47 in 24 series: Granite City Lumberjacks
August 21, 2017
The 47 in 24 series will feature an in-depth look into all 47 teams in the NA3HL for the 2017-18 season, with new teams being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 47 in 24 goes in-depth into each NA3HL team and will include interviews with all 47 head coaches in the NA3HL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2017-18 season, including taking a look at their potential roster and their strengths as a team for the upcoming season. It will also take a look back on the 2016-17 season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 47 in 24 will provide the fans of the NA3HL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
Granite City Lumberjacks
2016-17 Record: 32-8-5-2, 71 pts. (1st in the West Division)
2017 Playoffs: Won the Silver Cup Championship
Head Coach: Brad Willner
2017-18 Division: West
What if I told you an eight seed would win the Silver Cup Championship? And, that they also lost their first game of the tournament and had no margin for error? What if I told you they had to beat a team that went 47-0 in the regular season to win it all?
No, it’s not an ESPN 30 for 30. It’s the story of the 2017 Silver Cup champion, Granite City Lumberjacks.
For the third time in six seasons, the Lumberjacks hoisted the Silver Cup, tying the North Iowa Bulls for the most Silver Cup championships.
After falling to the Metro Jets in the first game of the championship tournament, Granite City ran the table as they first knocked off St. Louis in an instant classic. They survived a winner-take-all battle against Atlanta. Next was a showdown with Binghamton, in which two of their three goals came while shorthanded against the league’s top power play.
All of that culminating in a rematch with the Jets. Despite giving up the game’s first goal, the Jacks scored twice in a span of 59 seconds to take the lead in the second period. It was then, Mac Berglove took center stage. Playing in his final junior game, he stopped 35 shots en route to being named the Silver Cup Tournament MVP.
“I thought it was great for our players because going into the year I thought we would be competitive but we had some injuries going into the Silver Cup Tournament,” said Head Coach Brad Willner. “I didn't know if we had the horsepower to do it but we came through and I was really proud of our guys for what they accomplished.”
Despite being the eight seed in the Silver Cup Tournament, the Lumberjacks were far from underdogs as they advanced out of the rugged West Division.
“Its gonna be a dogfight right from the get go and you can't take a weekend off. Thats what I love about our division,” added Willner.
The defending champs will have to replace some key members of their championship squad. Mac Berglove is heading off to St. John’s University which means the Jacks’ will turn to David Mulligan to backstop their repeat chances.
Mulligan, a top prospect for the West Division in 2016-17, went 10-4-1 in 16 games played last season. He sported an impressive 2.02 goals against average and had a .923 save percentage, while also posting three shutouts.
“David proved last year he can step up and carry the load,” said Willner. “Returning him solidifies our net presence”
Up front, Willner is excited about third-year player Braden Altena. Despite missing time due to injury, the forward from St. Cloud, Minnesota, was almost a point per game player. Lighting the lamp 13 times while adding 16 assists in 34 games.
On the back end, the defensive core will be led by Jordan Olson. The Nowthen, Minnesota native led the Jacks’ in points on the blue line, notching 8 goals and 16 assists in 33 games. Brandon Baker and Cole Buhl also return from last season’s championship club to sure up the blue line.
In addition to Berglove, Casey Esselman, Will Mix and Spencer Nelson will be playing college hockey in the fall. Coach Willner says he loves the league’s exposure events but, “Ultimately it’s up to the players to perform, but the league gives them every opportunity to showcase their talents.”
Granite City is also fortunate to have one of the best followings in the entire NA3HL as they averaged almost 700 fans a night last season. And while the Lumberjack faithful has given plenty of support to the team, the team is also giving a lot back to the community. Granite City has an annual game that benefits the United Heroes League, formerly know as Defending the Blue Line. The team has raised over $100,000 over the length of the partnership and have raised $35,000 just in the last two seasons alone.
With the Silver Cup back in Sauk Rapids, continuous player advancement and an incredible impact on the community, the Granite City Lumberjacks are winning on and off the ice.
Next up in the 47 in 24 series: Great Falls Americans