North Showcase lives up to billing
by By Brian McDonough | NAHL.com
Read the full NAHL Weekly Release.
It’s only been around a couple of years, but the NAHL’s North Division Showcase is quickly becoming another highly-regarded scouting spectacle for the league to hang its hat on, and it proved that again over Thanksgiving weekend.
With the exception of the U.S. National Team, every club from the NAHL’s North Division, along with the South Division’s St. Louis Bandits, converged on the Youngstown, Ohio, area for three games and, as expected, the event hit on all cylinders.
“The tournament was a tremendous success from a scouting standpoint,” said Traverse City North Stars head coach Anthony Palumbo, whose team finished 1-1-1 at the Showcase. “There were many Division I and III scouts there to provide great exposure for our players. It was a really great opportunity for our players to showcase their skills.”
No less than 40 Division I and III schools were represented at the three-day event, including Bowling Green State University, Brown University, Ohio State University and Merrimack College to name a few.
“As players, I don’t think our guys could’ve asked for a better place to showcase themselves in front of all the college recruiters in attendance throughout the weekend,” added Alpena IceDiggers assistant coach Justin Bracci, whose team posted a 2-1 mark at the Showcase.
“It's what we're all about at this level: getting our players prepared and moved onto the next level,” said Mahoning Valley Phantoms head coach Bob Mainhardt, whose team went 2-1. “Getting scouts and coaches into the building is a huge part of the Showcase and we're thrilled to have had so many in attendance this year.”
And speaking of attendance, the fan support didn’t disappoint either. Well over 5,000 people made their way to the Chevrolet Centre and the Ice Zone, which played host to the nine games over the weekend, much to the delight of the Phantoms staff.
“Obviously, the scout exposure is the key to this event, but we’re very excited to have such a large fan turnout over a holiday weekend,” said Mainhardt.
One of the highlights of the Showcase was Mahoning Valley’s spirited 3-2 shootout win over Traverse City on Friday, as over 3,900 came through the Chevy Centre turnstiles to see the hometown Phantoms kick off the event with a win.
“It was an experience our boys will talk about long after their hockey careers are over,” said Palumbo. “The atmosphere was incredible, and the fans couldn’t have been treated to a more entertaining game.”
And for Phantoms forward Jordy Trottier, who tallied a goal in regulation and one in the shootout, the game held extra meaning.
“I was pumped up because my uncle Bryan (Trottier) was in the crowd," said Jordy. “It always gets the juices flowing to know there's an NHL Hall of Famer in the house watching me play.”
Staged in January last year, the Showcase was moved to November this season to offer more exposure for the division’s players just two months after the NAHL Showcase Tournament, which is held annually in Minnesota.
“The timing couldn't be better,” said Mainhardt.
Neither could the competitiveness. No team at this year’s event left with a perfect record, and all but two games were decided by two goals or less.
“I think that’s just an indication of the parity in our league and that you need to be ready to play every night,” said Palumbo.
“We've been saying all year that we play in the toughest division in the league and I think the tournament results are a testament to that,” added Mainhardt, whose team sits atop the North Division heading into December.
“The North Division showed that its teams can beat anyone, which is going to make for an exciting race the rest of the way.”
St. Louis forward Andrew Hamburg led the tournament's charge offensively with a goal and eight assists, with teammate Justin Kirchhevel right behind him with four goals and three assists. Marquette Rangers forward Chad Pietila tallied a goal and five assists.
The Bandits’ Keith Kincaid and the Phantoms’ Jordan Tibbett each picked up two victories between the pipes.
St. Louis finished with a 2-1 record; Motor City at 1-1-1; and Marquette at 1-2.
“Having a great facility like the Chevy Center to stage this event, and the support from the city of Youngstown, was a tribute to how far the NAHL has come in the development of so many young hockey players,” said Bracci.
AROUND THE NAHL
ALASKA AVALANCHE: Tyler Currier struck for two goals in the Avalanche’s 5-4 overtime loss to Wenatchee on Friday.
ALBERT LEA THUNDER: Albert Lea’s leading scorer Danny Wood connected for the Thunder’s only goal of the weekend in a 6-1 loss in Bismarck on Saturday.
ALEXANDRIA BLIZZARD: St. Cloud State recruit Bryce Ravndalen potted the game-winning goal in the Blizzard’s 5-3 win over North Iowa on Friday. He also added an assist in Saturday’s contest.
ALPENA ICEDIGGERS: Josh Nicol connected for a game-winning goal and three assists as Alpena finished 2-1 at the North Showcase. He was also a plus-5 on the weekend. "He's always been a scoring threat and it's nice to see his scoring touch finally starting to escalate," said assistant coach Justin Bracci. "We think he opened a few of the college recruiters' eyes last weekend."
BISMARCK BOBCATS: Second-year defenseman John Clark, from Baudette, Minn., has committed to Army (Atlantic Hockey) for next season.
FAIRBANKS ICE DOGS: Goaltender Phil Cook turned back all 36 shots in the Ice Dogs’ 3-0 win over Kenai River on Friday, marking his first shutout performance of the season.
KENAI RIVER BROWN BEARS: Jared Beers (goal, two assists) and Kegan Kiel (three assists) both recorded three-point nights in the Brown Bears’ 5-4 loss to Fairbanks on Saturday.
MAHONING VALLEY PHANTOMS: Goaltender Jordan Tibbett continues his solid play, picking up two more wins for the Phantoms at the North Showcase.”Jordan has been ‘Johnny on the Spot’ for us all year,” said head coach Bob Mainhardt. “It’s great for us to have him playing so consistently.”
MARQUETTE RANGERS: Chad Pietila tallied a goal and five assists as the Rangers went 1-2 at the North Showcase. “When Chad’s on his game, he’s very capable of scoring in bunches and that’s what he did for us last weekend,” said head coach Kenny Miller.
MOTOR CITY MACHINE: Machine assistant coach Sean Clark was named the team’s interim head coach after the last week's resignation of Matt Romaniski.
NORTH IOWA OUTLAWS: The Outlaws snapped a five-game winless streak with a 6-2 victory over Owatonna on Wednesday. “The wins against Owatonna and Alexandria (on Saturday) were as complete of performances we’ve had all season,” said head coach Jeff Crouse.
OWATONNA EXPRESS: Stephen Carew scored two goals, including the shorthanded overtime game-winner, in the Express’ 3-2 victory over Springfield on Friday.
SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES: Jon Gaffney recorded a goal and three assists, including one on Trent Frey’s game-winning marker, in the Jr. Blues’ 6-4 win over Owatonna on Saturday.
ST. LOUIS BANDITS: Goaltender Keith Kincaid picked up two wins at the North Showcase, including a perfect 37-save performance against Marquette on Friday (4-0).
TOPEKA ROADRUNNERS: Defenseman Randy Swank tallied a goal and an assist, both on the man advantage, in Topeka’s 5-4 shootout win over Wichita Falls on Friday. “Randy is a go-to man on the power play,” said head coach Scott Langer.
TRAVERSE CITY NORTH STARS: Kyle Bonis racked up six assists in three North Showcase games, and now has 12 helpers in 21 contests. “You never have to worry about Kyle,” said head coach Anthony Palumbo. “He’s as steady as they come.”
TEAM USA: Idle from NAHL action last weekend, the Under-17 Team will travel to Marquette for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday.
WENATCHEE WILD: Michael Voran put home two game-winning goals, including one in overtime on Friday, and two assists in the Wild’s three-game sweep over Alaska.
WICHITA FALLS WILDCATS: Chad Hudson recorded a hat trick in Wichita Falls’ 5-4 overtime loss to Topeka on Friday. He has six goals in his first six games with the Wildcats since being traded from St. Louis.