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Daily Dish: NAHL Report - Junior Hockey News

Published: Monday, 20 Sep 2021  
By: Stephen Heisler, JuniorHockey.com


Now that we are back to a full schedule of North American Hockey League action, it’s time to bring back the NAHL Report as a regular in-season feature of the Daily Dish and JuniorHockey.com. 

It’s difficult to consider the NAHL Showcase as a serious preview of what to expect from NAHL teams. So many things can change quickly, and players should know better than to consider their stall as a given. The reality is that every game, practice, and workout present another opportunity to lose it.

NAHL Grades 
A
Austin Bruins 3-0-1-0 (.875) Steve Howard has all the pieces in place to make a serious run this season. Look for the veteran coach to make a few adjustments and letting the boys loose in this weekend’s home opener with Minot.

Springfield Blues 5-1-0-0 (.833) It’s very clear that Tyler Rennette was not sitting on his couch during the season off. This guy has put together a very nice hockey team from scratch. No veterans, no problem. OK, maybe a few vets. This team looked very good in the opening weekend at Janesville and that continued in Blaine. The Magicians visit October 1-2.

North Iowa Bulls 3-1-0-0 (.750) In the first four games as head coach of the Bulls, Todd Sanden has proved to be a decent NAHL head coach. So what if the wins were over the Wilderness, Kenai, and the expansion Wranglers…it’s still wins. I’m sure the Bulls will be more than ready to face Aberdeen this weekend.

New Mexico Ice Wolves 3-1-0-0 (.750) Phil Fox and the Ice Wolves put together three strong wins in Blaine before letting their guard down against Danbury on Saturday. They should be well rested before heading to Ft. Worth to face the Brahmas October 8-9. 

Fairbanks Ice Dogs 4-1-0-1 (.750) Trevor Stewart and the Ice Dogs have yet another weekend of road games before returning to Alaska where they will stay until December. As usual, Fairbanks has done what it takes to collect points on the road and at the Showcase (3-1-0-0),and find themselves in a very familiar place in the standings, near the top. The expectation is they will remain among the leaders for the duration of the season. That’s just the Ice Dogs’ way of doing things.

Aberdeen Wings 3-1-0-0 (.750) Scott who? Yes, Langer is gone but Steve Jennings has the Wings continuing the winning ways. Will Aberdeen be as dominant as in years past? That remains to be seen. Let’s see how things go in Mason City this weekend.

El Paso Rhinos 3-1-0-0 (.750) Anthony Bohn (and brother Vinny) and the Rhinos surprised the league with their very strong showing in Blaine. The fear was that this team would come in like a wrecking ball and try to intimidate their opponents. Well, that’s been Rhino hockey for years. That’s not the way the Bohn brothers are doing it and the result has been exceptional. This weekend’s run up to Amarillo is going to be must-watch hockey for everyone in the south.  

Amarillo Wranglers 3-1-0-0 (.750) Harry Mahood. Sorry Amarillo, but it’s going to be difficult to like this new team with that guy on the bench. On the ice, the Wranglers look good with a solid core of twenty-bomb veterans mixed in with the younger talent. El Paso visits the Bull Pen this weekend.

Jamestown Rebels 3-1-0-0 (.750) I’ll admit it, I’ve never been a big Joe Coombs fan. But dude can coach ‘em up. After getting steamrolled by Springfield in the opening game at the Showcase, the Rebels took down North Iowa, Lone Star, and Odessa. Don’t be surprised to see that win streak stretched to five games after the Titans visit to Northwest Arena this weekend. The story I’ve heard from several NAHL coaches, the year off has been good for Coombs as he’s transitioned from Smokin’ Joe to Joe Cool during the break. Hey coach, where can I get some of that?

B
Chippewa Steel 4-2-0-0 (.667) Bench boss Casey Mignone could make his way blindfolded around most of the rinks in Minnesota and Wisconsin, so there’s no surprise that his team hit the Showcase with so much comfort. After dropping the first two games, the Steel was able to stun El Paso and Maryland to close the event. Mignone’s Steel get an extra week to get acquainted before hosting Anchorage for three games to open the month of October.   

Minnesota Magicians 4-2-0-0 (.667) Yes, getting to sleep in their own beds can be a great advantage when the rest of the NAHL makes their way to Blaine. Nick Bydal’s Magicians looked good in all four games at the Showcase. There’s a pile of veterans in the room for this club and that will certainly be a difference maker early in the season.

Lone Star Brahmas 2-1-1-0 (.625) Dan Wildfong’s Brahmas raged out the gate at the Showcase with solid wins in their first two games. The two losses (Jamestown and the Wilderness in OT) will certainly make for a long trip back home to Texas. Look for the boys to get plenty of attention this week as they prepare for another road-trip to Corpus Christi.

Anchorage Wolverines 2-1-1-0 (.625) I grew up in Anchorage so it’s going to be difficult suppressing the excitement for this team. With that said, there are serious concerns. Mike Aikens and his group are going to have to open up their scouting window well outside of the 907 area code if they are ever going to make serious headway in this league. Having Alaska players at home is important. But only eleven of these players are not from the coach’s home state of Minnesota or Alaska. I’ve always been for Alaska players and feel it’s great to have an NAHL team at Sullivan Arena, but the Minnesota Magicians had to learn that lesson the hard way. Speaking of the Magicians, Anchorage makes their first visit to Richfield Ice Arena this weekend. 

C
Maryland Black Bears 3-2-1-0 (.583) Clint Mylymok’s group jumped out of the gate to a 3-0-1-0 start before dropping the last two in Blaine to Odessa and Chippewa. There’s little time to rest with Maine visiting Piney Orchard this weekend.

St. Cloud Norsemen 1-1-0-0 (.500) Corey Millen and the Norsemen are the real deal. That Showcase win over the USNTDP was entertaining to say the least. I’m pretty sure the smile on owner Chris Canavati’s face is still lit up. 

Northeast Generals 3-3-0-0 (.500) Despite going one for four at the Showcase, this looks like the best team Bryan Erikson has put together for the Generals yet. Netminder Carson Limesand (2.50 GAA .934 SV%, ’02 Orono MN) certainly appears to be the real deal. 

Odessa Jackalopes 2-2-0-0 (.500) Scott Deur’s first outing as an NAHL head coach was a game of hit and miss. The ‘Lopes looked great in wins over Chippewa and Maryland and not so much in the losses. Now that the cobwebs are cleared, and Deur has a better idea of what he’s working with, look for the team to make the needed adjustments in time for the divisional battles of the south.

Johnstown Tomahawks 2-2-0-0 (.500) I’m still trying to figure out how Mike Letizia’s Tommies got beat by the Brown Bears… and a Pennsylvania goalie. That one is going to sting for a bit. Regardless, this is a team with tremendous resources, support, and experience. Look for Johnstown near the top of the east standings soon enough.

Maine Nordiques 2-2-0-0 (.500) There can’t be much about the Showcase that Nolan Howe is particularly happy about. Howe’s expectations for this season must be much higher than what was seen in Blaine. This team is much better than the single goal victory of Kenai River.

Shreveport Mudbugs 2-2-0-0 (.500) I’m already feeling the glares from Louisiana. Bug fans do not like to see their boys this far down ANY list. Relax folks, coach Jason Campbell is a master in the kitchen and anything but average. 

D
Minot Minotauros 1-2-1 (.375) Cody Campbell’s shotgun wedding of a start as an NAHL head coach was not all bad. The OT loss to Fairbanks was an epic battle with one of the league’s best coaches and the newbie did good. Look for a few more growing pains and a lot more success from Minot.  

Wichita Falls Warriors 1-2-1 (.375) Garrett Roth’s Warriors came up a bit short in Blaine. The good news is that Wichita Falls has the resources and player personnel in place to make a run in the South.

Minnesota Wilderness 1-2-1 (.375) Dave Boitz return to the bench was expected. As was the team’s performance in Blaine. Not known as a guy that can relate well to this generation’s players, look for Boitz to let assistant Brendan Phelps do most of the heavy lifting. 

F
New Jersey Titans 2-4-0-0 (.333) Titans’ supporters should not be concerned to find their team so far down this list. Craig Doremus went rogue this year and comes into the season with a minimal number of twenty-year olds. That’s a bold gamble that could pay off in a big way once the youngsters shake the nerves. 

Corpus Christi IceRays 1-3-0-0 (.250) It’s very clear that head coach Mike Lysyj is one heck of a coach. Are there players on this roster that have no business being there? Absolutely. Pulling Konner Lundeen (’01, F, Belfair WA) out of the stands and back onto the roster, showed his cards a bit, but certainly paid off. The IceRays may be a bit of a revolving door early this season, but if that’s what it takes to be successful, so be it. Corpus Christi is way too important of a franchise to let it sink. 

Janesville Jets 1-3-0-0 (.250) The Jets have a history of utilizing an abundance of young prospects and slowly lighting the burners in the early part of the season. Parker Burgess has the confidence of his owner and will always have the time needed to make needed adjustments. 

Danbury Hat Tricks 1-4-1-0 (.250) All things considered, Billy McCreary and the Hatties managed COVID and their first season in the league very well. Things get serious this year and Danbury will have their hands full juggling the roster in search of the right mix.

Kenai River Brown Bears 1-5-0-0 (.167) We get it, the Bears have their third coach in less than six months while management was more concerned about the quantity of players in camp than the quality. Josh Dubinsky will have try to make something out of this batch of players, or simply shuffle the deck and bring in a pile of new ones.

Bismarck Bobcats 0-4-0-0 (.000) Obviously the early season results are not typical of a Layne Sedevie coached team. Look for this group to get it together and rocket off the bottom of the pool.

SCALE: A 725+, B 600-724, C 475-599, D 350-474, F 0-349


Author: Stephen Heisler from JuniorHockey.com
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.


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