NAHL, Frisco, TX-
Combat Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month: Terry Leabo, Springfield Jr. Blues
It has been quite the first year NAHL journey for Springfield Jr. Blues defenseman Terry Leabo. The 19-year-old native of Fargo, North Dakota, played the first four games this season with the Alexandria Blizzard in the NA3HL. He then went onto play one game for Minot in the NAHL, before being traded to Springfield in early October. After trying to find his role with the Jr. Blues, it seemed that something clicked after the Christmas break. Leabo (5’11/170) started to click with his new team and produce points from the blueline. It all came to a head in the month of February, where Leabo recorded eight points (all assists) in seven games played and was one of the few Jr. Blues players to be on the positive side in the plus/minus category with a +4. After going scoreless in the first three games of the month, Leabo then stepped his game up in the next four as he had all his points in that time frame. It included back-to-back three point efforts in two games against the Soo Eagles. For the season, Leabo leads all Jr. Blues defenseman with 25 points (3 goals, 22 assists).
Springfield head coach Tony Zasowski said that Leabo has made a lot of progress this season, particularly in the second half of the season. “I think the opportunity was all that Terry needed. He is a very capable and talented defenseman, but I think just working with him to find is role and his niche was something that took a little bit of time. Once he started to get some confidence and assert himself, he became a much more effective player,” said Zasowski. “He is a solid two-way defenseman. I think most importantly through is that he pays the price and works hard. He blocks shots and does the little things and dirty work that make a team successful. He also plays with an edge and that really makes him a complete defenseman.”
For Leabo, the monthly award is something that he attributes to the improvement of himself and his team. “We have a great group of guys here and I really like playing in Springfield. Since the New Year, I have really felt like I needed to do something more and step up and I think February was a result of that,” said Leabo. “We are fighting for our playoff lives every game, so playing well is important and it gets magnified. Anything can happen in the playoffs, but we have to keep winning games and playing well to get there.” Leabo, who came to the NAHL after playing Minnesota High School hockey last season, said that the transition to the NAHL has been a learning curve. “I think the two things that really stand out are the size and skill of the players,” said Leabo. “I am just trying to learn and grow. I want to get to 30 points by the end of the regular season and keep improving my plus/minus rating. Hopefully that will help the team continue to have success and make a playoff run.”
Leabo is the first Jr. Blues player to win a monthly award this season. Ryan Atkinson was an honorable mention for forward of the month.