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128 posts categorized "Junior Hockey"

October 23, 2014

Catching up with former Austin Bruin John Simonson

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

October 17, 2014

PHERSY AND FATIS SHOW: Gone pink edition

PHERSY: Welcome back to the latest edition of the Phersy and Fatis show. I sat down with the Rochester Ice Hawks front man this week to talk about last weekend's games and the two-game slate in front of them this weekend.

Saturday night is Pink the Rink night at the Rochester Recreaction Center. Last year more than 2,200 fans attended the special game, and this year even more are expected. So, make sure to get to the Rec Center early! Puck drops at 7:05 Saturday (vs. Ironwood Fighting Yoopers).

Sunday night the Ice Hawks (8-0) are on the road at the Steele County Blades in Owatonna.

Enjoy the show!

PhersyAndFatisShow101714

 

October 02, 2014

PHERSY AND FATIS SHOW: Undefeated edition

PHERSY: Welcome back to the Phersy and Fatis Show. Coach and I break down last weekend's win over the Crusaders, talk about this week's practice and then look ahead at Saturday's showdown against the undefeated Dells Ducks.

The Ducks hit Rochester at 7:05 p.m. Saturday for the big-time tilt at the Rochester Recreation Center. It's duck-hunting season!

Enjoy the show!

PhersyAndFatisOctDucks

 

September 12, 2014

BLOG: Junior Hockey | Introducing the 2014-15 theaustinbruins

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

GOALIES

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

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

* * * * * 

FORWARDS 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

DEFENSEMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 04, 2014

PHERSY AND FATIS SHOW: Sssssgo edition

PHERSY: The Phersy and Fatis Show is back, Ice Hawks fans!

The season gets underway this weekend out in Michigan's Upper Peninsula against the MnJHL's newest team, the Ironwood Fighting Yoopers. The Hawks play Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the road. The first home game isn't until Sept. 27.

We go over loads of information in the first show of the season! If you can't get enough, pick up a copy of today's Post-Bulletin to see other season-preview information. The full season preview will run right before the home opener, and that preview will include player profiles.

Enjoy the show!

PhersyAndFatisShow090514

 

August 16, 2014

Hockey: Former Bruin Sanford commits to Michigan State

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

BRUINS IN COLLEGE HOCKEY

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

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

June 05, 2014

Junior Hockey | Breaking down the Austin Bruins draft

Posted by: Feldman

If there is a job in which people put more miles on their vehicle than that of a hockey scout, I'm not sure what it would be.

But, that's how championship teams are built. The Austin Bruins' scouts (and coaches, who also scout, of course) are earning their dollars this offseason. 

The Bruins went into Tuesday's North American Hockey League Draft with their sights set on drafting a goalie with a high pick. They were hoping to use their first-round pick, 20th overall, to help fill the void left by the departure of three-year Bruin Nick Lehr, a U of Minnesota commit.

That's where the scouting comes in. Bs assistant coach Jamie Huffman watched Eastview High School standout and Minnesota First Team All-State goalie Zach Driscoll at an Omaha Lancers (USHL) camp last weekend. Huffman came away convinced that Driscoll needed to be at the top of the list of the 4-5 goalies the Bruins had their eyes on.

And so there was no hesitation when Driscoll was still available at No. 20. The Bruins made Driscoll their first pick, after talking to him, to the Lancers and to St. Cloud State, where the 17-year-old has committed to play his college hockey. Driscoll still has a year of high school remaining, but he told the Bruins coaches he's ready to come to Austin this fall. The Lancers and SCSU have also expressed their pleasure with Driscoll possibly spending at least one season in black and yellow.

Here's the story I wrote for Wednesday's Post-Bulletin, which has more statistical data on Driscoll. 

Like I wrote in that story, if Driscoll comes to Austin and stays here for a full season (assuming the Lancers don't need to call him up at any point), it looks like the Bruins connected on a home run with their first pick.

The Bruins made 11 other picks in addition to Driscoll, using those on two defensemen and nine forwards. NAHL teams keep a 30-player protected list; the Bruins have 13 veterans (players eligible to return from last season's Robertson Cup runner-up team) and five tendered players (near as I can tell, those five are forwards Jacob Drinkard from Flint of the NA3HL, Evan Somoza of the California Titans 16U team and Luke Forfar from Chicago Mission U18; and defensemen Austin Wilk of the California Titans 18U team, and Ian Scheid of Blaine High School). That left 12 spots to fill in the draft.

They went with Driscoll first. Here's a look at the other 11, in the order they were drafted:

ROUND 2 (No. 44 overall): Max Gottlieb, D, Bonnyville (Alberta Jr. Hockey League)

Gottlieb is a 5-foot-10, 183-pound left-handed shot. He had 4-21--25 for Bonnyville this past season. The 19-year-old is a native of Old Bridge, N.J., who previously played in the New Jersey Rockets' junior program.

ROUND 4 (No. 92 overall): Patrick Geary, F, Lloydminster (Alberta Jr. Hockey League)

The Libertyville, Ill., native put up 12-13--25 for Lloydminster last season. He's a 5-11, 185-pound '95-born forward, who played for the Chicago Young Americans U18 team in 2012-13, after playing for Team Illinois U16 the previous season.

ROUND 5 (No. 114 overall): Michael Davies, D, St. Louis U18AAA

The '97-born St. Louis native is committed to Ohio State for 2015-16. He played in two games for Dubuque of the USHL last season, while putting up 20 points in 33 games for the St. Louis AAA U18 team. He also played in four games for the Team USA U17 team.

ROUND 6 (No. 134 overall): Patrick Polino, F, Green Bay (USHL)

The Buffalo native is a 5-9, 160-pound center who has spent the past two seasons in the USHL. He played 60 games for the Chicago Steel in 2012-13, then split time between Chicago and Green Bay last season. He had 13 points in 46 total games in 2013-14. Polino is a '95-born player.

ROUND 7 (No. 151 overall): Alex Jasiek, F, St. Louis U18 AAA

The Bruins took another St. Louis native (maybe they like how well St. Louis kid Trey Dodd played this past season?) in Jasiek, a '96-born forward who has already committed to Dartmouth. He's listed at 5-9, 157 and is a scorer. Jasiek had 21-34-55 in 35 games for St. Louis this season. He also appeared in two USHL games for Des Moines.

ROUND 8 (No. 164 overall): Adam Durkee, F, Fort McMurray (Alberta Jr. Hockey League)

The Bruins went back to Canada one more time to find a 5-11, 188-pound, 20-year-old center. The Lafayette, Colo., native has one year of junior eligibility remaining. He played the past two seasons for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, where he put up 35-36--71 in 116 games. 

ROUND 9 (No. 176 overall): Kyle Eastman, F, Tri-City (USHL)

Eastman is the second of two players picked by the Bruins whose most recent team was in the USHL. Eastman had 22 points and 105 penalty minutes in 101 games for Tri-City over the past two seasons. The 6-1, 201-pounder is from Angola, N.Y.

ROUND 10 (No. 188 overall): Evan Weinger, F, L.A. Jr. Kings U18

Weinger is an L.A. native, with a big frame for a 17-year-old (he's listed at 6-0, 187). He had 12-14--26 in 35 games with the Jr. Kings this season. 

ROUND 11 (No. 199 overall) Zach Kennedy, F, Northland Pines (Wisconsin H.S.)

Kennedy was an honorable mention all-state player for Northland Pines, putting up 29-16--45 in 24 games as a senior. Local fans may remember watching him play in the Kiwanis Festival at Graham Arena in Rochester right after Christmas. He led his team to the championship game, recording six points in the tournament. He had a hat trick against Rochester John Marshall in the opening round.

ROUND 12 (No. 207 overall) J.C. Maclean, F, New Jersey Rockets

John Carter Maclean is another young, big body. The 17-year-old center is listed at 6-2, 201. He had 10-15--25 in 26 games at Delbarton Prep in N.J. in 2012-13 before moving on to the N.J. Rockets this past season.

ROUND 13 (No. 212 overall): Blake Christensen, F, Lincoln Stars (USHL)

The 5-10, 154-pound, '95-born forward is a native of Rochester Hills, Mich. He played with three different USHL teams last season, putting up 11 points over the final 23 games for Lincoln. In 2012-13, he played in 29 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program; 27 games with the U17 team and two games with the U18 team.

Notes...

* When I talked to Bs head coach Chris Tok after Tuesday's draft, he noted that the team has been able to branch out the past two years, in terms of which leagues it looks at to pick players from. They took three players from Canadian leagues in this draft, as well as a New Jersey Rockets player. Tok said in his first couple of years in Austin, players from other leagues were hesitant to leave their league to come and play in Austin for a relatively new team. But with the success the Bs have had the past two seasons -- two regular season division titles, one postseason division title and a trip to the Robertson Cup Finals -- players are changing their tunes. Now, guys who play in Canada, or out east, or who are borderline USHL players are more willing to come to Austin, because they see that with hard work and buying into what the coaches say, they'll have a good shot to win and move on to play college hockey.

* Tok said wanted a goalie and at least one defenseman early. Their plan played out, as they got Driscoll in the first round, and defensemen in the second and fifth rounds. They then went heavy on forwards to fill some needs.

* The next step toward the Bruins locking in their roster for the 2014-15 season are a pair of tryout camps -- one on June 19, the other in mid-July.

If you haven't seen it yet, the Bruins' 2014-15 schedule is out. I'll look at that more in-depth sometime in the coming weeks, after the high school sports season has wrapped up.

June 03, 2014

Junior Hockey | Bruins looking for 'everything' in today's NAHL Draft

Posted by: Feldman

The North American Hockey League season has only been over for about three weeks, but the calendar has flipped to the 2014-15 season for coaches and players.

That includes the Austin Bruins, who aren't far removed from the best season in the team's brief four-year history. Austin made an entertaining and, at times, dramatic run through the postseason before running into the best team in the NAHL in the Robertson Cup Finals. The Bs were swept in Fairbanks, Alaska, 2-0 in the best-of-3 Finals. But the playoff run was a memorable way for some talented players to end memorable careers in black and yellow. 

Eleven players from that team were born in 1993, meaning they've used up their junior hockey eligibility. We know a number of them have already secured places to play this fall -- Joe Schuldt (Michigan Tech), Lucas Kohls (UMass-Lowell), Eli May (MSU Mankato), Jay Dickman (Bemidji State), and Nick Lehr (Minnesota). I'm sure the other '93s -- Josh Bretner, Drew Anderson, Austin Nelson, Kody Reuter, Scotty Nelson and Easton Viitala -- could find a place to continue their careers if they chose to. The reason the Bs went so far is because all of these guys were willing to play a specific role that was asked of them, and they did it well. 

But the Bs have to turn the page and figure out how to replace not only those 11 '93s, but possibly six other guys from this year's team who won't be back in the fall. We know Niko Hildenbrand and Trey Dodd were drafted by USHL teams. Guillaume Leclerc (a UMass-Lowell commit) signed a tender with the new Madison, Wis., franchise in the USHL. Sam Kauppila was previously drafted by a USHL team and I'd have to believe guys like Luke Dietsch, Casey Jerry (a MSU Mankato commit) and Charlie Manley (an RPI commit) will get some looks by higher-level teams, too.

So that leaves the Bs locker room at Riverside Arena kind of bare. For now.

The Bruins held their first offseason tryout camp in Milwaukee the weekend after the season ended. They'll have another evaluation camp later this month, followed by one final tryout camp in mid-July. Those next two camps will be the ones to watch, as the Bs coaches will really start to hone in on the guys they want to be on the team come September -- yes, that's right, Bruins fans, these deep postseason runs make for short offseasons. The Bruins will open fall camp in approximately three months.

Before those tryout camps, though, the Bruins will go through the NAHL Draft, which begins at 1 p.m. today.

You can follow the draft at NAHL.com, on Twitter at @NAHLHockey, or a live audio broadcast is available at FastHockey.com.

The Bruins will pick 20th in each round of the 24-team draft. 

In the past, the Bruins have been able to gamble with some of their picks on higher-end players, guys who have a good shot at making a USHL team, but who offer a lot of upside if they don't make a USHL roster. Austin will still do some of that this season, but they'll have to keep a close eye out for guys who they think can come in and make an impact right away.

"We have to bring in guys who will make a difference," Bruins coach Chris Tok said. "We'll probably go 50/50 on drafting (high-end guys who may make it in the USHL) and guys who will come here right away."

In addition to the draft, the Bruins will fill their roster with players they've already tendered and guys they discover in upcoming tryout camps. We know a few of the Bruins tenders so far, though I haven't tracked down all of them. I know D Austin Wilk and F Evan Somoza from the California Titans program have tendered, as has F Jacob Drinkard, who played for the Flint (Mich.) Jr. Generals of the NA3HL last season. Two other tenders, Luke Forfar and Ian Scheid, were selected in the USHL Draft.

So, if I had to guess where the Bruins will go in the first few rounds of the draft, I'd guess they'll target a goalie (I know they have one tendered, but I believe he was also picked in the USHL Draft), then some speed up front and a puck-moving defenseman along the lines of Cody Dixon and Josh Bretner.

That said, I wouldn't be shocked if they spend their first three picks on forwards. There are so many roster spots wide open right now that the Bs really just need to stockpile good players.

"Anybody who comes in has to contribute," Tok said. "We won't draft a guy just to have a body here."

I'll also do my best to Tweet all of the Bruins picks (find me @PBFeldy), and I'll have a wrap-up of the Draft here tonight, as well as in the P-B print edition on Wednesday.

May 09, 2014

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

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

LINKS FROM THE RINKS

ROCHESTER POST-BULLETIN

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

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

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

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

FAIRBANKS DAILY NEWS-MINER

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

* Ice Dogs, Bruins are no strangers

May 02, 2014

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

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROCHESTER POST-BULLETIN

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

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

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

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

TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL

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

* RoadRunners face the unknown in Robertson Cup semifinals.

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

KAAL-TV

* Bruins fed off fans energy to win Game 5.

KIMT-TV

* Bruins ready for trip to Topeka

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

* * * * *

Some more notes...

A DUNN DEAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTES AND QUOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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