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October 09, 2015

Bear Tracks | A Robby Cup rematch

Posted by: Feldman

Feels like yesterday we were sitting in Riverside Arena in Austin, watching the longest game in North American Hockey League history. But that 4-overtime marathon in Game 1 of last year's Robertson Cup Finals doesn't mean much to a majority of the players who will be on the Riverside ice tonight.

For the first time since the Minnesota Wilderness swept the Austin Bruins in the best-of-3 2015 Robertson Cup Finals, the teams will meet, at 7:05 tonight in Austin and 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in Cloquet. 

So much is new on both sides: The entire coaching staff and all but four players for Austin weren't around back in May for the team's second consecutive appearance in the Finals. The Wilderness have a slight edge in returning players, with six guys back who were on their Robby Cup roster, and, of course, head coach Corey Millen is also back.

One thing hasn't changed for Austin under first-year head coach Kyle Grabowski and assistants Keenan Kelly and Brad Clayton: The Bs enter this series in a tie for first place in the NAHL Central Division. Austin (5-3-0, 10 points) is tied with Minot (4-1-2, 10 points) after the Bruins swept a home-and-home against division rival Brookings last weekend.

The Wilderness are 4-3-1 overall, but 4-1-1 since dropping their first two games of the season. 

Here's a look at this weekend's series:


When, where: 7:05 p.m. tonight, Riverside Arena, Austin; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Northwoods Credit Union Arena, Cloquet

Records: Wilderness 4-3-1 (9 points; 3rd, Midwest Division); Austin 5-3-0 (10 points; T-1st, Central Division)

Recent history: This weekend's games are the first two of four between the teams this season. They'll play again at Austin on Dec. 18 and at Cloquet on Jan. 7. ... The Wilderness swept the Bruins, 2-0, in the NAHL Robertson Cup Finals last season. The Wilderness were 5-2-3 against the Bruins in 2014-15; Austin was 5-4-1.

Coaches: Wilderness, Corey Millen (3rd season, 92-37-16 overall); Austin, Kyle Grabowski (1st season, 5-3-0).

Wilderness scoring leaders: F Jacob Hamacher, 5-7, 156 (2-5--7); F Tyler Cline, 5-9, 180 (2-5--7); F Koby Bender, 6-1, 196 (4-2--6); D Tyler Vold, 5-10, 167 (1-5--6).

Wilderness goalie leaders: Chase Munroe, 6-4, 216 (4-1-1, 2.00, .921); Dyllan Lubbesmeyer 5-11, 177 (0-2-0, 4.62, .809).

Bruins scoring leaders: F Jade Miller, 5-9, 180 (7-3--10); F Justin Misiak, 5-10, 170 (3-6--9); F Gilbert Gabor, 6-4, 220 (1-7--8); F Dawson DiPietro, 5-11, 170 (3-3--6).

Bruins goalie leaders: Kris Carlson, 6-2, 180 (3-1-0, 2.50, .919); Austin Smith, 6-2, 170 (2-1-0, 2.01, .909, 1 SO).

Weekend notes: Bruins goalie Kris Carlson is the reigning NAHL Central Division Star of the Week. He started and played all of both games against Brookings, stopping a total of 51 of 55 shots he faced. He made 24 saves in a 4-1 win Friday, then followed with 27 saves in a 6-3 win on Saturday in the Bs home opener. ... Bruins forward Dawson DiPietro had a goal in both games last weekend, including the game winner on Friday, and has five points in his past three games. ... Bs defenseman Will Riedell recorded his first multi-point game with Austin, notching two assists in Saturday's win. ... F Justin Misiak is second on the team in scoring, with nine points. He had a goal and two assists in Saturday's victory. ... Wilderness goalie Chase Munroe hasn't allowed more than two goals in any of his last six appearances. ... Forwards Koby Bender (4-2--6) and Ryan Bloom (4-1--5) are the only Wilderness players with more than two goals this season.  Thirteen players have scored at least once for Minnesota.



TEAM ... W-L-OTL ... Pts.
Austin ... 5-3-0 ... 10
Minot ... 4-1-2 ... 10
Aberdeen ... 4-2-0 ... 8
Brookings ... 4-4-0 ... 8
Bismarck ... 2-5-0 ... 4
Mn Magicians ... 2-4-0 ... 4



Every week, we'll spotlight a former Bruin or Bruins who have gone on to play at the college or pro level. This week's Blast is:

CODY DIXON, D, 2012-13

With the Bs: Dixon was traded to the Bruins early in the 2012-13 season from the Springfield Jr. Blues and he became Austin's top offensive defensman. Dixon finished his season with 16-28--44 in 64 total NAHL games, including six games with Springfield and eight playoff games with the Bs.

Where is he now?: The Hales Corner, Wis., native turned 23 on Sept. 30. He spent the 2013-14 season with NCAA Division III University of Massachusetts-Boston, where scored five goals and had eight total points. He transferred closer to home last season, to Concorida University-Wisconsin, also a D-3 school. CUW is in Mequon, a northern suburb of Milwaukee. He played in 25 games for CUW last season and recorded 14 points, the fifth-most by a defenseman in team history. He'll be a junior for the Falcons this winter and wears No. 63.

October 08, 2015


PHERSY: Hey yo ... we are back at it. I caught up with Rochester Ice Hawks head coach Nick Fatis this week for our first Phersy and Fatis Show of the 2015-16 season. It's the Ice Hawks' first season in the NA3HL ... they haven't found success in the win column yet, but Fatis said this young team already is making tremendous strides in the right direction.

The Ice Hawks hit the road this weekend for a three-game set at Chicago. They return home next weekend ... and hopefully that game will be at the newly renovated Rochester Recreation Center.

We are now uploading this podcast on Spreaker. You can download the Spreaker app on your phone free of charge and have easy access to the show every week. Enjoy!! And go Hawks!


September 26, 2015

Former Austin Bruins assistant settling in with USHL's Sioux City

Posted by: Feldman

There was a point in June when even Jamie Huffman started to wonder if he'd have a job in hockey this fall. 

Turns out the stress and wait was 100 percent worth it.

Huffman has moved up in the hockey world and has settled into a groove now as the assistant GM and director of scouting with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL.

Huffman excelled at scouring and scouting in his four years as the top assistant to Chris Tok in Austin. I never posed it this way to them, but -- in the simplest terms -- it often felt like Huffman built the teams and Tok coached them into champions. Now, that's not a fair way to pose things, because both coaches excelled at scouting, recruiting and coaching. They helped their players mature on and off the ice. 

But Huffman quickly realized he has an eye for talent, a talent for scouting and recruiting. And if you talk to scouts throughout junior hockey and college hockey, they'll tell you no one outworks Huffman.

So when he resigned from his post with the Bruins back in May -- just a week before Tok was fired as the team's head coach -- many of us assumed they'd both land on their feet. They did. Tok is out of hockey this year, giving himself and his family a break from the long hours that comes with the job.

Huffman officially began his first season with Sioux City on Sept. 1. A few days later, his phone rang while he was on the ice working with players and the Musketeers' coaching staff. It was a California area code. 

"They called while we were on the ice and said 'are you interested?'" 

It took Huffman less than a second to answer. In addtion to his new gig with the Musketeers, Huffman is also now a part-time scout for the NHL's Anaheim Ducks. And his duties are right up his alley, scouting the USHL, NAHL and Minnesota high school hockey.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Huffman said by phone a couple weeks ago from Sioux City. "That's the side of the game I, for some reason, developed a skill for. I never meant for that to be, but over time as I've gotten better and better, it's become a lot of fun. It's a challenge when you're going after the same player everyone else is."

It's also a challenge to find the guys who other teams don't necessarily want or notice, which is becoming more and more difficult to do these days, when very few players go unseen or unnoticed. 

"I'm a competitor," he said. "Tok always called me 'Mad Dog.' I'll try to outwork everyone."

Huffman will be based out of his hometown of Des Moines, where much of his family still lives. But, like always, he'll be on the road almost non-stop.

Perhaps the biggest change for Huffman, going from the NAHL to the USHL, is that nearly every player on a USHL roster has committed to a Division I college or is being heavily recruited by Division I schools. Many of the players are draft-eligible and are being scouted by NHL teams. In Austin, it was always the coaches' goal to move players on to Division I schools, but usually it was three or four guys a year who jumped to that level. 

"I don't think I'll have to change the way I look at players, but I'll definitely have to be more detailed," said Huffman, who has been in Blaine all week scouting the NAHL Showcase -- and scouring it for hidden gems. "Now (for the Ducks) I might have to go to a game just to watch one guy."

Sioux City has 10 players on its roster who are already D-I commits. And they're headed to the big-time schools -- Michigan, Providence, Denver, Minnesota, North Dakota.

The Musketeers also had a familiar face in the locker room for Huffman to connect with -- former Bruins forward Josh Wilkins is on the Musketeers roster this season.

There's no doubt Huffman is excited for his new opportunities. When he was getting in the later stages of the interviewing process with the Ducks, I asked him to let me know when he heard back from them. Shortly after he got off the phone with Ducks management, I received a text that didn't have any words, just a picture:

Ducks logo

September 18, 2015

Junior Hockey | Bear Tracks: A player-by-player look at the 2015-16 Austin Bruins

Here's a player-by-player look at the 2015-16 Austin Bruins ... well, at least their roster to start the season. Lots of roster changes are common early in the season, especially for a new coaching staff that is trying to fine-tune its roster exactly the way it wants it.
Here's a player-by-player look at the Bs -- who open their season, the first under head coach Kyle Grabowski, in less than an hour:
 Logan Haskins, 5-8, 160 (Rochester): Haskins led Rochester in scoring for a second consecutive season as a high school senior last winter. The diminutive, slick-skating playmaker finished his three-year varsity career with 116 points and he put up at least one point in 23 of Mayo's 26 games last season. He also had 13 multi-point games last season, playing on a line that combined for 125 points. Put up 15 points in 14 games for the Rochester Ice Hawks, playing before and after the high school season.
 Miro Lehtimaki, 6-3, 210 (Kiukainen, Finland): The big 18-year-old played two games for the Amarillo Bulls of the NAHL last season after putting up 20 goals and 33 points, as well as 62 penalty minutes, in 56 games for the Iowa AAA U18 Elite team. 
10  A.J. Rupert, 5-11, 170 (North Oaks, Minn.): The 20-year-old former Mounds View High School standout brings two years of junior hockey experience to the Bruins. He put up 41 points over his final two high school seasons, finishing his prep career in 2013. He played the past two seasons for the Minnesota Iron Rangers of the Superior International Junior Hockey League, recording 29 goals and 60 points in 94 games. 
12  Andrew Bellant, 5-10, 185 (Linden, Mich.): Bellant played last season with the Michigan Warriors 18U team of the National Junior Prospects Hockey League. The 18-year-old put up good numbers for Michigan, recording 23 goals and 41 points, as well as 116 penalty minutes, in just 20 games. He played 28 games the previous season for the Flint Jr. Generals of the NA3HL.
14  Jan Stefka 6-3, 185 (Krelov-Bruchotin, Czech Republic): The powerful left-shot forward comes to the Bruins for his first season of play in North America. He spent the past four seasons playing at the U16, U18 and U20 levels for the HC Olomouc program in the Czech Republic. The 18-year-old had 16 goals and 31 points in 25 games at the U18 level last season, and he played in 11 games for the U20 team, putting up one goal and four points.
17  Jade Miller 5-9, 180 (Minto, N.D.): The 20-year-old was a key player last season for a Bruins team that reached the Robertson Cup Finals for a second consecutive year. Miller had nine goals and 20 points in 60 total games last season. ... Wore No. 27 last season, changed to No. 17 this year. ... Came on strong at the end of last season, recording seven points in the final five regular-season games as the Bruins pushed to win the NAHL Central Division.
18  Jason Koehn 6-0, 180 (Grand Rapids): The 17-year-old had seven goals and 10 assists over the past two seasons while playing high school hockey in Grand Rapids. Koehn is one of five 1998-born players on the Bruins roster. 
19  Justin Misiak 5-10, 170 (St. Clair Shores, Mich.): The 19-year-old left-shot forward played three games in the NAHL for the Amarillo (Texas) Bulls last season. He spent the majority of the past two seasons playing in the U18 High Performance Hockey League for the Little Caesars U18 team. Misiak had 26 goals and 51 points in 53 total games over two seasons.
21  Gilbert Gabor 6-4, 220 (Stockholm, Sweden): The big 20-year-old continues on the Bruins' tradition of bringing in strong, experienced Swedish players (past Swedes to play for the team include Christian Folin, Alex Pettersson and Jacob Kullberg. Played for the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL, a Canadian Major Junior league, in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Played for four different teams in Sweden last year, totaling nine goals and 21 points in 44 games.
22  Travis Kothenbeutel 5-10, 165 (Sauk Rapids, Minn.): Spent a majority of last season with the Granite City Lumberjacks of the North American Tier 3 Hockey League. Totaled 21-31--52 in 50 games for Granite City. Scored the game-winning goal in the Silver Cup Finals, lifting the Lumberjacks to the Tier III national championship. ... Was on the Bruins roster for the entire NAHL postseason, but didn't appear in a game. Played in eight regular-season games for the Bruins, recording two goals and three assists.
24  Evan Cholak 5-8, 160 (Kenosha, Wis.): The young (17-year-old) left-shot forward is in his first season in the NAHL after averaging close to a point per game last season. He put up 23 points in 26 games for the Chicago Mission U18 team in the High Performance U18 Hockey League. Prior to that, he spent two seasons with the Milwaukee Jr. Admirals U16 club in the Tier I U16 Elite League. 
25  Zach Kennedy 6-1, 200 (Eagle River, Wis.): The 19-year-old forward is in his second season with the Bruins. Kennedy had 20 points in 56 games last season, including playing in eight playoff games. He had a plus-11 plus/minus rating and 94 penalty minutes. He was also among the team leaders with four game-winning goals.
26  Austin Rueschhoff 6-6, 210 (Wentzville, Mo.): The big power forward who turned 18 last week played in 26 NAHL games last season with three different teams. He stuck with the Richfield-based Minnesota Magicians for a majority of his NAHL time, playing 22 games and scoring five goals. He played for the St. Louis Selects U16 team in the North American Prospects Hockey League from 2012-2014. He scored 17 goals and had 43 points in 43 games over two seasons for St. Louis.
27  AJ Drobot 5-8, 175 (Churchville, Pa.): The Bruins' third-round draft pick in June's NAHL Draft is just 17 years old and is already committed to the University of Maine. Played one game for Sioux Falls in the USHL last season. Put up 11-18--29 in 35 games for the EHL's New Jersey Rockets in 2014-15. Was a big scorer for the Rockets' U19 Midget team in 2013-14, putting up 43-22--65 in 52 games. One of six Bruins draft picks on their roster.
28  Nigel Nelson 6-3, 215 (Chicago): Another of the Bruins' big, strong forwards, the 17-year-old was the team's eighth-round pick in June's NAHL draft. He played the past two seasons for the Chicago Young Americans U16, recording eight goals and 15 points, as well as 40 penalty minutes, in 35 games. He played for the Team Illinois Bantam team in 2012-13, recording six points in 23 games.
 Derek Olmschenk 6-5, 225 (Lino Lakes, Minn.): One of two returning defensemen from last year's Robertson Cup Finals team. The 20-year-old recorded eight points (4-7--11) last season, and 28 penalty minutes in 55 total games. He appeared in 10 playoff games. He played high school hockey at Cretin-Derham Hall, where he recorded 11-35--46 in his three-year varsity career.
4  Griff Slightam 5-10, 195 (Rochester): The 19-year-old tendered with the Bruins during last season after a five-year high school career at Rochester Lourdes. He was on three state tournament teams at Lourdes, including playing at state as an eighth-grader. Battled through some injuries as a senior, but recorded eight goals and 15 points. Finished his varsity career with 57 points. 
6  Johnny Pesek 6-1, 185 (Lake Forest, Ill.): The Bruins' 11th-round draft pick in June is just 16 years old (he turns 17 on Oct. 28). He played in two games last season for the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers and one game for the Soo Eagles of the NAHL. Pesek had a big season for the Soo Indians U18 AAA midget team last year, scoring 18 goals and finishing with 47 points in 59 games. He also had 70 penalty minutes. 
7  Austin Hingtgen 6-1, 190 (Williston, N.D.): The 20-year-old blue-liner played in 28 games for the NAHL's Wichita Falls Wildcats last season, finishing with three points and 56 penalty minutes. Played the prior two seasons for Lake Forest (Ill.) Academy of the Midwest Prep Hockey League, where he recorded 11 points in 26 games over two years. Spent the 2011-12 season with the Omaha Lancers AAA U16 team.
11  Paul O'Connor 5-11, 175 (St. Peters, Mo.): The 19-year-old is entering his third NAHL season, having spent the past two playing for the Richfield-based Minnesota Magicians. O'Connor played in 55 games, and recorded eight points and 50 penalty minutes over two seasons with the Magicians. Played in a total of 50 games for Cedar Rapids of the USHL over the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. 
16  Zackary Taylor 5-9, 165 (Mahtomedi, Minn.): The 18-year-old helped Mahtomedi High School go 26-3-2 last season and place third in the Minnesota Class A state tournament. Had 26 points as a senior last season and finished his three-year varsity career with 41 total points and 72 penalty minutes. 
20  Nicklas Wilson 6-0, 185 (Dewitt, Mich.): The 18-year-old blue-liner was the Bruins' seventh-round pick in June's NAHL Draft. Played last season for the Michigan Nationals U18 midget team of the High Performance Hockey League. 
23  Dalton Gally 6-4, 215 (New Braunfels, Texas): The big blue-liner played for the Omaha AAA program last season. He played six games for the Omaha AAA High Performance Hockey League team, recording one assist. He also played 15 games for the Omaha AAA U16 team, collecting a goal and four assists. He also played in four games in the USHL for Des Moines. 
   Austin Smith 6-2, 170 (Orland Park, Ill.): Smith, 18, enters his first season in the NAHL after playing for the Chicago Mission U18 program in the High Performance Hockey League last season. He played in 12 games, and had a 2.24 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. He spent the 2013-14 season with the Chicago Young Americans team of the HPHL U16 league, where his numbers were very good (2.01, .926). 
30  Jacob Berger 5-11, 165 (Minnetonka, Minn.): Played three seasons of varsity hockey for the Minnetonka Skippers, one of the standout programs in Minnesota Class AA hockey. Went 22-20-2 in 44 starts in his high school career. Was 7-8-2 as a senior with a 2.80 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage. Led the Skippers to within one win of the state tournament last season, recording 21 saves in a heartbreaking 2-1 OT loss against Eden Prairie in the Section 6AA final. 
31  Kyle Madore 6-1, 170 (Venetia, Pa.)The 18-year-old Madore was Austin's fifth-round draft pick this summer. He was 11-5-0 with a 2.54 GAA and .906 save percentage with the Pittsburgh Penguins Tier I Midget team last season. Went 3-0 in the playoffs, with a 1.32 GAA and a .940 save pct. Brother, Rob, played goalie at the University of Vermont from 2008-12.

August 04, 2015

Former JM great Jim Scheid dies at 57

Posted by: Feldman

"It's a sad day, but it goes to show life is not fair. It's tough. Rochester has lost a great person." — Former JM hockey star Bruce Aikens, on his teammate Jim Scheid


Six-hundred thirty-six words seems so insufficient to sum up someone's life. Anyone's life, but espeically the life of someone like Jim Scheid, who clearly touched more lives than he knew.

That's how many words are in this story about Scheid, the former Rochester John Marshall athletic standout, who died Monday just three days before his 58th birthday, after a long battle with cancer.

I talked to three of his friends/high school teammates about Jim, and I knew about 5 minutes into my first conversation that I was going to have way more material than I could fit into a print story.

I could have written 6,000 words, probably more.

I never had the chance to meet Jim in person. I interviewed him one time, a little more than five years ago, for a story on all of the Rochester hockey players who moved on to play at the University of Wisconsin in the 1970s and early 80s. The Badgers were playing in an NCAA Regional at The X that spring (2010) and it seemed like a good time to do the story.

I don't know why I remember this, but when I called Jim, he was traveling to a youth hockey tournament -- I'm assuming with his youngest son, Ian, who coincidentally I would come to know a little bit over this past year as he played for the Austin Bruins -- somewhere in the northern part of the state. I want to say Thief River Falls, but I could be wrong.

The point is, from all of his friends and family with whom I spoke today, that was Jim. He was always coaching, teaching, helping others -- his kids, friends' kids -- excel at the sports they love, whether it was hockey, baseball, football (Jim starred in all three at JM) or hunting or fishing (which friends say he loved just as much).

Back in late May, Scott Lecy -- Jim's linemate and teammate at JM and Wisconsin -- worked with the Rochester Park and Rec to get the warming house at Allendale Park named after Scheid. When Lecy went to visit Scheid in his home last weekend, Scheid told him with a laugh, "You know, Scott, that's nice, but I never spent much time in the warming house."

Indeed, as Lecy and Bruce Aikens and Randy Wilcox would explain to me, Scheid was the one who called everyone's house -- who remembers a childhood without cell phones?! -- to tell them to gather at the outdoor rink, no matter the temperature. And once there, when everyone else would take a break, Scheid would be the one shoveling off the rink.

Scheid was also an outstanding QB on the football team (he played on JM's 1974 state title team) and an All-State baseball player as a senior. He was inducted into the Rochester Quarterbacks Club Hall of Fame in 2013.

"He was the quarterback in football, first-line center in hockey and shortstop in baseball," Wilcox said with a chuckle. "How much better can you be?"

Scheid, Lecy, Aikens and Wilcox all played on some powerhouse JM hockey teams. The Rockets went 21-3 in Scheid's senior season but lost in the section tournament. The next year, Lecy and Aikens led JM to a state championship. Three weeks later, Lecy was in Madison on his recruiting visit, where he had the chance to catch up with Scheid.

"He knew we'd have a great team that year," Lecy said of the '77 Rockets. "He was just so happy that we all got to experience that. Not just getting to state, but winning it, too."

When I've talked to players from those mid-to-late 1970s JM teams, they all echo the same sentiment: Those teams were great because of the work the players put in away from organized practice. Wilcox talked at length about Scheid using a tennis ball instead of a puck on the uneven outdoor ice at Allendale.

"If you could handle a tennis ball hopping around out there, you could definitely handle a puck," he said.

That makes it fitting that one of the lasting impressions Scheid will leave on Rochester is his name on the warming house of an outdoor rink, where everyone skating on the ice can see it.


Jim and his wife, Sandy, have three sons: Tony, Eric and Ian.

I've followed Eric's hockey career from afar; he'll be a senior playing at Penn State this fall.

Ian will play for the USHL's Fargo Force; they made him a 2nd round draft pick a couple months ago after he had an outstanding season with the NAHL's Austin Bruins. I got to know Ian a little bit while covering the team -- it was obvious he didn't care to have the spotlight placed on him, but he always answered questions with thought and never turned me down if I asked for an interview. To know what he was going through off the ice, it's pretty amazing to have watched the season he put together on it.

After meeting Ian and watching him play, I wasn't shocked that Aikens had this to say about Jim Scheid as a high school player:

"I know his parents were big influences in his life. He wasn't a really vocal guy, but was always very down to Earth. He let his actions and play speak for him."

His former teammates describe Jim as a do-it-all type of guy, one who would much rather set up his teammates for a goal than score it himself.

As Lecy and Wilcox pointed out, Scheid earned the nickname "Slip" at Wisconsin, because he was always too slippery for anyone to catch.

"He was so unselfish," Lecy said. "He was always looking to pass and not shoot. ... He was a great athlete and a great guy, and he was easy to like and look up to."

Aikens added: "Jim was a class act. He came to play every night. Fundamentally he did everything well and was a great team leader. He could really pass the puck, very unselfish. He got more joy out of winning than his own statistics. It was a joy to play with him.
"He was the QB on the football team, a great baseball player, and he did it all with class and made it look easy."

July 21, 2015

Statement from Rochester CVB on potential USHL team playing at MCC

Posted by: Feldman

The Mayo Civic Center is undergoing a massive $79 million renovation project, expected to be completed in 2017. Part of that renovation could include the addition of a refrigeration system so that ice could be installed for hockey (and, I'm guessing, touring ice shows such as Disney On Ice-type shows), in particular a possible USHL expansion franchise.

Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Brad Jones issued a statement today that indicates the process is underway to find out what types of sports and entertainment options may be feasible and successful in Rochester.

Results of the study are expected in September.

The statement reads:

“The Rochester Convention & Visitors Bureau, in collaboration with a group of interested parties, is engaged in a feasibility study to determine which type of sports and entertainment may be successful and sustainable in the Rochester market.

The study will assist in identifying what type of facility is needed. Exploration and understanding the needs of the United States Hockey League, in addition to other sports organizations, are a component of the feasibility study.

"The results of the study are expected to be available in September. Upon completion, the outcomes will be utilized to determine if future opportunities are pursued.”

So, there we go. I guess we'll find out in roughly two months if the Civic Center is a good candidate for the USHL (and possibly other sports leagues) and vice-versa. If making the arena hockey-friendly is a possibility, that would clear -- as far as I can tell -- probably the biggest hurdle in getting the country's top junior league back in Roch.

Junior Hockey | The USHL may make a comeback in Rochester

Posted by: Feldman

Dust off those old Rochester Mustangs T-shirts and jerseys. You may need them again in a couple of years.

Or maybe not. (But it still would be cool to dust them off and wear them.)

The USHL may be on its way back to Rochester. In 2 or 3 years. Or maybe not. There is an owernship group in place and ready to bring the league back to town, if all of the details can be worked out. The team would almost certainly be an expansion team and probably would start play in the 2017-18 season.

I have not yet been able to get anyone from the United States Hockey League, the Mayo Civic Center or the ownership group, on the phone. I left messages this afternoon for USHL commissioner Bob Fallen, as well as Mayo Civic Center Executive Director Donna Drews, and two of the men who are likely heading up or heavily involved in the ownership group. I haven't heard back from any of them, but it's only been about nine hours, so let's give them a little time, eh?

Why call Drews at the MCC? Well, because, from everything I'm hearing, the owners want to place a potential franchise in downtown, which would obviously mean playing in Taylor Arena.

The problem: Taylor Arena isn't fit to hold ice right now. No refrigeration system is in place. That said, if one is going to be installed, now would be the time, with the giant renovation project already underway at the Civic Center. (Personally, I wouldn't at all mind walking across the street from the P-B a couple of dozen times a winter to watch USHL hockey). Perhaps that means the ownership group would pay for the cooling system? 

What about the Rochester Rec Center, you ask? The Rec Center is an awesome place to watch hockey. The view from the loft is the best spot in town to watch a game. However, with the growth -- both in terms of number of teams and in terms of recognition as a ultra-talented league -- of the USHL, I'd guess the league is looking to place teams in arenas that seat more than the 2,600 or so that the Rec Center can hold. But selling out the Rec Center would mean more attendance than a couple of USHL teams with roughly 3,000-seat buildings that don't sell out on a nightly basis.

Almost all of the arenas that house USHL teams seat at least 3,500, many of them seat 5,000-plus. The smallest arenas in the league are the Chicago Steel's rink, Edge Ice Arena (3,000 capacity), and the Mystique Ice Center, home of the Dubuque Fighting Saints (3,079). The Madison Capitols' Alliant Energy Center Coliseum (10,231) and the brand new Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls (10,678) are the biggest in the league.

The Mayo Civic Center's Taylor Arena lists a seating capacity of 5,200 for concerts and 7,200 for festival-seating events. At 5,200 it would be right about in the middle of the league's arenas as far as seating capacity.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Again, nothing is set in stone yet, as far as I know. From what I understand, though, it's gone beyond the "it would be cool to bring the USHL back to Roch, we should put a team together" stage. One of the potential owners even took a trip to Omaha to see the Lancers' new rink back in late May and, I'm assuming, to talk with ownership there about what all it takes to operate a franchise in the country's top junior hockey league.


Why Rochester?

Lots of reasons. Sure, detractors could point to the failure of Rochester's last USHL franchise. The Mustangs folded after the 2001-02 season, partly due to dwindling attendance, but more so, I'm told, because of ownership who had some financial issues, primarily not paying bills.

I remember at one point when I first started on the hockey beat here, probably 2005 or 2006, talking to Rochester Ice Hawks owner Doc Fatis about some of the obstacles they faced when moving their team here from LeSeuer. There was still a lot of skepticism and distrust from the business community toward junior hockey teams. The Ice Hawks have done a remarkable job of building that trust in their product on and off the ice. And if the ownership of this new USHL team would involve the people I'm told it will, there will be a built-in level of trust and familiarity within the community.

So, back to, why Rochester?

The whole Destination Medical Center plan probably helps. If the city is truly going to double in size in the next two decades, a USHL team here would go from drawing on an immediate population of 110,000 to one of more than 200,000, as well as drawing fans from surrounding communities.

As the league stands right now, there are 17 teams. Here is a look at the league's footprint. Fold it in half and Rochester would be almost right on the crease in the fold. A new team here could be placed in either conference, going east or west to play most of its games.

Fallen has said in the past that keeping travel time down as much as possible is one priority. Rochester is less than 400 miles from 12 of the 17 current USHL teams, and only 405 from another (Lincoln, Neb.). Roughly half (eight) of the league's teams are within 275 miles.

Fallen talked at length about USHL expansion during this interview with The Pipeline radio show out of Edmonton back in late May. (Here's a link to that interview; skip ahead to the 5:45 mark, then the 7:45 mark to hear him talk about what the league is looking for in an expansion market)

If you don't want to listen to the whole thing, here's some of what he had to say, while talking about the Indiana Ice re-joining the league in 2016-17:

"We're working on a couple things right now that would add potentially two additional teams for '17-'18."

"We are approached quite frequently (by) folks who are looking to get teams in the United States Hockey League. We've tried to focus on identifying the right markets that fit our business model. I'm a believer that the market has to be first in terms of having a building that's sustainable and having a lease that's right for the footprint of our league, and making sure we're not asking these young men to be on buses for 15, 16, 20 hours for road trips. We're trying to keep things into the midwest, upper midwest, just to, you know, kind of fit in to our business model."

"I really think you'll be looking at something that fits right in our geographic business model. We've been approached by a number of folks about moving east and it's such a huge market out there for hockey and yet they also have tons of Division I college, pro, and minor pro (teams). We're just concerned that the travel would be too taxing. 

"Right now, Youngstown (Ohio) is our eastern-most team. To ask kids to get on a bus and go from Sioux Falls or Sioux City to Youngstown, you're looking at a 10- 12- or 14-hour trip, so we're trying not to go much further than that right now."

Read into Fallen's comments what you will, but Rochester seems to check off a lot of boxes on the league's wish list. That said, as mentioned above, the arena -- the lack of a refrigeration system in it -- could be a sticking point that's too tough to overcome. 


Other markets of interest

Fallen addressed the question of adding teams out east, and his comments seem to indicate that markets such as Buffalo, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh would not be in the running for a USHL team, though the league will hold a preseason mini-showcase in Pittsburgh this fall (Sept. 18-19), with four teams playing games there over two days. Perhaps that's intended more for young players to see what the USHL is all about.

Even if the league intends to add two more teams for the '17-'18 season, there are other markets that could be very attractive.

Where else could the league expand? I have a few ideas, let me know if I'm missing some obvious places in the Midwest or if you think I'm off-base on these. I'm just spitballing:

* Kansas City. K.C. has been mentioned often when NHL expansion or relocation talks come up, though it always seems to get shuffled aside in favor of Seattle, Las Vegas, Quebec City, etc. It has been home to pro teams in the past and is currently the home of the Kansas City Jr. Mavs program (formerly Russell Stover). K.C. also is a very easy drive to the USHL's teams in Iowa and Nebraska.

* Dayton, Ohio. Dayton would make a lot of sense in a possible division with Youngstown, the Michigan teams and even the Indiana Ice when they return in 2016-17. Hara Arena isn't shiny and new, but it seats 5,500, which falls right in line with what the USHL is looking for. The community has had pro hockey teams in the past, including the Dayton Gems of the CHL and the Dayton Bombers of the ECHL. The Bombers stuck around for about a dozen years, which could mean the USHL would find some success there.

* Eau Claire, Wis. I don't know what their arenas hold, seating-wise, but Eau Claire is a big enough city (roughly 65,000-70,000 population) and it pumps out some really talented high school players on a yearly basis, with Memorial High School always competing for trips to state and titles. Again, I don't know what Hobbs Ice Center holds, as far as seating capacity, perhaps it's not big enough, but Eau Claire would be another strong geographical fit.


That's all I have for now. I'll keep efforting the major players in this deal and be back with more when I can get some confirmations of what the conversations to date have consisted of.

June 10, 2015

Junior Hockey | A look at the Austin Bruins draft class

Posted by: Feldman

The Austin Bruins' new coaching staff did a solid job of putting together its first draft class on Tuesday. Coupled with nine tenders who have already signed to play with the Bruins, Austin's first-year head coach Kyle Grabowski has a versatile group to work with come September.

Of course, we don't know who or how many of the draft picks and/or tenders will come to Austin, but if any of those 21 guys choose to play in the NAHL, the Bruins hold their rights. Keep in mind that NAHL teams often take flyers on players who could or likely will make a USHL (Tier I) team, or a team in a Canadian junior league. If things don't pan out in that league, the NAHL team then holds their rights at Tier II. 

So don't expect all 12 draft picks to be on the Bs roster in September. And don't be shocked if they're not all there at the Bruins tryout camp next month in Somerset, Wis. (July 7-10). 

Here's a look at the Bs 12 draft picks:

ROUND 1, No. 20 overall
Vince Marinaro, F, Des Moines (USHL) (3-11-97, 18-y-o) 5-10, 160: Marinaro split last season between Coulee Region of the NAHL and Des Moines of the USHL. He started the season with the Chill, recording 2-4--6 in 22 games, then put up 2 assists in 25 games with Des Moines. He had a goal and two assists in four games against the Bruins last season. He played for Team Illinois program from Bantam through U18 levels. In 2013-14, had 11-17--28 in 28 games with Team Illinois U18. Put up 8-5--13 in 26 games for Team Illinois U16 Midget in 2012-13. He is a native of Algonquin, Ill.
ROUND 2, No. 43 overall
Mason Anderson, D, Waterloo (USHL) (2-23-95, 20-y-o) 6-2, 174: Played 50 games in the USHL last season, the first 30 with Madison and the last 20 with Waterloo. Put up 1-5--6 in Madison and 0-1--1 in Waterloo. Listed at 6-2, 174 pounds. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska. A '95 birthdate, will turn 21 next February. In 2013-14, played for Drumheller of the AJHL and Weyburn of the SJHL. Prior to that, played Bantam and Midgets for the Alaska Wolves U14, 14AAA and 16AAA programs. Also played for the Alaska Acaes Midget 18AAA team.
ROUND 3, No. 48 overall
IAN BECK, D, Milwaukee Jr. Admirals (TIEHL U18) (4-5-98, 17-y-o) 6-4, 200: Beck played for the Jr. Admirals and had 3-13--16 in 49 games this season. He is just 17 years old, will not turn 18 until next April. Bruins received this pick in a trade with the Minnesota Magicians. Beck is a Chicago native.
ROUND 3, No. 65 overall
A.J. Drobot, F, New Jersey Rockets (EHL) (4-14-98, 17-y-o) 5-8, 176: Played one game for Sioux Falls in the USHL this past season. Put up 11-18--29 in 35 games for the Rockets in 2014-15. Was a big scorer for the Rockets' U19 Midget team in 2013-14, putting up 43-22--65 in 52 games. Is a University of Maine commit. From Churchville, Pa.
ROUND 4, No. 87 overall
Frankie Sullivan, D, Springfield Pics (USPHL) (2-29-96, 19-y-o) 6-0, 187: Played for four different teams in the USPHL last season, finishing with Springfield for the final 23 games. Totaled 6-8--14 in 48 games. Prior to that, played high school hockey at Westminster Prep in Connecticut. A native of Fairfield, Conn.
ROUND 5, No. 109 overall
Kyle Madore, G, Pittsburgh Penguins Elite U18 (Tier I U18 Elite) (2-10-97, 18-y-o) 6-2, 165: Was 11-5-0, 2.54, .906 with Penguins Tier I Midget last season. Went 3-0 in the playoffs, with a 1.32 GAA and a .940 save pct. Brother, Rob, played goalie at the University of Vermont from 2008-12 and has played professionally in the ECHL since then. He played this season for the Cincinnati Cyclones. Another older brother, Matt, played for New Mexico in the NAHL in the 2010-11 season. Athletic ability runs in the family. Former Minnesota Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey is their cousin.
ROUND 6, No. 126 overall
Logan Haskins, F, Rochester Mayo (MN-HS) (1997) 5-9, 155: Haskins led the city in scoring for a second consecutive season last season as a senior. The diminutive, slick-skating playmaker finished his three-year varsity career with 116 points and he put up at least one point in 23 of Mayo's 26 games this season. He also had 13 multi-point games this season, playing on a line that combined for 125 points.

Round 7, No. 141 overall
Nick Wilson, F, Michigan Nationals U18 (ECEL) (Birthdate, Ht., Wt. N/A)

Wilson skated for the Michigan Nationals last year in the Midget Major division of junior hockey, where the team competed against HPHL, T1EHL and East Coast Elite League (ECEL) teams. The 18-year-old from Bartlett, Ill., was teammates with current Bruins tender Brendan VanSweden on the Nationals and could be teammates again in Austin next year.

Round 8, No. 153 overall
Nigel Nelson, F, Chicago Young Americans U16 (HPHL) (1-17-98, 17-y-o) 6-1, 170
Nelson had a strong final season in the U16 division of the HPHL last year for the Chicago Young Americans. The Crystal Lake, Ill., native tallied 13 points (7-6--13) in 25 games and turned 17 in January. Nelson is listed as a 6’1 forward and would finish high school in Austin if he makes the Bruins roster. Before playing for CYA, he played for Team Illinois’ AAA bantam team.

Round 9, No. 164 overall
Ezra Hall, F, Winnipeg Blues (MJHL) (4-9-96, 19-y-o) 6-5, 201
Hall is the only member of the Bruins’ 30-player protected roster from Canada, as he hails from Winnipeg. The 19-year-old defenseman played for the Winnipeg Blues in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) last year, where he had 26 points (12-14--26) in 53 games. Hall’s size could be a huge factor on the Bruins’ blue line.



Round 10, No. 174 overall
Jacob Paganelli, F, Shattuck St. Mary's Prep (3-28-97, 18-y-o) 5-11, 170
Paganelli, from Verona, N.J., has committed to play for Division I Princeton University in his home state, beginning with the 2016-17 season. He could add a big scoring punch to the Bruins if he doesn’t play in the USHL next year. Paganelli finished with 59 points (24-35--59) in 54 games last season at Shattuck.

Round 11, No. 184 overall
Johnny Pesek, D, Soo Indians 18U (Midget Major) (10-28-98, 16-y-o) 5-10, 150Pesek is the youngest of the 12 Bruins draft picks but has a very high ceiling with four years of junior eligibility remaining. The defenseman from Lake Forest, Ill., won’t turn 17 until October, and spent last season playing AAA midget majors for the Soo Indians 18U team. Pesek finished with 47 points (18-29--47) in 59 games for the Indians and also had the opportunity to play in two USHL games for the Green Bay Gamblers alongside former Bruins Sam Kauppila and Jason Pawloski.

May 19, 2015

BLOG | Bruins need to act soon on coaching decision

Posted by: Feldman

We'll put a wrap on the 2014-15 Austin Bruins season here on the blog tomorrow, but...

As was first reported here last night, Austin Bruins assistant coach Jamie Huffman has indeed resigned. 

Here's the story from today's P-B, with comments from Huffman and head coach Chris Tok, who is still in place and will continue his duties until told otherwise from Bruins ownership.

The Bruins owners, Craig Patrick and Mike Cooper, issued a brief statement today:

Bruins assistant coach Jamie Huffman will not return to Austin next season.

Prior to the beginning of the 2014-15-season coach Huff told Bruins ownership that he would likely not be back for the 2015-16 season. Several weeks ago Huff confirmed that he would not be back and asked that we not announce his departure until the end of the season. We respected his wishes and did not announce that he was leaving until today. 

In the three years that Huff has been the main recruiter for the Bruins he has been responsible for bringing in the talent that has brought us so much success.

The Austin Bruins organization wishes coach Huffman the best in all of his future endeavors.

Read into that what you will. It says nothing about Tok, who, as far as I can gather, has not been told if he'll be back or when or if he'll be let go. What I can tell you is that the relationship between the coaches and owners has been strained for some time, beyond just this season. That's pretty obvious, though, eh?

What we also know is that, if this team intends to be successful next season, it needs to make some decisions and make them fast. 

The NAHL Draft is 20 days away. Summer tryout camps need to be organized and operated; on a list of team tryout camps on the NAHL website, the Bruins are the only team in the league not on the list. Dates for a final team tryout/veteran camp need to be put in stone sooner than later. The Bruins still have two tenders available to fill. That also means they have a half-dozen players signed to tenders, including Rochester Lourdes defenseman Griff Slightam, and I'm positive those players would very much like to know who their coach(es) will be.

If, in fact, there is going to be a coaching change in Austin, a new staff will have to scramble to make sure the current tenders are going to come to Austin (they can't play for any other team in the NAHL, but they're not bound to play in the league) and they need to get tryout camps going; they're behind every other team in the league in that regard.

On top of that, Tok will have little time to look for a coaching job, if he decides to stay in coaching.

The longer this drags out, the worse it is for the product that will be on the ice this fall. Attendance at Riverside this season dipped below the 1,000-per-game average for the first time since the team's inaugural season. It was a drop of 226 fans per game in the regular season (from 1,215 to 989) compared to last season. Over the course of 28 regular-season home games (not 30, because two of every team's "home" games are held at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, in September), that's more than 6,300 less fans. That's a lot of ticket revenue and concession stand revenue lost.


2010-11: 756
2011-12: 1,021
2012-13: 1,220
2013-14: 1,215
2014-15: 989

If the head coach -- whether it's Tok or someone new -- has little time to put together a team (kids are going to have 21 other NAHL tryouts to choose from, as well as USHL tryouts and some Tier III tryouts, such as the NA3HL), the team will be playing catch-up to the rest of the division. That's not an easy task, as we saw this season. Minot is improving every year. Bismarck had a "down" year and won't stay that way long. Aberdeen and Brookings gave the Bruins tough games every time they met, despite the S.D. teams not being as deep or talented.

Expectations have been set high in Austin. If the Bruins fall to the bottom of the division, what happens to attendance? Aberdeen finished fourth in the division standings this season, yet led the division in attendance at 1,419 fans per game. Will Riverside see that many if the Bruins are a sub-.500 team?

The point of this is, if the coaching situation isn't solved quickly, the on-ice product will suffer and the fans will, too.


Here are some more comments from Jamie Huffman and Chris Tok about Huffman's time with the Bruins and his departure:


"I'll miss the kids and I'll miss (Tok), too. He's really good at what he does and he gave me an opportunity I'll never forget. I'm most proud of those banners we hung. No one can ever -- ever -- take those away from us."

"I try to work hard and work with good people like (Tok) and I'm smart enough to know that I have to work even harder to keep up with them."

"It puts a smile on my face, even in the middle of a game, to look down by our locker room and see all those (former players) standing there. The bond we have ... we spend so much time together with them and hopefully have earned their respect."


"Jamie excels at numerous things, like getting more out of the players, the little things in practice. When they're doing drills, just the little things, telling them to go faster or push themselves more ... just the energy he brought to the rink every single day. He could be a gruff individual, but the players loved him."

"The name he's built for himself in recruiting and the resume he's built, it's all because he does his due diligence. He turned over every single rock on every single player to make sure he got the kids that were right for us."

"His favorite quote to recruits was always 'do your homework.' He meant do your homework on Chris Tok, ask other people. He would sell kids on our team, our program, but he wanted them to do their due diligence too. 
"When players come here, they know we are pretty demanding. Our players know what they're getting into when they come here. I've read and heard player say that it sinks in and they appreciate it more once they're gone."

"Jamie put a lot of time in with the players. He was a huge part of that bridge between the players, the captains, and me."


May 15, 2015

BLOG | Rochester's Zmolek has been key to Bruins playoff push, history of Robertson Cup

Posted by: Feldman

Since I'm settled into my press row seat at Riverside Arena with 85 minutes 'til puck drop, why not do one more blog before the Robertson Cup Finals begin?

Rochester Century standout defenseman Riese Zmolek played in four games for the Austin Bruins back in November, prior to the start of the high school season. When Century's season ended in the Section 1AA semifinals, Zmolek rejoined the Bs two days later. 

I've avoided writing much about him as a B for two reasons: 1) I wrote a lot about him -- deservedly so -- in his stellar high school career, and 2) I wanted to let him settle in with the Bruins and not write about him just because he's from Rochester.

He's definitely settled in and is a valuable member of the Bs defensive corps. They use him in every situation and full confidence in him. I talked with Bs coach Chris Tok before last weekend's national semifinals about Zmolek. Here's what he had to say about how Riese has adjusted to the NAHL.


Zmolek, 18, is one of three Bruins players who were selected in the USHL Draft a couple weeks ago, being picked in the second round by the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. Defenseman Ian Scheid (Fargo) also went in the second round, and forward Nico Sturm (Tri-City) went in the 5th round.

"Riese can really bring something to a (USHL) hockey team and help them win and get into championships," Tok said. "They (USHL coaches) are looking for guys who win. Riese is here and he's won."

Tok said Zmolek has made his own name in hockey circles. Sure, everyone knows who his dad is (Doug, a veteran of 467 NHL games and a former first-round draft pick of the Minnesota North Stars), but Riese is in Austin because of his ability, not his name.

From the first time Riese played in a game with the Bs back in November, the coaching staff loved the way he always went full speed. If he made a mistake, he was doing it at full speed. There was no hesitation to his game. As Tok put it to me back in November, coaches love working with guys who play with some decisiveness. They can work to correct mistakes guys make while playing all-out. 

"Riese is probalby never going to get away from his last name," Tok said, "but he's a competitor just like his old man was and that's why he's here, not because of his dad, but because he's a competitor. He does things hard and he's decisive. You can't have a high school kid come in to this level and be soft. He has been a really good addition to our team and will make a good jump to the USHL."

As far using Zmolek in all situations, assistant coach Jamie Huffman runs the defensemen during games. He generally determines which pairings are put on the ice, with Tok, of course, holding veto power.

"Huff runs the D and has a lot of confidence in (Zmolek)," Tok said. "I can tell you that I have not walked down to that end of the bench and said 'hey, don't play him.' He's here to play. We didn't have him come after his high school season, or before, just to sit on the bench.
"When he came the first time (in November), he saw more power-play time. When he came back, we had some chemistry going on the power play and he hasn't seen as much time there.
"A couple things that make him so good defensively late in games is, he's hard on pucks, when he gets his stick in there it's heavy and he does something good with it. He's getting it out of the zone and not just flipping it softly. He protects the front of the net really well, knocks people down, and he's not afraid to block shots. If you do those things, it makes you a valuable asset."

Zmolek didn't have any points in 12 regular-season games, but has three points in 11 playoff games, including his first NAHL goal, which he scored in a 4-3 series-clinching Game 3 victory against the Aberdeen Wings in the first round of the divisional playoffs. 

Zmolek was somewhat of a free-wheeler at Century. That's not to say he was out of control, but because of his skating and puck-handling ability, he had the green light to go end-to-end, become a fourth forward whenever he chose.

The Bruins coaches have encouraged their offensive-minded d-men (specifically Zmolek and Ian Scheid) to use their skills and creativity, but to choose the proper spots to do so.

"We've talked to him a couple times, not necessarily backing him off, but about making the times he (jumps into the play), doing it more intelligently," Tok said. "We talk a lot about risk/reward. We want all our D to go, we want them all to jump, but ... a lot of them come in and, the thing we talk about a lot is, you don't have to do it all by yourself.
"We have no problem with you guys going, but beating guys 1-on-1 or trying to go through three or four guys, that's not what we're looking for, or what we expect you to do. But, by all means, go. You have instincts, use them. We're not throwing the reins and saying 'you have to stay back and play D and that's all we want you to do.' He has the creativity to go, it's just make sure you're doing it together."



To be honest, I had no idea until today what the Robertson Cup's origin is or why it's named as such.

My P-B colleague Donny Henn called it the "Frederick Cup" on a radio show a week or so ago. I like the ring of that, too, but we decided to just stick with the NAHL Championship Series for most of that show. 

That got me thinking, though, what's the origin of the Robertson Cup? I'm guessing a lot of players, and maybe some coaches, in the NAHL don't know either. 

The Robertson Cup is the trophy (good pic of it here) awarded to the NAHL playoff champion, which also is the USA Hockey Junior A, Tier II national champion. 

The Cup was brought into play for the NAHL champion in 1976 and was named the Robertson Cup in the 1980s, named after Chuck Robertson, a pioneer of junior hockey with the NAHL and in Michigan. Robertson was the owner of the Paddock Pools Saints (Estero, Mich.), who won the Cup seven consecutive seasons from 1976-83.

This weekend, a Minnesota team will win it for the first time in its 39-year history.

Either the Austin Bruins or Minnesota Wilderness will add their name this weekend to this list of past Robertson Cup champions:

2014 Fairbanks Ice Dogs
2013 Amarillo Bulls
2012 Texas Tornado
2011 Fairbanks Ice Dogs
2010 Bismarck Bobcats
2009 St. Louis Bandits
2008 St. Louis Bandits
2007 St. Louis Bandits
2006 Texas Tornado
2005 Texas Tornado
2004 Texas Tornado
2003 Pittsburgh Forge
2002 Compuware Ambassadors
2001 Texas Tornado
2000 Danville Wings
1999 Compuware Ambassadors
1998 Compuware Ambassadors
1997 Springfield Jr. Blues
1996 Springfield Jr. Blues
1995 Compuware Ambassadors
1994 Compuware Ambassadors
1993 Kalamazoo Jr. K Wings
1992 Compuware Ambassadors
1991 Kalamazoo Jr. K Wings
1990 Compuware Ambassadors
1989 Compuware Ambassadors
1988 Compuware Ambassadors
1987 Compuware Ambassadors
1986 Compuware Ambassadors
1985 St. Clair Falcons
1984 St. Clair Falcons
1983 Paddock Pools
1982 Paddock Pools
1981 Paddock Pools
1980 Paddock Pools
1979 Paddock Pools
1978 Paddock Pools
1977 Paddock Pools
1976 Little Caesars