These may not be gale force winds that are blowing through the North Division of the North American Hockey League. Nonetheless, they are strong north winds.
When Springfield Jr. Blues dropped a pair of one-goal road decisions to the Jamestown Ironmen back on the October 5-6 weekend, their coach-general manager Tony Zasowski noted that his team was better than its 1-7-2 record and added that he felt it was headed in the right direction.
Well, in the three weekends since, the Jr. Blues have been hitting the high notes with five wins in six outings to improve their record to 6-8-2. In fact, Springfield's only loss in the last six games was a 1-0 setback to the Topeka RoadRunners.
Of further note, the Jr. Blues have scored only 40 goals in 16 games this season and forward Brett Skibba has accounted for more than 25 per cent of their offense.
Skibba has 11 goals on the season, which is seven more than Springfield's second-leading scorers. Following Skibba on the Springfield goal-scoring sheet are Mike Fazio, Nate Chasteen and James McGing, who have all found the back of the net four times each.
WHO'S NO. 1?
Through 17 games, Johnstown Tomahawks have totalled 19 points from a record of 7-5-5 without a clearly-defined no. 1 goalie.
Johnstown continues to carry three goalies and it's Chris Truehl who has the best overall numbers.
Truehl has a 2-2-3 record to go with a 2.73 goals against average and .918 save percentage.
Next is Collin Brennan with a 2-2-1 record (including one start as a member of the Janesville Jets) to go with a 3.11 goals against average and .890 save percentage.
Then there's Bodhi Engum, who has a 3-2-1 record but has an inflated 3.74 goals against average and a rather ugly .838 save percentage.
In talking with a smattering of scouts, coaches and media who have some knowledge of the situation, Truehl is the Tomahawk tender with the most upside.
Suffice to say that Bruno Bragagnolo knows a good goalie when he sees one.
Through two seasons in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League as coach-general manager of the Soo Eagles, Bragagnolo had a pair of dandy netminders tending twine for him in Jake Paterson and John Kleinhans.
As a 16-year old, Paterson backstopped the Eagles to the 2010-11 NOJHL championship with the 19-year old Kleinhans in reserve. Paterson is now in his second season as the starting goalie with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League after being selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the third round of the 2012 National Hockey League draft.
As for Kleinhans, after requesting a trade from the Eagles following the 2010-11 season, he too became a championship goalie as he led the Soo Thunderbirds to both the NOJHL and Dudley Hewitt Cup, Central Canada titles in 2011-12. Kleinhans is scheduled to begin playing at the Division 3, National Collegiate Athletic Association level in the new year.
At any rate, Bragagnolo and the Eagles have since left the NOJHL and are now first-year members of the NAHL. And Bragagnolo has again latched on to a high-end goalie in Tyler Marble, a 1992 birth year who has a Division 1, NCAA commitment to play at Lake Superior State University effective the 2013-14 season.
Sporting a record of 8-1-2 to go with a sparkling goals against average of 1.94 and a save percentage of .949 in 11 starts this season, Marble has been simply sensational for the Eagles, who are challenging for the lead in the eight-team North Division of the NAHL.
And if you ask Bragagnolo, Marble is as good a goalie as he has ever coached and that includes Paterson, the NHL draft pick.
Bragagnolo said that besides having superior skills to go with a strong work ethic, Marble's cool demeanour while in net has a calming effect on his teammates.
"It's like the guys know that with Tyler back there, he's going to make the saves," said Bragagnolo.
Marble has travelled a winding road back to the NAHL with the Eagles.
A native of Howell, Michigan, Marble first played in the NAHL with the Traverse City North Stars three years ago. He stayed two seasons in Traverse City before moving north to Canada and finishing the 2011-12 season with the Wellington Dukes of the Ontario Jr. Hockey League after starting out with the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Jr. Hockey League.
Despite liking it in Wellington, Marble jumped at the chance to return to the NAHL, in particular the Eagles, since Sault Ste. Marie will continue to be his hockey home when he begins his NCAA career at Lake Superior State in the fall.
"This has been a good move for me," Marble related on a recent edition of the Hockey North Show on ESPN 1400 Radio. "I'm settled in with the Eagles and playing in a really good league for a really good coach in Bruno."
Janesville forward Jason Ford has accepted a Division 1, NCAA scholarship offer to play at Bemidji State.
But it doesn't appear that Ford, who is a 1994 birth year, will be heading to Bemidji until the 2015-16 season, which will give the 6-foot, 180 pounder plenty more time to develop.
A native of Waunakee, Wisconsin, Ford currently leads the Jets in scoring with 15 points, including nine goals, in 16 games.
Jets coach Joe Dibble noted that Ford "has developed into a go-to-guy for us in Janesville. Bemidji State is a first-class program that is getting a first-class young man."