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49 posts categorized "NAHL"

March 21, 2015

Bear Tracks: Bruins can wrap up division title tonight

Posted by: Feldman

We're just less than an hour away from puck drop at Riverside Arena as I write this.

The NAHL Central Division-leading Austin Bruins (35-11-11) playing host to the last-place Brookings Blizzard (19-28-9). The Bruins are coming off a thoroughly dominant 6-1 victory at Brookings last night. Austin better not have to fight off complacency, though. There's a lot at stake tonight, namely a third consecutive regular-season division championship and home-ice advantage through the playoffs.

Austin will face a Brookings team that is fighting for its season (not that that seemed to matter to the Blizzard last night). Brookings has to win its final four games (three of which are against Austin) and have Aberdeen lose its final three. Very unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Not many stranger things, but some.

Evan Smith will make his fourth consecutive start in goal tonight for the Bs. Sounds like Jake Kielly has a minor injury and letting him rest won't hurt. The Bs have -- fortunately -- had a solid goaltending situation all season. Last year, they had to ride Nick Lehr, no matter how he played (which was outstanding most nights).

This year, they can afford to give Kielly and Smith adequate rest. And it's not like either has been overworked. Kielly hasn't played more than five consecutive games this season. Tonight's start will mark Smith's longest consecutive-start stretch of the year, at four games.


How'd they get here?

With it a virtual certainty that Austin will win the division (it can also win it with a Minot loss tonight), let's take a deep breath for a few seconds and think about where this team has come from to get to this point. Every player and coach I've talked to points back to the beginning of the season, when Austin steamrolled its way to the NAHL Showcase championship in mid-September in Blaine.

That gave the Bs a lot of confidence, maybe too much. 

They hit a stretch in October and into November and December where they looked disjointed at best, uninterested at times and just were not a good team. The one thing the coaching staff kept telling me at that point was that there are talented players on this team, they just need to play as a team, play for each other. I'd imagine that's a message that outspoken captain Brian Bachnak kept repeating in the locker room, too.

The coaches and captains kept pounding that message into the players' heads and, not surprisingly, when the calendar flipped to 2015, something flipped in all of the Bruins' heads, too. A lightbulb went on within the team, if you like that cliche.

It's not like the Bruins were awful. They were 17-8-8 after a home loss to Coulee Region on New Year's Eve. But the record didn't necessarily match the level of play from the team for much of the first half.

I've used this stat ad naseum, but it's a very telling number and one that shows just how far this team has come: Since Jan. 1, Austin is 18-3-3, with all three regulation losses coming against Brookings. 

I've asked and asked, coaches and players both, what the difference has been. Nobody can put their finger on any one thing. The most common answer I get: We're playing as a team. That is probably the most logical explanation. A difference line, a different player seems to step up each night. Last night, for example, six players scored once each. Seven different players have scored game-winning goals in the past eight games.

The Bruins aren't overwhelming opponents, but they're finding different ways to win. That's a pretty good recipe for postseason success. If they win tonight, a majority of those postseason games will be here at Riverside.


NAHL Central Division standings
Austin        35-11-11   81
Minot         35-16-6    76
Bismarck    28-25-4    60
Aberdeen   26-29-2    54
Brookings   19-28-9    47


Tonight's starters

Brookings
G 30 Ryan Kubic (10-13-5, 2.51 GAA, .913 save pct.)
D 5 Connor Spetz (2-6--8) / 24 Kris Brun (1-8--9)
F 27 Nate Colwell (9-12--21) / 19 Connor Hutchins (6-9--15) / 7 Zach Glienke (16-21--37)
(scratches: D Gavin Mindt, F Max Rasberg, F Colton Schmidt)

Austin
G 30 Evan Smith (10-1-2, 1.77 GAA, .924 save pct.)
D 28 Jake Arroyo (3-9--12) / 24 Riese Zmolek (0-0--0)
F 13 Trevor Boyd (23-21--44) / 11 Luke Dietsch (9-24--33) / 14 Tony Uglem (21-16--37)
(scratches: D Derek Olmschenk, D Landen Letwin, F Jade Miller)

February 27, 2015

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

Posted by: Feldman

I know I'm pushing this right up against game time, but, hey better a little early than never, right? Right.

Should we really be surprised that there are five weeks to go in the regular season and the Austin Bruins are starting to play their best hockey? It's been a theme under head coach Chris Tok over the first five years of the Bruins' existence.

After winning two games in extra time at the Midwest Division-leading Minnesota Wilderness last weekend, the Bruins again control their own destiny in their pursuit of a third consecutive NAHL Central Division regular-season championship.They also became the first Central team to wrap up a playoff spot. If the Bs win both games this weekend against Aberdeen (7:05 p.m. tonight, Saturday) at Riverside Arena, and Bismarck loses twice in regulation against the Wilderness, the Bruins will clinch home ice in the first round of the NAHL playoffs.

Perhaps the biggest sign that things have turned around for the Bs is their success in extra-time games as of late. They've won four of their past five games that have gone to OT or a shootout, dating back to Jan. 21. Prior to this stretch, Austin had won just three of 13 extra-time games this season.

Every point is crucial in the standings for teams in a very competitive Central Division. The Bruins have done a nice job of grabbing those extra points over the past month. 

Austin (29-10-11, 69 points) has a five-point lead over Minot (29-13-6, 64 points). Minot has 12 games remining, while Austin has just 10. But even if Minot won those two games they have in hand, that still would put them a point back of the Bruins. 

The Bruins' coaches won't let the players get caught up in counting points and chasing points. Still too much time left for that. They just need to keep playing the way they're playing. If they do, we'll see a lot of playoff hockey at Riverside again this spring.

Check out just how good Austin has been since the calendar flipped to 2015:

* In their 17 games since the start of January, the Bruins are 12-2-3 overall.

* Eight of those games have gone to OT or a shootout, with Austin winning five. 

* Five times in those 17 games, Austin has scored more than five goals.

* In the two regulation losses (both against last-place Brookings), the Bs outshot Brookings by a combined 17 shots on goal.

* Austin has outscored its opponents 66-38 over the past 17 games.

All those things considered, the Bruins can't let up. As you'll note in the next-to-last bullet point, their two regulation losses in 2015 came against Brookings, a team battling to stay out of the Central Division basement, a team that could potentially be the Bruins' first-round playoff opponent.

This weekend, Austin gets the team that Brookings is trying to track down for the final playoff spot from the division, the Aberdeen Wings.

Aberdeen is 23-24-2, and with 48 points is five points up on Brookings for that last playoff spot. That means the Bruins should get a hungry Wings team. If Austin doesn't match Aberdeen's intensity and play with the same kind of urgency, the Bs will have Minot breathing right down their necks.

Some quick notes before we break down this weekend's series:

* Former Bruins goalie Nick Lehr made his college debut on Thursday night for Minnesota in its 5-3 victory against Michigan State. It sounds like Gophers' starter Adam Wilcox will be good to go for tonight's series finale, but Lehr showed he can play at the highest level, settling in after a shaky start.

* Former Bruin A.J. Reid is the fourth-leading scorer for the Air Force Academy Falcons. He has seven goals and 24 points through 35 games for Air Force (13-18-4).

* Goalie Zach Driscoll, who started the season with Bruins before being called up to the USHL, is 6-2-1 for the Omaha Lancers with a 2.79 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage. Driscoll is a St. Cloud State University commit.

* * * * *

THIS WEEKEND'S SERIES

ABERDEEN WINGS at AUSTIN BRUINS
7:05 p.m. tonight, 7:05 p.m. Saturday, Riverside Arena

Records: Austin 29-10-11 (69 pts., 1st in NAHL Central), Aberdeen 23-24-2 (48 pts., 4th in NAHL Central)
Head coaches: Austin, Chris Tok (5th season, 184-104-30 overall); Aberdeen, Francis Anzalone (1st season, 23-24-2 overall)
Wings top scorers: F Kyle Haak (14-29--43); F Michael Soucier (16-19--35); F Bjorn Sigurdarson (11-10--21); D Tanner Okeson (6-14--20).
Wings goalies: Andrew Shortridge (15-11-1, 2.53 GAA, .915 save pct.); Tanner Elmore (0-0-0, 0.00, .000); Luke Kania (0-0-0, 0.00, .000).
Bruins top scorers: F Trevor Boyd (19-20--39); F Alex Pettersson (7-26--33); F Tony Uglem (18-14--32); F Nico Sturm (10-22--32); F Luke Dietsch (7-23--30); D Ian Scheid (10-14--24); D Cory Dunn (4-20--24).
Bruins goalies: Jake Kielly (17-4-6, 2.21 GAA, .904 save pct.); Evan Smith (6-1-2, 2.02, .923).

TALE OF THE TAPE

Records (points): Austin 29-10-11 (69); Aberdeen 23-24-2 (48)
Advantage: Bruins

Head-to-head (points earned): Bruins 3-0-3 (9); Aberdeen 2-3-1 (5)

Offense: Austin 3.32 goals per game; Aberdeen 2.35 gpg
Advantage: Bruins

Defense: Austin 2.44 goals allowed per game; Aberdeen 2.80 gapg
Advantage: Bruins

Power play (league rank): Austin 14.3 pct. (19th); Aberdeen 16.6 pct. (11th)
Advantage: Wings

Penalty kill (league rank): Austin 89.3 pct. (1st); Aberdeen 84.8 (7th)
Advantage: Bruins

Goaltending (save pct.): Austin .904; Aberdeen .906 
Advantage: Wings

SERIES NOTES

Keep an eye on the players from each team who participated in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament earlier this week, Monday and Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Mich. Trevor Boyd, Luke Dietsch, Ian Scheid and Cory Dunn represented the Bruins, while Aberdeen sent forwards Kyle Haak and Bjorn Sigurdarson. That's a lot of travel and play in a short period of time; by the time Saturday's game in Austin has finished, those guys will all have played six games in nine days. ... Aberdeen traded standout goalie Chad Catt to the Soo Eagles two weeks ago (Catt actually played for Team Central at the Top Prospects Tourney this week, as he had been named to the Central team prior to the trade). The Wings look like they'll ride Andrew Shortridge (15-11-1, 2.53 GAA, .915 save pct.) the rest of the way. They have three other goalies on the roster, none who appeared to have played in the NAHL this season. ... Six different players have scored game-winning goals for Austin in the past seven games. 

THE CALL

The Bruins haven't lost a home game in regulation since a 3-1 setback to Brookings on Jan. 3, a span of 55 days. The Bruins' coaching staff has this team playing almost exactly how it wants to at this stage of the season. The close race for the division title should help the Bs from becoming complacent. And, as you likely know, if they look complacent one night, coaches Chris Tok and Jamie Huffman will make sure they do not look complacent two nights in a row. Aberdeen has been far better at home (15-8-1) than on the road (8-16-1) this season. Add all that up and it feels like a good weekend for the Bruins and their fans in their home barn. The call: Bruins 5-2, Bruins 5-3.

February 20, 2015

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

Posted by: Feldman

Six weeks remain in the North American Hockey League regular season and, though the Austin Bruins have taken over first place in the Central Division, things get no easier this weekend for the Bs.

After splitting a home-and-home series with the last-place Brookings Blizzard last weekend, the Bruins have a two-game set at North Division leader Minnesota Wilderness this weekend (7:05 p.m. tonight, 7:05 p.m. Saturday, in Cloquet).

Austin's 4-1 loss at Brookings last Friday snapped the Bruins' 11-game unbeaten streak. They responded nicely on Saturday -- something they haven't always done this season -- with a 7-1 win at home against Brookings last Saturday. Bruins captain Brian Bachnak had his first NAHL hat trick in that game.

The Bruins (27-10-11) are 1-2-1 against the Wilderness (32-10-4) this season. The two regulation losses came back on Nov. 21-22 at Cloquet. The teams will meet this weekend, then again in a two-game series in Austin on March 13-14.

Aside from a home series against Aberdeen next weekend, the Bruins face only the Wilderness and Brookings the rest of the way.

A couple of links to check out before we get to this weekend's matchup breakdown:

* Bruins play-by-play man John Peterson wrote a piece this week for the Bruins' website on former Bs forward C.J. Smith, who is having a strong freshman season at UMass-Lowell. Smith is part of an Austin-to-Lowell pipeline that includes current Wild defenseman Christian Folin, as well as Lucas Kohls (also a freshman at UML this season) and Guillaume Leclerc, who is committed to Lowell and playing with Madison in the USHL this season.

* Bachnak made the NAHL Plays of the Week highlight video for his goal 9 seconds into a period on Saturday. Bachnak's highlight starts at about the 3:44 mark of this video.

On to this weekend's series...

AUSTIN BRUINS at MINNESOTA WILDERNESS
7:05 p.m. tonight, 7:05 p.m. Saturday
At Northwoods Credit Union Arena, Cloquet

Records: Austin 27-10-11, 65 points, 1st in NAHL Central Division; Wilderness 32-10-4, 68 points, 1st in NAHL North Division.
Head coaches: Austin, Chris Tok (5th season, 182-104-30 overall); Wilderness, Corey Millen (2nd season, 71-27-13 overall).
Bruins top scorers: F Trevor Boyd (19-20--39); F Alex Pettersson (7-25--32); F Tony Uglem (16-14--30); F Luke Dietsch (7-23--30); F Nico Sturm (10-19--29); D Ian Scheid (10-13--23).
Bruins goalies: Jake Kielly (15-4-6, 2.12 GAA, .906 save pct.); Evan Smith (6-1-2, 2.02, .923).
Wilderness top scorers: F Aaron Miller (11-30--41); F Darian Romanko (22-17--39); F Tyler Cline (20-17--37); D Ivan Chukarov (9-25--34); F Niklas Lehtimaki (19-13--32).
Wilderness goalies: Ryan Anderson (21-6-3, 2.20, .897); Brock Kautz (10-4-1, 2.09, .916).

TALE OF THE TAPE

Record (points): Austin 27-10-11 (65), Wilderness 32-10-4 (68)
Advantage: Wilderness

Head-to-head (points earned): Wilderness 3-0-1 (7), Austin 1-2-1 (3)
Advantage: Wilderness

Offense: Austin 3.27, Wilderness 3.48
Advantage: Wilderness

Defense: Austin 2.40, Wilderness 2.33
Advantage: Wilderness

Power play (league rank): Austin 13.8 pct. (18th); Wilderness 24.5 pct. (3)
Advantage: Wilderness

Penalty kill (league rank): Austin 89.5 pct. (1st); Wilderness 83.7 pct. (10)
Advantage: Bruins

Goaltending (save pct.): Austin .906 save pct.; Wilderness .898
Advantage: Bruins

SERIES NOTES

The Bruins can clinch a playoff spot with two victories and two Brookings losses this weekend. ... The Wilderness haven't lost in regulation, going 3-0-1 vs. the Bruins so far this season. The teams have four meetings remaining, counting tonight's game. ... Wilderness goalie Brock Kautz is a former Rochester Century standout, who is in his fifth season in the NAHL. He has played in 118 career games for Owatonna, Janesville and the Wilderness, and has a career record of 53-49-12, with six shutouts, a 2.72 GAA and a .912 save pct. ... Ryan Anderson has started every game except one in goal for Minnesota since Nov. 26. ... Tyler Cline has scored the game-winning goal in three of the past four games for the Wilderness. ... The Bruins are 9-1-3 in their past 14 games. Alex Jasiek has three game-winning goals in that span. ... Both teams are nearly unbeatable when they score first; the Bruins are 18-2-5, while the Wilderness are a remarkable 26-2-2. ... The Bruins haven't lost this season when leading after two periods. They're 20-0-5 in those games.

THE CALL

The Bruins got a wake-up call last Friday against Brookings, who snapped the Bs 11-game unbeaten streak with a 4-1 win. Austin responded on Saturday with one of their most impressive performances of the season in a 7-1 victory. Both of these teams are playing very well and both are holding slim leads atop their division standings (Austin leads Minot by three points, the Wilderness lead Fairbanks by one point). The Wilderness won twice in regulation against the Bruins the last time these teams met in Cloquet, but that was late November, when a Bruins team full of guys who were new to Austin was trying to find its identity. Austin seems to have found it: It's not a team that's going to win many games in blowouts, but it is a deep team that can feel comfortable rolling any of four lines or three defensive pairings. It also has two goalies playing very well. The Wilderness are playing quite well, too, going 8-1-1 in their past 10, and they're on their home ice. Both teams get some points this weekend. The call: Wilderness 5, Bruins 3 (en); Bruins 3, Wilderness 2 (OT).

February 13, 2015

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

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

In other notes this week ...

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

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

On to this weekend's series...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 28, 2014

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

Posted by: Feldman

The Austin Bruins face a big two-game series this weekend on the road against a division rival. This is about the time of year where we start finding out just what this young team is made of.

It's probably not fair to call them young or inexperienced anymore. They've been through three months of practices and games and the long road trips and overtimes and shootouts. Heaven knows they've been through some shootouts (0-5 in those creatures this season). 

In other words, there's not much more that North American Hockey League life can throw at these guys, so there's not much left that can surprise them. 

That includes this weekend's opponent, the Aberdeen (S.D.) Wings. The Bs and Wings are now tied for second place in the NAHL Central Division Standings, four points behind division-leading Minot. Considering last-place Brookings is just six points behind the Bs and Wings, every point a team earns is crucial.

Let's take a look at this weekend's series:

AUSTIN at ABERDEEN
at Odde Ice Center; 7:15 p.m. tonight, 7:15 p.m. Saturday

Records: Austin 10-7-7, 27 points, T-2nd Central Division; Aberdeen 13-10-1, 27 points, T-2nd Central Division.
Head coaches: Austin, Chris Tok (5th season, 167-100-25 overall); Aberdeen, Francis Anzalone (1st season, 13-10-1 overall).
Bruins top scorers: F Trevor Boyd (5-12--17); F Tony Uglem (9-7--16); F Nico Sturm (3-10--13); D Ian Scheid (8-3--11); F Brian Bachnak (6-5--11); F Alex Pettersson (2-9--11); F Luke Dietsch (4-6--10); F Luke Forfar (4-6--10); D Cory Dunn (0-10--10).
Bruins goalies: Jake Kielly (6-2-4, 2.53 GAA, .894 save pct.); Zach Driscoll (4-5-3, 2.46, .912).
Wings top scorers: F Michael Soucier (8-11--19); F Kyle Haak (6-13--19); F Ronnie Hein (7-8--15); F Bjorn Sigurdarson (7-4--11); F Colin O'Neill (1-10--11). 
Wings goalies: Andrew Shortridge (8-5-1, 2.18 GAA, .922 save pct.); Chad Catt (5-5-0, 2.86, .888).

TALE OF THE TAPE
Record (Points): Austin 10-7-7 (24), Aberdeen 13-10-1 (24).
Advantage: Even.

Head to head: Aberdeen 3-1-0; Austin 0-1-3.
Advantage: Wings.

Offense: Austin 2.83; Aberdeen 2.46.
Advantage: Bruins.

Defense: Austin 2.83; Aberdeen 2.54.
Advantage: Wings.

Power play (league rank): Austin 11.61 percent (23); Aberdeen 16.13 (16).
Advantage: Wings.

Penalty kill (league rank): Austin 88.33 percent (1); Aberdeen 87.95 percent (2).
Advantage: Bruins.

Goaltending (save pct.): Austin .894; Aberdeen .907.
Advantage: Wings.

SERIES NOTES
This series, as noted in the stats above, matches the top two penalty killing teams in the entire NAHL against one another. Neither team excels on the power play, so expect these games to be determined by 5-on-5 play. ... The Bruins have found some balance; they have nine players with 11 or more points this season. ... Veteran F and team leader Brian Bachnak returned last weekend against the Minnesota Wilderness after missing nearly six weeks due to injuries. He has two points in three games since returning. ... Afer this weekend's games, the Bruins don't face a Central Division opponent again until a home-and-home series with Brookings on Jan. 2-3. ... Aberdeen is a much better team at home than on the road. The Wings are 9-4-0 at home, 4-6-1 away from Odde ice Center. ... Austin is 5-2-3 at home, 5-5-4 on the road. ... Eight of the Wings' last 10 games have been decided by one goal. ... These teams both entered the league in the 2010-11 season. Austin is 167-100-25 all-time, while Aberdeen is 124-122-23.

THE CALL
These teams are extremely even in most statistical categories, and their four previous meetings have shown that, with Aberdeen winning twice in OT and once in a shootout, while Austin won a one-goal game in regulation. It's been an odd week for the Bruins, playing a game Wednesday night (a 6-3 loss at home against Janesville), followed by Thanksgiving on Thursday and a quick-turnaround road trip to Aberdeen. With the number of close games both teams have played this season, I don't see any 7-0 or 9-6 games, nothing like that. I like the addition of Tony Uglem to the Bruins lineup (he was acquired earlier this week in a trade that sent Brady Jones to the Minnesota Magicians). Uglem scored in his first game as a Bruin, which gives him a total of nine goals this season, the most of any Bruins player. Perhaps he can help the Bs get their power play on track this weekend. The call: Austin 3-2, Aberdeen 4-2 (en).

October 23, 2014

Catching up with former Austin Bruin John Simonson

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

September 12, 2014

BLOG: Junior Hockey | Introducing the 2014-15 theaustinbruins

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

GOALIES

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

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

* * * * * 

FORWARDS 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

DEFENSEMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.