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158 posts categorized "Junior Hockey"

November 19, 2015

PHERSY AND FATIS SHOW: Blizzard incoming edition

PHERSY: The Phersy and Fatis Show returns today as I sit down with Ice Hawks coach Nick Fatis to wrap up last weekend's split with the La Crosse Freeze. We also break down this weekend's home-and-away series against the Alexandria Blizzard.

The Ice Hawks are at home at 7:05 p.m. Friday and in Alexandria at 7:10 p.m. on Saturday.

Enjoy the show!

October 29, 2015

PHERSY AND FATIS SHOW: It's Breezy in here edition

PHERSY: Welcome back to the Phersy and Fatis Show. Once again I sit down with Ice Hawks coach Nick Fatis to chat about last weekend's game against North Iowa and to look ahead at this weekend's series against Breezy Point.

The Ice Hawks are home at 7:05 p.m. Friday and on the road Saturday night.

Enjoy the show!


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.

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.

June 02, 2015

Junior hockey: The Austin Bruins officially announce new coaching staff

Posted by: Feldman

As we reported in this story on Friday, and as has been rumored for more than two months, the Austin Bruins have named Kyle Grabowski as the second head coach/GM in franchise history. He takes over for Chris Tok, who was fired two weeks ago after five seasons, 203 wins, three division titles and consecutive trips to the Robertson Cup the past two seasons.

Here's the full release from Bruins media relations coordinator John Peterson, minus one line that included his phone number. :)

The release also notes the hiring of assistants Keenan Kelly and Brad Clayton.

The NAHL Draft is a week from today and Bruins tryout camp is set for July 7-10. Three months from now, players will be reporting to Riverside Arena for the start of another season.

The Austin Bruins are ready to usher in a new era and finalized its coaching staff Monday for the 2015-16 season.

Kyle Grabowski was named the second Head Coach in franchise history Friday, and will be joined by Keenan Kelly and Brad Clayton on the Bruins bench.

As a staff we’re really excited,” said Grabowski. “There is such a good following for the team in Austin. The community shows so much support and obviously [the Bruins have] had a lot of success.”

Grabowki grew up in Oakdale, MN where he played goalie for Tartan High School, before manning the crease at Marion University from 2003-07. His coaching career began in 2010 as an assistant for the Idaho Junior Steelheads of the Western States Hockey League (WSHL).

After spending three years as an assistant, Grabowski was named Head Coach and General Manager of the Steelheads in 2013-14, where he led Idaho to a 39-5-2 record and a runner-up finish for the Tier III National Championship.

Grabowski made the jump to the NAHL last year where he was the assistant coach of the Brookings Blizzard, working alongside Head Coach Dan Daikawa.

I learned the league last year working with [Daikawa] in Brookings, like working through trades and tenders. He was a great resource and I thank him a lot for what he’s done.”

Kelly will be the Bruins’ new assistant coach and he and Grabowski have worked together before. When Grabowski started with Idaho in 2010-11, Kelly was in his second year on staff. The Boise, ID native went to Northern Michigan University the following year where he has been a student assistant the past four seasons.

Keenan and I have known each other a long time and I’m excited to coach with him again,” said Grabowski. “It’s good to work with people you trust.”

Monday the Bruins announced that Brad Clayton will be the third member of the Austin coaching staff, joining the team as an assistant coach and Director of Player Personnel. Clayton spent the past four seasons as head scout for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, and the past three as the Director of Scouting for the Janesville Jets. He also scouted for the Silver Cup winning Granite City Lumberjacks of the NA3HL the last three years.

Now the work begins, as June figures to be a pivotal month for recruiting.

The biggest challenge is preparing for the draft and recruiting this summer,” said Grabowski. “June will be a crazy month and we have a lot of work to do.”

The new bench boss has already reached out to players from the 2014-15 Bruins team that still have junior hockey eligibility and has contacted all ten of Austin’s tenders, who he believes can contribute next year and says are excited to come to Austin.

Austin’s new coaching staff will step into an organization that has been among the NAHL’s elite the past three years, and Grabowski excited for the opportunity to build on that success.

[Tok] and [Huffman] did a fantastic job here, but I expect us to have success and we will have to put our own stamp on things. I want our team to play hard, physical hockey and be the hardest team to play against.”