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NAHL is Represented in the 2018 NHL Draft

Released by the NAHL:
It was a banner day and one the NAHL will long remember as the 2018 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft wrapped up its second day on Saturday, June 23rd at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
In all, nine players that play or have previously played in the NAHL were taken in the draft. It is the most players taken with NAHL experience since the 2010 NHL Draft when the NAHL had 16 players with NAHL experience selected, which included those from the NTDP team when they were members of the league until 2009.
“This is part of the continuing evolution of the North American Hockey League. Players are getting more exposure, more opportunities for advancement, and as a result more and more of them are worthy of consideration by NHL teams during the draft,” said NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “Having our coaches at the event was a great experience for everyone and we are thrilled at how the weekend went. We continue to see incredible numbers of NHL scouts at our events and because our players are competing at such a high level, we have been able to enjoy continued success at the NHL Draft. We congratulate all those players selected.”
The list of those selected included Lone Star Brahmas goalie Mitchell Gibson, who was the NAHL Goaltender and Rookie of the Year this past season. Gibson was the first American-born goaltender selected in the 2018 NHL Draft when the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals selected him #124 overall in the 4th Round.
“I knew Washington was a possibility, but you never know. It really is a dream come true. After this past year, I had a lot of confidence in my game and myself. I was real excited to get an opportunity with Lone Star in the NAHL this year,” said Gibson, who attended the draft with his parents.
The 6’1/186 lbs. native of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, who is committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Harvard University, tied an NAHL single-season record with 11 shutouts in 2017-18. Gibson also finished the regular season leading in the NAHL in goals against average (1.59) and save percentage (93.5%), which were both the lowest numbers in the league since the 2014-15 season. He was also 2nd in wins with 26 and played in the 2018 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament for one of two NAHL Selects teams.  The last goalie to win both the NAHL Goaltender of the Year and NAHL Rookie of the Year honors in the same season was current Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who did it in 2011-12 with the Odessa Jackalopes.
In the 7th round, Janesville Jets forward Jakov Novak heard his name called by the Ottawa Senators with the 188th overall pick in the 7th round. The NAHL Most Valuable Player and Forward of the Year from the 2017-18 season put together a remarkable season for the Jets. Novak, who is committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for Bentley University in the fall, led all NAHL players in scoring during the regular season with 73 points in 56 games played. That included 32 goals, which also tied for the NAHL lead. He also led the NAHL with a +41 rating during the regular season, showing his talent at both ends of the ice. Novak (6’3/200) was also selected to and played in the 2018 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament, where he improved his NHL Draft stock by recording four points in two games for one of the two NAHL Selects teams. In his two-year NAHL career, he has recorded 101 points in 108 career regular season games.
“I’m honored to be part of such an unbelievable organization and beyond excited for what the future holds,” said Novak. “Honestly, I’m at a loss for words. I’m super excited and can’t wait to get things going. Training camp starts Monday.”
Janesville Jets Owner and President Bill McCoshen, who is also the NAHL’s Chairman of the Board, attended the Draft and offerered his thoughts about Novak getting drafted, as well as, the NAHL’s big day. “You may not finish here, but it is a great place to start and increase your development and move on. It is obvious that players in the NAHL are getting noticed. I think the level of our coaching is a main reason more and more guys are getting committed to NCAA schools and drafted by NHL teams.”
“When Jakov was selected I cheered. To have a kid like Jakov develop like he did in a one-year period was incredible. His development was spectacular. He put in the work off the ice to get stronger and faster and everything worked,” said McCoshen.
The other seven NAHL players drafted were all recent players in the league and include (alphabetical):
Paul Cotter, F, Brookings Blizzard (Vegas Golden Knights, Round 4/#115): The native of Canton, Michigan, led the Blizzard in scoring during the 2016-17 regular season with 60 points, which included 28 goals and 32 assists. His 60 points was tied for 6th among all NAHL players and earned him NAHL Rookie of the Year honors. Cotter committed to Western Michigan during his year in the NAHL and will play for the Broncos in 2018-19.
Mikael Hakkarainen, F, Brookings Blizzard (Chicago Blackhawks, Round 5/#139): The native of Espoo, Finland had an incredible rookie season for the Blizzard in the NAHL in 2015-16. Hakkarainen, who is committed to play at Providence College this upcoming season, recorded 40 points in 54 regular season games and was named to the All-NAHL Rookie 2nd Team in 2015-16.
Cole Koepke, F, Minnesota Wilderness (Tampa Bay Lightning, Round 6/#183): The native of Hermantown, Minnesota joined the Wilderness in the NAHL towards the end of the 2015-16 season. In total he played in 17 games, which included nine during the regular season and eight more during the Robertson Cup Playoffs. Koepke will be playing at the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2018-19.
Brandon Kruse, F, Brookings Blizzard (Vegas Golden Knights, Round 5/#135): Kruse is a great ladder of development success story, who rocketed up the draft board after his one season in the NAHL with the Blizzard in 2016-17 and then an incredible rookie season in the NCAA this past year at Bowling Green. The native of Saline, Michigan, had 46 points in 59 games played for the Blizzard in 2016-17 and also committed to Bowling Green. During his freshman season at Bowling Green in 2017-18, he recorded 33 points in 41 games played.
Jake Kucharski, G, Austin Bruins (Carolina Hurricanes, Round 7/#197): Kucharski had climbed the ladder of development, which dates back all the way to the Esmark Stars 16U team of the NAPHL during the 2015-16 season. The native of Erie, Pennsylvania, then went onto the NAHL the following season in 2016-17 with the Austin Bruins. Kucharski played in 34 games and posted a goals against average of 3.31 and a save percentage of .894. He is committed to play at Providence College during the 2019-20 season.
Ivan Prosvetov, G, Minnesota Magicians (Arizona Coyotes, Round 4/#114): Prosvetov spent the entire 2016-17 season with the Minnesota Magicians in the NAHL. He also played in the 2017 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament where he first caught the eye of NHL scouts. During the 2016-17 season in the NAHL, the native of Moskva, Russia, played in 44 regular season games and posted a goals against average of 2.52 and a save percentage of .928.
Nathan Smith, F, Aberdeen Wings (Winnipeg Jets, Round 3/#91): Smith, who is committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Minnesota State-Mankato this upcoming season, played in the NAHL for a small portion of the 2016-17 season. The native of Hudson, Florida, recorded two points in four games with the Wings.

Fear factor: Jr. Blues going into playoffs with seasoned goalkeeper

By Dave Kane – Sports Writer / Taken from The State Journal Register

After spending most of last season as a backup with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the Tier I United States Hockey League, goaltender Evan Fear headed back to Tier II with the North American Hockey League’s Springfield Jr. Blues.

Instead of sulking over what could be considered a demotion, Fear took everything he learned at Dubuque and applied it to his second tour of duty with the Jr. Blues.

It’s been a memorable return to Springfield, with another chapter beginning Friday night in Janesville, Wisconsin.

“I think Evan’s oozing with confidence right now,” said first-year Jr. Blues coach Tyler Renette, who’ll guide the team into a first-round NAHL Robertson Cup playoff series against the Janesville Jets.

“To him, the puck looks like a beach ball coming at him. To me, he’s been the hottest goalie in the league the past month. He’s earned everything he’s gotten. He’s been unbelievable for us down the stretch, and he’ll be starting Friday night.”

The 18-year-old Fear, a Winnetka native, has played a big role as the last line of defense for a Jr. Blues team making its first playoff apperance since 2013.

For the season, Fear has two shutouts and a 2.39 goals-against average. That ranks him in the middle of the NAHL pack.

But Fear was in goal for six of Springfield’s eight straight wins to close the regular season, including two shootout victories in which he stopped all five penalty shots he faced against Janesville on March 28 and the Minnesota Magicians on March 30.

Fear’s backup is rookie Jurja Ovecka, a native of Slovakia who owns the other two victories in the eight-game streak.

“The goaltending position is an interesting one,” Fear said. “There can only be one guy in the net at a time.

“I think I’m playing pretty well at the moment, and I’ll be getting the first chance in the playoffs. But it’s what you do with it, right? If I lay an egg, it’ll be Juri’s chance. It’s our job to compete with each other.”

Fear joined the Jr. Blues late in the 2015-16 season. His best memory from that year was getting to play one game with older brother Erich Fear, a defenseman who spent that one season in Springfield before enrolling at the University of Denver.

Erich was a member of Denver’s NCAA Frozen Four national champions in 2017, although Evan had another commitment that kept him from joining his family to watch Erich and Denver win the Frozen Four at the United Center.

“That was a little bit of a bummer,” Evan said. “We were still in-season, so I wasn’t able to go to Chicago. It was perfect for them. They got to celebrate.”

Fear was still with the USHL Dubuque team at that point. He was the backup goalie, but he still got to play in 16 games. Practice time was equally important in his development.

“The biggest takeaway from that was Matt Millar, the goaltending coach,” Evan said. “He helped me a ton. With four or five practices a week, I got to be on the ice with (Millar) and really work on my game.”

Fear started the next preseason — for the 2017-18 campaign — with Dubuque. But he said a coaching change and his own sub-par play led to him being released.

But the Jr. Blues welcomed back Fear with open arms. Rennette, who was a Jr. Blues assistant to Tony Zasowski last year, knew Fear’s potential.

’“When Dubuque called me and wanted to know if we wanted (Evan) back, I said sure,” Rennette said. “But I told him, ‘I’m not going to just hand you the No. 1 spot. You have to earn it.’

“He came in and really battled for the job.”

Experience on the roster was a priority for Rennette this season as he added older players in hopes of making a push to the playoffs.

“I think there were two points in the regular season where (more experience) was pretty relevant,” said the 18-year-old Fear. “At the start of the year when I came here, there were a lot of teams with young guys and not much experience. That helped us early.

“Then down the stretch, when games got pretty tight with overtimes or shootouts, we’ve been able to control play with our experience — guys who’ve been there before.”

Fear has been there, in both the USHL and the NAHL. Now comes playoff pressure.

“I always get nervous before a game,” Fear said. “There are some butterflies there.

“You have to be excited for the playoffs, but you don’t change your routine too much. We’ve had a lot of success lately. We have to keep playing like we’ve been playing. If we stay confident in ourselves, I think we’ll do pretty well.”

Contact Dave Kane: 788-1544, dave.kane@sj-r.com, twitter.com/davekaneSJR.

Springfield Finishes Regular Season on Win Streak

The Springfield Jr. Blues came away with another win on Saturday night, making their win streak 8-0-0.

With Evan Fear in net, Coulee Region Chill scored in the first at 13:04 (B. Koch) and the remainder of the period was quiet, as was the second period. It was not until the third period when Dylan Rauh scored at the 1:22 mark with assists from Chase Mickelson and Ethan Stewart on the power play. Coulee scored next at the 10:00 mark, but Springfield didn’t wait long to score back-to-back goals within four seconds of each other at 12:45 and 12:49.

Nikita Kozyrev scored at 12:45 with assists from Max Brainin and Ethan Stewart. The trio quickly scored again at 12:49 with Max Brainin making the goal with assists from Ethan Stewart and Nikita Kozyrev just four seconds later to break the tie and win the game.

Saturday marked the end of the regular season for the NAHL, and Springfield is now in what head coach Tyler Rennette refers to as the “Second Season” meaning the playoff season.

Springfield will take on the Janesville Jets in Janesville on Friday the 13th and Saturday the 14th. Springfield will play at home on Friday April 20th, and if necessary, Saturday April 21st.

Here is the schedule for this round of playoffs between Janesville and Springfield:

#2 Janesville Jets vs. #3 Springfield Jr. Blues

Game 1: Friday, April 13 @ Janesville, 7:00pm

Game 2: Saturday, April 14 @ Janesville, 7:00pm

Game 3: Friday, April 20 @ Springfield, 7:05pm

Game 4: Saturday, April 21 @ Springfield, 6:05pm*

Game 5: Monday, April 23 @ Janesville, 6:00pm*

*if necessary

Springfield Hangs On for a 4-3 Win

The Jr. Blues jumped out to a 3-0 lead and held on for a 4-3 win against the Chill on Friday. The loss was the 7th in a row for Coulee Region. The Jr. Blues got goals from Brandon Puricelli, Max Brainin, and Patrick Smyth to take a 3-0 lead early in the 3rd period. The Chill mounted a comeback with goals from Sam Dabrowski and Andrew McGlynn, but a goal from Springfield’s Sam Swanson secured the win. Connor Zilisch had the other goal for the Chill. Jurja Ovecka made 31 saves in the win, while Mitchell James made 31 saves in the loss.

Game Recap – Springfield WINS!

Your Springfield Jr. Blues came away with a shootout WIN tonight against the Minnesota Magicians. They will be back in action tomorrow night at 6:05 pm for the last home game of the regular season! Be sure and come out and support the team in this final home stand before the playoffs.

 

The first period began with a tally from Minnesota at 11:50. Springfield couldn’t find the back of the net this period, so we ended with a score of 0-1.

 

The second period started with Nick Schultze tying things up for your Springfield Jr. Blues at 8:29 of the period, with an assist from Rauh. We ended the period tied 1-1.

 

The third period was slow, with some tensions rising on the ice leading to some double penalties. We stayed 1-1 through the period, ending in an overtime and finally heading to a shootout.

 

Springfield shootout goal was from Nikita Kozyrev. Evan Fear made 33 saves tonight for a SVV of 0.969%.

 

We will be back in action against the Magicians yet again tomorrow night at 6:05 PM! Don’t miss our last regular season home game!

Springfield vs. Janesville – Preview

Game-Day Preview

Tonight, the Springfield Jr Blues will be hosted by the Janesville Jets in Janesville, Wisconsin for a single game.

Springfield Jr Blues fans can meet at Cooper’s AlleySide located inside KingPin Lanes to watch the game. Cooper’s AlleySide is at 3115 East Sangamon Avenue, Springfield, IL 62702. The game will start at 7pm.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram @SpringfieldJr.Blues if you can’t make it! We will also be updating the score on Twitter!

Come out for the last weekend of the Regular Season on Friday the 30th and Saturday the 31st. We will have games, giveaways, and more!

——————————————————————

Janesville Jets

Tale Of The Tape:

Record: 55-36-11-6, 80 Pts. (2nd in Midwest)

Goals Against Average: 2.49/Game

 

Scoring Leaders: Jakov Novak (52 GP,  32 G – 37 A – 69 Pts.), Kip Hoffmann (54 GP,  21 G- 35 A – 56 Pts.), Tanner Polglaze (55 GP,14 G – 26 A – 40 Pts.),

Player To Watch:

Jakov NovakThis D1 player has earned 69 points this season, 37 of which are assists. With 32 goals, Springfield will have to keep an eye on his play, and limit his chances to set up assists.

Between The Pipes:

Garrett Nieto:  The former Springfield goalie is 20-4 so far this season. He sports a save percentage of 0.926 and a GAA of 2.11, making him 6th in the league.

 

SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES


Tale Of The Tape:

Record: 55-28-21-5, 62 Pts. (3rd in Midwest)

Goals Against Average: 2.49/Game

Top Scorers:  Ethan Stewart (55 GP,  17 G- 24 A -41 Pts.),  Nikita Kozyrev (52 GP, 14 G- 24 A -38 Pts.) Max Brainin (52 GP,  15 G- 21 A -36 Pts.),

Forward To Watch:

Ethan Stewart Springfield forward Jeff Skinner has logged 41 points this season with Springfield, putting him on track to score more points than his 17 points earned last season with the Wichita Falls Wildcats.

Manning The Blue Line:

Jordan Muzzillo Springfield defenseman Jordan Muzzillo has logged 27 points this season, with 6 goals and 21 assists. He has one power play goal and two game winning goals.

 

Between The Pipes:

Evan Fear: Goaltender Evan Fear sports a save percentage of .922 this season, with 2.61 GAA. He is currently fourth in the league for shootout save %. He is 15-11 so far this season for the Springfield Jr. Blues, and he will look to stay hot today and going into this weekend!

Hope’s Night at the Rink Fundraiser

The Springfield Jr. Blues are excited to partner with The Hope Institute for Vision for Hope‘s Night at the Rink on Friday, March 30th, beginning at 6PM, in the Franklin Room at the The Nelson Center! Hope Institute is hosting a party while the Springfield Jr. Blues play the Minnesota Magicians, with plenty of fun planned throughout the evening!

Ticket purchase includes:
-Free food and soda
-Access to cash bar
-Live entertainment by The Deep Hollow
-Entry to Springfield Jr. Blues home game
-Information about Hope

50% of pre-purchased ticket proceeds benefit Hope!

Tickets for this event are $10 and can be purchased several ways:

CALL: (217) 585-5178 (Mon-Fri 8am – 4pm)

EMAIL: communicatinghope@hope.us

VISIT ONE OF THE FOLLOWING BUSINESSES:
MyCountyMarket
MyCountyMarket
Central Illinois Ace Hardware
Central Illinois Ace Hardware
Central Illinois Ace Hardware
Staff Carpet
Pizza Ranch
Renken Dentistry

About The Hope Institute:

The year was 1957 when The Hope School opened its doors in a modest house in Springfield. Hope’s founders Dr. and Mrs. Charles E. Jordan had searched the world for a place to educate their daughter who had multiple disabilities. They wanted Judith Ann to have the chance to reach her full potential, but no school in the United States could serve her. So the Jordans created a school. They created Hope. The Jordans had a vision and took action. The Hope School brought hope to many families who also were searching for community services.

Hope gained the attention of President John F. Kennedy and ignited change in disability policy and services throughout the United States. President Kennedy named Dr. Jordan to the President’s Council on Disabilities and other governmental councils, where Dr. Jordan helped shape a new reality for children and adults living with disabilities. At about the same time, the Special Olympics were founded in Chicago. Illinois was the forefront of change and The Hope School was squarely at its center. The Hope School emerged as a provider of educational and residential services. It became a place where children facing extraordinary cognitive, physical and emotional challenges could learn and thrive.

Today Hope has become more than a school. It is leading the development of new methods to educate, treat and care for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disabilities.

Springfield – Alaska Recap

Local Hockey Team is Playoff Bound for the First Time Since 2013

SPRINGFIELD, IL, March 19, 2018– The Springfield Jr. Blues are proud to announce they have returned home from Alaska winning 4-1 and having clinched playoff position. This will be the first time the team has gone to the playoffs since 2013, and the first time they will do so under Head Coach Tyler Rennette, who is a first-year head coach.

The Springfield Jr. Blues spent the last week and a half in Alaska, first taking on the Fairbank’s Ice Dogs for a two-game series before heading to take on the Kenai River Brown Bears. Their first weekend in Alaska resulted in a split with Springfield winning the first game 5-3, breaking the Ice Dogs 33 game-point streak. Brandon Puricelli led the way with two of the five goals. Puricelli also had two assists. Patrick Smyth had two goals, and Marcus Walter scored once. Goalie Jurja Ovecka stopped 26 goals for his 10th win of the season.

Saturday the Ice Dogs game back and won with a final score of 6-1. Max Brainin scored the lone goal for Springfield.

Springfield then traveled to Soldonta, Alaska for a three-game set against the Kenai River Brown Bears.

Thursday night Springfield came out ready to win. Chase Mickelson had one goal and an assist to kick off scoring in the 1st period. Max Brainin and Nick Schultze scored in the 2nd period, but it was Dylan Rauh who scored late in the 3rd, pushing Springfield closer to the playoffs. Goalie Evan Fear made 21 saves for the win.

Friday night, Springfield was hot with Jurja Ovecka in goal, making 29 saves and the team scoring 6 goals on the opponent. Ovecka let in 2 goals to Kenai, yet still landed his 10th win of the season.

Max Brainin led scoring with three points (two goals and an assist). Brandon Puricelli netted two goals as well, while Fabio Hollenstein had one goal and one assist. Nick Schultze also found the back of the net with one goal.

Feeling confident, the teams met again for the third time over the weekend on Saturday night when Giovanni Carabelli scored a short-handed goal assisted by Ethan Stewart and Marcus Walter. Brandon Puricelli then made the score 2-0 with assists from Nikita Kozyrev and Fabio Hollenstein. The Bears went on to score one point, stopping Evan Fear from having a shutout. Springfield still held on for the win, sweeping Kenai and locking themselves into a playoff position for the Robertson Cup.

Springfield will be playing their final two regular season home games Friday March 30th and Saturday March 31st. Springfield will play the Minnesota Magicians. The Springfield Jr. Blues are currently sitting in the third-place position in the NAHL Midwest Division, over the Magicians, who have two games in hand. Springfield will travel to Janesville for a single game on March 28th before returning home for a two-game home series against the fourth-place Minnesota Magicians on March 30-31.

Tentatively, the first playoff home game is set for the 20th of April, though this could change depending on the remaining five games of the regular season.

To purchase tickets for the next two home games on the 30th and 31st of March, visit www.JrBlues.com or tickets can be purchased at the door.

Springfield Takes Kenai Two Nights In A Row

Springfield 6 @ Kenai River 2 – For the first time since 2013, the Springfield Jr. Blues are headed to the postseason. They clinched their ticket to the 2018 Robertson Cup playoffs in convincing fashion as they took down the Kenai River Brown Bears 6-2. Max Brainin led all skaters with three points, two goals and an assist. Brandon Puricelli also netted two goals in the win. Fabio Hollenstein had a goal and an assist while Nick Schultze also found the back of the net. Jurja Ovecka picked up the win in the crease as he made 29 saves. Alex Klekotka and Filip Karlsson scored for Kenai River.