By: Nick Clark ' MnJHL Director of Media Relations
With his college commitment all but locked up, and with his North American Hockey League career coming to an end, Tyler Schwartz needed a temporary home.
He found one in Bloomington, Minn.
A year after dressing in 49 regular season games with the NAHLs Alaska Avalanche ' a place in which Gustavus Adolphus College took notice of his play ' Schwartz landed with the Twin Cities Northern Lights for the conclusion of his junior hockey stay.
And for the Chanhassen, Minn. native, the time he spent playing with the Lights was like a reunion of sorts.
Twin Cities head coach Jason Dobes got his coaching career started by working with Schwartzs father. The two coached Schwartz and Dobes younger brother on a Midget AAA team out of the west metro.
Dobes eventually landed a job coaching in the United States Hockey League, but he kept tabs on Schwartz, who at the time was just beginning to blossom.
Hes a good kid, and hes turned himself into a heck of a hockey player, Dobes said. Hes a family friend, so hes a kid Ive been around a long time and I knew hed be a good asset for our team when he came here. He plays with that veteran style. He plays like hes been there before, and that will be huge for him going into the D-III level.
Schwartzs transition to the college game is currently underway. Hes enrolled at Division III Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., and will begin classes this semester.
Hell also start practicing with the Gusties, with plans of playing when the 2011-12 season gets started next fall.
Im really happy for the opportunity, said Schwartz. It is going to be a great fit for me both academically and hockey-wise. I couldnt be more excited.
As for Gustavus, whats not to like. The Gusties were the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) champions last season, and made the turn into 2011 with an impressive 9-3-1 start to this season.
Their coach, Brett Petersen, is in his 11th year with the program, and is second to only Don Roberts in coaching victories at Gustavus.
Its a proven program with a proven coach, Schwartz said. Theyve established a tradition of winning. Hopefully I can come in and help keep it going.
According to Dobes, that shouldnt be an issue.
A first-year coach in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League, Dobes welcomed Schwartz into his locker room by asking him to deal with just about every hockey situation imaginable.
He killed penalties, helped run the power play, played first-line minutes at even strength, and when needed, did the talking in the room.
I knew hed be able to carry all of that on his shoulders, Dobes said. When he came in, I told him I have high expectations of him, and I was going to put a lot of pressure on him to see if hed be able to handle it. He had a lot of responsibility, but he handled it all just like I thought he would.
Schwartz would put up 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) in the 13 games he ended up playing for the Lights.
Most importantly to Schwartz though, was the fact that Dobes unleashed him.
Coach Dobes really did everything he said he was going to do, and more, Schwartz said. I got to work on things that I didnt get to work on before, and I definitely got better. I was being played in every aspect of the game, so it really helped out with my conditioning as well being out there all the time, and I was able to be more creative with the puck.
Schwartz added that he also noticed the competitiveness of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League, something he said compared to the NAHL.
The top line on just about every team could easily play up a level, Schwartz said. Its a real good league. Its gives players a real chance to compete.
Around the MnJHL '
Edina Lakers: Edina broke in the New Year with a four-point weekend. Cole Weiser (Beloit, Wis.) and Josh Provo (Rogers, Minn.) each scored third period goals to force overtime in what would be a 4-3 shootout victor at the Minnesota Owls Friday. On Saturday, Ryan Skeens (Lakeville, Minn.) scored the game-winning goal at 7:09 of the third as the Lakers topped the Minnesota Flying Aces 4-3.
Granite City Lumberjacks: The Lumberjacks celebrated the New Year with a Friday trip to Rochester, getting a point from the Ice Hawks after Peter Lindbald (Benson, Minn.) scored with 3:12 left in regulation in a game Granite City eventually lost 3-2 in a shootout. The following night, the Lumberjacks returned home and skated to a 6-2 win over Twin Cities. Trevor Ness (Motley, Minn.) and Bobby Chayka (Hardwick, N.J.) each had three points in that victory.
Hudson Crusaders: Hudson played just once this past weekend, dropping a 4-3 decision at Twin Cities Sunday. Cody Crouch (Eagan, Minn.) and Nick Townes (Crown Point, Ind.) each finished with a goal and an assist in the loss.
Minnesota Flying Aces: Minnesota opened the New Year by falling to Edina 4-3 on Saturday. Alex Phelps (Detroit Lakes, Minn.) had a goal and an assist for the Aces, and Sam Benson Sioux Falls, S.D.) and Derek Molski (Stevens Point, Wis.) each scored in the loss.
Minnesota Owls: The Owls had a tough-luck introduction to 2011, losing in a shootout at home to Edina on Friday, before falling by a single goal in a 3-2 loss at Rochester Saturday. Jake Schlegel (St. Louis Park, Minn.), Nick Ernst (Blue Island, Ill.) and Robert Erickson (Coon Rapids, Minn.) scored for the Owls against Edina. Kyler Ackewance (Sioux Lookout, Ontario) and Mike Mosso (Sun Prairie, Wis.) had Minnesotas goals in Rochester.
Minnesota Wildcats: The Minnesota Wildcats were off this past weekend. The team will return to action this week by hosting the Rochester Ice Hawks on Friday, and then the Twin Cities Northern Lights on Saturday.
Rochester Ice Hawks: Rochester rang in 2011 with a four-point weekend at home. Trevor Lloyd (Commerce, Mich.) had a goal and an assist, plus the shootout winner in a 3-2 shootout victory vs. Granite City Friday. Then on Saturday, Cory Volk (Sandstone, Minn.), Brent Duwe (Haslett, Mich.) and Michael Ohlsson (Sundsvall, Sweden) each scored once in a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Owls.
Twin Cities Northern Lights: Twin Cities split a pair of games this past weekend, losing at Granite City Saturday before returning home to beat Hudson 4-3 on Sunday. Mike Falvey (St. Paul, Minn.) had a goal in the loss to the Lumberjacks, then two assists vs. Hudson. Bryan Broders (Eagan, Minn.), Tom Johnson (Center City, Minn.) and Justin Hale (Stoughton, Wis.) also each finished with multiple points in the victory over the Crusaders.
Games scheduled for this weekend '
Friday, Jan. 7
Hudson Crusaders at Granite City Lumberjacks, 7:30 p.m.
Edina Lakers at Minnesota Owls, 7:30 p.m.
Rochester Ice Hawks at Minnesota Wildcats, 7:35 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 8
Minnesota Flying Aces at Minnesota Owls, 6 p.m.
Rochester Ice Hawks at Edina Lakers, 7:05 p.m.
Twin Cities Northern Lights at Minnesota Wildcats, 7:35 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 9
Granite City Lumberjacks at Twin Cities Northern Lights, 5:45 p.m.