By Jon Volker
Through the first four games in this young season, the Rochester Ice Hawks won each contest and outscored their opponents, 44-5. They also scored at least 10 goals in all but one game. In that game they scored nine.
Three of the top five point-getters in the league are Ice Hawks and all have more than 10 points in Minnesota Junior Hockey League play. Leading the way is returning forward Nick Paulson with five goals and eight assists.
Paulson is returning to his normal position at forward this season after spending last year as a defenseman. Of the newcomers, Dawson Quint (10 points), Austin Anderson (eight points) and Marcus Stoulil (seven points) all found their way into the top 10 in league scoring after four games.
“Well, a quick start looks great in the early box standings but in the end we want to be better tomorrow than today so it’s nice but it’s not everything,” said head coach Nick Fatis.
The four wins were against the expansion team Ironwood Fighting Yoopers (three) and the Maple Grove Energy.
The Ice Hawks return 15 players from last year’s roster and goalie Sam Nelson played for the Minnesota Owls last year. There is definitely a veteran presence on the roster, but still has a mixture of young and veteran players.
“Last season was a good year for us,” Fatis said. “We were the youngest team in the division and we were very competitive. By the end of the season we were contenders in the playoffs. We lost 24 games and 19 were by one goal, so our returnees know how one mistake can turn a win into a loss.”
With that mixture of veteran and young players comes depth and that is one thing Fatis is looking forward to this season.
“We’ve been extremely lucky to be so deep in every position. We feel that we are a well-rounded team that doesn’t depend on a few guys to carry the water, but early on guys like Nick Paulson, Sam Nelson, Alec Martin, and Marcus Stoulil have been drawing attention,” said Fatis.
Off the ice, the Ice Hawks have a new partnership with Mayo Sports Medicine, which will contribute a lot to the team. The Minnesota Lynx, Timberwolves, Twins, and USA Hockey also work with Mayo Sports Medicine.
“Obviously, we would love to make it back to nationals, but first and foremost we want to keep on the path of exceptional development and experience for our players,” said Fatis. “With our partnership with Mayo Sports Medicine training our players, we’ve been able to be a cutting edge program in both on-and off-ice training.”
It may still be early on in the season, but the Ice Hawks look like they will be in the mix for both the regular season and playoff championship.
“As always, the top of the MNJHL looks to be as good as any league in the country,” Fatis said. “Right now, the Ducks look amazing again. Hudson always has NAHL dropdowns playing with them so they are always solid and Forest Lake turned some heads early, but in this league, anyone can catch fire and become a major factor.”
The Ice Hawks open up their home schedule Sept. 27 against Hudson. All games can be seen on msbnsports.net.