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35 posts categorized "Austin"

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.

 

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.