Jr. Blues Alumni Report – Feb. 26th, 2020

Springfield, Illinois – The Springfield Jr. Blues have a long history of representing the North American Hockey League in the NCAA, ECHL, AHL, and other professional leagues around the world. With over 175 players currently playing, we have quite a few players and stories to get to. Here is this week’s Alumni Report!

We begin this week the way we have begun so many weeks this season – by spotlighting the remarkable play of Minnesota State-Mankato netminder Dryden McKay. McKay, a sophomore from Downers Grove, IL, is in the midst of a record setting season for the Mavericks. The Mike Richter and Hobey Baker Award nominee was honored as the WCHA Goaltender of the Week after posting back-to-back shutouts over Alabama-Huntsville. In Friday’s contest McKay stopped all 11 shots in MSU’s 10-0 rout before turning aside all 19 shots in Saturday’s 8-0 victory. His stat line for the 2019-20 campaign now sits at 27-3-2 with a 1.28 GAA, .943 SV%, and 10 shutouts, of which he leads the nation in all four categories. 

McKay now holds the season-single record (10) and career shutout record (14) at Minnesota State, and is only two behind the NCAA record of 12 shutouts in a single season currently held by Niagara netminder Greg Gardner in 2000. The weekly award is McKay’s seventh Goaltender of the Week honor this season, and his 13th career weekly award (2 – Rookie, 11 – Goaltender). 

Speaking of records, University of Vermont goaltender Stefanos Lekkas has become the HockeyEast All-Time Career Leader in Saves after recording an 0-1-1 weekend against Maine. On Friday night Lekkas turned aside 34 of 40 in a 6-1 loss before earning a shutout on Saturday by turning aside all 33 shots in a 0-0 tie. With the 77 saves made over the weekend Lekkas now has 3,816 career saves, the most in HockeyEast history. He now ranks #9 in NCAA history behind overall leader Robbie Moore who recorded 4,434 saves as the Michigan netminder from 1973-76. Despite a rough season for the Catamounts, Lekkas’ four shutouts and 876 saves both rank in the top ten nationally.

We switch up our focus from Division1 hockey to Division3 as we look at Kyle Meeh and the Saint Mary’s Cardinals. Meeh, a Senior from Fenton, MO, has been a leading force for the Cardinals all season long and despite a desperate push to end their 2019-20 season on a high-note, they fell to St. John’s to end their season. Meeh recorded two goals and an assist in Saturday’s 6-5 loss to push his season totals to 13 goals and 9 assists for 22 points in 22 games. His 13 goals were second best in the MIAC, while his 22 points ranked ninth best in the conference.

Over his four seasons at Saint Mary’s, the Captain of the Cardinals recorded 31 goals, 36 assists and 97 penalty minutes in 99 games. In his collegiate career, Meeh was named to the MIAC All-Rookie Team in 2016-17, Honorable Mention All-MIAC 2016-17, First Team All-MIAC 2017-18 & 2018-19, and was a two-time MIAC Player of the Week (both this season). 

From a player exiting collegiate hockey, to a player making a splash across Division 3 hockey we focus next on Buffalo State freshman forward Nikita Kozyrev. Kozyrev, a native of Tallinn, Estonia, recorded three points in a weekend split for the Bengals to push his team lead in points to six as he now has 32 in 25 games played. On Friday night Kozyrev assisted on both Bengals goals in a 3-2 loss to Oswego before opening up scoring on Saturday in their 2-1 victory over Cortland. He now leads the team, and all rookies in the SUNYAC, with 9 goals and 26 assists and is fourth nationally among freshman in Division 3 scoring. Buffalo State will host Potsdam tonight in the opening round of SUNYAC playoff action. 

Our transition to professional hockey starts in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), as we look to congratulate forward Brennan Blaszczak on his first professional game. Blaszczak, a native of  Las Vegas, NV, played in his first pro game last night for the Pensacola Ice Flyers in a 2-0 loss to Macon. The 6’0” 180 lbs. forward had been playing for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks for parts of the last three seasons and had amassed 1 goal and 3 assists in 27 games. Last season, Blaszczak was diagnosed with testicular cancer but after a successful surgery to remove the tumor was able to return to action. In his time with the Jr. Blues, Blaszczak scored 41 goals and 29 assists in 111 games. 

The final spotlight this week goes to San Jose Barracuda defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov who scored his first professional goal in Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the Ontario Reign. Knyzhov, a native of Kemeroro, Russia, signed a contract with the San Jose Sharks last summer and now has one goal and one assist in 28 games. After starting the 2015-16 season with the Regina Pats of the WHL, Knyzhov joined the Jr. Blues to finish off the season and recorded three assists in that time. He then played briefly for the Austin Bruins before making stops in the MHL, VHL, and KHL in Russia. Knyzhov, who played youth hockey in Arizona, was the billet brother and former teammate of current Jr. Blues blueliner Jeremy Gabriele. 

Alumni Highlights: