By: Nick Clark ' MnJHL Director of Media Relations
It would almost figure as much that on the same night the Edina Lakers busted out for a season-best nine-goals, their leading scorer would finally decide to spend a night away form the score sheet.
If you asked Edina head coach Kasey Yoder, consistency would be the one issue hes had with his club this Minnesota Junior Hockey League season.
Yet, as the Lakers identity crisis has somewhat subdued itself in the early stages of this month, the teams most prolific point producer doesnt find himself onto the score sheet in a 9-1 victory over the Minnesota Wildcats Sunday, Feb. 6.
That would be about the extent of the complaints the Lakers would have with Alex Chuhel though.
His consistency has been remarkable, said Yoder, who scouted the Cottage Grove, Minn. native during a North American League Hockey try-out camp with the Coulee Region Chill before persuading him to play for the Lakers.
I give him credit for that, because the one transition that is tough for the Minnesota guys versus the rest of the guys in the league is weve almost played a season and a half of high school right now, and by the time we are done, it will be two full seasons, Yoder continued. Typically, you see some of the guys plateau and try to battle through that, but he keeps getting better and better. That is a good sign.
What has been even more impressive, Yoder added, is his ability to transition from the role he played as a high school player to the one he is currently undertaking in his first year of junior hockey.
At 6-foot-2 and 175-pounds, Chuhel was asked to use that size in high school to be more of a self-described grinder.
He wasnt afraid of contact, and would usually find himself fending off defenders in the corner just hoping to get the puck to his teammates.
In two-plus seasons with Stillwater High School, Chuhels production reached its high point when he put up 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) as a senior with the Ponies just last year.
This year, however, hes been colleting points almost nightly.
Heading into this weekend, Chuhel is third on the team in goals (15), and is Edinas leader in both assists (26) and total points (41).
That assist total is also tied for sixth best in the entire MnJHL, and his 41-points are seventh most league-wide.
The Lakers have obviously enjoyed the production, but its been the rate at which he is picking up points that has made his emergence this winter a true turning point for Chuhel.
In Edinas past 18 games, Chuhel has been held pointless just three times.
I guess I am just getting lucky and getting some bounces when I can get them, Chuhel said. But its also the guys Im playing with. Weve been clicking really well.
Chuhels line, which also consists of Luke Vogelgesang (Cottage Grove, Minn.) and Tyler Robison (Omaha, Neb.) is home to three of the Lakers top five scorers, but its also served as reunion of sorts from Chuhels youth hockey days.
From Squirts through Bantams, Chuhel played on the same team as Vogelgesang, before Chuhel decided to play his high school hockey with at rival Stillwater High School.
Vogelgesang chose to stay home and play for Park of Cottage Grove High School, which made for some intriguing match-ups during the high school season.
Yeah, they didnt like me very much at Park, Chuhel admitted. When we played, I think they hat a hit on me.
His reasons for leaving home to play for Stillwater essentially came down to an opportunity to spend his prep hockey years playing for former National Hockey League star Phil Housley.
Housley, who played for eight different NHL organizations in his 23-year career, held American records for points and games at separate points of his career.
But he also reserved a spot on his resume for coaching, a fact that Chuhel said helped immensely with his development as a player.
He brought all the experience and used it to teach us the game, said Chuhel. He was phenomenal as a coach. He was able to relate to the kids. He had been there and done that, and just having that pro be there for you was inspirational. He wanted to help us get as far as we could.
That might be quite a ways for Chuhel yet. Hes made amends with Vogelgesang, whose 20 goals lead all Lakers, and formed a scoring punch that could land both either in college or a high level of junior hockey next year.
Yoder said hes already heard from college scouts regarding Chuhel, adding that he doesnt expect to see him back in Edina next winter.
We want him to move on, Yoder said. His goal should be to play in the [NAHL] if he wants to play another year of junior hockey. Otherwise, if he wants to go play college next year, there are some schools that are interested in him. He has plenty of options.
For now though, the focus is solely on finishing out his year in Edina strong.
The Lakers played their first three-game weekend of the season last weekend, winning two of the three to stay within a point of the Minnesota Owls for the final home-ice playoff spot.
Those two victories followed up a weekend in which Edina won twice, earning the Lakers eight points over the past eight days.
We need those points, because want that fourth seed, Chuhel said. We dont want to sit on that bus and go somewhere having to play in the playoffs. We want them coming here and playing at our own rink.
Elsewhere in the MnJHL '
Granite City Lumberjacks: Watch out for the Lumberjacks. Second-place Granite City won two more games last week, including a 6-2 victory over first place Rochester, to move within just two points of the MnJHL lead. Bobby Chayka (Hardwick, N.J.), Peter Lindblad (Benson, Minn.) and Trevor Ness (Motley, Minn.) each had a goal and as assist in the win over Rochester Friday. Riley Bengtson (Hutchinson, Minn.) scored twice for Granite City in a 5-1 win over Twin Cities on Saturday.
Hudson Crusaders: Hudson dropped a pair of games last weekend, but Tanner Tryggestad (Amery, Wis.) managed to score in both games. The MnJHL rookie now has 22 goals for the year.
Minnesota Flying Aces: The Flying Aces dropped a two-goal game to Twin Cities Friday, but responded with a 9-1 victory over Hudson Saturday. Dane Shaugabay (Warroad, Minn.) had five points in that victory, Brett Jenkins (Brained, Minn.) scored twice and Mitch Borneman (Wausau, Wis.) finished with three assists.
Minnesota Owls: The Owls kept their grip on the final home-ice playoff spot by fending off Edina with a 5-4 road win Saturday. Dustin Jonasson (West Fargo, N.D.), Robert Erickson (Coon Rapids, Minn.) and Tim Prinz (Aurora, Ill.) each finished with two points in the win.
Minnesota Wildcats: The Wildcats lost twice last weekend. Adam Mendoza (Taconite, Minn.) scored both goals in a 5-2 loss at Rochester Saturday. Tony Folk (Grantsburg, Wis.) had the lone Minnesota goal in a 9-1 loss at Edina Sunday.
Rochester Ice Hawks: When Rochester wins, George Jackson (Sewickley, Pa.) and Shaun Walters (Plymouth, Mich.) are usually producing. Case-in-point: In the Ice Hawks 5-2 win over the Wildcats Saturday, Jackson had a goal and three assists, and Walters two goals.
Twin Cities Northern Lights: The Northern Lights sudden resurgence continued last weekend with a 5-3 win at the Flying Aces Friday. Bryan Broders (Eagan, Minn.) had two goals, Jeff Spellmire (Bloomington, Minn.) a goal and an assist and Matt Fretwell (Cottage Grove, Minn.) 46 saves in the victory.
Games scheduled for this weekend '
Wednesday, Feb. 9
Rochester Ice Hawks at Hudson Crusaders, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 11
Minnesota Owls at Minnesota Flying Aces, 7:05 p.m.
Edina Lakers at Rochester Ice Hawks, 7:05 p.m.
Granite City Lumberjacks at Hudson Crusaders, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 12
Edina Lakers at Granite City Lumberjacks, 6 p.m.
Twin Cities Northern Lights at Minnesota Flying Aces, 7:05 p.m.
Minnesota Wildcats at Rochester Ice Hawks, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 13
Granite City Lumberjacks at Minnesota Flying Aces, 2:05 p.m.
Minnesota Owls at Twin Cities Northern Lights, 5:45 p.m.