Springfield, Illinois – The Springfield Jr. Blues have advanced over 350 players onto the NCAA Division 1 and 3 levels, and nearly 150 of those players have then moved on to professional hockey. From the ACHA to the NHL, here is this week’s Alumni Report!
We start this week off by discussing the biggest news to come out this past weekend: defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov was called up to the NHL by the San Jose Sharks and played in two games. While he was held off the scoresheet in both contests, Knyzhov becomes just the fourth Jr. Blues alum to make it to the big stage joining Gregg Naumenko (Mighty Ducks of Anaheim), Greg Rallo (Florida Panthers), and Mike McKenna (Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers).
Knyzhov appeared in 33 games this season for the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks AHL affiliate. In his time with the Barracuda he recorded his first professional goal and assist, ultimately finishing his tenure in the AHL with 1 goal and 4 assists, including one in his final game with the Barracuda. The Kemeroro, Russia native and the Sharks square off with the Chicago Blackhawks this evening on NBC Sports Network at 7:00 pm.
From the NHL to the ECHL, we have another recent college student-athlete who has signed his first professional contract. Goaltender Stefanos Lekkas signed an entry level deal with the Fort Wayne Komets on Saturday, marking the end of a phenomenal NCAA run. Lekkas, a native of Elburn, IL, played four seasons at the University of Vermont and finished his career with a number of records to his name. He is the All-Time HockeyEast Career Saves Leader with 3,913, which is the 2nd most in UVM history and 5th most in NCAA history. In Green & Gold history, Lekkas is the program’s all-time save percentage leader (.918) and ranks second in games played (134), third in goals against average (2.61), fourth in wins (45), and fourth in shutouts (7).
With his introduction into the ECHL coming soon (Fort Wayne hosts the Wichita Thunder this evening), Lekkas joins fellow alums Les Lancaster, Josh Lammon, Alex Jaeckle, Kelly Klima, Tyler Parks, Matteson Iacopelli, Ross Olsson, and Kyle Meeh who have all spent time in the ECHL this season. Lekkas becomes the 149th alumni to break into the professional ranks.
Speaking of professional debuts, Pensacola Ice Flyers rookie forward Brennan Blaszczak recorded his first professional goal and assist over the weekend. Blaszczak, a native of Las Vegas, Nevada, scored once on Friday night before adding a goal and two assists on Saturday. Through six games early in his career he has four points (2 goals, 2 assists) after recording four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in 27 games for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks during his three year stint in the NCAA. Blaszczak joins fellow alums Russell Jordan and Michael Crowley who also spent time in the SPHL this season.
Moving from the professional ranks to the NCAA, we want to spend some time discussing Division 3 hockey. Luke Radetic, who plays for the St. Thomas Tommies in the MIAC, helped his team make the National Tournament after scoring two goals in the MIAC Championship against Concordia. The Chesterfield, MO native now has 11 goals and 9 assists through 28 games played and will be joining a number of fellow alums who will also be participating in the tournament.
Wisconsin-Eau Claire (Nick Techel & Andrew McGlynn) and Utica (Brendan Schultz) will both have first-round byes. Babson (Patrick Flynn) will face-off with Wesleyan; Lake Forest (Joey Sardina) will battle with St. Thomas (Radetic); and Hobart (Zach Tyson) will square off with Adrian. All first-round games will be this Saturday, March 14th.
And our final spotlight this week is on a pair of Division 1 netminders who helped their teams advance in their conference tournaments. Dryden McKay, who has been a mainstay all season long in this weekly report, won back-to-back contests over Alaska-Anchorage as the regular season champions move on to play Michigan Tech in a best-of-three series starting this Friday in Mankato, Minnesota. Tommy Nappier, the reigning Big Ten Goaltender of the Year, seems to have found his form again after posting back-to-back wins over Wisconsin, allowing one goal in each contest. Both netminders were listed as players to watch for both the Mick Richter Award and Hobey Baker Award. Each award will announce their finalists later this month.
Jr. Blues Highlights:
- Ross Olsson – 1 A (Worcester Railers, ECHL)
- Russell Jordan – 2 G (Birmingham Bulls, SPHL)
- Kevin Klima – 2 G, 1 A (Hradec Kralove, Czech)
- Kevin Loppatto – 2 A (Holmstad, Sweden Division 1)
- Michael Davies – 2 G (Sheffield Steelers, EIHL)
- Ricards Bernhards – 1 A (Zemgale, Latvia)
- Max Kalter – 1 G, 1 A (Cergy-Pontoise, France Division 1)
- Pat Curry – 1 G, 1 A (Boston University, NCAA)
- Brady Tomlak – 1 G, 1 A (Air Force, NCAA)
- Trevor Stone – 1 G, 1 A (Air Force, NCAA)
- Grant Meyer – 1 A (Canisius, NCAA)
- Will Scherer – 1 A (Canisius, NCAA)
- Ben Schmidling – 1 A (St. Norbert, NCAA D3)
- Cade Groton – 1 A (Hamilton, NCAA D3)
- Alex Peck – 1 G (New York University, ACHA)
- Jeremy Wik – 2 W, 50/52 (Drexel, ACHA)
- Matthew Cassidy – 1 G, 1 A (Youngstown Phantoms, USHL)
- Jack Williams – 1 W, 1 L, 57/62 (Muskegon Lumberjacks, USHL)
MIAC – Kyle Meeh, D, Saint Mary’s
SUNYAC – Nikita Kozyrev, F, Buffalo State
WIAC – Andrew McGlynn, F, UW-Eau Claire (Honorable Mention)
NCHA – Brendan Aird, D, St. Norbert