By Matt Mackinder, NA3HL.com
The Minnesota Flying Aces are more than just a team with a unique nickname. The North American 3 Hockey League’s northernmost team enters its inaugural year in the league this fall looking to be a competitive force. Head coach Craig Larson has his sights set on being more than that, though.
“It takes a special person to be a Flying Ace,” said Larson. “We want elite personalities, kids that not only want to be hockey players, but also student-athletes. I think we’ll be a team that has a lot of speed. We don’t return a lot of players, which from a development standpoint is fine with me, but with our speed and ability to play physical, I think we’ll be fine.”
The nickname, though, has always been a favorable aspect of the team, laughed Larson. “Charles Lindbergh was born here in Little Falls and aviation is all over the community,” Larson said. “Our owners are also involved in aviation somehow and the high school team’s nickname is the Flyers. The logo for the Flying Aces is pretty cool, though. I really like our jerseys, too.”
Playing their first season in the NA3HL will be “interesting,” according to Larson, who felt jumping to the league this season from the Minnesota Junior Hockey League will be a major benefit to all parties involved.
“I think the biggest thing about playing in this league is the affiliation with the North American Hockey League and the track record that league has in the promotion of its players,” said Larson. “The showcases we’ll play in over the course of the season and the exposure our players will get is something else that made coming here very attractive.”
Larson has experience in the hockey world that mirrors other head coaches in the NA3HL. During the 2009-2010 season, he served as a Minnesota scout for the NAHL’s Alexandria Blizzard, as well as a U.S. regional amateur scout for the International Scouting Service where he evaluated and filed reports on players eligible for the NHL draft. Larson spends his summers working as a coach at the prestigious Minnesota Hockey Camps in Nisswa, Minn.
“The 3HL has a reputation for the coaches here,” Larson said. “A lot of these guys have played the game at a very high level and as coaches, have a reputation for advancing players.”
Advancement to colleges is something the 3HL has done year after year and even though the Flying Aces will be in a division with two other teams from Minnesota, college-like travel will be a part of the season. “A lot of a junior hockey player’s time is spent on the bus,” explained Larson. “We’ll definitely get used to bus time, that’s for sure. We play the teams near us, but we also go to Chicago, St. Louis and Peoria. Our guys will get used to life on the bus really quickly.”
The Flying Aces will also see how life in the 3HL is equally as fast.
BULLS TO SCRIMMAGE NAHL’S BRUINS
The North Iowa Bulls will scrimmage the Austin Bruins of the NAHL at the Albert Lea Ice Arena, following a Bulls practice on Sept. 8. The scrimmage will begin at 2:45 p.m. and run until 3:30 p.m. and will be open to the public at no charge. “This is a great opportunity for our guys to see the pace of an NAHL team at game speed,” said Bulls head coach Todd Sanden.
ST. LOUIS ANNOUNCES ROSTER, CAPTAIN
The defending NA3HL regular season champion St. Louis Jr. Blues have announced their roster for the 2011-2012 season. Among the returnees are the team's two leading scorers from last year, Jamie DeMarco and Ryan Hogland. In addition, the team’s leading defensive scorer, Joe Bowler, is back for another season and has been named the team’s captain.
Mitch Fernsler will be back in net leading the goaltending tandem and joining him is rookie Clint Steinmeyer.
Once again, the team will feature primarily St. Louis-area players.