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5 posts categorized "USHL"

May 05, 2015

Bruins end Minot's season, begin pursuit of Robby; local players selected in USHL Draft

AUSTIN -- Win or lose, good or bad, this Austin Bruins team is determined to give its fans heart attacks.

Monday night, the heart attacks were rewarded with a no-fingernails-left victory and another banner to add to the south wall at Riverside Arena.

The Bs built a 4-1 lead against Minot with a dominant second period in the decisive Game 5 of the NAHL Central Division Finals. Then they nearly gave it away in the third. Minot scored twice in the first 6:18 of the third and had a handful of other very good chances, but couldn't get another past Bruins goalie Jake Kielly (18 saves) and Austin survived with a 4-3 victory and a second consecutive trip to the Robertson Cup semifinals.

The Bs will have a quick turnaround, leaving Wednesday for Dallas suburb North Richland Hills. They'll open play in the best-of-3 national semifinals against the Lone Star Brahmas on Friday. Games 1 and 2 are set for 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A Game 3, if necessary, is at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

But back to Monday night. For a second consecutive year, Austin earned its way into the Robby Cup final four. 

Game 5 was everything we thought we'd get out of this series. I thought we'd see at least one game go to OT, and Monday's game nearly did. Here's my game story from today's P-B

The Bs opened up a 4-1 lead in the second period when Nico Sturm, Josh Wilkins and Trevor Boyd scored in a flurry of goals in a span of 5 minutes, 34 seconds. Bs captain Brian Bachnak assisted on all three. The Boyd goal was the big one; it felt like a backbreaker at the time. It started when Minot goalie Atte Tolvanen stopped a Bachnak shot, but Boyd was trailing the play. He picked up the puck and made a nice, patient move to get Tolvanen out of position, then tucked the puck into an empty side of the goal.

True to form in this series, though, Minot battled back, scoring twice in the first seven minutes of the third to pull within 4-3. 

From there, it was some really good back and forth hockey. Both teams missed on more than one quality scoring chance. Alex Jasiek had a really good look from close range that Tolvanen sticked aside. More than once, the puck was lying loose in the crease and no Bs player could get a stick on it. 

Minot had its chances, too. The Tauros couldn't have asked for a better chance at the end of the game. They went on a power play for the final 1:25 and were 6-on-4 for all of that time, with Tolvanen pulled. Defenseman Jon Lizotte had the best looks, zipping a wrister high with 35 seconds left, then having a wrist shot swallowed up by Jake Kielly with 17 seconds left. 

HEADING TO TEXAS

The win is the 44th of the season for the Bruins and the 201st in franchise history. This team could tie last year's Bs team for the franchise record for wins in a season (48) if it captures the Robertson Cup championship.

That won't be an easy task. 

The Bs leave Wednesday on a flight to Dallas. They'll get a practice in on Thursday and (I'm assuming) a morning skate in on Friday, then (as I mentioned earlier) they'll face the South Division champion Lone Star at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Games 1 and 2. Game 3 is at 5:30 Sunday, if needed.

Strictly looking at records, Lone Star and Austin were about even during the regular season. The Brahmas were 40-12-8 in the regular season, for 88 points. The Bruins were 38-11-11, for 87 points. In other words, had the Bruins gone 5-6 in shootouts this season, as opposed to 3-8, they'd be playing at Riverside this weekend -- and I'd be saying "if Lone Star had just won one more game, this series would be in Texas."

Such is life in the NAHL, and it's why coaches stress all season long that every point is valuable. It may not seem like it when a team wins a division title by seven points, but when you get to this stage of the season, something as simple as two shootout losses can turn a potential home series into a 900-mile roadie.

Either way, the Bs are ecstatic to be able to keep playing. This was their goal since Labor Day, when players began reporting for this season. 

A PEEK AT THE BRAHMAS

We'll break down the Robby Cup semifinal series later this week, but here's a quick look at this weekend's opponent.

The obvious starting point is that the Bruins have to know where No. 22 is at all times.

That's Sebastian Vidmar, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound, 21-year-old forward from Malmo, Sweden. He's committed to 2014 NCAA national champion Union College.

Oh, by the way, Vidmar was the MVP of the entire NAHL this season, putting up 35 goals and 80 points in 58 games. He has two goals and seven points through seven postseason games. His regular-season numbers are the best in the league since the 2011-12 season. He also had a league-high 11 game-winning goals, the highest total in the league in seven years. He was named the NAHL Forward of the Month twice this season and has 105 points in 100 career regular-season games.

The Brahmas are coached by Dan Wildfong, the NAHL Coach of the Year. He guided Lone Star to a 26-3-1 home record (good thing the Bruins are a good road team) and has nine players committed to Division I schools.

Lone Star had three players record 21 or more goals -- Vidmar, fellow Swede Ludvig Larson, a Merrimack College commit (21-34--55) and Colorado College recruit AJ Vanderbeck (21-14--35).

In goal, another Union College recruit, Jake Kupsky, has taken control of the starting job in the postseason after splitting time almost equally with T.J. Black in the regular season.

Kupsky has the size (6-5, 210) to match both of the Bruins' goalies. In the regular season he was 19-4-4, with a 2.16 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. He is 5-1, 1.67, .936 in the playoffs.

All of those things considered, Lone Star hasn't been blowing out opponents in the playoffs. It is 6-1, but five of its victories have come by just one goal, while the sixth victory was a two-goal win with an empty-netter in the final 40 seconds.

Again, we'll have more on the Bruins-Brahmas series later this week in print and on the blog. 

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LOCAL PLAYERS SELECTED IN USHL DRAFT

As I write this, Phase II of the USHL Draft is nearly halfway complete, in round 12 of 27.

So far, three Austin Bruins have been selected.

Defenseman Ian Scheid was the highest-drafted Bruin, going No. 20 overall (4th pick of Round 2) to the Fargo Force.

Nine picks later, No. 29 overall (13th pick of Round 2), Rochester Century/Austin Bruins defenseman Riese Zmolek was picked by the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.

Bs forward Nico Sturm was selected in Round 5, No. 72 overall, by the Tri-City Storm.

In Phase I of the USHL Draft on Monday -- for '99 birth year players -- Rochester John Marshall standout Cory Checco was selected by the Sioux Falls Stampede. Checco has had two very good seasons, and I'm told was very good at the recent Final 54 tournament. He was JM's leading scorer this season with 15-16--31 in 26 games for the 13-13 Rockets.

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That's it for now; I'll update this post if more players with local ties are taken in today's USHL Draft.

June 23, 2011

Hockey | NHL Draft notes, Aikens settling in Omaha (UPDATED — up to 19)

FELDY: Any of our Faceoff Faithful headed up to The X for the NHL Draft this weekend? If so, you're probably as excited as me. This will be my first NHL Draft to attend and/or cover for the paper, so I'm looking forward to seeing all of that NHL brainpower in one facility.

I'll have a bunch of NHL Draft preview stuff in Friday's Post-Bulletin, so check that out (please, please, please), and I'll be up in St. Paul Friday and Saturday to cover the draft, so check out Saturday and Monday's print editions, too, for that coverage.

I'll also be posting here on the blog throughout the weekend, hopefully live from The X both days. I don't know exactly what the setup is going to be like for media or where I'll be stationed, but I'll do my best to get on here and/or Twitter (@PBFeldy).

The draft begins at 6 p.m. Friday (on Versus), for Round 1, and 10:30 a.m. Saturday (NHL Network), for Rounds 2-7.

As I was doing some research for my draft preview stuff, I found some facts that I thought Rochester hockey fans might be interested in.

(Update: I had forgotten that Scott Schneider was drafted, as well as goalie Jeff Kruesel, so my total of 14 goes up to 16. Much thanks to former JM star/coach Scott Lecy for reminding me that Schneider was drafted, as well as to Jeff Kruesel's parents for notifying me he was not on the list.)

(Update #2: So, of course, an hour after our print edition goes to press today (Friday, June 24), I get a complete list of all the Minnesotans who have ever been drafted. Turns out, there are 19 from Rochester, so I missed three in today's print edition. My apologies to those guys -- Ethan Philpott, Ross Johnson of Mayo and Doug Wieck of Mayo; I'll try to run their short bios, like I did for the other 16, in Saturday's paper).

I attempted to compile a list of every Rochester player ever drafted by an NHL team. I came up with 19(including Johnny Pohl, who, I know, is iffy at best, but he was born in Roch, so we'll add him in).

Of the 19 Rochester players who have been drafted, seven were drafted by franchises that no longer exist (two by the Atlanta Thrashers, two by the first incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets, and one each by the Hartford Whalers, Colorado Rockies and Minnesota North Stars). 

Two -- Doug Zmolek and Mark Stuart -- were drafted in Round 1. None of the remaining 12 was drafted earlier than Round 4.

Two others -- Colin Stuart and Alex Kangas -- were drafted in the exact same draft position (Round 5, No. 135 overall) by the same team (Atlanta). And, yet, two more -- Guy Gosselin and Scott Schneider -- were drafted by the old Winnipeg Jets franchise.

Finally, five of the 19 wouldn't have been drafted if, in their draft years, the draft was formatted like it is now. Currently, the draft is just seven rounds. Eric Strobel, Shjon Podein and Gosselin were all drafted in Round 8, Pohl went in Round 9 and John Johannson in Round 10.

Here's my list, please tell me if I'm missing anyone:

Guy Gosselin
Jim Johannson
John Johannson
Ross Johnson

Alex Kangas
Jeff Kruesel
Bryce Lampman
Ethan Philpott

Shjon Podein
Johnny Pohl
Scott Schneider
Eric Strobel

Colin Stuart
* Mark Stuart
Mike Stuart
Jake Taylor
Jeff Teal
Doug Wieck

* Doug Zmolek

* -- first round pick

I'll have more information about each of those 15 guys in Friday's paper, as well as a look at some of the players the Wild are likely targeting with the 10th overall pick. I'll also have a look at some of the top Minnesotans available in this draft, and a story on New Prague native and former Section 1A standout Seth Ambroz.

He left the Trojans after his freshman year, when he piled up 69 points and led them to the Section 1A semifinals, where they lost to Lourdes in OT. He has played for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL the past three seasons. He is expected to be a low first-round or high second-round pick this weekend. 

For the story on Ambroz, I talked to 1989 Rochester John Marshall graduate Mike Aikens, who was an assistant with the Lancers this year. He had lots of good things to say about Ambroz, particularly his work ethic, which was questioned by some hockey bloggers throughout the season.

The 6-feet-3, 203-pound Ambroz -- who is headed to the U of M this fall -- has been criticized by some for not having a more productive season (he had 46 points in 2010-11, after a 49-point season in 2009-10). 

But, Aikens said, Ambroz was productive in areas other than the scoresheet early in the season. He said Ambroz's physical play was a huge boost for the Lancers early on, when he wasn't scoring. Aikens said Ambroz would often have as many as 15 hits in a game (approaching Cal Clutterbuck territory) and that he didn't receive enough credit for the dirty work he did.

"He was phenomenal on the forecheck and willing to take a beating," Aikens said.

Aikens added that Ambroz does have some things to work on, that he's not NHL-ready right now. The biggest thing Ambroz needs to work on, Aikens said, is his skating. But, it's something Ambroz is aware of and "has worked really, really hard to get better at."

As for Aikens, he thoroughly enjoyed his first season back in Omaha (he spent three seasons there at the start of his coaching career) and is ready to settle there. He and his wife bought a house there and are moving their daughters (ages 5 and 7) down in about two weeks. They kept their house here in Rochester during this past season and waited to move until the school year was finished.

Aikens said he enjoys working for the Lancers organization and head coach Bliss Littler, a successful long-time junior hockey coach. Aikens moved to Omaha after coaching in the Russell Stover Midget Major program near Kansas City. He worked with fellow Rochester native Pat Ferschweiler there. Ferschweiler left prior to last season to become an assistant coach at his alma mater, Western Michigan University.

"We have two young daughters," said Aikens, whose brother, Bruce, played on the 1977 JM state championship team, "so we were looking for a place to settle down. When Omaha called, it was a no-brainer.

"The organization in Omaha is so good, from the owners on down. They treat everyone so well. We like to call it the Yankees of junior hockey, because everyone is treated so well. I feel like I can really be choosy and pick my next move. If I'm here for 10 years, or more, that would be great."

May 16, 2011

Junior Hockey | One Vesel brother taken in USHL draft

Posted by: Feldman

So, I posted on Twitter early this morning that there was a chance Lourdes' Rory Vesel, a Second Team All-State defenseman this season, could be picked in the USHL Draft, which began at 10 a.m. today.

I forgot to mention that another Vesel -- Rory's younger brother, Tyler -- could also be taken. Turns out, Tyler was the one Vesel chosen today, going 56th overall (11th in the fourth round) to the Omaha Lancers. Rory was not drafted, but could still receive a tryout offer from USHL team(s). He has signed a tender with the Bismark (N.D.) Bobcats of the NAHL for next season, so, no fear, if he's not in the USHL, he'll still be playing at a high level.

As for Tyler, I haven't tried calling him yet to see what his plans are for next season. He was the second-leading scorer this year on Shattuck-St. Mary's prestigous U16 team. He compiled 108 points in 54 games (37-71--108), trailing only Taylor Cammarata, who had an amazing 139 points, including 71 goals.

Judging by the comments of Lancers coach/GM Bliss Littler, Tyler Vesel (5-feet-10, 160 pounds) will return to Shattuck and play on the Sabres' top team next winter. He's a 94 birthdate, so he would fit in on USHL rosters, but would certainly be among the younger players on the team. Littler had these comments in a press release on the team's website:

“Tyler Vesel is a player who we expect to play one more season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s,” Littler said.  “But we anticipate he’ll be ready to join the Lancers for the 2012-2013 season.”

All of the results from Monday's USHL Draft can be found here.

April 19, 2011

Random hockey notes (Funk, Farrell in HP 54s; Vesel to Select 17 camp)

Posted by: Feldman

Sorry, we've been away from the blog for a few days. I was letting a few hockey notes pile up. Time to get to them now.

First off, the USHL held its Futures Draft today. All of the teams in the country's top junior league had a chance to secure the rights to the top 95-born players who could potentially wind up in the USHL. No local players were taken, though there are ties to a couple of players drafted.

With the top overall pick, Waterloo selected Taylor Cammarata from Plymout. Cammarata plays at Shattuck St. Mary's in Faribault, where he starred on the U16 team that finished second in the country this year. Cammarata led Shattuck with 126 points (64-62--126). The second-leading scorer on that U16 team, and the only other player on the team to top 100 points, was Rochester's Tyler Vesel, brother of Lourdes senior Rory Vesel, who was a Second Team All-State pick this season and the Faceoff/Post-Bulletin All-Area Player of the Year. Tyler had 36-67--103 in 48 games; from what I've heard, he'll be playing on Shattuck's top team next season.

** And while we're on the topic of Tyler Vesel, he'll get some more big-time exposure to top junior and college scouts this summer. He is one of 14 Minnesota players invited to USA Hockey's National Player Development Select 17 camp at Rochester, N.Y., July 7-13.

Among the other Minnesota players invited to the Select 17 camp are Vesel's Shattuck teammate, Zach Stepan (cousin of former University of Wisconsin standout and current N.Y. Ranger Derek Stepan); Edina forward Louie Nanne (yep, of that Nanne family) and Apple Valley star forward A.J. Michaelson.

** Minnesota players selected for the Select 17 and Select 16 national camps were chosen after this past weekend's High Performance 54 Showcase in Plymouth.

Vesel was one of three Rochester players who competed in the HP 54. Lourdes forwards Alex Funk (who will be a junior next season) and Landon Farrell (a senior-to-be) both played in the three-team all-star tournament. Each team had 18 players on their rosters (54 total players, thus the HP 54 name).

Funk played for Team Blue, which also included Stepan and Class A state tournament darling Adam Johnson of Hibbing (which beat Funk's Eagles in the first round at state last month). Also on that team was New Prague goalie Joe Morris, who was outstanding in the Section 1A tournament, with his Trojans falling to Lourdes, 2-0, in the section title game.

Farrell played on Team Red, and Lourdes head coach Josh Spaniol coached Team White, which went unbeaten in three games. Spaniol's team included Vesel, Michaelson and Lakeville South defenseman Charlie Heller.

Vesel led Team White with five points (2-3--5) in three games; Funk didn't have a point in three games; and Farrell had one assist in three games.

Spaniol said both Funk and Farrell had good weekends, played well in front of scouts from most WCHA teams and USHL teams.

October 26, 2010

Junior Hockey | Ambroz named to Jr. Select team

FELDY: A former Section 1A star has made the United States roster for the upcoming World Junior A Challenge in Penticton, B.C.

New Prague native and Gophers recruit Seth Ambroz is one of 22 players to make the U.S. Jr. Select Team roster, announced Monday by USA Hockey. Ambroz is one of three players on the U.S. roster who also played on the U.S. Under-18 Select Team that competed in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament earlier this year in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Forward Carson Hohmann and defenseman Brian Cooper are the others.

USA Hockey's press release can be found here.

And here is a link to the roster.

All 22 players on the roster currently play in the USHL. Ambroz plays for the Lincoln Stars.