in the Big Ten Conference.

Sanford has one year of junior hockey eligibility remaining, and he'll likely spend the 2014-15 season playing for the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders of the USHL. Sanford finished last season in Cedar Rapids, where he compiled 3 goals and 4 assists in 33 games. He started the season with the Austin Bruins of the NAHL, where he had 10 goals and 8 assists in 29 games. The trade that sent Sanford to Cedar Rapids brought forward Casey Jerry to the Bruins, last December.

The 6-foot-1, 181-pound Sanford is a native of Holt, Mich., a 12-mile drive from East Lansing, the home of Michigan State.

Here is an up-to-date list of Bruins who have or are playing college hockey. The Bs have sent 21 players to D-I schools in just four seasons.

As you'll see noted in the list below, former Bruins forward Brandon Wahlin has transferred from UMass to Lake Superior State, in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Wahlin will now be a teammate of former Rochester Lourdes defenseman Pete Spratte.

BRUINS IN COLLEGE HOCKEY

DIVISION I
F Charlie Adams, Nebraska-Omaha (NCHC)
G Keegan Asumundson, Canisius (Atlantic Hockey)
F Jay Dickman, Bemidji State (WCHA)
D Christian Folin, UMass-Lowell (Hockey East)
D Jon Gehrt, Army (Atlantic Hockey)
F Matt Hansen, Colorado College (NCHC)
F Sam Kauppila, St. Lawrence (ECAC)
F Lucas Kohls, UMass-Lowell (Hockey East)
F Guillaume Leclerc, UMass-Lowell (Hockey East)
G Nick Lehr, Minnesota (Big Ten)
D Charlie Manley, RPI (ECAC)
G Eamon McAdam, Penn State (Big Ten)
G Jason Pawloski, MSU Mankato (WCHA)
F AJ Reid, Air Force (Atlantic Hockey)
F Brennan Sanford, Michigan State (Big Ten)
F Joe Schuldt, Michigan Tech (WCHA)
F Johnny Simonson, North Dakota (NCHC)
F C.J. Smith, UMass-Lowell (Hockey East)
F Easton Viitala, Northern Michigan (WCHA)
F Brandon Wahlin, UMass (H.E.) / Lake Superior St. (WCHA)
D Trevor Waldoch, Air Force (Atlantic Hockey)

DIVISION III
F Drew Anderson, Augsburg (MIAC)
G Tyler Bruggeman, St. Scholastica (NCHA)
D Mike Bond, Bethel (MIAC)
F Riley Colvard, UW-Stout (NCHA)
D Cody Dixon, UMass-Boston (ECAC-East)
F Cory Ellis, Gustavus (MIAC)
F Jeremy Finger, UMass-Boston (ECAC-East)
F Chris Fischer, UW-Eau Claire (NCHA)
F Cody Hotchkin, UW-Superior (NCHA)
F Nolan Kirley, UW-Stout (NCHA)
D/F Eli May, Augsburg (MIAC)
F Nate Mondry, St. John's (MIAC)
F Austin Nelson, UW-Stout (NCHA)
F Sam Olson, St. Thomas (MIAC)
D Connor Quinn, St. Olaf (MIAC)
D Jack Walsh, Gustavus (MIAC)

May 09, 2014

Junior Hockey | Bruins start quest for (Robertson) Cup tonight

Posted by: Feldman

A little more than eight months ago, I stood in the parking lot at Riverside Arena in Austin next to Austin Bruins assistant coach Jamie Huffman, watching a new Bruins team go through one of its first dryland workouts of the new season.

I knew fewer than half the guys there, the result of a big roster turnover from the 2012-13 season when some highly skilled veterans led the Bs to their first North American Hockey League Central Division regular season title. 

In an off-the-record (at the time) conversation, Huffman told me he thought this team could develop into something special, that it could go just as far as the previous year's team, which lost D-I recruits A.J. Reid (Air Force), Brandon Wahlin (U Mass), CJ Smith (USHL, UMass-Lowell recruit), John Simonson (USHL; North Dakota recruit) and goalie Jason Pawloski (USHL; MSU Mankato recruit). It also lost Cody Dixon, one of the most prolific scoring defensemen in the NAHL and captain Chris Fischer, a 3-year Bruin. In all, the Bs lost more than 320 points from a team that lost to rival Bismarck 3-1 in the postseason division finals. 

So I wasn't sure if it was coach-speak when Huffman told me a team that had one of its top seven scorers back (Jay Dickman) and loaded with young players and new players, could match or exceed what the previous team had done.

I'm not sure head coach Chris Tok even believed it at the time. I mean, it's not like he thought they'd be a 20-win team or something, but as the Bruins have learned in a short time, it's darn hard to even get out of this division in the playoffs, much less make the Robertson Cup.

But, look where the Bruins are. In just more than 2 hours, they'll line up at the Big Dipper Ice Arena (is that not one of the best names for a rink ever?) in Fairbanks for the Robby Cup finals. Austin and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs are the only two teams remaining in the NAHL playoffs. 

Game 1 is at 10:30 CDT tonight. Game 2 is at the same time Saturday, with Game 3 (if necessary) at 8 p.m. Sunday.

It's a testament to the job this coaching staff -- Tok, Huffman, Keaton Wolf and Elliott Hogue -- have done in building a true team. There are some D-1 players on this team, but the Bruins do not have the ability to flip a switch and break loose for 4-5 goals, like last year's team did.

This year's team reminded me of (WARNING! NoDak reference coming!) watching my favorite college team, the University of North Dakota, this year. There's nothing flashy about it, but it has very good goaltending, a solid corps of defenseman who are more than willing to contribute to the scoring, and a gritty group of forwards that work their tails off for everything they get.

Nothing has come easy for the Bruins this season. They've gone through more injuries and absences and shuffled lines and defensive pairings than a team should ever expect to go through in a season. Yet, here they are, ready to play for a national title.

As much as it's a testament to the coaches, it's just as much a testament to the players. They have done everything asked of them. From the start of fall camp, the guys who are still on the team have bought in to what Tok and the assistants ask of them. And they learn quickly, if they don't live up to expectations, they don't play. 

I've said it before, but the way Tok and his assistants run this program is very reminiscent to a Division I college program (Tok was a 4-year assistant at Michigan Tech before coming to Austin). Players know that. They see the success that comes from listening to the coaching staff and being willing to play the role(s) that are asked of them.

None of this is to say the team has been perfect. They weren't good on the road for much of the regular season, but, man, have they turned that around in the playoffs. When they went back to Bismarck for Games 3 and 4 of the division finals with the series tied 1-1, there was a part of me that didn't think they'd bring the series back to Austin. Bismarck is a tough place to play, but the Bs found a way to win Game 4 and get back home, where they won Game 5 on a late Jay Dickman goal. 

Then they went to Topeka, which features two of the league's most dynamic forwards, lost the opening game of a best-of-3 series, but bounced back to win Games 2 and 3 to advance to Fairbanks.

So, do I think Fairbanks is the favorite this weekend? Yep, I do. 

Playing up there, after the long travel, the time zone change, the small rink with fans right on top of you, against a dynamic team, none of that is easy. It's sorta like being amid a swarm of bees, where there's no easy way out (cue the cheesy 80s "Rocky" theme song). You're going to have to get stung to make it through. 

Some teams are the most comfortable when being stung. The Bruins look like one of those teams.

John Peterson, the radio play by play voice of the Bs, said this team has the look and feel of a team of destiny. I'm not going to argue with him. 

* * * * *

LINKS FROM THE RINKS

ROCHESTER POST-BULLETIN

* Kudos to our editorial writers for putting this piece out today. Our View: On and off the ice, Bruins are a success story

* My story on Bruins head coach Chris Tok. Find out why he's called "Grumposaurus."

* My preview of the series: Bruins are two wins away from national title.

* The series at a glance: records, key players, notes, etc. on Austin and Fairbanks.

FAIRBANKS DAILY NEWS-MINER

* Three Ice Dogs players were on the team that won the 2011 Robertson Cup.

* Ice Dogs, Bruins are no strangers

May 02, 2014

Junior Hockey | ...Because it's the (Robertson) Cup -- Austin vs. Topeka

Posted by: Feldman

I'd like to be in Topeka tonight. I'd also love to be in Chicago. Instead I'm splitting the difference and staying at my Playoff Hockey HQ, my desk in the P-B sports department.

We'll have the Wild-Blackhawks game on at 8:30, with the Game 1 of the NAHL Robertson Cup semifinals featuring the Austin Bruins at the Topeka RoadRunners on the laptop starting at 7 p.m. If you're in or near Austin, I believe they'll have the FastHockey.com feed on TV at the Eagles tonight. It's also available on FastHockey.com or you can listen to the energetic call of John M. Peterson on KAUS 1480-AM.

I'll also provide updates about both Wild/Blackhawks and Bruins/RoadRunners on Twitter (@PBFeldy).

We'll see if John can get me to jump out of my seat with a call like this one from late Wednesday night; but I can also guarantee you that, even if the Bruins win on a dramatic OT goal, Peterson's call will not be as obnoxious as this thing.

It's only been 3 1/2 days since the Bruins captured their first Central Division postseason championship late Monday evening. They took the day off Tuesday to rest, practiced for about an hour and a half Wednesday at Riverside Arena, skated there Thursday morning, then hit the road for the 420-mile trek to Topeka, Kansas, for the Robertson Cup/USA Hockey Junior A, Tier II national semifinals.

Bs fans, if you're hoping for a couple more home games this season, you need to pull hard for the Bruins and even harder for the Michigan Warriors to upset the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the other best-of-3 Robertson Cup semifinal series. If Austin and Michigan win this weekend, the Warriors will come to Austin for the Robertson Cup finals next Friday through Sunday (a best 2-out of-3 series).

But the Bruins have a big challenge in front of them now, at Topeka, which features another of the NAHL's best goalies, PJ Bridges, and two of the league's top-five scorers, Tyler Poulsen and Jake Kamrass. (Interesting footnote: Kamrass is a UMass-Lowell recruit; he'll play college hockey with current Bruin Guillaume Leclerc and former Bruin CJ Smith.) And speaking of Leclerc, he's still home in Franois, France, with his family. Best wishes out to him and his family.

We're about 5 hours from the opening drop of the puck in Topeka. Here's some reading/viewing material to help you pass the time between now and the start of Game 1:

ROCHESTER POST-BULLETIN

* The Bruins are a happy, confident group entering the Robertson Cup.

* Bruins forward Austin Nelson has battled through a lot in his three years in Austin. He plays through pain on a nightly basis, but he's finally getting rewarded for his perseverance with a chance to play in the Robertson Cup.

* Our coverage from the Bruins' Central Division finals Game 5 victory against Bismarck on Monday: the game story by Guy N. Limbeck, and a short sidebar on the victory, complete with a great pic of Brian Bachnak (one of my favorite Bs) celebrating the game's first goal.

* The Robertson Cup semifinals at a glance. This one has records, top individuals, some stats and notes on each of the four teams in the R.C. semis.

TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL

* The RoadRunners also had to win a Game 5 on Monday and they face the same short turnaround the Bruins did.

* RoadRunners face the unknown in Robertson Cup semifinals.

* RoadRunners beat writer Rick Peterson Jr. can be followed on Twitter @RickiePeterson

KAAL-TV

* Bruins fed off fans energy to win Game 5.

KIMT-TV

* Bruins ready for trip to Topeka

* Good stuff here, if you haven't seen it yet. Highlights of Austin's Game 5 win over Bismarck and a live post-game interview with Bs forward Jay Dickman, who tipped Austin Nelson's shot in for the game-winning goal in the third period.

* * * * *

Some more notes...

A DUNN DEAL

* This time of year, there aren't many guys that I haven't written about. But one of them with the Bruins is defenseman Cory Dunn. I remember seeing him on the ice in one of Austin's first practices of the season and thinking "that must be one of their speedy young forwards."  When I saw him go through defenseman drills I thought "whoa, he doesn't look very big for a D."

Then again, with the way hockey is going these days, he doesn't have to be big. Not that Dunn is small, either, he's listed at 5-10, 150 pounds, but standing between guys like Kody Reuter and Eli May, he sticks out.

Dunn has gone through some ups and downs this season; he was scratched a lot early in the year. He played one game in October. But since late October, Dunn has pretty much been a fixture in the Bruins lineup. 

And the Trenton, Mich., native just might be the Bruins most improved player from the start of the season til now. His role has increased steadily throughout the season, to the point where he's now getting extensive time on the power play.

With all the injury issues and lineup shuffling for the Bs this season, Dunn's reliability has become invaluable.

"Once he got his shot, he really fit into his role as a puck moving defenseman," said Reuter, an assistant captain and third-year Bruins defenseman. "He's done a great job for us."

Austin will have to rely heavily on its defensive corps this weekend. It's a group that was maybe the biggest strength of this team coming into the season (along with starting G Nick Lehr), led by Bruins vets captain Josh Bretner, Reuter and Jake Arroyo. Eli May (who moved to forward halfway through the season) added another big body to the lineup, while Charlie Manley and Dunn brought some youth and potential to the group.

"He's had tremendous improvement," Bruins head coach Chris Tok said of Dunn. "At the beginning of the season we kind of couldn't play him. He was turning pucks over and was complicating the game, guessing sometimes when he didn't have the puck. But he has really figured out what he is capable of and how to play well at this level.
"Not only that, but he has really helped in the transition game, putting pucks right on our guys sticks so we can go."

NOTES AND QUOTES

* I put this on Twitter shortly after Austin's victory on Monday, but this stat still amazes me, so I'm throwing it out there again: The Bruins lost six of their top seven scorers from last season, a total of 133 goals and 193 assists -- 326 points. THREE HUNDRED TWENTY-SIX POINTS! That is an incredible amount, even in a 60-game season (5.38 per game), yet they won a second consecutive regular season division title and beat their top rival in the postseason division finals.

"Last year we had a lot of guys who could score (at will)," Reuter said. "This year we've had to just stick to the system and work for everything we've gotten. I think hard work is what's done it for us."

* Austin's bus broke down on their way back from Bismarck late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. I'm told some exhaust fumes started leaking into the bus and a number of players/coaches became ill, including goalie Nick Lehr, who shrugged it off and played one of his best games of the season against Bismarck on Monday (the 2-1 Game 5 victory) to lift the Bruins into the Robertson Cup.

* The Bruins seem in favor of the changes made to the Robertson Cup format this season. For the past decade or so, the four divisional playoff winners have met on neutral ice and played a round-robin format for the first three days, with the top two teams moving on to the national championship game on the fourth day.

Last year, national champion Amarillo allowed itself to be blown out on the last day of round-robin play, losing 7-0 to Wenatchee. That put Wenatchee into the national title game against Amarillo and knocked out Jamestown, a team that Amarillo squeaked by, 2-1, on the opening day of pool play.

Amarillo then steamrolled Wenatchee 5-0 in the title game, a day after losing to it by seven goals. This video pretty much sums up why there was so much anger throughout the NAHL and among junior hockey fans. The second goal of the game is irritating, the third is embarrasing for Amarillo. But, it's in the past.

The league reacted by changing the format for the Cup to three best 2-out-of-3 series -- a pair of semifinal series and one championship series.

"I like it. You can't just have a fluky game and knock someone out," Tok said. "You have to beat them twice. Usually if you beat someone twice, you're the better team." (Wild fans would probably disagree with you after Games 1 and 5, coach :) ).

* * * * *

All right, that should be enough to lead you up to game time. I'll have game updates on Twitter and a story up on PostBulletin.com/Sports shortly after the game.

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.